As is our annual tradition here at CelticsHub, we dive into the full collection of predictions around the NBA postseason. While you will get a rundown of everyone’s thoughts later in the post, you’ll get the full Celtics-Knicks thoughts and a prediction from me (Brian Robb) to kick off things off.
CELTICS VS. KNICKS ANALYSIS
So I’ve looked long and hard around the Internet right now, and I can’t find ANYONE outside of Boston predicting the Celtics will win this series. Whether it’s ESPN, CBS, SI, Yahoo!, there are countless smart and talented NBA writers who are counting out the Celtics. I respect that, I understand that, and it’s something Celtics fans have seen seemingly every year at this point.
What national people don’t realize though, is not all the local writers/analysts in Boston are homers, us here at CelticsHub included. We call it pretty straight around here and guess what? A lot of those guys, the people who see this team play pretty much every game, they’re going with the Celtics in this series. You can count me and the majority of the CelticsHub crew in that group. Knowing that, let me lay out my case for a Celtics upset, something pretty much no one outside Boston would sees coming.
1) Melo Factor. As Ryan pointed out earlier this week, you have three capable defenders in Jeff Green, Paul Pierce and Brandon Bass for Melo. Most teams don’t have that luxury (along with a Kevin Garnett waiting to help on the back line). Anthony hasn’t shot efficiently for years against the C’s, and this series should be no different. He’ll probably go off for a couple games, but he won’t win this series by himself.
2) 3-point shooting. What’s the answer to one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the league? How about Boston having the best 3-point defense in the league for the past four months since Avery Bradley has returned. Knicks shoot lights out at home, but Boston has the horses to keep them in check.
3) Boston’s recent “swoon”: The Celtics haven’t been playing well the last few weeks and everyone is pointing that out. They’re right, except there’s a pretty important thing the pundits are forgetting. Kevin Garnett has been out for a month. You can’t factor in anything this team does over that time span, especially defensively, without KG out there. The past month shouldn’t be held against them.
4) Injuries: For once, the Celtics are in better shape (relatively) than the Knicks (beyond the season-enders). KG, Pierce, and Terry have had ample time to rest up during the past few weeks. New York’s studs have rested as well this week, but their injuries appear to be more serious. Chandler and Martin haven’t played at all in weeks. There should be rust there for both guys and lingering concerns. Prigioni is doubtful for Game 1. There are two veterans signed this week that could very well get minutes in this series in Earl Barron and Quentin Richardson. I don’t care who you are, that’s not a good sign.
5) I don’t trust J.R. Smith or Raymond Felton to have four good games this series. Pretty simple on this one. Knicks need both of these guys firing on all cylinders to win the series. I’m not counting on it happening.
Put it all together and I like the C’s chances. Boston will struggle scoring at times, but the playoffs are more about defense than anything else and Boston has a serious advantage in that department. Throw in some added motivation for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett playing for a city that has been to hell and back in the past week and I’m not betting against them.
B Robb’s pick: Celtics in 6
The rest of our postseason picks…
HEAT VS. BUCKS PICKS:
Robb: Heat in 5. Giving Milwaukee a win in this series seems a bit generous, but the Bucks will find a way to steal one game when their dangerous 3-point shooters get hot. Milwaukee’s lackluster defense will be no match for LeBron James and the defending champions for the rest of the series, though.
Pina: Heat in 4. Even if LeBron James badly sprained his ankle warming up for Game 1, and wasn’t able to play throughout the series, the Milwaukee Bucks would still barely win one game. Back in reality, James is healthy and motivated to end this thing quickly so his team can rest up for either the Chicago Bulls or Brooklyn Nets.
Jackson: Heat in 5. I love all the hubbub being made about Brandon Jennings saying the Bucks will take the series in six games? What the hell is he supposed to say? Unfortunately for Bucks fans, he is wrong. The Heat will steam roll the Bucks in 5 games. The Bucks steal one game on the back of Larry Sanders’ rim protection but then get blown out in the series clincher.
DeGama: Heat in 4. I’ve reluctantly backed away from my original pick of Heat in 3. This should be an evisceration, even if Miami takes a few quarters to get warmed up.
PACERS VS. HAWKS
Robb: Pacers in 6. Indiana has struggled a bit down the stretch but can still clamp down defensively as well as any team in the league. The Hawks have an assortment of weapons on offense but lack the ability to score efficiently against an elite group like the Pacers.
Pina: Pacers in 5. The Indiana Pacers head into the playoffs winning just two of their seven April games. One of those losses was a very poor showing against the New York Knicks on the final Sunday of the regular season, and another was a blowout against the Washington Wizards. But I don’t care. These guys are bored. They’ll be borderline dominant on the defensive end against an Atlanta Hawks team that gave Devin Harris 25.3 minutes per game after the All-Star break.
Jackson: Pacers in 5. In the past, the Hawks have relied on Joe Johnson and Josh Smith to make it hard on their opponent before eventually bowing out. This year’s iteration relies on Al Horford and Jeff Teague. Not bad bets if they’re your team’s respective third and fourth banana, but neither are players I would consider “go-to.” Meanwhile, the Pacers’ toughness will shine through quickly.
DeGama: Pacers in 6. The post-Joe Johnson Hawks will end up with a similar fate to the Joe Johnson Hawks: a tough, early round exit and one final year spent, wheels spinning, in neutral. Indiana’s league-leading defense will be the story of this series. Expect Atlanta to play with just enough edge to bring out the Pacers’ true nastiness.
BULLS VS. NETS
Robb: Bulls in 7. Behind the improved play of Deron Williams, the Nets have started to show flashes of greatness that were expected, given the collection of talent they put together for this season. Unfortunately for Brooklyn, Chicago has the horses, especially on the front line, to slow down the Nets. The Bulls will struggle to score at times, but their excellent defense will prove to be the difference.
