2011 NBA Playoffs Predictions: How Will Round One Take Shape?

Kevin GermanyAnalyst IIIAugust 19, 2010

2011 NBA Playoffs Predictions: How Will Round One Take Shape?

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    Hi my name is Jeff Awesome and this is my first article on B/R. This article will explore what will happen next season and how the playoffs will shake out. This article will also examine the matchups, evaluate how teams did throughout the regular season, and make a prediction. 

    "I'm taking my talents to South Beach." Lebron James announced infamously during the "Lebacle" known as "The Decision." But "The King" wasn't the only player switching jerseys and cities during the bonanza known as the 2010 NBA free agency period. Chris Bosh left the Toronto Raptors to join Dwyane Wade and James in Miami. Heck, even two former superstars switched teams: Tracy McGrady (from Knicks to Pistons) and Shaq (from Cavs to Celtics). 

    In other moves, Carlos Boozer ditched Utah for the Windy City. Amare Stoudemire left Planet Orange for Madison Square Garden. These two moves created a shift of power from the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference. Nevertheless from top to bottom the West is still deeper with more playoff-caliber teams. Without further ado, here is my playoff predictions! 

Eastern Conference Picks

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    1 Heat (67-15) vs. 8 Cavaliers (39-43)

    2 Magic (60-22) vs. 7 Knicks (41-41)

    3 Celtics (55-27) vs. 6 Bucks (49-33)

    4 Bulls (53-29) vs. 5 Hawks (50-32)

    Honorable Mention: 9 Pistons (38-44), 10 Bobcats (34-48, injuries), 11 Sixers (31-51), 12 Raptors (29-53), 13 Wizards (25-57), 14 Nets (20-62), 15 Pacers (18-64)

Eastern Conference Picks

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    1 Heat (67-15) vs. 8 Cavaliers (39-43)

    2 Magic (60-22) vs. 7 Knicks (41-41)

    3 Celtics (55-27) vs. 6 Bucks (49-33)

    4 Bulls (53-29) vs. 5 Hawks (50-32)

    Honorable Mention: 9 Pistons (38-44), 10 Bobcats (34-48, injuries), 11 Sixers (31-51), 12 Raptors (29-53), 13 Wizards (25-57), 14 Nets (20-62), 15 Pacers (18-64)

1 Heat vs. 8 Cavaliers

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    Analysis: A dream matchup for the League and ESPN, this would be the most overhyped 1 vs. 8 matchup in NBA history.  On paper, it would be an easy blowout.  However in sports, especially in basketball, upsets happen (see Warriors over Mavericks, 2007 Playoffs).  The atmosphere in Cleveland will be electric.  No need to tell you what the Cavs fans signs will say. 

    Miami: The Heat gel immediately and live up to the hype, cruising to a first place finish.  Lebron James, bound to go down as the greatest Robin of all time, averages a triple-double for the entire season.  He becomes the first player since Oscar Robertson in the 1961-62 season to average that.  D-Wade solidifies his Batman status on and off the court.  Chris Bosh (overrated! clap, clap, clap, clap, clap!) is a tremendous third option in the post.

    Cleveland: On the other hand, the Cavs manage to make the playoffs only from their untamed anger stemming from “The Decision.”  The city of Cleveland’s rabidly supports these guys due to their scrappiness. 

    How it will go down: This is the perfect time for the Cavs to take out their frustration on “The King.”  Although everyone and their mama will pull for Cleveland to pull off a shocking upset, the talent of the Heat will overwhelm the scrappiness of the Cavs.

    Prediction: Heat win 4-0

2 Magic vs. 7 Knicks

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    Analysis: This series screams offense.  Both teams like to run; this should be an entertaining series to say the least.  However, the Magic are an excellent defensive team as well and are willing to grind it out.  However, the Knicks are not a good defensive team and cannot grind out a win.  

    Orlando: The Magic play well enough to garner a #2 seed.  Dwight Howard takes the next step, performing at an MVP level averaging 27 points and 15 rebounds along with 4 blocks per game.  However, the rest of the team is struggling, especially from three-point land, a staple of the Magic attack.  The Master of Panic panics frantically heading in to the playoffs.

    New York: After acquiring D’Antoni favorite Leandro Barbosa to be their 6th man from the hapless Raptors, The Knicks and their Seven Seconds or Less (SSOL) offense are on a roll heading in to this matchup.  Amare Stoudemire lives up to his massive contract.  New acquisitions Raymond Felton, Anthony Randolph, and Kelenna Azabuike thrive in SSOL. 

