NBA Predictions 2012: Predicting Every Matchup of the 2012 NBA Playoffs
With teams like the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs vying for the best record in the NBA, in addition to the top spots in their respective conferences, the playoff picture is all but clear.
That's what I'm here for.
In the upcoming slides you'll find full predictions of what the 2012 NBA Playoffs will look like, from every first round matchup, all the way to which two teams will play in the 2012 NBA Finals.
Will your favorite team make it to the 2012 NBA Playoffs, and how far will they go if they get there? Read on to find out.
2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
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No. 1 Miami Heat vs. No. 8 New York Knicks
The Miami Heat are arguably the best team in the Eastern Conference, and at the end of the regular season, the Heat will prove that by having the best record in the East.
By earning the No. 1 seed in the East, the Heat will set themselves up for an epic showdown with the No. 8 seed New York Knicks in the first round.
The Knicks, who will undoubtedly be inconsistent throughout the second half of the season, with flashes of brilliance followed by underwhelming performances, will put up a fight in the first round against the Heat.
The series, though, will end in South Beach in Game 5 of the seven-game series. The Heat's chemistry will carry them past a very tough Knicks team that just won't have enough time to truly gel before the playoffs come around.
No. 2 Chicago Bulls vs. No. 7 Boston Celtics
Here's a rematch of the epic 2009 Eastern Conference quarterfinals matchup that featured 2009 Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose, leading the Chicago Bulls to a tight seven-game showdown with the then dominant No. 1 seed, Boston Celtics.
Oh, how the tides have turned.
Fast forward to the 2012 playoffs, and the Chicago Bulls are the higher seed, and undoubtedly the favored team between the two.
I'd like to think that the Bulls would be able to sweep the aging Celtics, but Garnett, Allen, Pierce and Rondo absolutely won't let that happen. The Celtics will extend this series to a sixth game back in Boston, where the Bulls will put an end to the Celtics' 2012 title hopes.
The Bulls will get their revenge, and the Celtics will be left wondering if it's time to break apart their big three and start rebuilding.
No. 3 Philadelphia 76ers vs. No. 6 Atlanta Hawks
The Philadelphia 76ers a three-seed in the Eastern Conference? I know, it's somewhat shocking, but it certainly has the potential to happen.
Al Horford won't return in time to help the Atlanta Hawks increase their playoff position, which is why they will undoubtedly find themselves in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
The 76ers beat the Hawks in their first two matchups of the 2011-12 regular season, and they did so in impressive fashion, to the tune of 90-76 and 98-87. The one major advantage that the 76ers have over the Hawks is depth coming off the bench, which will ultimately be the difference maker in this first-round series.
The 76ers will move on to the Eastern Conference semifinals for the first time in eight years, and they'll do so by beating the Atlanta Hawks in only five games.
No. 4 Indiana Pacers vs. No. 5 Orlando Magic
For the first time in a while the Orlando Magic will find themselves in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference playoffs, mainly because of the uncertainty surrounding the situation with Dwight Howard.
Fortunately for the Magic, even with the fifth seed in the East, they will get a favorable matchup with the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
The Magic won two of their three matchups with the Indiana Pacers in the first half of the 2011-12 season, mainly because of Dwight Howard being able to dominate Pacers' center Roy Hibbert in the paint.
While the Pacers are the more complete team overall, they won't be able to hang with the production of Dwight Howard, and they won't have an answer for power forward Ryan Anderson.
In what will be the most competitive series of the first round, the Magic will beat the Pacers, but it will take all seven games of the series to do so.
2012 Western Conference Quarterfinals
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No. 1 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. No. 8 Memphis Grizzlies
The Thunder and Grizzlies provided NBA fans with one of the most competitive and exciting seven-game playoff series in recent memory when they met in the Western Conference semifinals last year.
While the Grizzlies tested the Thunder, Oklahoma City ultimately proved too much to handle, finishing the Grizzlies out in Game 7 of their series. It's not going to take the Thunder that long this year to knock the Grizzlies out of the playoffs, as the Thunder are more efficient and even more explosive offensively this season than last.
The Thunder will knock off the Grizzlies in only five games this season, and they'll do so in dominant style. Proving that they are truly the best team in the West.
No. 2 Los Angeles Clippers vs. No. 7 Houston Rockets
Lob City will roll into the playoffs as the second best team in the Western Conference, surpassing the mighty San Antonio Spurs by only one or two games in the win column.
Ultimately, what makes the Clippers more dangerous than the Spurs is their athleticism and explosiveness in the transition offense.
The Clippers against the Rockets will be a much more competitive first-round series than many would think, with the Rockets using the depth they have coming off the bench to stay competitive in the series. While the Rockets will be competitive, they ultimately won't have the defensive pressure they need to slow down the Clippers high-powered offensive attack.
The Clippers crushed the Rockets in their first matchup of the season, to the tune of 117-89, and while the games won't be that lopsided, the Rockets won't be able to get the four wins they need to move on to the next round.
Expect the Clippers to end this series in no more than five competitive games.
