It is better late then never time at FCP. We have made our picks in various formats. Some were made before the playoffs and some were made a few games in. React accordingly, but here are our picks!
First Round West
1 Spurs VS. 8 Jazz – Spurs In 6
Spurs have too many weapons and while Big Al has had a nice season at the 5 he by no means is going to dominate his match up. Duncan has quietly had another season putting up just about the exact same numbers /36 minutes he has his whole career… except for lower TO’s and fouls.
2 Thunder VS 7 Mavs OKC in 7
This will either go very short or be ground out over 6 or 7 games. I really like the Thunder in this match up but I can see the Mavs putting up a very strong fight in one of the premiere first round match ups. Don’t let the Mavs coy record fool you. Early Dirk was out of shape. Older teams are going to be able to play harder when they know they have a few days between teams. Expect to see Kidd return to his regular post prime form. I’m picking this going the distance but won’t be surprised by a sweep.
3 Lakers VS 6 Nuggets – Lakers In 5
Can McGee add some sugar to the kool-aid Denver fans are trying to force down? If he does he’ll play himself into a phat contract he will never deserve. If he doesn’t they’ll lose this series. I’m banking on the latter. Ty Lawsom might make 5 games look silly, but LA is going to prevail. Too. Much. Size.
4 Grizzlies VS 5 Clippers – Clippers In 6
Another series that could go long or short. Expect CP3 to come out of the gate on a mission. Meanwhile, I think the Griz might have identity problems as they have played very, very well with Randolph coming off the bench. I think the Clippers take this though behind Blake Griffin owning the boards/paint and CP3 picking apart the Memphis D.
First Round East
1 Bulls VS 8 76er
The Pest – Bulls In 5
76ers had a nice run with legitimacy this year but they just can’t hang with the Bulls. Their early season win over Chicago is a distant memory as they lack the scoring to compete against Thibideau’s Defence.
2 Heat vs 7 Knicks – Heat In 6
Maybe the most interested first round series on deck. The first real match up between Melo and Bron. Can Melo win two games by himself in this series? Yes. Can someone like JR Smith/Fields/Shump/Novak have a special game and win another one? Yes. The reality is that healthy the Knicks are title contenders, even if their horses are a little dark. It’s really going to come down to what Amare Stoudemire can give them. If they matched up with the Bulls in the first round I was going to pick them and I still do. But status quo tells me this is a dumb idea so strongly I’ll meekly say long series going to Miami, however, there won’t be an ounce of surprise in me if they take them out in the first round after not beating the Heat once this year.
3 Pacers vs 6 Magic – Pacers In 5
When you’ve got Dwight in a series, you can never really bet agasint them. But they don’t have Dwight and it’s probably the only reason Stan Van Gundy is still working. Orlando can probably win one game but since you beat this team by out-working them, and only out-working them. It’s just not gonna happen. Pacers in 5.
4 Celtics vs 5 Hawks – Celtics In 6
I like the Hawks but with no Al Horford I’m not sure they have the horses to compete with Boston. I still expect them to win a couple games, so I’m picking Atlanta in 6, but I expect them to run out of gas trying to score on the best defence in the league. Will Jerry Stackhouse and T-Mac have one more memorable moment in the playoffs? If their coach is smart enough to trust them in the right circumstance, I expect it.
1 Spurs VS 6 Clippers – Clippers In 6
I really expect CP3 and Blake to have a huge series. While Duncan is still legit he’s never been able to contain hyper athletic forwards (young Amare) and is going to have difficulty keeping Blake Griffin off the glass and out of the paint. Their hopes are foul trouble for Jordan and home court, but I’m thinking Clippers win this in 6.
2 Thunder VS 3 Lakers – Thunder In 5
The Thunder will need Perkins more then ever. Barring a Westbrook decision fueled collapse I don’t think LAL can hang with OKC. That, and they’ve got their own collapse machine in Kobe Bryant nullifying those odds. Combined with LA’s traditional problem of stopping quick athletic point guards I think OKC takes this in 5 Laker identity searching games. However if Kobe fully hands the reins to Pau/Bynum anything can happen.
1 Bulls VS 4 Celtics – Bulls In 6
The Bulls take this series, however it’s really going to come down to home court and the match up at point guard. If Rondo can be spectacular like he has been so many times it can flip the whole series. The Celtics win games with defence that forces their opponents to play their kind of game allowing them to win with their very weak offence. Except that’s the Bulls are happy to play that way but have a very efficient offence. I’m feeling Bulls in 6 on Boston’s floor, but 5 if Rose can give them something special.
