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Saturday, 16 April 2011

NBA Play Offs- 1st Round Predictions

Finally the 82 games in the regular season are finished and the Play Offs are here. There are a number of intriguing series in the 1st Round, while many will also be salivating at the prospect of some very interesting Semi Finals and Finals over the next 2 months.

Who will win? I don't really know at the moment, there are many teams with real potential. A dark horse could be the young and very talented Oklahoma City Thunder, but they must first negotiate a tough 1st Round series with the flying Denver Nuggets.

The LA Lakers and Boston Celtics cannot be ruled out even though they limped into the Play Offs, while both Number 1 seeds in Chicago and San Antonio should be live players.

And then there is the Miami Heat...

But first, all teams have to negotiate their way through to the latter stages and that means it is time for 1st Round Predictions!

Eastern Conference 1st Round Predictions
Chicago Bulls (1) v Indiana Pacers (8): This should be a clear cut series for the Chicago Bulls if they can hold their nerves together and play up to the expectations the fans now have on the team. The likes of Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah should be too strong for Indiana, the only team with a losing record in the Play Offs.

The Pacers may be able to get a split in the 2 games played on their home court, but the Bulls should come through in 4 or 5 games.

Miami Heat (2) v Philadelphia 76ers (7): The Miami Heat have negotiated the regular season with one goal in mind and that was to be getting ready to really play some ball in the Play Offs. They have won all 3 games against the 76ers in the regular season, but 2 of those game during Phili's tough start to the season.

The 76ers will need Lou Williams back in the rotation sooner rather than later to help them out, but eventually Miami's class will tell and the Heat will get warmed up with a series win in 5 games.

Boston Celtics (3) v New York Knicks (6): Boston's end to the season made their decision to trade away Kendrick Perkins look even more surprising and could cost them the chance to reach the Finals for the 2nd year in succession. However, while many are tipping this as the surprise of the 1st Round, I think the Celtics still have a little too much know-all for the new look Knicks.

The acquisition of Carmelo Anthony makes the Knicks an attractive team to watch, and he and Amare Stoudemire can take games away from teams, but Defense wins Championships and that is an area that will let them down. I can see the Knicks pushing Boston to 6 games before bowing out.

Orlando Magic (4) v Atlanta Hawks (5): The Atlanta Hawks beat the Magic 3-1 in the regular season, but must still have a few nightmares of their 4-0 Semi Final loss last season to these same opponents.

Atlanta have really been struggling down the stretch and there are plenty of accusations of players quitting in games. Orlando themselves have been a Jekyll and Hyde team since blowing up their roster and bringing in the likes of Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas and it is hard to take them completely seriously when the latter gets as many minutes as he does.

This is the hardest series to call in the East in my opinion, and I have a sneaky feeling the Hawks may take this in 7 games.

Western Conference 1st Round Predictions
San Antonio Spurs (1) v Memphis Grizzlies (8): The West is loaded with a string of strong series, but this could be the one that has most people shocked. San Antonio only just fell short of the best record in the NBA, but people are beginning to worry that they are showing their age as key players like Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili all struggled with injuries down the stretch.

Add to that the fact that they play a young, fast, athletic team like the Grizzlies and the potential for a 1st Round shock is definitely in play.

Memphis were so confident of this match up that they deliberately tanked games down the stretch to ensure they play the Spurs... That confidence may just see them push San Antonio all the way here to 7 games.

LA Lakers (2) v New Orleans Hornets (7): The LA Lakers went on a 17-1 run after the All Star break which had people effectively crowning them as the Western Champions- however, they have not been so dominating to close the season and now the doubters are out in force again.

The Lakers should be happy to face the New Orleans Hornets, arguably the weakest team in the Western Conference Play Offs. LA won the season series 4-0 and the Hornets are missing David West... Lakers take this in 4 games.

Dallas Mavericks (3) v Portland Trail Blazers (6): Another team that is happy with their match up is the Portland Trail Blazers who play a Dallas team that they beat in their regular season series. With the Rose Garden being a really tough arena to visit, Portland definitely will feel they have the beating of a Dallas team that finished a little up and down in the regular season.

The Mavericks have lost in this Round in 3 of the last 4 Play Off appearances they have had, and their deep squad could be well matched by Portland's.

Much like the San Antonio series, this one may just be decided in 7 games... This time the underdog Portland team comes up trumps, winning in Dallas to secure the series.

Oklahoma City Thunder (4) v Denver Nuggets (5): As you may know, I am pretty high on the Thunder and really believe they can go deep if they handle the pressure of being the favourites in a series rather than the loveable underdogs. The trade for Kendrick Perkins looks an inspired decision and makes Oklahoma City a tough series for any team in the West.

Denver are another who made a big decision by trading away Carmelo Anthony and they too have fired since then as they have a number of high quality players, even if none of them are quite up to the Superstar label just yet. The Nuggets have the third winningest record since the trade deadline, but notably they have lost 2 times to Oklahoma City in that time.

The Thunder are likely to have one too many questions for Denver here and will come through in 6 games.

The next couple of weeks will show us how the 1st Round pans out and I will be back for an update in to my Semi Final feels.

Remember to check out http://www.goonersguide.com/ where I will be putting up my NBA picks for individual games throughout the Play Offs. I have over 11 Units of profit from the last 2 months of the regular season and hope to build that up further before a potential lockout season next year.

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