NBA Playoffs 2011: 1st-Round Predictions

Brandon Stewart@itsBStewContributor IIApril 14, 2011

NBA Playoffs 2011: 1st-Round Predictions

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    The NBA playoffs are right around the corner.

    This slideshow will preview the entire first round with my predictions of the winners.

    Kobe Bryant and the Lakeshow are questing for there second three-peat as a franchise, but there are a number of teams that could cut them short of the title this year.

    This year's playoffs contain a mass number of sleepers that can force Game 7s and put pressure on the league's top seeds.


Pacers vs. Bulls

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    Derrick Rose, the favorite for this year's MVP award, faces off against Danny Granger and the Indiana Pacers.

    This series could end up being a sweep for the Bulls, mainly because they took the season series, 3-1, including a 110-89 blowout victory at home.

    However, the last time these two teams met, the Pacers slid by the Bulls with a 115-108 victory. That was at home and they allowed Derrick Rose to drop 42 points. I just don't see the Pacers winning more than one game in this series, since the Bulls have better stats in almost every category of the game.

    Bulls win series, 4-1.

76ers vs. Heat

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    This series might seem like a cake walk for LeBron James and the Miami Heat.

    And it should be.

    The Heat swept Philadelphia 3-0 in the season series and won by a margin of 10 points per game.

    In the last meeting the Big Three combined for 91 points as they defeated the 76ers, 111-99. I can easily see them doing that again in this series. Philadelphia gave the Heat quite the contest during the first three quarters of the game, but fell apart in the fourth.

    I can see the Heat dropping a game or two in this series.

    Miami Thrice prevail by winning the series, 4-2.

Hawks vs. Magic

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    This is one of the more interesting series, in my opinion, since Atlanta won the season series this year, 3-1, including a win on the road.

    This is one of the series that has the possibility of taking six or seven games to determine a winner.

    I think the key for Atlanta if they want to put pressure on the Magic is by taking one or both if the series' opening games. That may sound tough in a playoff atmosphere, but we see it time and time again every year.

    I think the Magic could win this series in five games, but if they continue to struggle from the line and give Atlanta a chance at winning, watch out.

    Orlando wins the series, 4-2.

Knicks vs. Celtics

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    This series could easily take six or seven games to determine a winner.

    The Celtics swept the season series, 4-0, and should be able to continue that dominance as this series progresses.

    Carmelo and Amar'e will definitely be trying to prove that the Knicks are contenders rather than pretenders, so I can see them taking over in a game or two to put pressure on the Celtics.

    I think Boston's defense in the paint is unmatchable and will definitely cause chaos for the Knicks. However, if the Knicks can continue to get offensive boards and knock down threes, I see this game going in to a Game 7.

    Celtics win the series, 4-3.

Grizzlies vs. Spurs

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    This matchup should definitely raise some eyebrows.

    The season series was split two games apiece, as each team won both games at home.

    With a rested Spurs team, I see them having the edge against the struggling Grizzlies, who are 3-4 so far through April and dropped the last two games of the season. That is obviously not how you want to enter a playoff series, especially against a No. 1 seed.

    Spurs win the series, 4-1.

Hornets vs. Lakers

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    Andrew Bynum has been cleared to play in this series but could sit the first game out.

    The Lakers handled the Hornets pretty easily this season and swept them, 4-0.

    The last time they met, the Lakeshow ran them out of Staples Center with a 102-84 victory. I don't see this series going any differently for the Lakers, and they have the possibility of completing a sweep of the Hornets.

    Sorry, Laker haters, but there is no way this team makes a first-round exit.

    Lakers win the series, 4-1.

Blazers vs. Mavericks

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    Both of these teams grabbed two home wins against each other and split the series, 2-2.

    Which is why I think this game will go to seven games.

    I think LaMarcus Aldridge and Dirk Nowitzki will take over three games each forcing a Game 7. Whichever defense stops the other player the most will come out the winner and move on to the conference semifinals.

    However, if both players are playing at an even pace the entire series, the Mavericks should have the upper hand because they have more scoring options and have a knack of being able to hit big shots in crunch time.

    Mavericks win the series, 4-3.

Nuggets vs. Thunder

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    This series has got to be the most eye-opening matchup of the first round.

    The season series was split, 2-2; however, the Thunder grabbed the last two at home and played a Melo-less Nuggets and handled them pretty easily in both games.

    However, we all know the Nuggets look like a much better team without Carmelo after they finished 18-7 after the blockbuster deal.

    I am giving the Nuggets a shot at giving the Thunder a first-round exit mainly because of how well they shoot the three and their ability to make the extra pass to an open shooter.

    But if the Thunder can crack down on defense, I think they will advance to the next round.

    Thunder win the series, 4-3.