    How it will go down: Amare dominates the action, proving too strong for Rashard Lewis or too quick for Howard.  On the other end, the Knicks have no answer for the size of Howard. But the X-factor for the Knicks ends up being considerably talented forward Anthony Randolph.  Randolph dominates in Game 7, scoring 26 points and grabbing 14 rebounds to give the Knicks a huge upset series victory.    

    Prediction: Knicks in 7

3 Celtics vs. 6 Bucks

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    Analysis: Both teams are defensive teams with electrifying point guards. Brandon Jennings and Rajon Rondo change the game with their speed and quickness. Both teams have good posts in Bogut and Garnett. Both Skiles and Rivers are excellent coaches. 

    Boston: The Big Shamrock (or whatever Shaq is called these days) will fit in nicely with a team of characters such as Nate Robinson, Paul Pierce, Glenn "Big Baby" Davis, KG, and Rondo. 

    Milwaukee: Fear the Deer! After a spectacular rookie season, Brandon Jennings regresses. Andrew Bogut is rusty after returning from a gruesome arm injury. Michael Redd returns to form by emerging as the primary shooter on offense. Scott Skiles, as always, does a good job getting his team to play D. 

    How it will go down: Unsurprisingly, this series turns into a classic, Eastern Conference-style drag it out slugfest. This series goes back and forth, with each team taking two at home. But the experience of the Celtics ultimately trumps the upstart Bucks. 

    Prediction: Celtics in 6

4 Bulls vs. 5 Hawks

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    Analysis: This series is a tale of two half-court teams who should seriously consider running more often. The Bulls have perhaps the fastest and most athletic PG in the world in Derrick Rose. On the other side the Hawks are loaded with long, versatile, and athletic players. Josh Smith and Al Horford can finish the "oop" from a Mike Bibby or a Joe Johnson "alley."

    Chicago: The Bulls may have struck out on signing Lebron or Bosh, but they got an excellent post player in Carlos Boozer and an outstanding defensive-minded coach in Tom Thibodeau. Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer, and Joakim Noah create a solid core. The Bulls are poised to contend in the Eastern Conference. The addition of Boozer propels them into the #4 seed. 

    Atlanta: Their lack of effort in games 3 & 4 against the Magic was absolutely appalling. This season, Mike Bibby uses his veteran leadership to make the Hawks remember that abomination. He succeeds and the team improves significantly in time for the playoffs. 

    How it will go down: This series shapes up into four consecutive classics: all four games are decided by five points or less. Three of them go into overtime. Derrick Rose and the highest-paid 2010 free agent Joe Johnson have a back and forth battle in Game 4. However, one team wins them all. Hint: not you, Joe. 

    Prediction: Bulls in 4

Western Conference Picks

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    1 Lakers (61-21) vs. 8 Grizzlies (46-36)

    2 Nuggets (59-23) vs. 7 Spurs (48-34)

    3 Thunder (56-26) vs. 6 Suns (51-31)

    4 Blazers (54-28) vs. 5 Mavericks (53-29)

    Honorable Mention: 9 Rockets (46-36 loses tiebreaker to MEM), 10 Jazz (41-41, awesome new uniforms by the way), 11 Clippers (35-47), 12 Hornets (33-49), 13 Warriors (31-51), 14 Kings (24-58), 15 Timberwolves (18-64)

1 Lakers vs. 8 Grizzlies

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    Analysis: This is a classic David vs. Goliath matchup. However, more often than not, Goliath wins. 

    LA: Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant will not let the Lakers to get too big headed after back to back rings. The Lakers, perhaps in Jackson's final year coaching, gain home-court advantage throughout the west. Matt Barnes and Steve Blake play well. Their veteran presence stabilizes the Lakers bench. Kobe plays like the Black Mamba and Andrew Bynum finally stays healthy. Ron Artest further understands the nuances of the triangle and Lamar Odom steps up when he realizes Kardashian rhymes with DISTRACTION!

    Memphis: The Griz, not expected to make the playoffs, stay healthy and make the playoffs after a several-year drought. Rudy Gay becomes an All-Star, Zach Randolph continues his outstanding tenure as a Grizzly, and PG Mike Conley pulls down the most improved player award.  

    How it will go down: The series itself is nothing home to write about. The only interesting matchup is the Gasol brothers doing battle. It's obvious the Lakers have the talent and experience on their side. Since the Grizzlies have not won a playoff game in their history, I'll be nice and give them a game. But the Lakers will cruise easily into the next round. 

    Prediction: Lakers in 5 

1 Lakers vs. 8 Grizzlies

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    Analysis: This is a classic David vs. Goliath matchup. However, more often than not, Goliath wins. 

