I always like to wait until after Game 1 of each first round series to complete my assessment on what is going to happen in each round of a playoff series. In the NBA, playoff basketball has a different dynamic than it’s regular season. The term “every possession matters” becomes more than a cliche, it becomes a mentality. Execution becomes the pinnacle of success and playing with effort becomes second nature, not an afterthought. The beauty of the NBA Playoffs is that the best team ALWAYS wins in a seven game series. There are so many “what ifs” and rhetorical talk among fans, bloggers and everyone who follows the NBA that always leads to this: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.
My Off the Dome Playoff Picks from April 27:
Bulls in 5.
Celtics in 5.
Pacers in 6.
Heat in 5.
Celtics over Bulls in 6.
Heat over Pacers in 5.
Heat over Celtics in 5.
Spurs in 6.
Grizzlies in 5.
Lakers in 7.
Thunder in 7.
Spurs over Grizzlies in 7.
Thunder over Lakers in 5.
Spurs over Thunder in 6.
Spurs over Heat in 6.
So here are Previews for the First Round:
Chicago vs. Philly
What We Learned in Game 1: Attrition has become a vital part of the 2012 NBA Playoffs and nothing changes the overall landscape of the Playoffs like an injury to Derrick Rose. Chicago is still a better team than Philly without Rose and Chicago should be concerned defensively after giving up 91 points to a Philly team that struggles to score in the Half Court. Philly did get to the line 31 times and only turned it over 11 times, a trend that will have to continue for them to have a chance in this series.
What to Expect the Rest of the Series: To say it will be more competitive is a slight understatement (1). Philly now has the best player in this series in Andre Iguodala (2), but after that their roster is filled with very mediocre players who struggle to score in the Half Court. Philly’s frontcourt who doesn’t rebound well, will struggle with Noah and Boozer up front, and Chicago still has the advantage in the backcourt. Philly has to make it an uptempo series by creating turnovers in order to extend this series because even without Rose, Chicago still executes better on both ends. Philly will get 1, maybe 2 at home, but I don’t see them winning anymore than that.
Bulls in 6.
Boston vs. Atlanta:
What We Learned in Game 1: That the Celtics need Ray Allen. Bad. OK, let’s give some credit to Atlanta. Joe Johnson was 3/15 and was +24! Josh Smith was incredible and the Hawks got great performances from 2 guys who I’m not sure were going to be effective in this series in Jason Collins and Ivan Johnson. I can’t get over how brutal Boston’s offense looked. Avery Bradley was their most efficient player in the first half and they just could not stretched the floor (3). The attrition factor has hit again for Boston, as Allen and Rondo will likely both be out for Game 2.
What to Expect: A series that is not easy on the eyes, for starters. The Celtics can ill afford to have KG and Pierce shoot 33% and 7 FT’s combined and expect to win the series. Both teams are extremely beat up on the front line as Atlanta is missing Horford and Pachulia, but despite that they outrebounded Boston in Game 1. Guard play is going to be the deciding factor in this series as the Hawks are going small by starting Teague, Hinrich and Joe Johnson. Atlanta probably wins Game 2 without Rondo. Despite advancing to the second round in each of the past 3 seasons, the Hawks have struggled to win on the road in pressure situations, which they will have to do to win the series.
Celtics in 7.
Orlando vs. Indiana:
What We Learned: You know what they say about opinions, so that is why the game is settled on the court. The Magic by no means played a great game, even without Dwight. Ryan Anderson scored 5 points.They shot 39% and were out-rebounded. Yet, it was evident that they clearly outplayed the Pacers, coming up with seemingly every lose ball and every key rebound in the fourth quarter. The Pacers, meanwhile shot 34% from the field and missed 7 or 8 HTFDTSNGI (4) shots, and if Danny Granger and Paul George were anywhere in the vicinity of Bankers Life Fieldhouse, someone please inform America’s Most Wanted.
What to Expect: The only advantage Orlando has is intangibly and at the PG position, so they must continue to exploit that in order to continue to have an opportunity for results like Saturday. Indiana made 10 (5) shots outside the paint, which is unacceptable for an NBA team, much less a playoff team. Orlando will win at least another game, because they hit an insurmountable amount of 3’s and possibly another one because of their effort and home crowd. If Indiana exploits the advantage inside with Roy Hibbert and gets better play from Granger and George, it should win this series.
Pacers in 6.
Heat vs. Knicks:
What we Learned: That the Knicks didn’t have a chance of winning the series in the first place, and now that Iman Shumpert is lost for the series, it’s likely that the Knicks may not get within 10 points of a game this series. Why? Because Iso-Melo just does not work in the playoffs and the Knicks have below average guard play with Baron Davis and Bibby as their guards. 11 Assists on 25 Field Goals while shooting 35% and allowing the Heat to shoot 49% is just unacceptable. The Knicks need Carmelo to go off and I’ll be hard pressed if he scored an efficient 25 by being guarded by one of the best defensive players in the league. The Knicks also have guard issues, as they have no guards that are able to penetrate that Miami defense and create easy baskets. Also having 27 turnovers that leads to 38 points is just asking to go home.
What to Expect: While it is just one game, I just don’t see the Knicks hanging. For everything the Knicks do, the Heat can do better, and are a more focused group after falling two games short. And with Shumpert perhaps being able to slow Lebron down, it will be interesting what Woodson does to try to slow Lebron down. As long as the Heat continue to get solid performances from Battier, Chalmers and Joel Anthony they should have no problem dispatching the Knicks. Heat in 4.
That’ll do it for the East. West to Come tomorrow afternoon.
1. Sarcasm, just one of the services I offer.
2. Iguodala has always been one of the most underrated players in the league in my opinion. Long overdo first time All Star this season.
3. That’s what happens when you’re 0/11 from 3 and get to the line 13 times.
4. How the Freak Did Those Not GO in
5. http://scores.espn.go.com/nba/shotchart?gameId=320428011 if you don’t believe me
Stay tuned for the Western Conference, which will be posted tomorrow!