NBA Preview: Potential Playoff Matchups in the Week Ahead

Branden FitzPatrick@divingmelvinCorrespondent IApril 9, 2012

NBA Preview: Potential Playoff Matchups in the Week Ahead

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    Get ready for NBA playoff basketball—this week is filled with potential playoff series previews. 

    The Memphis Grizzlies and the Los Angeles Lakers will look to gain ground out West as they each take on the San Antonio Spurs. 

    For the Spurs, both games mark an opportunity to surpass Oklahoma City Thunder for the outright lead in the West.

    Over in the East, the Chicago Bulls have a crucial matchup with the Miami Heat as they attempt to cling to the No. 1 seed heading down the stretch. 

    These games are sure to heat up the rivalries around the association as time winds down towards the NBA playoffs. 

Boston Celtics at Miami Heat

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    The Mad Men Game of the Week: Pete Campbell vs. Roger Sterling

    If you've seen this season of Mad Men, you're aware of the dislike between Pete Campbell and Roger Sterling. Sterling is the Hall of Famer—he's made his mark in the world of advertising, but overall, his time has come and gone. Pete Campbell is the new star of the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce agency. He proves every day that he's more important to the agency than Roger. Despite Pete's rise to the top, he can't help but deny that Roger still has some favorable qualities that can help the agency. Most notably, Roger's charm.

    As the show progresses and as time moves on, Roger is going to become less and less important to the agency every day. Despite the fact that times are changing, Roger still knows how to push Pete's buttons. 

    The Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics are the same way. The Miami Heat are the new cream of the crop. They have some unfavorable qualities (their inability to close out close games), but they have elite talent and play lockdown defense.

    Roger Sterling is the Boston Celtics. They can no longer bring it on a nightly basis because of their age and injuries. But the Celtics have the ability to beat the Heat on any given night because of their experience and coaching. They know how to frustrate the Heat, which is evident from their blowout win earlier this month.

    When: Tuesday, April 10 

    The Pick: Miami Heat over the Boston Celtics

    The Reason: The Heat can't afford to lose to the Celtics again. In order to beat the Celtics, the Heat need to prevent Rajon Rondo from making a mockery out of them. Last game, Rondo finished with 16 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds. Expect the Heat to come out playing fast. They don't want to play a close game with the Celtics. 

    Bold Prediction: The Heat will win big. They got punked by the Celtics last game. They will view this game as revenge.

Los Angeles Clippers at Oklahoma City Thunder

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    The Highlight Factory of the Week 

    The Los Angeles Clippers and the Oklahoma City Thunder are never short in the highlight department. Both teams are high-flying, lob-throwing machines. This game could get a little chippy. If Blake Griffin tries one of his slams on Kendrick Perkins again, he may find himself needing help off the floor. When these two teams faced off in late March, Perkins hit Griffin in the face on a hard foul in the first quarter. The Thunder would be foolish not to set the tone early again.

    The Clippers have been hot recently. They've won eight of their last 10 games. The Thunder need to get back on track. They've lost their last three games. The Thunder need to win this game to regain their spot atop the Western Conference.

    When: Wednesday, April 11 

    The Pick: Oklahoma City Thunder over the Los Angeles Clippers

    The Reason: The Thunder are in a whole different league than the Clippers. While both teams are exciting, the Thunder are a serious contender to win the NBA championship. The Clippers are the definition of a pretender. They will struggle all night trying to stop Durant, Westbrook and Harden.  

    Bold Prediction: The Thunder will try to send Griffin a message. They will foul him hard all night. If any team were to knock Griffin on his behind for embarrassing them, it would be the Thunder.

Los Angeles Lakers at San Antonio Spurs

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    Show Me What You Got Game of the Week

    Crazy as it sounds, the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers have not played this season. The Lakers play the Spurs in three of their last nine games.

    These teams are going to get used to each other quickly. Both of them are atop the Western Conference standings. The Spurs are battling for the No. 1 seed. They desperately want and need home-court advantage.

    The Lakers, despite all of their dysfunctions, can still lock up a first-round home-court series with a strong finish down the stretch.

    Both of these teams will try to send a message to one another. Expect it to get chippy, especially with Andrew Bynum's recent attitude issues.   

    When: Wednesday, April 11

    The Pick: San Antonio Spurs over the Los Angeles Lakers

    The Reason: The Spurs are too deep for the Lakers, especially if Kobe Bryant is unable to get healthy. If Bryant doesn't play, this game could get out of hand. 

    Bold Prediction: Tony Parker will finish with a double-double, leading the Spurs to a close victory over the Lakers (if Bryant plays).  

Miami Heat at Chicago Bulls

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    Grudge Match of the Week

    We have yet to see the full potential of this rivalry.

    The two have split their season series, with the Bulls winning the most recent game in March. Both of the games have been sloppy. Hopefully, for our sake, the quality of this game will be significantly better. 

    LeBron James needs to finish the season strong if he wants to hold off Kevin Durant for that MVP trophy.

    The Heat proved last week when they beat the Thunder that they like revenge games. This would be the perfect game for the Heat to show that they are the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.

    For the Bulls, they need to prove that they're not all Derrick Rose. They played great basketball when Rose was away with an injury. But NBA playoff basketball is different. Just because the Bulls played great without Rose in the regular season doesn't mean they will play well in the playoffs with him. When things get close late with Rose in the lineup, they depend too much on Rose to make plays. Someone else on the team needs to step up on a consistent basis. Richard Hamilton, where are you? 

    When: Thursday, April 12  

    The Pick: Miami Heat over the Chicago Bulls

    The Reason: The Miami Heat are going to have a good week. The Chicago Bulls have been struggling as of late. The Heat aren't out of contention for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Deng won't be able to contain King James. 

    Bold Prediction: Rose, who just returned back from injury, will struggle to keep up with the Heat. 

Memphis Grizzlies at San Antonio Spurs

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    The Revenge Match

    A rematch of last year's first-round playoff series. 

    The San Antonio Spurs have done their best to revenge their loss to the Memphis Grizzlies this season. They've won all three of the games in the season series so far.

    This Grizzlies team is much different from the team the Spurs beat earlier this season. Last time they played, Zach Randolph was out with an injury. Now the Grizzlies are bringing him off the bench, causing all sorts of mismatch problems.

    Bringing Randolph off the bench is a brilliant move by Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins. He wants to avoid causing any chemistry issues by thrusting Randolph into the starting lineup after missing so much time due to an injury. What it's done has allowed the Grizzlies to play Marreese Speights with the starters, while Randolph destroys the opposing teams' bench.       

    When: Thursday, April 12

    The Pick: Memphis Grizzlies over the San Antonio Spurs 

    The Reason: The Grizzlies match up very well against the Spurs. It will be tough for the Spurs to beat the Grizzlies, especially the night after they play the Lakers at home. 

    Bold Prediction: Zach Randolph will get a double-double off the bench, reminding everyone that he is one of the best power forwards in the NBA.