It’s Showtime at the OKC corral! The Thunder earned the top spot in the West. Be prepared for a high-scoring, sho ’nuff showdown with the typically energetic Houston Rockets, although HOU looked anything but in their final regular season game.. The Thunder core is back – Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden. Oh wait! Harden is on the opponent’s squad now! Will that make a difference in the path to a 2nd NBA Finals for the Thunder? It would have. But OKC has a new 6th Man, Kevin Martin, who likes to knock down threes like the Beard did, just maybe not as dramatically. You’ve also got Derek Fisher who lives for the playoff spotlight but more importantly can be a coach on the floor as the Thunder’s young team move through the West. Durant will be Durant, Mr. Money no matter where he takes the shot. For Houston to have any chance in this one, Linsanity would need to reappear (not happening.) It’ll be a respectable series. The stat line will have a steady trajectory as these guys love to shoot. The combined regular season average is 106 pts per game. But Houston lacks a potent defense. That’s the deal breaker.
Mia’s Pick: Thunder in 5
Well now, just two months ago there was absolutely no way on earth that the Lakers could be a threat to the super skin tight, no cracks Spurs machine. As a matter of fact, no one but Kobe thought the Lakers would be in the position to threaten any team. Instead, the Lakers led us on an exhilarating race for 8th, losing Kobe along the way. Coach Mike D’Antoni finally accepted that this was not the rise of Phoenix2 and he let these players play their game. That means Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard can play big. With Mamba sitting at home coaching on Twitter, the stage is set for Dwight Howard to prove that he’s ready to wear the Laker crown. But remember, the Spurs are the Spurs. I never doubt Coach Gre-double-G Popovich and I believe that Duncan, Ginobli and Parker will be rested and dangerous. Parker is not back to his old self after that ankle injury, but neither is Steve Nash who could, if he makes it on the court for an extended period of time, be key. My brain is telling me Spurs in 6. That’s the logical answer; that’s the smart answer. But I’m going with one for the Buss-Man who’s watching from the best courtside seat in the house.
Mia’s Pick: Lakers in 6
The Denver Nuggets are the quintessential definition of homebodies. Their home record at the Pepsi Center was a remarkable 38-3. There’s something in the air up there. Last year’s first round exit was tough but the team proved to the basketball world that they deserved to be mentioned with top teams, pushing the Lakers to an exciting 7 games. That series did more for their confidence and set the stage for their eventual dominant play, although they started rusty. George Karl knows how to coach, there’s no doubt about that. Despite game-impacting injuries to Kenneth Faried, Karl will be ready for the boys from The Bay. But Denver’s missing Danilo Gallinari who was critical in the regular season games against GSW, may add one more game to mix. Mark Jackson has the Warriors believing and stepping up behind Stephen Curry, arguably the best pure shooter in the NBA. Andrew Bogut looks healthy enough to contribute but it still won’t be enough.
Mia’s Pick: Nuggets in 5
It’s that 4-5 thing that always throws everything off. Flipping a coin could be easier than breaking down a winner in this series. Identical regular season records of 56-26 and both teams set franchise records with their significant wins. The teams play differently and this is where the Hollywood team and the Beale Street set themselves apart. In their last game of the season, the Clippers were able to beat the Grizzlies to secure home court advantage (a big deal for sure in this one.) But as they step into the Playoffs, it’s deja vu. LA and Memphis went against each other in the 1st round of the playoffs, with the Grizzlies losing in 7. But this year’s Grizzlies have a guy named Prince. Not the Purple Rain guy but Tayshaun Prince the Detroit baller who brings with him a lot more defense and attitude. It appears that Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph settled down when Prince arrived. Lob City will be ready for him, though. Blake and CP3 will do what they do, Caron Butler off the bench is a difference maker. Flipping the coin.
Mia’s Pick: Clippers in 7
Looking forward: The Oklahoma City Thunder will take on San Antonio for the chance to head to the NBA Finals. The Thunder will go again.
Don’t forget to check out Nelly’s picks: Nelly Picks ’13.