The Turn On The Knicks staff gives their predictions for the first round of the NBA playoffs, which tip-off this Saturday.
BUCKS VS. HEAT
Joe Caporoso - Sometimes you don’t want to over-think these things. The Heat are one of the best teams we have seen in the past decade, if not longer. The Bucks are a sub .500 team, who despite having their share of scorers, will be overmatched and lucky to steal a single game. HEAT IN 4.
Kevin Smith - Milwaukee has played Miami about as tough as any team in recent history, but they still aren’t a formidable enough opponent for LeBron and company. The Bucks usually win games in the backcourt, but the Heat’s perimeter defense will make it tough for them to keep up on the scoreboard. I love the raucous environment of the Bradley Center in Milwaukee and think the Bucks can sneak one out at home. HEAT IN 5.
Tim Murray – The Bucks are a talented squad with perhaps the most dynamic back-court in the league but when it comes to the Heat any team will need more than that if they are to win four games. LeBron will see to it that the Heat look terrifying entering the second round. HEAT IN 4.
Chris DiGioa - If your asking me to predict the Heat to implode against the 8th seed in the first round, it’s not going to happen. Can the Bucks make the series interesting early? I believe so. The Bucks have played the Heat tough regularly, and Brandon Jennings always shows up. I’ll look for the Bucks to grab their first and only desperation victory in game three, where they will feed the Bradley Center’s energy. It still won’t be close enough to threaten LeBron James and the first place Heat. HEAT IN 5.
KNICKS VS. CELTICS
Kevin Smith - Just thinking about this series makes me queazy. The optimist in me knows that New York will come through, but the Knicks fan in me knows to expect the worst while hoping for the best. This is going to be one dogfight of a series, but the Knicks are the better team this time. KNICKS IN 7.
Tim Murray – The Celtics have been a nightmare for the Knicks in recent years but this year things are different. The Knicks are absolutely the better team especially with Rondo’s absence but the Celtics will still manage to put up a tough fight. KNICKS in 6.
Chris DiGioa - I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t concerned about this series. Although the Knicks have ended their season on a torrid hot streak, and Carmelo Anthony is arguably playing at the highest level in his career, the experience obtained by the Celtics sits on top of the league. Doc Rivers is one of the best coaches in the NBA, and Paul Pierce personifies exactly what a team needs to win the post-season and when you couple that with the fire Kevin Garnett brings to his team, anything can happen.
The Knicks are simply on fire right now, and I have too much faith in Carmelo. He’s been bounced out of the first round nine out of ten times in his career, and I don’t see that being the case this year. The Knicks are getting healthy at the right time, and Boston isn’t getting any younger. KNICKS IN 7.
PACERS VS. HAWKS
Joe Caporoso - The NBA Channel Special! In what could be the least watched first round series in league history, the Pacers will slog out enough points over the course of six games to send the Hawks home and set up a second round match-up with the Knicks. PACERS IN 6.
Kevin Smith - Yawn. Wake me up when this one is over. Two slow-paced teams slugging it out in the half-court? No thanks. The Pacers size and strength inside will be too much for the Hawks to handle. PACERS IN 5.
Tim Murray – The Hawks are worse than their seed suggests, plain and simple. PACERS IN 5.
Chris DiGioa - Although it’s probably one of the dullest match-ups in the first round, this series is going to bring an array of defense and toughness. Anytime the Pacers step on the floor it will be physical, so it’s going to be interesting to see how the talented frontcourt of the Hawks responds. Al Horford and Josh Smith are two of the most versatile big men in the NBA, but its not going to be enough to hold off the Pacers. Paul George has been the NBA’s most improved player this season, lifting his team to new heights despite Danny Granger’s injury plagued season. PACERS IN 5.
BULLS VS. NETS
Joe Caporoso - What is the over/under on technicals between Reggie Evans and Joakim Noah in this series? 8? 10? This will be physical, gritty, low-scoring basketball and the longest series we see in round one in the Eastern Conference. Sorry Brooklyn. BULLS IN 7.
Kevin Smith - I know the NBA Playoffs are all about defense, but until Derrick Rose laces up, the Bulls just don’t have the offense firepower to win a series. Who’s going to guard Deron Williams and Joe Johnson in the backcourt, a combination of Marco Belinelli, Kirk Hinrich and Nate Robinson? NETS IN 6.
Tim Murray - This in my opinion is the toughest series to predict. The Nets have better talent but in the absence of Derrick Rose the Bulls’ role players have stepped up and together they have formed solid chemistry. I think the Bulls pull this one out because where talent can fail, teamwork will prevail. BULLS IN 7.
Chris DiGioa - With the lingering question of whether or not Derrick Rose will be ready to suit up in round one, the Bulls hands seem to be tied. Tom Thibodeau is the NBA’s best defensive mind, making it difficult for any team to score points consistently. Combine with the fact the game slows down even more in the playoffs; an elite defensive team can thrive. However, led by Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, the Nets backcourt is capable of lighting up the scoreboard. With no D-Rose in the picture giving the Bulls a major disadvantage in the backcourt, I’ll look for D-Will to catch fire. NETS IN 6.
THUNDER VS. ROCKETS
Joe Caporoso - Ah the drama! Watching James Harden battle against his old pals will be entertaining television to say the least. The Rockets outside shooting and a Harden “F U” game at some point will get this to six games but the Thunder will prevail. THUNDER IN 6.
