We are just one day into the NBA playoffs and that means it’s prediction time here at CelticsHub. So gather around and take note of our bracket breakdowns, while gathering ammo to use against all of us when our Championship winner gets knocked out in the 1st round. And despite the fact these picks are posted a day late, you have our word that no one’s Blazers upset pick changed because of it. So without further ado, let’s get to the picks:
DeGama: Mike D’Antoni’s offense is not built for this time of year and it’s in tension with Melo’s ISO-tendencies anyway. Still unclear which will prevail as pace slows and defenses tighten up. Predictions: Pierce and Rondo will get their offensive mojos a-workin’ and Boston should get plenty of game-time reps for their small lineup. It’d be to the C’s advantage to end this series quickly because with Shaq out, KG looks headed for long minutes. And he’ll have a huge workload ahead of him against Miami and Chicago in rounds two and three. Which is, by the way, where I think the C’s are headed. Celtics in 5.
Robb: Despite all their late season turmoil this year, the Celtics have lost to just one Eastern Conference opponent at home. They will lament their lost opportunity at that advantage for future rounds, but look for them to take care of business at home, and steal either Game 3 or 4 on the road, a la Miami last year. Celtics in 5.
Jackson: This is terrible to say but it’s hard to see the Knicks actually beating the Celtics in a game this series. I can picture the Knicks playing the Celtics really tough in four games but I really can’t picture them winning. Still though, let’s play the odds and say the Knicks will rise up and take two games from the Cs before gracefully bowing out and giving way to the talk of what third superstar will join them next year. Celtics in six.
Davenport: To beat the Knicks, you need strong individual defense at the small forward and power forward positions, as well as a high-efficiency offense that can take advantage of the myriad gaps presented by the Knicks defense. The Celtics, when they’re motivated, have these assets in great quantities. They’re uniquely suited to win this series. However, I can absolutely see them losing two games when Anthony loses the ability to miss shots and/or Stoudemire scores from every spot inside the arc. That’s the nature of the Knicks rather than a failure of the Celtics. Toney Douglas and Shawne Williams are going to go like 8 for 11 from three in one of these games. The trick is not to panic, rather to come back out and wait for them to regress back to that cozy mean. Celtics in six.
Salvucci: Like it or not, this Celtics team often needs the big stage to find motivation. Well, no bigger stage than Madison Square Garden, with 20,000 obnoxious fans shouting at you and Ray’s mom giving an earful to Spike Lee. The Celtics will draw on their experience and execute down the stretch, while the Knicks will play Carmelo-ball. Celtics roll. Celtics in 5.
OTHER FIRST ROUND PICKS
Atlanta vs. Orlando:
I cannot let yesterday’s game get in the way of what I know in my heart. The Hawks, with the exception of Al Horford, are a inconsistently motivated mess of a team. Those who pick them to win this series do so because Horford can check Howard, but Howard went for a dang 46 and 19 yesterday, so easy on congratulating yourselves, Hawks-pickers. Magic in six.
Miami vs. Philadelphia
I think the Sixers can take a game here. Iguodala is going to drive LeBron completely crazy for this entire series, and Wade and Bosh are always capable of shooting themselves out of a game. Remember that if Wade misses that ridiculous falling banker that iced yesterday’s game, the Sixers are only one possession away and Wade looks like an idiot for not using more of the clock. Heat in five.
Chicago vs. Indiana:
I think we got the biggest fight from the Pacers we’re going to get yesterday. Derrick Rose is going to get his ten free throws in every game (and he is getting fouled, I assure you) and he’s going to tickle .500 on about 30 attempts. With their defense, which hit an anomalous skid yesterday based on an unusually high rate of Pacer threes, they don’t need to do much scoring on top of those Rose points. I think they’ll only play four games in this series, which is good for them because Carlos Boozer only needs a few more to reach his Statistically Inevitable Injury Threshold. Bulls in four.
