Since the NBA expanded the first round series to seven games in 2003 the number one seed has lost only twice (2007 Mavericks to Warriors and 2011 Spurs to Grizzlies). In fact, since that year the first round of the NBA playoffs have been relatively predictable. If an upset does occur, it is rare. As a result of the shortened 66 game season, which included back to back to back games, the playoffs will generate a few fantastic and unpredictable first round series.
Heat vs Knicks
Who wouldn’t want to see this matchup? The Garden is a mecca and absolutely the most raucous arena in the NBA.
Last year Tyson Chandler was a huge and an overlooked reason that the Mavericks won the NBA title. He routinely prevented both Wade and LeBron from penetrateing and finishing at the rim and caused them to change their offensive style as the Heat lost in six games. Chandler should be able to create the same issues this year.
With Carmelo Anthony playing as well as he ever has in New York and Miami’s supporting cast looking worse than last year’s motley crew, seeing this series go seven games isn’t out of the realm of possibilities.
Clippers vs Grizzlies
Last year the Grizzlies shocked the basketball world by beating the Spurs in six games. As we get further and further from that series it actually begins to make sense and looks less like an upset.
The Grizzlies are a matchup nightmare for most teams. This year they return much of the same team, but upgraded the Shane Battier spot with Rudy Gay, who was injured last year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Grizzlies keep playing Zach Randolph off the bench, which adds another layer of depth as they would have the best bench player, by far, in any series that they played. Meanwhile, the Clippers have the best pure point guard in the game and high flying TV friendly offense. I just have a hunch this will be the most entertaining first round series.
Lakers vs Dallas
A rematch of last years semifinals, which resulted in Dallas sweeping the back to back champs and continued Dallas’ improbable run to the title. Dallas has seemingly played with a championship hangover all season, and the aforementioned loss of Tyson Chandler coupled with JJ Barea signing with Minnesota has changed the dynamic of the team for the worse (at least until they possibly sign Deron Williams this summer).
Whether the Mavericks have another gear that they can shift to will quickly be seen. The bad blood from Andrew Bynum decking Barea as last season’s series wound down lost some of its luster when Barea signed with Minnesota in the offseason. Nonetheless, it’s impossible for me to imagine that the Mavericks will not at least rise to the occasion and give the Lakers everything they can possibly handle.