Kevin Smith - James Harden shot 3-16 from the field in the first matchup against his old teammates, and I think we’ll see similar dominance by the Thunder defense in the playoffs. Houston’s shooting from outside can probably catch enough fire to win them a game, but I wouldn’t expect too much else. An underrated matchup to keep your eyes on is the battle on the glass between Omer Asik and Kendrick Perkins. Go ahead, laugh it up. THUNDER IN 5.
Tim Murray - Love the fact that James Harden will have the chance to show OKC what they’re missing but please, even if he averages 30 points per game this series, the Thunder are going to steamroll through this one. THUNDER IN 4.
Chris DiGioa - Besides watching my Lakers, this series is going to have me glued to my seat. Both the Thunder and the Rockets possess an incredible ability to pile points on the board, and I’ll expect nothing less when they match-up in round one. Behind the offensive firepower of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, James Harden and the Rockets youth will be the ultimate downfall in the series. Look for an immensely entertaining couple of games, with a ton of points being scored. THUNDER IN 5.
SPURS VS. LAKERS
Joe Caporoso - Way back when I picked the Lakers to win the NBA Finals. I won’t bail now, even though they aren’t winning it. The Spurs are a perfect match-up for them considering how banged up Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker currently are. Mike D’Antoni gets of his own way enough to let Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard guide the Lakers to the upset. LAKERS IN 7.
Kevin Smith - I was foreseeing a Lakers upset over the Spurs for at least the last month or so, but as much as I would like to roll with my editor (and presumably Chris DiGioia), I can’t put it in to ink without Kobe Bryant there. The Lakers should have no issue putting up points running their offense through Steve Nash and the Point-Pau system, but they will have no answer for Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili defensively, even if they aren’t at 100 percent. SPURS IN 6, but it’ll be a lot closer than the final indicates.
Tim Murray – If the Lakers had Kobe, I’d like their chances a lot more (Thanks Tim for enlightening us) It’s obvious yes, but not only are they missing his production, they are missing their leader and when it’s playoff time an experienced core like the Spurs have are going to thrive whereas sensitive, Dwight Howard will not. SPURS IN 6.
Chris DiGioa - Excuse me if I seem a little bias, but I’m a Lakers fan, and I think they’re going to win. Why? The Spurs have plummeted towards the end of the season, and Tony Parker has not yet regained his MVP form from before his ankle injury. Also, they have dropped seven of their last ten games in the regular season, including the final three. The Lakers on the other hand have won eight of their last nine games just to squeeze in the playoffs, possessing the momentum they need to make a run.
Pau Gasol has been out of this world for the Lakers since returning from a foot injury, and although the heart and soul of the team in Kobe Bryant will not be on the court, Dwight Howard is still sitting in the middle of the paint. The Lakers dodged a bullet when they missed the Thunder in the first round, so I’ll look for them to capitalize. LAKERS IN 7.
NUGGETS VS. WARRIORS
Joe Caporoso - Points. Points. Points. The Nuggets health is a concern but their depth and home-court advantage should be enough against a one-dimensional Warriors team. It will be fun to see Steph Curry in the playoffs but this isn’t the year they win a series. NUGGETS IN 6.
Kevin Smith - I believe. The Warriors will channel their inner 2007 and at the very least make a series out of this. Golden State may not be as deep as Denver, but even in a small sample size, Mark Jackson has proven he can coach toe-to-toe with George Karl. Also, the Warriors home court advantage cancels out the Nuggets. WARRIORS IN 6.
Tim Murray – The Nuggets are banged up and I love the strides the Warriors have taken under Mark Jackson especially with the development of Stephen Curry into a nightmare from behind the arc even if he is double-teamed with his back to the basket. Nevertheless, the Nuggets have just been too successful this season especially at home to get knocked out this early. NUGGETS IN 6.
Chris DiGioa - How good has this Nuggets team been this year? I’m at a loss for words, and George Karl deserves a huge portion of the credit. Led by fireplug point guard Ty Lawson, and the ultimate glue-guy in Andre Iguodala, I expect Denver to control the tempo of the game. Kenneth Faried reaps havoc for opposing teams on the glass, sparking their up-tempo offense. The Warriors have been quite the surprise themselves this year behind the play of Stephen Curry, but they’re going to have issues slowing down the multiple weapons on Denver’s roster. NUGGETS IN 7.
CLIPPERS VS. GRIZZLIES
Joe Caporoso - Turning into a nice little rivalry. We will get a physical, well-played series that seems destined for a game 7. GRIZZLIES IN 7.
Kevin Smith - Not too long ago I would have laughed if you told me that these two teams would be part of a budding playoff rivalry. They went seven games in last year’s matchup and there’s no reason to think they won’t do it again. The Clippers depth and veteran leadership is enough to get them past Memphis once again. CLIPPERS IN 7.
Tim Murray – It has been a great series before and it will again but this time around the block you’re adding an improved Blake Griffin and removing Rudy Gay. The Grizzlies front court is still a force to be reckoned with but it will not be enough. CLIPPERS IN 6.
Chris DiGioa - I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting seeing these teams meet in the first round when the season started. Due to Denver’s ability to hold onto the three seed, this series can arguably consist of the two best teams that have to face one another this early. I loved how Rudy Gay once rounded out the frontcourt for Memphis, and although they still have one of the best defenses in the NBA, the high-flying Clippers aren’t going home in the first round. Chris Paul has the ability to will a team to victory, being the most credible floor general in the league. CLIPPERS IN 7.