To think that on December 25, 2011, when the shortened 2011-12 NBA season started, Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose was hitting a game-winning shot against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Miami Heat were embarrassing the Dallas Mavericks (a team that had dropped them in six games in the 2011 NBA Finals) and a lockout-ridden offseason was finally over. Teams have had to fit 66 games in four short months, making for very exhausting and action-packed games every single night. At the end of this post is a link of the 2012 NBA Playoff picture, as I try to predict to my best ability the winner(s) in this year’s postseason. This is the first in a series of four playoff pieces.
(1) San Antonio Spurs vs. Utah Jazz (8)
I don’t like what the Spurs did at the end (and even right in the middle of things) of the season by giving players such as Tim Duncan very extended periods of rest. Every team in the NBA this season has had to endure some type of exhausting back-to-back-to-back games in their 66-game shortened schedule. They didn’t rest their starters, so why should teams with veterans such as Duncan, Tony Park and Manu Ginobili see their minutes go down when it got to crunch time?
The Spurs saw it last year; a No. 1 seed and an early exit in the playoffs thanks to the Memphis Grizziles, who they could end up facing next round if they both advance past the quarterfinals. But, despite the size advantage for the Jazz I believe that the Spurs are poised to make an angry entrance into the 2012 playoffs after not being counted in as a contender earlier in the season.
1. Spurs over 8. Jazz, 4-1
(4) Memphis Grizzlies vs. (5) Los Angeles Clippers
I’ve liked the Grizzlies improvements on offense thus far this season after making a big leap in their franchise by knocking out the Spurs in the first round. That’s why it’s hard for me to pick the Clippers upsetting the Grizz in the quarterfinals.
Although I think the “Blake Show” needs to stop, I think that is just what the Clippers have more of in this match up. Star power, and that’s what will make the difference in this game. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are enough to make you think they stand a fighting chance against any team in the East. They were a playoff-cusp team last year and are now in the mix of things. Expect them to make a big splash.
5. Los Angeles Clippers beat 4. Memphis Grizzlies, 4-3
(3) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (6) Denver Nuggets
Most analysts were writing off the Nuggets near the end of the season, telling them to take a dive to miss the playoffs and get another draft choice. After those talks surfaced, the Nuggets steam-rolled teams, including the Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder, going on an 11-4 run to end the season. That’s not enough to beat the Lakers.
Despite Mike Brown getting nothing accomplished this season, the Lakers were very competitive against playoff teams and in the limelight. Aren’t they always know? The Nuggets are lacking playoff experience and can’t stand to guard a fresh Kobe Byrant.
3. Los Angeles Lakers beat 6. Denver Nuggets, 4-2
(2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (7) Dallas Mavericks
Man did the Dallas Mavericks slip at the end of the season or not? Finishing the season 5-6 and slipping all the way to the seventh seed was definitely not in their game plan. Although they had their number last year, the Thunder seem to be the favorite this season and the Mavericks have just been very hot and cold all season long.
The Mavericks are still the team to beat in the playoffs because they are the reigning champions. Until someone knocks them out, they’re the team to beat, so this might just be the Thunder’s toughest opponent. They have learned and matured a lot as a unit, and I think that’s what puts them ahead of the problem-ridden Mavericks.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder beat 7. Dallas Mavericks, 4-2
Easter Conference Quarterfinals:
(1) Chicago Bulls vs. (8) Philadelphia 76ers
The depth the Chicago Bulls have on the bench makes them the scariest team in the league. In lieu of Derrick Rose’s absence for 27 games this season, the Bulls still remained a threat to powerhouse teams because of their bench. Kyle Korver, Taj Gibson and C.J. Watson have filled in when necessary throughout the season and share the same toughness that the starters have. Philadelphia fell off the face of the Eastern Conference after going 11-21 starting on February 15 and ending with a four-game road winning streak on April 25.
1. Chicago Bulls beat 8. Philadelphia 76ers, 4-0
(4) Boston Celtics vs. (5) Atlanta Hawks
Everyone hated on the Celtics before the season even started, stating that they were too old and Rajon Rondo wasn’t wanted. Well, both of those things were true, but they didn’t hurt the Celtics season. Whenever the Celtics, and Rondo, were put in the spotlight, they succeeded.
The Hawks are already missing two big pieces in Al Horford and (maybe) Zaza Pachulia, so I don’t think it’s their season, yet again, to make it past the first round. They have lost twice in the first round and three times in the semifinals in the past five years. They’re known for having a good team, but not a next-level team.
4. Boston Celtics beat 5. Atlanta Hawks, 4-3
(3) Indiana Pacers vs. (6) Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic have had to endure quite a drama with Dwight Howard trade and coach-firing talks, but now he is finally out of their hair. He is out for the rest of the playoffs with a lower-back injury, but I still think the Magic have enough weapons to keep it interesting with Ryan Anderson, Jameer Nelson, Glen Davis, J.J. Redick and Jason Richardson. I think it will be one of the more hard-fought series, but I think that the Pacers get out of the first round.
3. Indiana Pacers beat 6. Orlando Magic, 4-1
(2) Miami Heat vs. (7) New York Knicks
I don’t care if the Knicks have had the Heat’s number as of late, but this Miami team is more determined than they have ever been since joining together the “Big Three.” The most determined in that group has to be LeBron James, who has changed his game dramatically to more suit himself as a balanced players (27.1 points, 6.2 assists and 7.9 rebounds).
Get out the brooms again, the Knicks are going to be swept for the second year in a row. I’m sticking with my prediction of the Heat making it back to the Finals. They can do it, and surprisingly New York may be one of their biggest threats.
2. Miami Heat beat 7. New York Knicks, 4-o
Stay tuned to Right Down Euclid for the semifinals predictions, which can be seen right here already - http://bit.ly/KmEVFd
Topics: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, San Antonio Spurs, Utah Jazz