No. 3 San Antonio Spurs vs. No. 6 Denver Nuggets
The San Antonio Spurs got a rude awakening in the first round of the playoffs last year, with a first-round exit courtesy of the upset-minded Memphis Grizzlies. Unfortunately for the Spurs, they will undoubtedly suffer that same fate this season, just at the hands of a different team.
The Spurs' first-round exit this year will come at the hands of the Denver Nuggets, who will undoubtedly be clicking as a cohesive unit come time for the postseason.
I know the Nuggets lost both matchups this season with the Spurs, but just as the Grizzlies proved last year, the playoffs are a completely different beast than the regular season.
The one thing the Nuggets have that the Spurs don't, is one of the best benches in the entire NBA, and that's going to be the difference maker in this matchup.
With Al Harrington, Jordan Hamilton and Andre Miller coming off the bench, the Nuggets will be too deep for the Spurs, ultimately ending a competitive series in Game 6, sending the Spurs home early for the second year in a row.
Maybe it's time to do some rebuilding for the Spurs.
No. 4 Dallas Mavericks vs. No. 5 Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers were swept in their matchup with the Dallas Mavericks last year, and the heated series ended with Andrew Bynum nearly destroying J.J. Barea with one of the dirtiest fouls in NBA history.
The Lakers got absolutely dominated in nearly every aspect of the game in that series, and unfortunately, they're going to suffer the same fate this year. Except this time, Andrew Bynum's going to have to find another guy to give a forearm shiver to, because J.J. Barea doesn't play for the Mavericks anymore.
The one thing that's been holding the Lakers back so far this season, and what will ultimately doom them in the playoffs, is a lack of productivity aside from Kobe, Bynum and Gasol. With arguably the worst bench in the entire NBA, the Lakers won't be able to hang with the Mavericks throughout the longevity of a seven-game series.
The Lakers will be able to extend the series past four games this year, but will ultimately lose to a much more complete Mavericks team in the sixth game of their matchup.
2012 Eastern Conference Semifinals
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No. 1 Miami Heat vs. No. 5 Orlando Magic
Heat vs. Magic. Howard vs. LeBron. No matter how you look at a playoff series between Orlando and MIami, there's only one word that describes it, and that word is: epic.
The Heat and the Magic split their first two meetings this season, with the Magic winning the first matchup by 13 points and the Heat winning the second by 12.
With both teams possessing the blueprint to take each other down, the Heat with explosive transition offense, and the Magic with consistent perimeter shooting, there's no doubt that this quarterfinal series will be back and forth throughout its longevity.
The main issue that will keep the Orlando Magic from moving on to the Eastern Conference finals is their reliance on their perimeter offense to win games. As we saw in the Heat and Magic's last showdown, if Orlando doesn't shoot well from beyond the arc, they are an easy team to beat, and that's what will be their downfall.
The more complete team will move on, and that team is undoubtedly the Miami Heat. Miami will take care of Orlando in the sixth game of a very competitive and taxing series.
No. 2 Chicago Bulls vs. No. 3 Philadelphia 76ers
The Chicago Bulls are arguably one of the most complete teams in the NBA, ranking in the top 10 in every major team statistical category. The Philadelphia 76ers, on the other hand, are one of the deepest teams in the NBA, with arguably the most productive and most efficient bench in the NBA.
With that being said, a Bulls vs. 76ers matchup in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals would be one of the most competitive playoff series of the year.
The 76ers proved that they can hang with the Bulls, with their impressive 16-point victory over Chicago earlier in the season. The Bulls, on the other hand, proved that they can hang with nearly every team in the NBA, by running out to one of the best records in the league in the first half of the season.
The difference maker in a series between Chicago and Philadelphia won't come down to which team has the deepest bench, or even which team is the most complete. The difference maker in this series will be the fact that Chicago has last year's MVP in Derrick Rose.
Like Rose has done all season long, he will take over the series, and ultimately be the difference maker against a 76ers team that will struggle to keep him in check.
Philadelphia will manage to take this series to the seventh game, but Rose will ultimately be too much for the young 76ers to handle.
2012 Western Conference Semifinals
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No. 1 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. No. 4 Dallas Mavericks
Oklahoma City and Dallas met last year in the Western Conference finals, with Dallas ultimately proving too experienced and too much for the young Thunder to handle. This year, Oklahoma City and Dallas will meet again in the playoffs, but the tides will have turned.
The Thunder will undoubtedly be the favorite in this matchup, and for good reason. OKC ranks third in overall offensive production with an average of 102.4 points per game, and they also have one of the most explosive backcourts in the NBA, with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant running the show.
The main difference between the Mavericks this year and last is the fact that they lost three productive members of last year's championship team, in Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea and Caron Butler.
Those players were major reasons why Dallas was able to move past Oklahoma City last year, and their absence this year will be the major reason why they won't make it past the Thunder in this playoff series.
The youth and explosive offense of Oklahoma City will prove too much for Dallas to handle this year, with the Thunder beating the Mavericks in five games.
No. 2 Los Angeles Clippers vs. No. 6 Denver Nuggets
The Denver Nuggets will be looking to carry over the momentum they gained from taking down the San Antonio Spurs in their first-round matchup, but actually doing that against an athletic Clippers team is going to be very difficult.
