Derek J. Hernandez

NBA Playoff Predictions

It’s that time of year where we separate the men from the boys, the contenders from the pretenders, the Jordans from the Lebrons (too soon?). It’s also that time of year where you see a ton of playoff predictions. Well, here’s a few more from the NCB crew’s resident NBA “experts”.

Greg and Derek picked the same NBA champion while Keith went with the villains of the NBA (wink wink). Loser gets wet-willied by Delonte.

Loser gets wet-willied

Greg’s Predictions:

Match-up or potential matchup you’re most looking forward to in the Eastern Conference:

Bulls/Heat

Eastern Conference Champion: Chicago Bulls. All the first round series will end quickly. The second round will be interesting and I see the scrappy Pacers giving the Heat fits and the wily veteran Celtics giving the Bulls all they can handle. In the end though, we get our rematch with the Bulls/Heat going 7 games, and the Bulls are your Eastern Conference champion.

Eastern Conference Upset Special/Surprise: The big surprise will be the Pacers taking the Heat 7 games but the upset special is LeBron James leading the way for the Heat to pull the series out.

Match-up or potential matchup you’re most looking forward to in the Western Conference:

Lakers/Thunder

Western Conference Champion: Oklahoma City Thunder. It’s much tougher to pick the West since I could see the Spurs, Thunder, Lakers, or Grizzlies winning it. In the end, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will be too much for the Lakers in the first round. With a HEALTHY James Harden, the Thunder are the best team in the West and should make their first trip to the finals.

Western Conference Upset Special/Surprise: Upset alert: The winner of the Grizzlies/Clippers matchup will beat the Spurs in the second round.

Finals Matchup: Chicago Bulls/Oklahoma City Thunder. This will be a great series. With both teams at full strength we should get a back and forth series I can see going 7 games. In the end, Westbrook and Rose cancel each other out. The deciding factor is Kevin Durant and the matchup problem he causes for the Bulls.

Finals MVP: Kevin Durant. The stage of the finals will be his chance to show the world that he is the best player on the planet right now. I expect him to get his first title and finals MVP this year, putting everyone on notice that this is his team and he is the alpha dog in the NBA right now.

Keith’s Predictions:

Match-up or potential matchup you’re most looking forward to in the Eastern Conference:

Looking at the matchups in the East, the one I’m most looking forward to is the Miami Heat VS. the New York Knicks. The probable MVP LeBron James, along with amigo D Wade should be able to have a decent series against the Knicks. Miami swept the season series against New York 3-0. The Heat outscored the Knicks by 10.3 points over those 3 games and shot 8% better from the floor. In fact, the last time the Knicks won a playoff game was back in 2001 against Toronto. Carmelo Anthony is playing the best ball he has all year. Amare is back and feeling fantastic. And Tyson Chandler, who could potentially be named Def. Player of the Year, is a wall in the paint. However, I believe the big three will prove too much for the Knicks. I can’t wait to see this Miami team in playoff mode. I pick Miami to win this series in six games.

Eastern Conference Champion:

Chicago Bulls VS. Philadelphia Sixers – Even with the possibility of Derrick Rose not at 100%, I think the Bulls will beat the Sixers in five games. Philadelphia barely limped into the playoffs. The bulls not only tied for the best overall record, their defense has been a huge part of that. I believe the Bulls will overwhelm Philly in every facet of the game and take it in 5.

Miami Heat VS. New York Knicks – See above.

Indiana Pacers VS. Orlando Magic – I can’t wait until there are 2 minutes left in Game 4. Why you ask? It will be the last 2 minutes we will have to hear about/see about Dwight Howard this year. What he did to this Magic team has been an absolute joke. On top of him basically trying to dismantle his team and his subsequent back surgery, the Indiana Pacers are playing tremendous ball heading into this series. Hibbert should have a great advantage inside, and Paul George could have his way with this broken down Magic team. I see the Pacers sweeping the Magic 4-0. Sorry Stan Van.