2 Heat VS Pacers – Heat In 6
This really could turn out to be the best series of the playoffs. I smell one thing: defensive battle. Which is okay for the Heat since they almost seem to look for this kind of series. It’s true team concept vs superstars. Indiana has improved dramatically on offence this season and Miami will have it’s hands full with the under rated front court of Hibbert and West. I still pick Miami in 6 hard fought games though.
2 Thunder VS 5 Clippers – Thunder In 6
My pre-season, knee jerk to the pre-season, pick for the finals was the Clippers. I still think no one can match up with them however that was also when they had Billups in the line up as a glue guy. I think the Clips are underrated going into the playoffs but the Thunder have too much talent. Barring a Westbrook implosion the Thunder will probably get to the finals in 5-6 games, and epically game 7 if CP3 can be incredibly special.
2 Heat VS 1 Bulls – Heat In 6
With the improved team playing Derrick Rose, I really do think Chicago is the team to beat in the East. If he can give them that expect this to be a very long series that will come down to which team can impose it’s will on the defensive end. On paper I want to pick the Bulls, but my heart says to give more respect to how tough the Heat came out in their last regular season game which was really just the beginning of the ECF’s. Combined with Rose’s chance of being hurt and the way guys like Anthony don’t seem to get outplayed so much I’m picking Heat. But maybe it’s because I want to.
Downtown Charlie Brown
San Antonio Over Utah 4-2
Memphis over LA Clippers 4-2
LA Lakers over Denver 4-3
OKC Thunder over Dallas 4-1
Chicago over Philadelphia 4-3
Atlanta over Boston 4-3
Indiana Sweeps Orlando 4-0
Miami Sweeps New York 4-0
San Antonio over Memphis 4-3
LA Lakers over OKC Thunder 4-3
Atlanta over Chicago 4-3
Miami over Indiana 4-2
San Antonio over LA Lakers 4-2
Miami over Atlanta 4-1
FINALS – MIAMI OVER SAN ANTONIO 4-3
The Elusive Heisenberg
NBA Playoff predictions
1. Bulls vs 8. Sixers
Sixers are a scrappy well-coached team, but Chicago is better at pretty much every aspect of the game (offense, defense, rebounding, coaching etc). Sixers might win one game but I don’t see it.
Bulls in 4.
2. Heat vs 7. Knicks
Heat have more talent, but I believe Carmelo will play well enough in one game to win it and then NY’s 3 point shooters + Chandler dominating inside will win them another one.
Heat in 6.
3. Pacers vs 6. Magic
Magic might win one game from a 3 point barrage, but they can’t match up against the balanced attack of the Pacers.
Pacers in 5.
4. Celtics vs 5. Hawks
Atlanta is a good team, so I’ll give them one game. But post all star break the Celtics are looking like a fringe contender, shouldn’t be too big of an issue.
Celtics in 5.
1. Spurs vs 8. Jazz
This won’t be a repeat of last year, Spurs are healthy, they are rested, and they are really friggen good. Utah plays with heart so they shouldn’t get swept, but I don’t really believe the hype that this will be a competitive series.
Spurs in 5.
2. Thunder vs 7. Mavericks.
Who wants to play the defending champs in the 1st round? Regardless, assuming Harden is fine, the Thunder should win this. I predict a pretty close series though.
Thunder in 6.
3. Lakers vs 6. Denver
LA couldn’t have asked for a better matchup. Their bigs will dominate this series.
Lakers in 5.
4. Grizzlies vs 5. Clips
Arguably the most interesting series, I don’t like the matchup for LA. Grizz can match their size, and Tony Allen stands the best chance of anyone of stopping Chris Paul.
Grizzlies in 6.
1. Bulls vs 4. Celtics
This is where it gets interesting. Celtics are playing amazing, but the Bulls are better… As strange as it might have sounded a few months ago, Avery Bradley could swing this series. If he contains Rose, Celtics should have a great chance. I don’t know who to pick, I predict this series goes to 7. But I must choose so.
Celtics in 7
2. Heat vs. 3 Pacers
I like the Pacers, they’re a feel good story, but they won’t take more than one game off a healthy Heat team.
Heat in 5.
1. Spurs vs 4 Memphis
Rematch of last year, where Memphis won convincingly, but this Spurs team has Ginobili healthy, and they look even better than last year’s crew.
Spurs in 6.
2. Thunder vs 3. Lakers
Anyone else think the Lakers should throw some first round games just to get Artest (not Peace) back earlier? They need him to beat Durant and the Thunder. I think the Lakers bigs will win a game, Kobe might win a game, and Durant/Westbrook shooting terribly will lose them a game. But I still think the Thunder win in 6 or 7.
Thunder in 7.