The Nuggets will be able to keep up with the Clippers' fast-paced offense, as they hold the No. 2 ranked offense in the entire NBA, with an average of 103.4 points per game.
While the Nuggets will be able to keep pace with the Clippers, their ultimate downfall will be the fact that they don't understand what defense looks like, which will hurt them when the Clippers are in their half-court offense.
One of the things that will make Lob City such a difficult team to handle for the Nuggets is their ability to run a deadly pick-and-roll offense with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. The Nuggets won't have an answer, defensively speaking, for the Paul-Griffin connection, which will ultimately be the main reason why the Nuggets will fall to the Clippers.
The Nuggets undoubtedly have the deeper and more productive bench between the two teams, but that won't matter if they aren't able to keep the Clippers from putting triple digits on the board night in and night out.
Lob City will move on to the Western Conference finals, and they'll do so in impressive fashion by beating the Denver Nuggets in just five games.
2012 Eastern Conference Finals: Miami Heat vs. Chicago Bulls
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No. 1 Miami Heat vs. No 2. Chicago Bulls
A rematch of the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals between the Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls is about as highly anticipated of a rematch that you can get this season.
There's no doubt that the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat are the two best teams in the Eastern Conference. Miami and Chicago win games in different ways; the Heat own the most productive offense in the league at an average of 103.7 points per game, while the Bulls own the second-best defensive production in the league, allowing an average of only 88.2 points per game.
The two main differences between the Heat and the Bulls, though, are the Heat's "big three" compared to the Bulls' starting rotation and the Bulls' "bench mob" in contrast to the Heat's second unit.
While I'd like to give the nod to the Bulls and their ridiculously productive bench, the overall advantage has to go to the Heat's starting lineup with LeBron, Wade and Bosh. The Heat won't be able to take the Bulls down in five games like they did last year, as the Bulls are a more complete team this year. The Heat, however, will ultimately earn their second straight NBA Finals appearance by sending the Bulls home in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Like last year's Eastern Conference Finals, LeBron will have Derrick Rose on lockdown, which will ultimately take the Bulls out of their offensive groove and will prove too much for the Bulls to overcome.
Chicago will take Miami to the limit, but the Heat will ultimately send the Bulls home in the final game of their seven-game series. LeBron and company move on the 2012 NBA Finals in hopes of redeeming themselves after their underwhelming NBA Finals performance last year.
2012 Western Conference Finals: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Clippers
No. 1 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. No. 2 Los Angeles Clippers
A Thunder vs. Clippers Western Conference Finals is as exciting a playoff series as you can get.
With the Thunders' high-powered offense led by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook against Lob City's high-flying offense led by Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the 2012 Western Conference Finals will be full of fireworks. That's for sure.
As we learned in last year's NBA Finals between the then new-look Miami Heat and the experienced Dallas Mavericks, the main difference maker in a playoff series is the chemistry that exists between players on each team.
The advantage when it comes to team chemistry goes to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who've been playing together much longer than the new-look Los Angeles Clippers. There's no doubt that the Clippers will give the Thunder a run for their money, but Oklahoma City's chemistry and playoff experience as a cohesive unit will prove to be the difference maker in the 2012 Western Conference Finals.
Kevin Durant will prove that he's ready to be one of the best in the game by leading the Thunder to their first NBA Finals appearance since the 1995-96 season, when the Thunder were the Seattle Supersonics and their franchise player was a guy I like to call "The Reign Man."
The Clippers will challenge the Thunder, making it to a pivotal sixth game back in the Staples Center, but Oklahoma City's explosive offense will prove too much for Lob City to handle. Oklahoma City closes out the 2012 Western Conference Finals in six games and moves on to the 2012 NBA Finals to face the Miami Heat.
2012 NBA Finals: Miami Heat vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
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No. 1 Miami Heat vs. No. 1 Oklahoma City Thunder
If the 2011-12 NBA season ended right now, the two best teams in the NBA would arguably be the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat. They both have high-powered offenses led by legitimate All-Stars.
The Heat, led by LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, and the Thunder, led by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, have yet to play each other this season, so speculating what a Finals matchup between the two teams would look like is just that: pure speculation.
The one clear advantage that the Heat have over the Thunder is legitimate defensive pressure, led by three-time All-Defensive First Team member LeBron James. When it comes to defense—which will ultimately be the difference maker between these two high-scoring offenses—the team advantage goes to the Heat, who currently rank 14th in defensive production, allowing an average of 94.4 points per game.
The Thunder, on the other hand, rank 20th in defensive production, allowing an average of 96.0 points per game. While that difference between the Heat and Thunder's defensive averages isn't that significant, there's no doubt that the Heat's starting five matches up better with the Thunder's starting five, defensively speaking, than the other way around.
A Finals between Oklahoma City and Miami will be one for the ages, with guaranteed classic matchups fueled by two high-powered offenses. Ultimately, this series will come down to who can play stronger defense, and that team is the Miami Heat.
Miami will beat the Thunder in Game 7 back in South Beach, where LeBron will be the proud owner of his first NBA championship ring. Let the celebration begin in South Beach.
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