Are you ready?
The abbreviated regular season is officially over and now it’s time for the playoffs. We will have some marquee matchups, some exciting finishes, and hopefully some shocking upsets. Here I’ll try to tell you what to what for in the first round and what you may want to skip.
Best player matchups
1. LeBron James (MIA) versus Carmelo Anthony (NYK). This may seem like a mismatch to the casual fan. LeBron is likely going to be named league MVP for the third time in his still young career. Carmelo has had limited playoff success, having found several first round exits from the Western Conference Playoffs in Denver and one last year with the Knicks. Both are terrific scorers; James is the better defender. Both have viable second options should they have to work too hard containing the other in Dwyane Wade and Amar’e Stoudamire. I’m giving the Heat the advantage with home court in a possible game 7 (my personal projection), but look for this to be a tremendous and dramatic series.
2. Kevin Durant (OKC) versus Dirk Nowitski (DAL). Okay, so the two may not spend much time defending one another. Serge Ibaka will likely be one of several Thunder players charged with getting a hand in the champ’s face, and let’s face it: there’s no way Rick Carlisle will pin the Mavericks’ hopes on the Big German trying to keep up with KD on defense. The thing that fascinates me about these two scoring machines is that they might literally be two of the top five jump shooters in the league and, oh yeah, they both have seven-foot wingspans. Durant stands at least 6’11’’ and Dirk is 7’0’’. Nobody will be looking to block their three point attempts so look for both to make it rain in the playoffs, with the Thunder overcoming the reigning NBA champions.
For this category, is there any question? Must-See BG is heading to Memphis. Then Rudy Gay and co will visit Lob City! This will be a track meet, hopefully for seven games. I just can’t wait to stay up late and see the alley-oops, the block parties, the posters, the crossovers. It may not end up being the best show of fundamental basketball, given Blake’s inability to post up and the Grizzlies’ style on the perimeter, but I expect a high-scoring, high octane series here, with the victor unclear. The Grizzlies are deep, talented, and coming of age, but Chris Paul is a competitive force of nature.
Sorry, but Utah in the playoffs? Who even plays there anymore? Oh, it’s Devin Harris and Paul Milsap? Well, at least they’re playing an exciting team right? Oh, it’s the San Antonio Spurs? Don’t get me wrong; the Spurs have rediscovered offensive basketball and Tony Parker is playing maybe his best basketball ever, but the Spurs are traditionally a ratings repellent and given their match-up against a team that honestly has no business in the playoffs and has no All-Stars to boot, this may be the series you miss and catch up on all the work you’ve been avoiding while you watch the Knicks and Heat. Just saying.
First Round Predictions
- Bulls def Sixers in 6.
- Heat def Knicks in 7. =-(
- Celtics def Hawks in 6.
- Pacers def Magic in 5.
- Spurs def Jazz in 4.
- Thunder def Mavs in 5.
- Clippers def Grizzlies in 7.
- Lakers def Nuggets in 6.
Naledi Semela with The Arkitekt’s Perspective