Playoff match ups were all locked up yesterday and I waited a whole day to give some of these some thought. I’m no professional but I think I can stand as an unbiased source (my team is the Wizards and they’re no longer with us). So let’s just hop right in.
#1 Spurs vs #8 Grizzlies
The San Antonio Spurs finished their season with 61 wins and the best record in the western conference. Part of building that record is that the Spurs were able to beat bad teams on a consistent basis. So the fact that they split the series in the season 2-2 tells me that the Grizzlies are good. The Grizzlies thanks to their head coach Lionel Hollins instilling his defensive system have been far more successful than many expected them to be. They do have some building blocks to work with when it comes to beating San Antonio. While San Antonio is extremely efficient with the basketball with their 109.4 points per 100 possessions they do have off nights. San Antonio attempts more three pointers than any other NBA team except the Orlando Magic. If their shooters get cold San Antonio could be in some trouble. This will be a defensive series though I’m not sure because of the Spurs change in style to a more offensive oriented game.
My Pick: San Antonio in six games. The Spurs superior players and playoff experience should allow them to win this series though I doubt it will be anything but easy them. My only concern for San Antonio is Manu Ginobili if his elbow is bothering him then SA town could be in some trouble.
#2 Lakers v. #7 New Orleans Hornets
The Lakers were able to wrap up the #2 seed with their victory of the Kings on Wednesday. The Lakers had a scare when center, Andrew Bynum hyperextended his knee against the Spurs in the previous game. Andrew’s MRI came back positive and he’ll be able to play in LA’s first playoff game of this post season. The Lakers despite being the second seed are considered the de facto team to beat. When the Lakers are completely healthy they are near impossible to stop. New Orleans has been playing extremely well, especially Chris Paul and Emeka Okafor but without David West’s presence in the paint the Lakers will be too big and strong for the Hornets.
My Pick: Lakers with brooms out sweeping the Hornets away. Move along folks. Nothing to see here.
#3 Mavericks v. #6 Trailblazers
Dallas has had a disappointing recent playoff history. With early exits essentially being the norm for them this could be their chance to shake the habit. Or it would have been if they weren’t running into Portland. The Trailblazers can ball. They’re a very deep team and all of their guys are getting hot at the right times. Gerald Wallace is coming into his own, Rudy Fernandez is shaking out of that slump, and Brandon Roy is finally getting back to form. Dallas still has a very solid defense and one of the leagues most potent offenses. Dirk can score at will but Gerald is going to be a tough guard for him. Tyson Chandler is looking to bring a post presence and size to Dallas that they didn’t have in previous years. Tyson is a shot blocker and a great defender and he may very well make a statement.
MY Pick: I’m going to roll with the upset and pick the Trailblazers in six games. They’re playing incredible basketball right now. They move very well in transition and generally pass the ball to the open man. I think Nate McMillan is going to have his guys ready to play. If Portland wins game one of this series I think Dallas may very well be heading home shortly there after. Dallas cannot afford to lose game one.
#4 Thunder v. #5 Nuggets (This is going to be the best series of them all.)
The Thunder pushed the Lakers to six games in their first playoff appearance. Their youth, both players and coach alike, is what surprised everyone. Now the Thunder are the “overcats” (overcat = opposite of underdog, use your brain) if you will. They take on the upstart Denver Nuggets. Denver had to overcome the drama of trying to move Carmelo Anthony and then the readjusting of adding new guys to their team after the trade. I give George Carl a lot of credit. He has coached these guys and assimilated them into his system. According to ESPN’s Hollinger team statistics the Nuggets are the most offensively efficient team in the league with scoring 109.5 per 100 possessions. The Thunder have one of the highest scoring duos in the league with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The addition of Kendrick Perkins at the trade deadline gives the Thunder size and attitude (and an unparalleled hatred for the Lakers).
My Pick: I’ll pick the Thunder in seven games. The Nuggets are good but I think the Thunder have all the right pieces to come out on top.