PLAYOFF PROGNOSTICATIONS

BANG! Happy NBA Playoffs! Without further adieu, our Playoff Picks:
EASTERN CONFERENCE


Chicago Bulls vs. Indiana Pacers
Folks, can someone help us out here please? We are wondering how in the last 3-4 years seemingly all the NBA stars have matriculated to the Eastern Conference (Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, Carlos Boozer, Deron Williams, etc.) and yet somehow the Western Conference is still superior to the Eastern Conference. Hence, the introduction to our 8th seed, the 37-win Indiana Pacers. We would like to have something nice to say about the Pacers going into the playoffs, but they would have been the 13th seed in the West, so we got nothin’ here.
On the flipside, of course, congrats to the Chicago Bulls clinching the best overall record in the NBA at 62-20. Quite the accomplishment with so many new players, a new coaching staff and injuries incurred by their starters. We’ve showered enough accolades on them already (see BanginthePost’s THE BELIEVABULLS). Only because we love the movie Hoosiers, we’re throwing the Pacers a game. Bulls in 5.

Miami Heat vs. Philadelphia 76ers
A job well done by Doug Collins, rallying his team after a 3-13 start to a playoff appearance. As far as the Heat, we admit we’ve been a little harsh on them this year. We are seeking help to sort out our anger towards LeBron. In our previous post, CRY, CRY, CRY, we have pointed out the Heat’s flaws. All that being said, 58 wins ain’t bad no matter how you look at it. The loss of power forward Udonis Haslem was a killer for this team. There are murmurs that Haslem may be ready later in the playoffs if the Heat can advance – and if they do, look out. In the meantime, the Heat have feasted on mediocre to bad teams all year long. We don’t see anything changing in Round 1. The Heat in 4.

New York Knicks vs. Boston Celtics
We predict the New York Knicks will win their first playoff game since the Jeff van Gundy era – yikes, that was a long time ago. Apparently, all the NBA experts read our blog BEANTOWN BLUNDER and have jumped on the Celtics-are-screwed-because-Kendrick-is-no-longer-there bandwagon. The good news for the Celtics is they are playing against the Carmela-led Knicks. In short, both of these teams are suffering from identity crises after mid-season trades. We give the Celtics the edge, winning in 6 games.

Orlando Magic vs. Atlanta Hawks
Talk about two more teams in the East with identity issues. At least the Magic have an excuse – they are still trying to find themselves after their many midseason acquisitions. They’ve also missed reliable shooting guard J.J. Reddick who was out for the last 17 regular season games. The Hawks truly are a mystery as this talented core has been together for 5 years now and has somehow regressed from last season. Despite having 9 less wins this year, we expect a much better post-season showing than Orlando’s evisceration of them last spring. Nonetheless, the ultimate difference in this series is that Dwight Howard is finally dominating on the offensive end. His hard work in the off-season will finally be on public display, showing he has become a force at both ends of the court. The Atlanta Hawks will finally succumb, losing in a close Game 7 in Orlando.

WESTERN CONFERENCE


San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies
We want to be the first to congratulate the Memphis Grizzlies on their first playoff win ever! BANG! We want to be the first to congratulate the Memphis Grizzlies on their second playoff win ever! And now we want to console the Grizzlies on a respectable first round loss to the San Antonio Spurs. We hope their solid year and the scare they put into the Spurs stays fresh in ownership’s mind when it comes time to re-sign Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph this off-season. As for the Spurs, they are undoubtedly the least feared 61-win team in the history of the NBA. Early on in the season when they were on pace to win 70 games, nobody believed in them and clearly Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins doesn’t fear them now. Entering the last game of the NBA season, the Grizzlies rested their best players ensuring they would be the 8th seed – bring on the Spurs! But, when all is said and done, the Spurs depth proves to be too much for the Grizz. Spurs in 6.

LA Lakers vs. New Orleans Hornets
The Hornets were one of the more unpredictable teams this season, starting out 11-1 as first year coach Monty Williams was being hailed as a genius. But reality set in and their record evened out. Then adversity set in when power forward David West tore his ACL and was lost for the season. Now sadness will set in as this ownerless team, likely to lose their superstar point guard Chris Paul after next season, gets swept by the Lakers. If the Lakers are able to three-peat sending the Zen master off with the perfect goodbye, those in the know will reflect back with gratitude to Game 82 against the Sacramento Kings. The Kings had them on the ropes with seconds to play when Kobe forced overtime with a three-pointer leading to a Lakers win. Had this not occurred, the Lakers would have faced a much tougher Portland team in the first round, possibly advancing to meet the Mavericks on the road in the second round. With an injured starting center in Andrew Bynum, a chickenpox-ed Steve Blake, still dinged up Matt Barnes, and a still apologizing for his homophobic slur Kobe, this scenario may have been the end of the Lakers dynasty. The Hornets are just the break the Lakers need to regroup in Round 1. Lakers in 4.

Dallas Mavericks vs. Portland Trailblazers
He’s not our coach of the year, but he’s our most resilient coach of the year – Nate McMillan. We’re not sure if it’s the curse of Sam Bowie, but there is a dark cloud hovering over the Rose Garden seemingly every season as this team annually is beset with devastating injuries. Somehow, someway, McMillan wheedled 48 wins out of this team. Now they’re everyone’s upset darlings to knock out the Mavericks in the first round. Warning to everyone – you’re wrong again. Although the Mavericks sputtered at the end of the season (blowing a chance for home court at least to the conference finals), they clearly are the deeper and more talented team. The always feisty Blazers will keep the games close, but look for the Mavericks to prevail in 5 games.

Oklahoma Thunder vs. Denver Nuggets
BanginthePost has not been too kind to Coach George Karl in the past, but first and foremost – congrats on kicking cancer’s ass for a second time. Secondly, congratulations to Coach Karl, the Nuggets organization and the whole state of Colorado for bamboozling James Dolan & the Knicks and coming out victorious after the laborious Carmela drama. Nothing was more satisfying for us purists than witnessing the improvement of the Nuggets after ridding themselves of Carmelo Anthony. Many expect the Nuggets to cause some hay during this year’s playoffs. Unfortunately, their first round draw, the Oklahoma thunder are simply too talented. With the Thunder’s acquisition of Kendrick Perkins, they have become a championship contender. The Nuggets teamwork and depth will not be enough. Thunder in 5.

A quick look beyond Round 1 (details to follow):
EAST
Bulls beat Orlando in 6; Miami over Boston in 5
Bulls beat the Heat in 7
WEST
Thunder over Spurs in 5; Lakers over Mavericks in 7
Lakers over Thunder in 7
NBA CHAMPIONSHIP
Big Chief Triangle Zen Master Phil Jackson comes full circle, ending his career losing game 7 to his former team, where it all began. We can’t wait to read Phil’s next book explaining how it was all meant to be. Bulls over Lakers in 7 for the Championship.

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