Boston Celtics VS. Atlanta Hawks – The Celtics won the season series 2-1 over the Hawks. Both teams averaged 86.3 ppg and shot 43 & 44% respectively. Even though Boston has a better seed than Atlanta, the Hawks have home court advantage (better regular season record).The Celtics are playing decently heading in with the Hawks playing without Al Horford inside. I think Josh Smith and Joe Johnson will keep the aging Celtics on their toes, taking this series to 7 games. I also believe the Hawks will win game 7 and put an end to the Celtics in the first round.

Eastern Conference Upset Special/Surprise:

I’d have to say the only “upset” I really picked was the Hawks over the Celtics in 7 games. No huge surprise here. Smith and Johnson turn it up to 11 and the Old 3 (I mean the Big 3) can’t last through all 7 games.

Match-up or potential matchup you’re most looking forward to in the Western Conference:

1st Round matchup – Oklahoma City VS. Dallas – I’m not looking forward to this series because I think it will be a GOOD series. Rather, I can’t wait to see back to back to back scoring champion Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook go into playoff mode. With James Harden back (hopefully with his brain back in his head post-elbow), I can’t see how the Mavs have enough firepower to stop the Thunder. Dirk Nowitzki Has really turned it on in the second half of the year, but I think the Thunder have too many weapons. As long as Durant and Westbrook don’t shoot less than 17% from the floor in all of these games, I am picking the Thunder to win this series in 5.

Western Conference Champion:

San Antonio Spurs VS. Utah Jazz – You could argue that the Spurs are fully rested, have the deepest bench & are playing the best basketball in the NBA. And you could be correct in doing so. They are tied for the best record in the league at 50-16. Utah has been playing very tough and beat Phoenix to get the 8 seed. However, I just think the Spurs are playing some of the best basketball and have one of the best coaches (ever?). Barring a freak accident involving a time machine and Manu Ginobili’s elbow, I don’t see the Utah Jazz beating San Antonio. I’ll take the Spurs in 5 games.

Oklahoma City Thunder VS. Dallas Mavericks – See above.

Los Angeles Lakers VS. Denver Nuggets – This series will be close. The Lakers have the second best defense in the league, but that was before World Peace became the biggest and most hilarious oxymoron of all time. Denver has the 8th best D, but the have the best offense in the NBA with about 102 ppg. I’m gonna go with the upset here in seven games. Denver stretches the series out and takes it. Metta World Peace would be eligible for game seven. Just throwing that out there. Hope you like seeing elbows.

Memphis Grizzlies VS. Los Angeles Clippers – Zach Randolph, Rudy
Gay and Marc Gasol. In the playoffs. After beating the 1 seed Spurs last year. Yeah. Randolph against Blake Griffin is going to be a great matchup. One that I believe Randolph will win. Chris Paul is great and playing up to that adjective. I just think Memphis will prove to be too much for the Clips in this series. I’m picking Memphis in 6 games.

Western Conference Upset Special/Surprise:

Denver Nuggets over the Los Angeles – I stated above I think this game will take all seven. George Karl VS. Mike Brown. Not even a contest there. Kobe will try to take over, but like I said, I believe Denver will prove to be too much. Nuggets on 7.

Finals Matchup:

I’m picking Miami in the East against Oklahoma City in the West. I know, I know…kind of a popular opinion. I buy it though. I think Miami is going to turn it on for the playoffs and basically cruise through the East. Indiana in the second round could be tough, but not tough enough. Chicago in the conference finals is going to be a great series. Could even go seven incredible games, especially if Rose is healed. I still think Miami has too many weapons for anyone in the East to take them down. In my opinion, Oklahoma City’s only real challenge could be The Spurs in the conference finals. But I believe the Durantula and Westbrook are on a mission. Harden will be looking to show the world that the elbow didn’t phase him. Those three will drive the OKC bandwagon to the Finals.

I’m going to pick the Miami Heat to win the championship over Oklahoma City. This is going to be a great final series. I pray that it goes all seven games. The Heat are ready. This is their year. OKC presents a giant challenge to Miami, but I believe the Heat are going to seize the moment. If they can manage to play their best ball of the year throughout these playoffs, they are unbeatable. Let’s face it. If they don’t win the title, say goodbye to the at least one of the big three. And it won’t be LeBron. The Miami Heat will be your Finals Champion. Heat win in 7 games.

