It’s going down: Predicting the 2014 NBA Playoffs 1st Round
#1 Indiana Pacers vs. #8 Atlanta Hawks- Indiana started the year on fire. Atlanta started the year ready to tank away until the draft. Unluckily for Atlanta, Detroit and New York who were trying to desperately make the playoffs this year managed to suck so much that an Atlanta team that was half-assing all season was still better than them. To rub extra salt into the wounds of Detroit, Atlanta’s supposedly best player Josh Smith went to the Pistons in the off season, with Atlanta gaining nothing but cap space for his absence. So, in this season where more than half an entire conference was trying to tank and two teams sucked so spectacularly, we get Atlanta with only 38 wins on the season in the playoffs, while the Suns with 48 wins missed the playoffs. Needless to say, Indiana gets the nod here.
The Prediction– Indiana in 4, Atlanta started the season ready to get an early vacation and the Pacers will be happy to oblige them.
#2 Miami Heat vs. #7 Charlotte Bobcats- The alarm clock is about to go off for the defending champions, who slept walked through most the season. The Charlotte Bobcats, who are about to return to being the much superior Charlotte Hornets, needed some momentum going into next season and fight there way into the 7 seed. Everyone questioned why the Bobcats spent the money on Al Jefferson in the off season, but this is the moment they had in mind. I don’t think the Bobcats have any disillusions of making it far in the playoffs, getting there was a victory in itself this year. This year however will give the young Bobcats some much needed experience to take into next year. I foresee Dwyane Wade getting some extra rest here too.
The Prediction– Miami in 5, only because Miami has trouble sweeping teams in the playoffs.
#3 Toronto Raptors vs. #6 Brooklyn Nets- The Raptors started the season without a clear direction. They traded two of their arguably best players for almost nothing. They had a team of mostly nobodys seemingly headed to the draft or best case scenario one of the bottom seeds in the playoffs. What happened is Kyle Lowry became the most underrated point guard this side of Goran Dragic and Demar Derozan became a bona fide second tier star. The Raptors are without a doubt, the surprise of the season. Brooklyn started the season losing like crazy, with people doubting how first year coach Jason Kidd, with no coaching experience could possibly guide a veteran team into the playoffs. The doubts started even more when starting center Brook Lopez went down for the rest of the season. The Nets, like the Knicks were destined to be big money mistakes. Then, something happened, The Nets got rid of most their assistant coaches and magically the rest of the Nets started to remember who they were. There was no way a team with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Joe Johnson were going to miss the playoffs. This series to me, is by far the most interesting in the first round and the hardest to predict, with the lack of coaching experience for the Nets and the lack of playoff playing experience for most the Raptors.
The Prediction- Brooklyn in 6, I think the players are too scared of Prokhorov kidnapping their entire families for them to lose in the first round this year.
#4 Chicago Bulls vs. #5 Washington Wizards- Chicago started the season with high hopes. Derrick Rose was returning from being injured for all of last year and the rest of team showed it was able to gel into the league’s stingiest defense without Rose, so logic dictated that with Rose back it would be a banner year for the Bulls. Then a not so funny thing happened, early in the season Rose went down again. Now staring another Rose-less season in the face, the Bulls did what they are able to do so well last year and continue on as one of the league’s best teams. Then another curious thing happened, before the trading deadline, the Bulls decided to trade their arguably second best player to a division rival for basically nothing. The fans and the players were furious, rightfully so, that now they were two players down with nothing to show in return for their loss. Tom Thibodeau, again showing why he is one of the best coaches in the league soldiered on with his beat up roster. The Washington Wizards meanwhile come in to this series bright eyed and bushy tailed, seeking their first series win in many years. Most people expected the team to make an improvement from last year and be a low seed playoff team, but with a combination of half the teams in the conference actively tanking and another few just flat out sucking, the Wizards find themselves the 5th seed. They have a legit up and coming superstar in John Wall and a good mix of experience and youth to round out the roster, but I can’t help feeling that this team will need at least another year together and a few more pieces before they become a legit contender. With the Bulls uber-defense and the Wizards playoff inexperience, I expect this to be the lowest scoring of all first round match-ups, which of course favors the Bulls, who are lucky to get past 90 points most nights.
The Prediction- Chicago in 6, only because their lack of scoring threats.
