2013 NBA Playoff Preview

Image courtesy of NBA.com

Image courtesy of NBA.com

The NBA Playoffs tend to be one of the more predictable tournaments in sports. In a best-of-seven series the better team usually wins, so there are very few surprises. This season may prove to be different, with a multitude of injuries and fortuitous pairings, this could be one of the most tumultuous playoff seasons in recent memory.

Western Conference:

Oklahoma City Thunder (1) vs. Houston Rockets (8) – The West is loaded with interesting playoff match-ups because they play the most entertaining brand of basketball in this conference. OKC and Houston are both high-scoring, fast-paced and offensive minded teams, which mean that you can be sure the games will be exciting. Add in the James Harden subplot (traded from OKC to Houston before the season started) and you have a lot of reasons to watch this series. Unfortunately, the Rockets are a season or two and another marquee player away from being able to compete with the top teams in the NBA. Thunder wins 4-1

San Antonio Spurs (2) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (7) – The season-long soap opera that is the Lakers stumbled into the playoffs without Kobe Bryant, but things may have fallen just right for them. Drawing an equally old, injured and slumping Spurs team was the best case scenario for the Lakers. Without Bryant, the Lakers will take advantage of their size and surround Gasol and Howard in the post with three point shooters. The Spurs are the superior defensive team and will hope to make the Lakers settle for contested jump shots. I hate doing this, but this is the only team in the Western Conference that the Lakers could conceivably beat four times in seven games. Lakers win 4-2

Denver Nuggets (3) vs. Golden State Warriors (6) – I think that this will be the best first round series of all. Both teams play at breakneck speed and you will see plenty of open court dunks and fast break three-pointers. The deciding factor will be the Nuggets depth. The Warriors starters can stay with the Nuggets, but Denver can just bring wave after wave of fresh energy and offense off of their bench. Golden State will make it interesting, but the will wilt under the unrelenting pressure of the Nuggets. Nuggets win 4-2

Los Angeles Clippers (4) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (5) – This is an incredibly close match-up with two teams who’s styles are diametrically opposed to one another. The Clippers want to open the floor up and run in transition, while Memphis wants to play slow and work the ball into the low post. The team that imposes its style on the other is the team that will win the series. Before Memphis traded Rudy Gay to the Raptors in mid-season I would have picked them to win, but now I think that they will not be able to manage enough perimeter offense. Clippers win 4-3

Eastern Conference:

Miami Heat (1) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (8) – Even though Miami has been a freight train since the All-Star break, this could be a more competitive series than people are anticipating. Milwaukee has played Miami tough this year and has a few interesting personnel problems for the Heat. Larry Sanders is one of the league’s best defenders and because of his length and athleticism is uniquely suited to play against LeBron James. Because they don’t play good team defense and turn the ball over too much, the Bucks will be victimized by the Heat’s ability to run the floor and make the extra pass. Heat wins 4-1

New York Knicks (2) vs. Boston Celtics (7) – The Knick just finished a very strong run to close the regular season, which secured the number two seed in the East and the scoring title for Carmelo Anthony. On the flip side, after an unexpected surge following the loss of Rajon Rondo for the season the Celtics have backed into the playoff hoping that their veteran savvy and toughness will carry them. If the Knicks can maintain their recent offensive efficiency, then they will be a handful for any team in the Eastern Conference. Knicks win 4-2

Indiana Pacers (3) vs. Atlanta Hawks (6) – This will be an awful series to watch because of the style of play that both teams employ. Indiana will use the post presence of Hibbert and West to try and pound on the undersized Hawks. Atlanta will try to use dribble penetration to break down the Pacers’ defense in the hopes of getting dunks and uncontested three-pointers. Indiana will win with rebounding and defense, and it will be like watching paint dry. Pacers win 4-1

Brooklyn Nets (4) vs. Chicago Bulls (5) – Without former league MVP Derrick Rose at the helm, the Bulls have managed to defy all expectations this year by playing selfless team basketball and being the soundest defensive team in the league. Brooklyn is much improved this season, but still not to the level of expectations after spending so much money to revamp the roster in the off-season. The Nets are a more talented team, but as is so often the case in basketball, they are less than the sum of their parts. I am counting on the Bulls’ maximum effort and suffocating defense to secure what is only a mild upset. Bulls win 4-3

Krista Boivie