Finals MVP:

Since I picked the Miami Heat to win the title, I bet you could guess my MVP. It’s the same guy that will win his 3rd MVP for the regular season. It’s the same guy that will receive his first of a few (certainly not 5, not 6, not 7, not 8 championship rings this year. LeBron James is my Finals MVP pick. The culmination of the 1st half of his career, filled with several ups and plenty of downs, will end with his first Finals MVP. He won’t have to stay inside his out growing out his Castaway beard this summer. James will be able to look at his mantle after this season and see a regular season MVP, a Finals MVP and a Championship trophy. Hopefully they changed out the guacamole on the bottom of it. That stuff turns brown really quickly.

Get hyped people! The Playoffs are upon us.

Derek’s Predictions:

Match-up or potential matchup you’re most looking forward to in the Eastern Conference:

Bulls/Celtics

I think the consensus is the Bulls and the Heat are on a collision course to face each other in the Eastern Conference Finals. In the words of Lee Corso… NOT SO FAST MY FRIEND. I’m still not totally sold that D-Rose is back to full speed and the Bulls struggle mightily to score against good defenses in the playoffs. Even the Pacers gave them fits last year as the Bulls ran the “Let Rose Score” offense.

The Bulls and Celtics always have classic playoff battles and this one will be no different. Rondo Vs. Rose. Garnett mean-mugging Noah. Thibs vs. Doc. Here’s to hoping this matchup happens.

Eastern Conference Champion:

Miami Heat

I’m thisclose in picking the Celtics pulling a New York Knicks from the last lock-out shortened season. However, I think the Celtics run will have them gassed by the time they get to game 6 against the Heat and the younger legs of Miami will prevail. Unfortunately for everyone.

Eastern Conference Upset Special/Surprise:

I think you probably have this figured out by now. I’m taking Boston over Chicago in a slug fest reminiscent of those ugly but entertaining playoff games of the early 90’s.

There’s also a part of me that thinks Melo and the Knicks can knock out the Heat but I don’t have the balls to pick that upset. Melo legitimately thinks he’s on par or better than LBJ and Wade and Chandler knows exactly how to beat the Heat. Not to mention it’s a rivalry where the best and most talented team doesn’t win.

Even with all that I don’t have the balls to pick the upset.

Match-up or potential matchup you’re most looking forward to in the Western Conference:

Lakers/Thunder

Normally I’d say the whatever the Conference Finals matchup was but the Spurs are just so damn boring. Plus, the Lakers/Thunders matchup was going to be entertaining with all the star power but with Metta going all Randy Savage with the Elbow Drop on Harden the intensity will be through the roof.

Western Conference Champion:

OKC

It’s not going to be easy for them to navigate through the West (obviously) but I think everyone doubting them and their experience from last year’s run will push them through. Even though I want the Spurs to get knocked out by the Grizzlies I don’t think Pop will let them get bounced out by Memphis again.  However, the Spurs will be worn out from bruising with Z-Bo and Gasol and just like the Celtics will not have enough to knock out the younger, more athletic Thunder team.

Western Conference Upset Special/Surprise:

The Thunder will eliminate the Spurs in 5 games.

Finals Matchup:

Heat/Thunder

Trendy pick I know but talent is talent. As I wrote here, you need to play “Top 10 Level Defense” to win it all and the Thunder haven’t done it all year. But – I’m going to go against the trend and my own analysis and pick the Thunder. They dominated Miami all year when they just played basketball (yes, I know the Heat won one but if it wasn’t for that flagrant foul call that would have been another blowout) and I think Wade will wear down and Perk and I-Block-A will nullify LBJ’s usual attack on the rim. Plus I see Durant going Dirk on everyone this playoffs.

Finals MVP:

Kevin Durant. It’s his time. Everyone predicted he’d be the MVP superstar last year but D-Rose was a revelation. I have no doubt that he has that WCF loss from last year in the back of his mind and like I stated above he’s going to go Dirk on everyone.

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