Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers, right, and Neil Olshey, the team’s general manager, pose with the Eddie Gottlieb Trophy after Lillard won the 2012-2013 Kia NBA Rookie of the Year award on May 1, 2013 at the Rose Garden Arena in Portland, Oregon.
(Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
Don’t wanna brag, but I said Lillard would win ROY over Anthony Davis at the beginning of the year and everyone thought I was crazy. What now everyone?
I did a couple of “who I think would win it all if the playoffs started today” posts, but now it really is playoff time so I can tell you who I think will win the playoffs for real.
I’ll start in the West with the #1 Thunder facing the #8 Rockets. I would’ve loved to see OKC destroy the Lakers, but unfortunately for me, the Lakers won their last game of the season against the Rockets and sent the Rockets to face the Thunder. OKC should make quick work of a team that essentially is a one-dimensional set up thriving through James Harden. Give a couple years to Houston to put a couple more players around Harden and the Rockets will be great, but unfortunately for them, that means a 4-0 sweep for the Thunder.
Next is the #2 Spurs vs the #7 Lakers. The Spurs shot horrifically in the first game of the series and still put away Los Angeles with ease. Nothing more to say about that, Spurs win 4-0 as well.
This next match up between the #3 Nuggets and #6 Warriors is very intriguing to me. This is a series that can definitely go either way, especially with Danilo Gallinari out with a torn ACL. The first game between the two teams was great and was decided by an Andre Miller lay up with 1.3 seconds left and no Warrior timeouts remaining. I’ll give this to Denver 4-3, but I would not be the slightest bit surprised if Golden State pulled off the upset.
The final match up is between the #4 Clippers and the #5 Grizzlies. This is another series that could’ve gone either way; up until the Rudy Gay trade that brought Tayshaun Prince in from Detroit. Prince is a good player, but does not have the athleticism that Gay possesses. Having to run their offense through Mark Gasol, and Zach Randolph will prove difficult when facing Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Lamar Odom, and more. I have to give this one to Los Angeles, 4-1.
The East is a lot easier to breakdown. There’s no way the Bucks are beating the Heat, no matter how much Brandon Jennings believes the Bucks will win in 6. After the first game between the two teams, there’s very little chance of the Bucks winning a game. This one goes to the Heat 4-0.
The #2 Knicks are facing the #7 Celtics. I like both teams going for a good playoff run and it’s a shame to see them together in the first round. This series outcome lays solely on how Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry play. Terry and Garnett were nonexistent in the first game and they need to produce for Boston to have a standing chance. I believe that Boston will win one or two games, but to be safe, I’m giving it to the Knicks 4-1.
Next is the #3 Pacers against the #6 Hawks. These are two physical teams and there will be a lot of pushing around underneath the basket. I’m leaning on the Pacers for this one because they have the team chemistry and very talented young men. At the beginning of the series, I would’ve given Atlanta the edge in the post, but after seeing Roy Hibbert swat away balls and rip down offensive rebounds, I can’t help but think that Hibbert will cause trouble for anyone who faces him one-on-one. I’ll give it to the Pacers 4-2.
Finally, we have the #4 Nets vs the #5 Bulls. These are two fairly equal teams, but only due to Derrick Rose’s absence. Without anyone significantly talented at the point to guard Deron Williams, that really opens up the floor for him to excel in this series. The Bulls will pull this off in the end by utilizing Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, and Luol Deng. The Nets have potential, but it won’t be this year. I’ll give it to the Bulls 4-2.
In the next round we have the #1 Thunder vs the #4 Clippers. The Clippers are a great team when running on all cylinders, but they have to reach the basket to score efficiently. That’s very difficult to do considering Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, and Kendrick Perkins protect the paint like it’s their child. Chris Paul also has to face a point guard with just as much energy as him in Russell Westbrook. I can’t see the Clippers doing much to the Thunder so the Thunder win this series 4-1.
The second game in the West is the #2 Spurs and the #3 Nuggets. Somehow, the Spurs find a way to win a lot more games than anyone anticipates. This year was no exception as they once again topped Father Time. However, the last week of the season was rough and they didn’t look hot in the first game against the Lakers. The Nuggets are youthful, talented, and energetic. I have to give the Nuggets this one in a close 4-2 series.
The East again is fairly easy. With the #1 Heat facing the #5 Bulls, I don’t see how the Heat can lost this one either. With out Rose, the Bulls don’t have enough to stop both James and Wade when they are on the court together. The Heat will win this series 4-1.
The other game will be between the #2 Knicks and the #3 Pacers. I had these two teams facing each other in the Conference Finals awhile back, but here we are in the second round. This series depends on how well Carmelo Anthony can perform. If Melo does well, the Knicks can take it. If not, the athleticism and youth of the Pacers will overcome the Knicks experience. To be safe, I’ll give this to the Pacers 4-3.
The West Finals are the #1 Thunder vs the #3 Nuggets. This series would be magical if Gallinari were there to knock down 3’s for the Nuggets, but that doesn’t mean it will be terrible. Two youthful teams with tons of talent face each other for a chance at a championship. This will go down to the wire almost every game, but in the end, the Thunder will pull it off 4-2 and try again to win it all.
This leaves us with the #1 Heat and the #3 Pacers. In recent posts, I had the Pacers’ lockdown defense taking care of the Heat and sending them into the Finals. This time, I can’t see it working. The Heat have been on a complete tear ever since their 27 game winning streak started. They are just too good. It’ll go back and forth, but in the end, the Heat will take it 4-2.
So here we are, a rematch of the 2012 Finals. Thunder vs Heat. Durant vs. James. Westbrook vs Wade. With some Finals experience under their belts, the Thunder know what to expect and some of the jitters should be behind them. I look forward to seeing the best players in the game going head to head, getting physical, and giving it their absolute all. After it’s all said and done, the Heat will come out top once again and will further the proof the LeBron wasn’t kidding when he said “not 2, not 3, not 4, not 5, not 6…” The Thunder will have their time, but it is not now. As much as I don’t want to say it, the Heat will be our 2013 NBA Champions.
Andre Miller of the Denver Nuggets celebrates with teammates after making the game winning basket against the Golden State Warriors in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2013 NBA Playoffs on April 20, 2013 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.
(Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
Should be a great series. Can’t wait to see these next few games.