NBA Playoff Predictions 2014: Projecting Winners in Each 1st-Round Matchup

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NBA Playoff Predictions 2014: Projecting Winners in Each 1st-Round Matchup
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The end of the 2014 NBA regular season has many basketball fans distraught, but several high-profile first-round matchups ensure this year’s playoffs will have even those without a horse in this race excited about the action.

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Of all the exciting first-round battles, few are better than the matchup between the Houston Rockets and the Portland Trail Blazers.

With both teams holding a definitive edge over the other in certain aspects of the game, these teams finished the season with the exact same record and will now do battle with the right to advance to the second round on the line.

Here are the first-round postseason matchups, the predicted winner in each series and a preview of Houston vs. Portland.

 

First-Round Matchups and Predictions
Eastern Conference
Home Team Record Away Team Record Predicted Winner
No. 1 Indiana Pacers 56-26 vs. No. 8 Atlanta Hawks 38-44 Indiana
No. 2 Miami Heat 54-28 vs. No. 7 Charlotte Bobcats 43-39 Miami
No. 3 Toronto Raptors 48-34 vs. No. 6 Brooklyn Nets 44-38 Brooklyn
No. 4 Chicago Bulls 48-34 vs. No. 5 Washington Wizards 44-38 Chicago
Western Conference
Home Team Record Away Team Record Predicted Winner
No. 1 San Antonio Spurs 62-20 vs. No. 8 Dallas Mavericks 49-33 San Antonio
No. 2 Oklahoma City Thunder 59-23 vs. No. 7 Memphis Grizzlies 50-32 Oklahoma City
No. 3 Los Angeles Clippers 57-25 vs. No. 6 Golden State Warriors 51-31 Los Angeles
No. 4 Houston Rockets 54-28 vs. No. 5 Portland Trail Blazers 54-28 Houston

Source: NBA.com

 

Most Interesting First-Round Matchup: Houston vs. Portland

While Houston and Portland finished the season with the exact same record (54-28), it was the Rockets that dominated the season series, winning three of the four games by amassing 116, 126 and 118 points, respectively.

If the Trail Blazers want to win this series, the team must step up in the defensive zone.

The success of Portland will stem from the play of LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez in the low post against Houston’s Dwight Howard. Howard is arguably the best center in the NBA, but he can be forced into poor decisions by stingy defense.

The dedication to defense will result in physical play all over the court. Fans should expect as much contact at the point guard position as they would at the center position due to the war of words between Portland’s Damian Lillard and Houston’s Patrick Beverley.

Lillard told Chris Haynes of Comcast SportsNet Northwest about his matchup with Beverley after the Rockets guard made comments on a radio show about him:

Yeah, I want to win the matchup. I think my team has a better chance if I’m able to play well against him. But I’m not going in thinking I have to outplay him. I have to go out there and be myself. That’s it. He’s one of the toughest defender out there. It’ll be fun.

If there wasn’t animosity before, the ferocity between the two primary playmakers will set the tone for the series and cause serious tension. Over the course of seven games, the battles will only intensify.

The road won’t get any easier for the winner of these series, though, as Mike Tokito of The Oregonian shares which teams could be waiting in the second round:

There will be several other matchups on the court in this series that are just as intriguing as the battle at point guard and center as well. With Houston’s James Harden likely to square off against the hard-nosed style of Wesley Matthews, how the Rockets’ top scorer responds will determine whether his team can win the series.

Add in the potential bench battle between the enigmatic Jeremy Lin and the Trail Blazers’ Mo Williams, and the two teams match up well. With Houston ranked second in the NBA with 107.7 points per game and Portland ranked fourth (106.7), basketball fans are in for an offensive war.

With the Rockets possessing just a bit more firepower throughout the depth chart, Houston should steal the series victory in the most interesting first-round matchup of 2014.

Series Prediction: Houston wins 4-3

 

*All stats courtesy of NBA.com.

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