    LA: Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant will not let the Lakers to get too big headed after back to back rings. The Lakers, perhaps in Jackson's final year coaching, gain home-court advantage throughout the west. Matt Barnes and Steve Blake play well. Their veteran presence stabilizes the Lakers bench. Kobe plays like the Black Mamba and Andrew Bynum finally stays healthy. Ron Artest further understands the nuances of the triangle and Lamar Odom steps up when he realizes Kardashian rhymes with DISTRACTION!

    Memphis: The Griz, not expected to make the playoffs, stay healthy and make the playoffs after a several-year drought. Rudy Gay becomes an All-Star, Zach Randolph continues his outstanding tenure as a Grizzly, and PG Mike Conley pulls down the most improved player award.  

    How it will go down: The series itself is nothing home to write about. The only interesting matchup is the Gasol brothers doing battle. It's obvious the Lakers have the talent and experience on their side. Since the Grizzlies have not won a playoff game in their history, I'll be nice and give them a game. But the Lakers will cruise easily into the next round. 

    Prediction: Lakers in 5 

2 Nuggets vs. 7 Spurs

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    2 Nuggets vs. 7 Spurs

    Analysis: This series can really go either way.  Denver has the talent to overwhelm the aging Spurs and sweep them.  San Antonio has the slight edge in experience although Denver has some experience as well.  Denver should take advantage of their altitudinal advantage and run on the Spurs at home.  But never count out the Spurs.

    Denver: For Denver, George Karl recovers from cancer just in time to witness the Nuggets having a bounce-back season.  Newlywed Carmelo Anthony struggles at first, but regains his groove by the All-Star break.  J.R. Smith finally gets his head on straight and becomes the 6th man of the year. 

    San Antonio: There are three guarantees in life: death, taxes, and the Spurs making the playoffs.  The Spurs yet again defy Father Time for another season.  Tim Duncan plays well and Mr. 20/20 (Dejuan Blair) has a breakout year.  Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili bounce back as well.  Former Arizona Wildcat Richard Jefferson adjusts to the Spurs system and plays much, much better than last year. 

    How it will go down: In this series, the Spurs defense suffocates the Nuggets.  The Nuggets can’t find a way to stop Duncan and 6th man J.R. Smith goes cold.  May Carmelo find himself playing in the Big Apple come Summer 2011?

    Prediction: Spurs in 6

3 Thunder vs. 6 Suns

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    Analysis: "Fast breaks are good!" Thunder coach Scott Brooks told his team during a timeout against the Lakers during the 2010 playoffs. They ended up running the Lakers off the court in games 3 and 4. The Suns are no stranger to run and gun either as they also ran the Lakers off the court in games 3 and 4 during their series. 

    OKC: The Thunder, as expected, improve upon a 50 win campaign and become the #3 seed. Kevin Durant becomes the 2010-11 MVP and Russell Westbrook emerges as an All-Star point guard. The rest of the team also improves. 

    Phoenix: In a tumultuous offseason that saw the departure of President and GM Steve Kerr, Amare Stoudemire, and fan favorites Leandro Barbosa and Louis Amundson, one may expect that the Suns regress this season from their conference finals run. With the additions of Hakim Warrick, Hedo Turkoglu, and Josh Childress, the Suns shouldn't slip too badly. The question is, who would win a game of 3 on 3: Amare, LB, and Lou or Hakim, Hedo, or Childress? 

    How it will go down: This series should be the most entertaining with perhaps the exception of the Magic vs. Knicks series. The Suns have no answer for Durant. However, the inexperience of the Thunder will catch up to them at the end when Steve Nash outplays Westbrook in Game 7 in front of a raucous OKC crowd while Durant has a rare off game. 

    Prediction: Suns in 7

4 Blazers vs. 5 Mavericks

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    Analysis: These teams are different yet similar. The main difference is Portland believes in building via draft. Dallas likes to build by trading and signing free agents. They're both similar in that they have stars (Brandon Roy and Dirk Nowitzki respectively) with great supporting casts. 

    Portland: Killed by injuries last season, they survive the injury plague this season. The second coming of Sam Bowie proves his name right by getting hurt midway through the season with a broken wrist. Fortunately, Oden returns by the playoffs. 

    Dallas: The Mavs are a team never able to taste victory. With Nowitzki, Brendan Haywood, and Tyson Chandler down low the Mavs have a good post game. Jason Kidd is still a serviceable PG and Caron Butler and Shawn Marion are both solid on the wings. 

    How it will go down: This will be a hotly-contested series. Aldridge and Nowitzki play similarly, and Oden and Haywood should battle down low. In the end, the Mavs take a hard-fought series. 

    Prediction: Mavs in 7. 

That's all folks!

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    Thanks for reading my debut article. If all goes well, I'll come out with Round 2. Who do you think will make the playoffs?