The most thrilling time during the basketball season is approaching. Along with that comes the excitement of trying to guess who is going to make it. I make no exception.
The 2012 NBA playoffs begin on April 28. In general, the best teams during the regular season face much weaker teams. The top-eight teams in each conference qualify. The first seed plays the eighth seed; the second seed plays the seventh seed, and so forth.
Although these are wishful matchups, I have tried to stay realistic and base them on the teams’ standings as of April 11, 2012.
The Chicago Bulls have already secured playoff berth on top of the Eastern Conference. The New York Knicks may move up a spot or two, but I would still prefer to see them playing the Bulls.
The main reason is the game on April 8, which the Knicks won 100-99 in overtime. I would take any game that can go either way at the last second over watching the Miami Heat demonstrating their dominance.
Records show, Bulls vs. Knicks are unpredictable games. These are always fun to watch. In the last four meet-ups, the Bulls have won three times, but only last night’s game ended in more than a five point gap at final time.
Right now, it looks like the Houston Rockets will be facing Los Angeles Lakers. That would be an interesting game, but I prefer Lakers vs. Mavericks (more on that in the next slide).
Houston has pleasantly surprised me this season. I was not expecting them in the playoffs, much less seeded sixth. Kyle Lowry is a pretty good point guard after all. Shooting guard Kevin Martin is injured, and the team doesn’t know whether he’ll be back by April 28. My guess is he won’t.
But the Spurs have problems too. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are a star trio but look tired. If you look at the numbers, they are clearly not the dominant team. In six games against Houston, every other game has been a loss: 102-105, 85-105 and 87-101. The Rockets have not lost a game by no more than 8 points to the Spurs.
Having the last two NBA champions face each other so early on in the playoffs makes them a lot more interesting. Both are experienced teams with a lot to prove this season.
Dallas is 32-26, but I would expect more from a defending champion. Other than Dirk Nowitzki, 33, the other older players on the team, like Jason Kidd, 38, and Vince Carter, 35, are inconsistent when scoring.
In 58 games, the Mavericks have suffered as many losses as they did in 82 games last year. The defending champs suffered heavy free-agent losses, and the patchwork of veterans they brought in as replacements have made an old team older.
The Lakers are suffering and it shows. They can do better than 36-22. They’ve got pride issues too. Kobe Bryant was benched in the fourth quarter with 5:45 to go against the Grizzlies two weeks ago. Even he was surprised. Andrew Bynum has got a temper too.
The Lakers have won the last three games—two of them very close.
This is a game where one team can lead by a lot but end up losing. I’m thinking of the Jan. 26 game—after trailing by 27 points in the first half, the Celtics made an amazing run to defeat the Magic in Orlando 91-83.
Boston is seeded fourth and Orlando is sixth. There really isn’t a big gap in terms of quality of play between these two teams. It’s going to be a battle of the leaders. Center Dwight Howard (averaging 20.6 PPG) vs. guard Rajon Rondo (averaging 12.2 PPG).
It’s always interesting to watch these two against each other. They play one more time. The Celtics tied a team record by holding the Magic to just 56 points in a blowout win.
As of now, it looks like Orlando will play Indiana, while Boston is up against Atlanta.