San Antonio vs. Memphis:
In one of these games, the Grizzlies will hit a bunch of early buckets while the Spurs offense sputters, leading to Gregg Popvich to take his starters out halfway through the second quarter. In the other four games, the Spurs will mechanically dispatch their foolish young opposition by ricocheting the ball off the backboard into the basket. Kind of sad, but this series would have been a lot more fun with Rudy Gay. Spurs in five.
Portland vs. Dallas
Not sure you guys have heard, but so many people picked the Blazers to upset the Mavs in this series that now it’s cool and indie to take the Mavs, so that’s what I’m going to do. I also honestly feel that Dirk is the one offensive weapon on either team who can singlehandedly put away a game. Plus, lost in the unanimous upset coronation of the Blazers is the fact that the they’re basically as disappointing a playoff team as the Mavs are, historically. Mavs in seven.
Los Angeles vs. New Orleans
Ugh. Stupid Lakers get the easiest first round draw of anybody. The essential David West isn’t playing, Kobe’s going to do inappropriate things to Marco Belinelli, and Chris Paul doesn’t get to guard anyone good. That being said, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Paul is definitely the NBA’s best point guard OH MY GOD DERRICK ROSE FANS ARE CLIMBING THROUGH MY WINDOW WITH KNIVES Lakers in four.
Oklahoma City vs. Denver
If only both of these teams could give a less loveable team some trouble in the second round. Instead we just have to wait this dumb series out to see who we’re going to root for against the Spurs. It’s probably going to be the Thunder (I heard they’re unstoppable now that they signed some dude), although I can see the Knugs chucking their way into a win at some point. Thunder in five.
Philadelphia vs. Miami:
Philly would have to be close to perfect to draw this series out. They ain’t that. Do watch Miami’s core guys – are they going to burn out on long minutes? Amusingly, Bibby could be a difference maker. Miami in 4.
Atlanta vs. Orlando:
The Dwight Howard trade watch starts with this series, where we see exactly how d-o-n-e Arenas, J-Rich and Hedo really are. Nice job, Otis. Atlanta in 7.
Indiana vs. Chicago
Rose is going to absolutely own this spring — with a lot of help from Tom T’s defense. Indiana might steal one based on Chicago’s relative inexperience with this whole championship contender thing but the Bulls are going through to the second round looking strong. Chicago in 5.
Portland vs. Dallas:
Somehow, Dallas has devolved into the underdog in this one. It’ll be a war but I expect the Mavs to get through, as long as they can find a consistent second scorer four times out of seven. Tyson Chandler can make himself some offseason money by controlling the paint. Says here he will. Dallas in 7.
New Orleans vs. Los Angeles
For N.O. it’s: no David West, no hope. Lakers switch-flipping should be in full effect with no further traces of that late-season slump. Bynum’s legs a stomach-turning subplot for the glitterati. Assuming they know who he is. Los Angeles in 4.
Denver vs. Oklahoma City
Second most fun series after C’s-Knicks. I feel like Denver’s late-season surge is completely untrustworthy as predictor for playoffs. Watching Perk rough up people in the paint is going to be oh-so-bittersweet. OKC in 6.
Memphis vs. San Antonio
Memphis will probably play hard and smart and tough in almost every game. And still lose. Hollins just doesn’t have the horses Popovich does. San Antonio in 5.
This is the one series in which I had to alter my pick. Originally I eschewed the results of the season series and picked the Magic in five. I wish I could say that the Hawks showed me something but really the Magic did. They showed me that there is not a lot of post season fire outside of Dwight Howard in Orlando. They are still the better team but it’s hard to win more than two games in a row in the postseason especially when the Magic will have to win some on the road. It’s not like Atlanta is a terrible- or even difficult- place to play but still, the Magic need to do some soul searching before they take this series and that’ll take seven games. Magic in seven.
I can’t help but think four out of the five games this series will go will play out like yesterday’s, only with Philadelphia winning one. I also happen to think the Heat will blow out the Sixers in one of their wins. Heat in five.
