#1 Chicago Bulls vs. #8 Philadelphia 76ers
The number 1 seed Chicago Bulls will be taking on the number 8 seed Philadelphia 76ers. The Bulls gained the number 1 seed even with last season’s MVP Derrick Rose missing 17 games this year, which is 25% of their games. This is the first time Rose has missed more than three games in a season in his career. Their has been a lot of players that stepped up while Rose was out. This list includes Luol Deng (15 ppg, 6 rpg), Joakim Noah (10.2 ppg, 9.8 rpg), and Carlos Boozer ( 15 ppg, 8 rpg). The Bulls got the 1 seed because of good, and solid defense. They will hope to keep playing that way in the first round of the series. As for the 76ers, they started off the year strong at 20-9 and then cooled off a little towards the end of the year, before making another surge for the playoffs in the last 6 games. They ended up finishing the year at 35-31, which was good enough to get the 8 seed over the Bucks. The 76ers having a very balanced scoring attack, which is led by sixth man Lou Williams (14.9 ppg). They have eight people who average 8.4 ppg or more. Also, two of their top three scorers do not start for them. This shows you how much of an even keeled attack this 76ers team has. My prediction is that the Bulls win this series in five games.
#2 Miami Heat vs. #7 New York Knicks
Wow, what a match-up you have in this one, four of the top players in the league and all of the games will take place in two of the biggest cities. This is an exciting match-up for me personally, because I picked the Knicks to win the Championship in the pre-season. In about the middle of the year it wasn’t looking so good, but now I believe again the Knicks can win it all. The Knicks started off the year slow, but then Linsanity happened, and changed the Knicks season, even if he is out for the whole playoffs. But there was a big surprise for the Knicks in the middle of the season when Mike D’antoni stepped down as the head coach. But this sparked the Knicks to another win streak because the new coach Mike Woodson made them play defense. Now they look to upset the Heat in the first round of the playoffs. As for the Heat, they have been great for almost the whole year. I think that the Heat have been look at by to close of a microscope by the media. But this is because a lot of the times the Heat would lose, they would lose the next game as well. So I guess that you can say that they have been inconsistent this year, but that is even stretching it a little bit. I am going to stay with my preseason pick and say the Knicks will beat the Heat in six games.
#3 Indiana Pacers vs. #6 Orlando Magic
This series I think will be a blow out, because the Magic are depleted with injuries right now. Dwight Howard is out for the playoffs, as well as Hedo Turkoglu. Those two account on average for 30 of the Magic’s points and 18 of the Magic’s rebounds. As well as that, Dwight Howard leads the team in ppg, rpg, bpg, spg. Not having these two will be a big loss for the Magic, as they will have to rely on sharp shooter Ryan Anderson to carry them. As for the Pacers, they are much improved since last year as a 8 seed. Roy Hibbert improved a lot and made his first all-star game this year. But this team is led by Danny Granger, Granger has been good for years and now it is his chance to be great in the playoffs. Granger has averaged 18.7 ppg and 5 rpg so far this year. after Granger they are another team that has a lot of different players score, they have eight players who average 9.3 ppg or more. All in all, if Howard was healthy I think that this would have been a great series. But since he is not, I think that the Pacers will sweep the Magic.
#4 Boston Celtics vs. #5 Atlanta Hawks
Even though the Hawks had a better record than the Celtics, the Celtics still have the higher seed because they won their division. This will help them because it gives them home court advantage if this goes to game 7. The Hawks are led by Joe Johnson and Josh Smith who both average 18.8 ppg this season. These two players are both all-stars in my opinion, and I think have the potential to lead this team to the second round of the playoffs. Al Horford missed almost all of the season but is now questionable for the first round of the playoffs, this would be huge for the Hawks. As for the Celtics, they are very talented but are not very deep. They have four great players in Rondo (11ppg, 11apg), Paul Pierce ( 19.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Ray allen ( 14.2 ppg) and Kevin Garnett (15.8 ppg, 8.2 rpg). The big question with the Celtics is will those four players be enough, because after them they are pretty weak. I think that the Celtics will win this series, but it will take them seven games to do so.