#1 San Antonio Spurs vs. #8 Dallas Mavericks– For the 17th year in the a row anchored by the ageless wonder Tim Duncan, the San Antonio Spurs have made the playoffs. Even though it seems like for the past ten years everyone has said the Spurs were too old, this year everyone gave in and realized that the Spurs will be a good team until Duncan finally retires, and even then likely still be good after that, except for one year they will suck and wind up with the number #1 pick, who will be a franchise player, wash, rinse, repeat. The Dallas Mavericks on the other hand had to fight all year until almost the last day to get their spot. While normally an 1-8 match-up means a sweep or an easy series, these two franchises have a history of hard fought playoff wars and Dirk doesn’t look like he’s ready to go down without a fight. That being said, even with his improved cast of team mates, Dirk is still vastly out-gunned by the Spurs who run much deeper than their Texas counterparts.
The Prediction– San Antonio in 6, sorry Dirk, maybe next year.
#2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #7 Memphis Grizzlies– OKC started the season with it’s second best player Russell Westbrook missing a good chunk of the year, which to most teams would lead to a rough season, but the Thunder are no ordinary team, they have in my humble opinion, the hands down MVP of the year, Kevin Durant. With Westbrook out, Durant set the league on fire, so much so, that people actually openly wondered if the Thunder were a better team without Westbrook. To further this argument, the Thunder lost their first few games when Westbrook did come back. They eventually righted the ship and went on to finish the season strong. The Memphis Grizzlies on the other hand had a very turbulent year. They had streaks were they looked terrible and other streaks were they showed why they are still one of the most fearsome defenses in the league. It’s this defense that kept them above water most the year and let them squeeze into the playoffs. I will admit that I will be openly cheering for the Grizzlies to win this series, but I don’t think they have much of a chance. Oklahoma City is a much younger, faster, and talented squad than the Grizzlies and to make it worse even with their relative youth, have a lot of playoff experience together as a team. This spells doom for the tough grit-n-grind Grizz.
The Prediction– Oklahoma City in 6, the talent disparity is too much to overcome and Durant is on a mission this year.
#3 Los Angeles Clippers vs. #6 Golden State Warriors– This to me, is without a doubt the most intriguing of all the first round match-ups. Both teams have excellent offenses and bad team histories. The Clippers, LA’s new best team (suck it Lakers), are eager to show they are legit contenders this year. They return almost the same team from last year, but with a major coaching upgrade. Gone is the way over his head Vinnie del Negro, in is the savvy veteran coach Doc Rivers. The Clippers also managed to bring in J.J Reddick to shore up their perimeter shooting and a few other pieces to upgrade their bench. This combined with the emergence of Blake Griffin as a for real superstar, give Clippers fan a real shot of hope, that this could finally be their year. The Warriors themselves made a huge roster upgrade by bringing in elite defender Andre Iguodala. Before bringing in A.I 2.0, the Warriors were mostly just known for their offense, but with him on the squad and Mark Jackson’s emphasis on D, the Warriors have become a much more well rounded team. This series to me is a for real toss-up. I wouldn’t be surprised at all by either team winning this one. Look for Chris Paul and Steph Curry to have a battle for the ages in this one.
The Prediction– The Clippers in 7. I think CP3 and Blake G are ready to make the leap this year.
#4 Houston Rockets vs. #5 Portland Trail Blazers– The Portland Trail Blazers make the jump of the year in the Western Conference, going from lottery to 5th seed in the brutal west. With Damien Lilliard continuing his ascend up the point guard ladder and LaMarcus Aldridge deciding that maybe Portland isn’t the worst place to play this year, the Trail Blazers with a few savvy off season moves, became a legit team. The Rockets on the other hand, were expected to make the playoffs, and might actually be minorly disappointed that they didn’t get a higher seed. This to me is an interesting series, because on paper you would think that Houston is easily the better team, but they have not shown much of a killer instinct and it seems they are still unsure if Harden or Howard is the man on the team. Look for Portland to take advantage of Houston’s uncertainty and mediocre defense to make it a better series than it should be.
The Prediction– Houston in 6, because I think Portland still has at least another year before they become a legit playoff threat.
I will make a post for each round of the series, but just so people don’t think I’m riding out the playoffs to make my title pick here are my picks for the rest of the playoffs.
Second round- Bulls over Pacers in 7, Heat over Nets in 7, Spurs over Rockets in 5, Thunder over Clippers in 6
Third round- Heat over Bulls in 6, Spurs over Thunder in 7
Championship- Spurs over Heat in 6, red dead redemption
Bonus Predictions- Duncan, Popovich, and Ginobilli retire after title win.
Posted on April 18, 2014, in Basketball, Sports and tagged 2014 nba playoffs, basketball, Damian Lilliard, Dwight Howard, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Lebron James, NBA, playoffs, Steph Curry. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.