Pina: Nets in 7. Injuries (and frugal financial decisions) have been the undoing of Chicago Bulls basketball these last 11 months, and injuries will be their undoing in this playoff series. Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson are legitimate concerns, and with Derrick Rose presumably sitting this one out, Chicago lacks a single player who can go shot for shot with Deron Williams.
Jackson: Bulls in 7. The Bulls’ mounting injury issues are scary to think about, but then you remember how good and tough the Bulls can be when they need to be. Deron Williams would have to average 30 ppg to take the series. He can, but he won’t.
DeGama: Nets in 7. The Bulls are a broke down engine but they’ll play enough defense to compete. They shouldn’t win three games against a Nets team that seems to have found itself, but Brooklyn is hardly a sure thing given their polarized year. The hope here is Deron Williams turns in a post-season that vaults him back into the “best PG in the league” conversation. He’s still capable of it.
THUNDER VS ROCKETS
Robb: Thunder in 5. This is as good of a 1-8 matchup as you can ask for, but too much firepower by Thunder.
Pina: Thunder in 6. If Omer Asik can average 40 minutes per game, stay out of foul trouble, plug every driving lane by physically transforming into a brick wall, not get tired, and find someone to defend competently when the Thunder go super small, the Rockets just might push this thing to 7.
Jackson: Rockets in 7. BECAUSE I CAN! No, seriously, how great would the story be if James Harden stood on his beard and averaged 40, 10, and 10? This season’s also seen too many moments of the Thunder looking beatable. Between now and 1,000 pull up foul line jumpers from Russell Westbrook, the Rockets could come out on top.
DeGama. Thunder in 6. We all love the Rockets but no matter how I spin it in my head, I can’t see them winning more than two games. Even that feels generous. However, I am excited for the debut of James Harden, playoff supastah.
SPURS VS. LAKERS
Robb: Spurs in 6. Given the Spurs’ struggles in the past couple weeks, this is closer than it should be, but Lakers will be too shorthanded to achieve the upset.
Pina: Spurs in 5. The Los Angeles Lakers barely defeated the San Antonio Spurs about a week ago. Barely. In that game, Tony Parker went 1-of-10 and was on the bench for 14 minutes. Neither of those things will ever happen again, let alone four times in seven games.
Jackson: Spurs in 5. Can we stop pretending that the Lakers play defense and have a realistic chance to beating the Spurs? They will be out-classed quickly.
DeGama: Spurs in 5. Without Kobe Bryant, and with or without a decimated Steve Nash, the Lakers aren’t going to be able to consistently get good shots against San Antonio. The Lakers get one at home but the Spurs will carve them up with surgical precision.
WARRIORS VS. NUGGETS
Robb: Nuggets in 7. This would be a rout, but lots of Denver injuries make it closer. They’ll find a way.
Pina: Nuggets in 6. Kenneth Faried’s ankle makes me nervous. So does Stephen Curry’s wrist. Then I look at Golden State’s atrocious defensive frontcourt, Denver’s mile high air combined with the way they attack the rim like five grizzly bears charging Honeycomb’s international headquarters for 48 straight minutes, and Andre Iguodala guarding Curry in tight situations, and realize the Warriors hold the slightest of puncher’s chances.
Jackson: Nuggets in 6. It sucks that both these teams can’t win. I want this as my WCF! Alas, you’ll have to decide whether or not you want to root for the team that plays a lot of guys who work really hard or the team that works really hard and plays a ton of guys. Despite the Warriors having the superstar factor, the Nuggets just have too many legs.
DeGama: Nuggets in 6. Let this be a lesson to Golden State: when you have chance to add Paul Pierce to make a playoff run, you do it, particularly at the very reasonable cost of Harrison Barnes. I have a basketball nerd crush on Steph Curry but the Warriors look like a regular season wonder to me. Denver’s injuries will make this series closer than it should but but Golden State’s defense is going to be exposed.
GRIZZLIES VS. CLIPPERS
Robb: Grizz in 6. I don’t trust Vinny Del Negro and I do trust the Grizzlies defense.
Pina: Grizz in 7. I already forget my prediction. I want to see these teams battle so badly.
Jackson: Grizz in 7. This series will prove that better players are better players even of they are worse athletes.
DeGama: Grizz in 7. There’s no non-Boston series I’m looking forward to more than this one. I like Memphis’ frontcourt over the Clippers, assuming L.A. isn’t able to clog up the paint against a Grizzlies team that could struggle with their perimeter shooting. I think CP3 takes a couple of games away from the Grizz down the stretch but Memphis ends up winning the paint and the series.
Robb: Celtics over Pacers in 7
Pina: Celtics over Pacers in 6
Jackson: Celtics over Pacers in 6
DeGama: Pacers over Celtics in 7
Robb: Heat over Bulls in 6
Pina: Heat over Nets in 5
Jackson: Heat over Bulls in 5
DeGama: Heat over Nets in 5
Robb: Thunder over Grizzlies in 7
Pina: Grizzlies over Thunder in 6
Jackson: Grizzlies over Rockets in 6
DeGama: Thunder over Grizzlies in 7.
Robb: Spurs over Nuggets in 6
Pina: Spurs over Nuggets in 7
Jackson: Spurs over Nuggets in 6
DeGama: Spurs over Nuggets in 6
Robb: Heat over Celtics in 7
Pina: Heat over Celtics in 5
Jackson: Heat over Celtics in 5
DeGama: Heat over Pacers in 5
Robb: Thunder over Spurs in 6
DeGama: Thunder over Spurs in 7
Pina: Spurs over Thunder in 6
Robb: Thunder over Heat in 7
DeGama: Heat over Thunder in 7
Pina: Heat over Spurs in 6
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