I love the Pacers. They have a ton of young talent, firepower, and guys like Roy Hibbert, Jeff Foster, and Tyler Hansbrough that know their role and play it. They also have some serious dead weight on their roster in Mike Dunleavy and Josh McRoberts that they’ll have to rely on if they are going to win against Chicago. A scary proposition. Bulls in five.
Let’s give some love to Tony Allen who has really found his groove in Memphis and a starting job. The Grizzlies will be hardpressed to get anywhere without their superstar Rudy Gay but they also have a plethora of defensive minded wing players that can give a good team like the Spurs trouble. Unfortunately for the Grizz, that trouble will only last the first round. Spurs in seven.
My only upset pick in the first round. The Mavericks play well against good teams with star power and play poorly against scrappy teams with heart. Portland exemplifies the latter and have enough talent to get by the Mavs in the first round. Blazers in seven.
Losing David West to an ACL tear pretty much sealed their playoff fate (and maybe Chris Paul’s future in NOLA). The Lakers are also a terrible matchup for the Hornets with Carl Landry giving up about five inches on Pau Gasol. Lakers just have too much length for the Hornets and the season that started with so much promise will end shortly. Lakers in five.
Single best first round matchup in either conference. I wouldn’t be surprised if we witnessed the first tie in an NBA basketball game. Both of these teams play with energy and have the youth go up and down the floor without limitations. I give the edge to the Thunder for the bigger star power and the bigger beef inside. Thunder in six
Chicago vs. Indiana:
Tell me where you’ve seen this before: The league MVP leads his team to the best record in the NBA. Then his team dominates an inferior opponent in Round 1, but falls to a more experienced Eastern Conference opponent before reaching the Finals. Chicago in 5.
Miami vs. Philadelphia:
Each game will be tight, but Miami will prevail in all of them. Philadelphia doesn’t have that reliable scorer that they can turn to in crunch-time. The Heat have had their struggles closing out games this season, but at least they have guys that have done it in the playoffs before. Miami in 4.
Orlando vs. Atlanta:
I can’t decide who to root for in this series because I don’t know which team will present the greater challenge to the Bulls in the second round. But I’m leaning towards Orlando. Despite having Dwight Howard, the Magic’s lack of size will later prove be their fatal flaw. But Atlanta has been nothing but a fraud over the last few seasons, and I don’t see why that would change now. Magic in 7.
San Antonio vs. Memphis
I’m officially putting the Spurs on upset alert. I won’t go as far as to pick Memphis to win the series, because without Rudy Gay they‘re going to have trouble scoring against the Spurs’ experienced defense. But if Zach Randolph outplays Tim Duncan, the Grizzlies have a chance. Spurs in 6.
Los Angeles vs. New Orleans:
Despite their strong start, reaching the playoffs has to be considered a nice accomplishment for the Hornets. Chris Paul is certainly capable of winning a game at home, but I think the Lakers establish that they are still the class of the Western Conference. Lakers in 4.
Dallas vs. Portland:
There’s no point in trying to disguise it…I’m on the Blazers’ bandwagon! The Mavs possess the best player in the series, but LaMarcus Aldridge is close behind and I love Portland’s depth. This will be the best series of the first round. Blazers in 7.
Oklahoma City vs. Denver
Two young teams that will feed off the energy from their respective home crowds. Each team holds serve until Durant & Co. finish the Nuggets off in Game 6. The winner goes to the Western Conference Finals, in my opinion. Thunder in 6.
Bulls over Pacers in five.
Magic over Hawks in seven.
Heat over Sixers in six.
Thunder over Nuggets in seven.
Blazers over Mavs in six.
Lakers over Hornets in five.
Spurs over Grizzlies in seven.
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMI’S:
Celtics over Heat in six.
Bulls over Magic in five.
WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMI’S
Lakers over Blazers in five.
Thunder over Spurs in six.
Celtics over Bulls in six.
Lakers over Thunder in seven.