2. Heat vs 4. Celtics
Whichever team makes it through out of Boston/Chicago will likely be too beat up to compete with a more talented Heat team. Boston will likely win 1 game off of great shooting and another by veteran know-how or whatever you want to call it, but that’s it.
Heat in 6.
1. Spurs vs 2. Thunder
I like both teams a lot. I think SA has the big coaching advantage, and they have the advantage inside. Parker and Westbrook are likely pretty even here. But Durant and Harden could dominate this series. I like the Thunder here but I wouldn’t be surprised at any result.
Thunder in 6.
2. Miami vs 2. Thunder
Lebron/Wade/Bosh against Durant/Westbrook/Harden. I like the Ibaka vs Bosh matchup actually, and Westbrook or Harden will go off against whoever isn’t Dwyane Wade. But the Thunder can’t guard Wade or Lebron, and they will likely be more well rested coming into the Finals. Heat win this, but I’m hoping for a long series. Then again, I said the same thing last year.
Heat in 6.
76ers (+900) vs. Bulls (-1400)
I was about to say that it’s hard to imagine the Bulls not advancing in this series. Then Derrick Rose tore his ACL in Game One. Most of us predicted a Bulls-Heat Eastern Conference Finals before the season (that almost wasn’t) even began. The early round match-ups were merely a formality. Not so much anymore. The Bulls are good enough to beat Philly without their MVP point guard, but they won’t get far past that without him. Despite Rose’s season-ending injury, I’ll still take the Bulls in seven… not that that makes Bulls fans feel any better.
According to this line, Las Vegas isn’t as high on New York as everyone else. And by everyone else, I mean everyone outside of the SportsChump household. I’ve actually had knowledgeable sports fans tell me the Knicks will win this series outright. Naturally, I put them in time out. Admittedly this is not a first-round matchup the Heat wanted, but the Knicks are more of an inconvenience than any real threat, as witnessed by their 30-point blowout in Game One. It was good to see an old school, physical, Heat-Knicks battle early but New York will have to bring out shotguns to stop Miami and the last time I checked, the commissioner frowns upon such behavior. New York’s got talent but Miami’s ceiling is simply that much higher. And no, a healthy Jeremy Lin would not have made a difference. Heat in Five.
Magic (+700) vs. Pacers (-1000)
This line goes to show just how far the mighty have fallen. I know I sound like a broken record but Orlando was in the Finals only three years ago. Now they’re in complete disarray. Listing them as seven-to-one dogs to win this series, a number I actually found a little skewed, shows how much confidence Las Vegas has in them. If I had to choose one long underdog to bet in the opening round, it’d be Orlando. It’s perfectly conceivable that, with Dwight Howard out, the remaining Magic players band together to play for their coach but I’m not entirely convinced they have the talent, or the togetherness, to take down the Pacers, which means Stan Van Gundy is about ten days away from being officially unemployed. As much as I hate to say it, Indy takes this series in seven.
This should be another highly contested series. One of these days, Hawks brass will realize that they have assembled a very good team… just not a great one. And they definitely won’t be able to contend without a healthy Al Horford. The boys in green are going to try to make one last run at a title with their core intact. Ray Allen’s health is an issue though; they’ll need his perimeter game to make a deep run. The Celtics know Atlanta will be a tough out and do not want this series to run long any longer than it has to, but they might not have a choice in the matter. I’ll take Boston in Six.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m as impressed with the Thunder as the next guy but I’m not ready to crown them just yet, and neither is Las Vegas according to this line. This is a first-round match-up neither team wanted. While the Thunder may be looking to exact some revenge from losing to Dallas last year, and even though this is not the same Dallas team, I still wouldn’t count them out. I look for a highly contested series. I’ll begrudgingly take the Thunder in Seven, signifying a changing of the guard in the league… but I wouldn’t bet the house on it.
A one seed for the surprising Spurs means they won’t have to face either Dallas, Oklahoma City or the Lakers until the Western Conference Finals. That’s not to say the winner of the Clippers/Grizzlies matchup won’t give them fits. But the Jazz won’t. No disrespect to Utah but the Spurs will want to rest their stars and get this series over with as quickly as possible to rest up for the second round. Give me the Spurs in five.
Wow, does Las Vegas know something I don’t? Did Kobe Bryant just come down with the flu? Has he been kidnapped by aliens? Are Dan Issel and Alex English coming out of retirement? Or is the city just still giddy about landing Peyton Manning? I wouldn’t have made this series nearly this close. In fact, if I had to place one wager on any opening round series, it would be the Lakers at -210. I normally don’t bet favorites but this one seems like money in the bank. I’ll give George Karl the coaching respect he deserves and give Denver one game in this series but that’s as far as I’ll go before cashing my winning ticket. Lakers in Five.