Cleveland vs. Chicago
Cleveland in 5 games.
Cleveland is interested in a sweep but I suspect the Bulls will have at least one game in which they make lots of 3 pointers and enough hustle plays to take the series back to Cleveland. That’s about the best they can hope for. Well, other than getting a new coach and D-Wade to show up during the summer.
Boston vs. Miami
Boston in 5 games.
Boston should dominate this series since they have 4 of the 5 best players. Despite Dwyane Wade’s brilliance, the Celtics interior depth will keep the Heat from having much success rebounding or scoring in the paint. Boston’s defensive rep should keep D-Wade below a dozen free throws per game. Boston will be able to use this series to round back into shape, setting up the matchup with the Cavs they’ve longed to have.
Atlanta vs. Milwaukee
Atlanta in 4 games.
This may rival the Suns-Trail Blazers for least competitive series. Atlanta will be excited for the chance to get into the second round and get some rest while waiting for the Magic-Bobcats winner. Milwaukee’s a great story but have very little chance to take a single game.
Orlando vs. Charlotte
Orlando in 5 games.
As much as I like the Bobcats’ swingman duo of Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson, they don’t have a strong advantage over the Magic at those two positions and are severely behind them in virtually every other category. Larry Brown is a great coach but not good enough to overcome the talent disadvantages he’ll be facing.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Oklahoma City
LA in 6 games.
An LA victory feels like a fait accomplit even though I’m not sure it should. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will have monster series but the Lakers have tremendous strength, flexibility, coaching and experience. I think the Thunder will grab a couple games and put a little fear into the Lakers, perhaps even taking two of the first three games. Once the Lakers get the ship rolling though, I think they’ll overwhelm the Thunder. If Jeff Green were a more consistent player, the Thunder would have more than a puncher’s chance but he doesn’t have enough help in the post.
Denver vs. Utah
Utah in 6 games.
I’d love to see these teams play a series when fully healthy but that certainly won’t be the case this postseason. Even though I think Carmelo Anthony may average 35 points a game, the Jazz duo of Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer is looking to make a deep run this year and are primed to do that against the Nuggets’ defense. As great as Chauncey Billups continues to be, D-Will is physically dominant and Nene, ‘The Birdman’ Chris Andersen and a hobbled Kenyon Martin will have a very tough time keeping Boozer, Paul Millsap and Mehmet Okur from combining to average 60 points and 30 rebounds between them.
Phoenix vs. Portland
Phoenix in 4 games.
This is the other matchup I can envision being not just a sweep but perhaps a sweep with multiple double digit wins. Brandon Roy won’t have any chance to come back from his meniscus surgery and LaMarcus Aldridge won’t be able to handle the energized Amaré Stoudemire well enough to stay out of foul trouble.
Dallas vs. San Antonio
Dallas in 5 games.
Dallas is clearly on a mission and they have the talent, depth, athleticism and experience to beat the Spurs. Even though I expected the Spurs to compete for the NBA title at the start of the year, the Richard Jefferson experiment has failed miserably and Caron Butler will eat him alive in this series. I expect Shawn Marion and Roddy Beaubois to have the bulk of the minutes guarding Tony Parker which means Jason Kidd and Manu Ginobili will find themselves in a great battle of smart, crafty hustlers. This will be a fun series to watch but I don’t see the Spurs making the critical plays at the end of games. With Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Caron Butler and Jason Kidd, the Mavs have four guys who love big moments and big shots.
More predictions soon.