#1 San Antonio Spurs vs. #8 Utah Jazz
The Spurs are at it again, getting the top seed in the west after everybody counted them off. The Spurs didn’t get this seed easy, Greg Popivich has been a great coach this year, resting his stars when they needed it. They also, are helped by Tony Parker’s best season ever as he is averaging 18.3 ppg and 7.7 apg. He is actually top five on most people’s MVP ballots. The other remarkable thing about the Spurs, is that they got the 1 seed even with Manu Ginobili out most of the year. Ginobili will be back for the playoffs and that will help the Spurs. The Spurs are really hoping to avoid another first round upset like they did last year as the 1 seed. As for the Jazz, they are probably just happy they are in the playoffs. They are a little more than a year removed from trading their franchise point guard, Deron Williams to New Jersey and planned to start rebuilding. I don’t think that anybody in that organization believed they would be back in the playoffs this quickly. The Jazz are led by Al Jefferson who gets 19.9 ppg and 9.8 rpg. I think that the Spurs will win this series in five games.
#2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #7 Dallas Mavericks
This is another great 2 vs 7 matchup. You have the defending champions verse what most people think is the best team in the west. The Thunder have been carried mostly by Kevin Durant (28.03 ppg) and Russel Westbrook (23.6 ppg), but have also gotten big help from likely sixth man of the year, James Harden ( 16.8 ppg). But, Harden is still questionable after receiving that nasty elbow to the head by Ron Artest. He will have to pass all of the concussion tests before he plays. As for the Mavericks, they are having an off-year after winning the title last year. This team is still led by the one and only Dirk, but they are really missing Tyson Chandler’s defense right now. Chandler was a gigantic part for why they won the championship but now he is on the Knicks. The Mavericks were hoping that the trade for Lamar Odom over the off-season would help. But that was a disaster and he is not on the team anymore. I think that the Thunder will win this series in six games.
#3 Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets
Man, these are two-way different teams, the Nuggets like to get out on the run, and the Lakers like to play a half-court game. That is why I think that this will be a great series. The Lakers have three stars in Kobe Bryant ( 27.9 ppg), Andrew Bynum ( 18.7 ppg, 11.8 rpg), and Pau Gasol ( 17.4 ppg, 10.4 rpg). But they are really happy that they picked up Ramon Sessions at the trade deadline as he has helped run their offense a lot. The Lakers and Kobe Bryant are hoping to win one more title so Kobe can get his sixth ring, the same that Michael Jordan had. As for the Nuggets, they don’t have one person that is by far and away their best player, they have ten players averaging 8.6 points or more. The Nuggets made a big splash at the trade deadline, trading Nene to Washington for Javale McGee. So far it hasn’t been much of a difference stats wise for the Nuggets. They will need all ten of their scorers to play well in this series if they want to pull an upset. I think that the Lakers will win in 7 games.
#4 Memphis Grizzlies vs. #5 Los Angeles Clippers.
This will be a great matchup I think because both of these teams are really good, in fact I think that the Grizzlies are a little under-rated. The Grizzlies led by Rudy Gay, just have a lot of good players. Last year in the playoffs the Grizzlies upset the Spurs in the first round of the playoffs. They did this by giving Randolph and Gasol touches down low, and they just dominated. What was most impressive last year was that they were without their best player for the playoffs in Rudy Gay. Also, they are the team most related to the beltwaysportsblog, because they have two players from Baltimore, Rudy Gay (Spalding, and Josh Selby (Lake Clifton). As for the Clippers, they are finally back in the playoffs! After trading for Chris Paul in the beginning of the year, they became “Lob Angeles”. As a result of this trade Blake Griffin and Chris Paul have been great. Griffin at 20 ppg and 10 rpg, plus Paul at 19 ppg and 9 apg. They will need those two to really carry their team in the playoffs. I think that the Grizzlies will win in five games.