Not sure how much writing I’ll get done over the weekend, so I thought I’d sit down for a few minutes and give some preliminary thoughts on the matchups in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. This is pretty much going to be my evening plans for the next two months.
Brooklyn Nets vs. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors come into this as the higher seed, but the Nets have been one of the NBA’s best teams since the beginning of January. For me, the Nets are the better team and should win this series to get a chance to seriously challenge the Heat in the second round. As intriguing as this season has been for the Raptors, who somehow set a franchise record for wins, I’m not sure if we’re supposed to take them seriously. Key in this matchup is Kyle Lowry vs. Deron Williams, headcases in different ways. If Williams plays like the experienced star and beats Lowry, the Nets will run away with this. If he’s passive and Kyle is extra Lowry, then the Nets will be in some trouble.
Golden State Warriors vs. LA Clippers
Maybe the best first round matchup. The Clippers are going to have all sorts of trouble with the Warriors. First, the Warriors’ ability to shoot means that any given game could just be theirs on virtue of the 3-pt shot. If Curry and Thompson combine for 15 3s in a game they win that game. I also think the Golden State frontcourt just has it in for the less experienced but more talented and athletic Clippers big men. And, as much as I respect him, Chris Paul still hasn’t taken a team to even the conference finals. Could be an upset here.
Atlanta Hawks vs. Indiana Pacers
This shouldn’t be interesting, but if the Pacers keep playing like the have as of late, then it might be. Just like Kyle Lowry could spark a series win for Toronto, I think Jeff Teague might have a coming out party of sorts (he’s good, just not famous or proven in the post-season). There’s no reason the Pacers should lose this series if they play even 75% of what they’re capable, but any less than that and they’ll have to scramble.
Memphis Grizzlies vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
I think most of us wanted the Suns to make the Playoffs so much that we kind of overlooked the Memphis Grizzlies. I kind of think the Thunder will sweep this series, but if Westbrook has some off games the frontcourt of the Grizzlies could carry the day and make this series interesting. The leaders on this Memphis team have been there done that, and even though we fear for them, I can tell you they’re not afraid of the Thunder.
Dallas Mavericks vs. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs are playing too well right now to think they might lose this series. Dallas has exceeded expectations this season, and the revitalization of Monta Ellis and dominance of Dirk make them fun to watch. This series is probably done in five games, but we won’t get many more chances to see Dirk Nowitzki play in the playoffs. I’ll be tuning in.
Charlotte Bobcats vs. Miami Heat
I take back my preseason thoughts on Charlotte’s methods. I’m glad they avoided tanking and went for it this year, and with the right coaching and wise front office moves, this might be a sustainable plan. For now, it has done them little more than earn a couple of home playoffs games, as this series will probably be the most one-sided in the entire playoffs. Kemba Walker’s game can hold up during the regular season, but Miami boasts two championship-winning point guards for him to matchup with.
Washington Wizards vs. Chicago Bulls
The mercurial talents of players like John Wall and Bradley Beal are enough to win this series, but I’m not sure how it will work versus the tough, disciplined, methodical game of the Bulls, led by Joakim Noah who has proven himself to be a top-15 player in the NBA. I like look at cross-roads in sports, and this might be one for the Wizards. If they grow up and match the Bulls and advance to the next round, their franchise could be going places. If their youth and inexperience fails them versus a less-talented but more proven team, then they might take a step back after what was a fine season.
Portland Trailblazers vs. Houston Rockets
One of the better matchups, as two legitimate threats in the Western Conference square off. This series will feature a ton of 3-pt shooting and some first-rate post play. It will be interesting to see how often LaMarcus Aldridge and Dwight Howard end up guarding each other, because that could be a classic matchup. The Rockets have been a threat since they added Howard, and now it’s time for them to make a run. The Trailblazers surprised everyone with their success this year, and now they have a chance to prove they’re for real. Playoff games at the Rose Garden are going to be a must see. It’s not called the Rose Garden anymore is it?
So there you have it. In the words of Papi, “Oh si si I’m very intrigue!”