NFL_FLAT_LOGOS_041699: NFL team logos; stand-alone; 1c; 52mm; MOVED Fri. April 16.
Updated: May 21, 2013 6:33AM
#1 MIAMI (66-16) vs. #8 MILWAUKEE (38-44)
Regular season: Heat 3-1.
The Bucks didn’t make it easy on the Heat early in the season, playing them tough in a 113-106 loss in November, and then beating them in Milwaukee 104-85 on Dec. 29. But the last two meetings were laughers and that’s what this series will be. The Bucks crawled to the finish line, and as long as Miami can stop their backcourt of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings, this will be quick and painless.
Prediction: Heat in four.
#2 NEW YORK (54-28) vs. #7 BOSTON (41-40)
Regular season: Knicks 3-1.
Losing six of their last nine in the regular season isn’t exactly entering the playoffs with swag for the Celtics, but this is a battle-tested team with a battle-tested core of players. The problem is that as good as Doc Rivers has been in pushing the right buttons, facing the Knicks in the first round is less than ideal. If Boston can keep New York cool from outside the three-point line, it could be a series.
Prediction: Knicks in six.
#3 INDIANA (49-32) vs. #6 ATLANTA (44-38)
Regular season: Tied at 2.
On the surface, it looks as if this could be the best of the first-round showdowns in the East. But these are the Atlanta Hawks, led by the enigmatic Josh Smith. Expect bad shot selection, bad decision-making and bad coaching from Larry Drew. Bum teams don’t last long in the postseason, and a disciplined Pacers team will make sure of that.
Prediction: Pacers in five.
#1 OKLAHOMA CITY (60-22) vs. #8 HOUSTON (45-37)
Regular season: Thunder 2-1.
The Rockets have one of the youngest teams in the league, and youth is about to be served a lesson. Obviously, James Harden’s return to OKC with the playoffs on the line is a drama in itself, but the Thunder has unfinished business after losing in the NBA Finals last season. Houston is up-and-coming, but just standing in the way of progress.
Prediction: Thunder in five.
#2 SAN ANTONIO (58-24) vs. #7 L.A. LAKERS (45-37)
Regular season: Spurs 2-1.
It’s been a bad April for the aging Spurs — going 3-6 down the stretch — and a banged-up mess. Manu Ginobili returned to the lineup in the season finale after missing nine games, Tony Parker is playing on one leg and they were forced to sign Tracy McGrady for help. Meanwhile, no Kobe Bryant for the Lakers is a huge loss, especially with how heartlessly Dwight Howard plays the game.
Prediction: Spurs in seven.
#3 DENVER (57-25) vs. #6 GOLDEN STATE (47-35)
Regular season: Nuggets 3-1.
If the playoffs are all about matchups, this is an awful one for Golden State. The Nuggets lead the league in points per game, averaging 106.1. The Warriors are 19th in points allowed. Then there’s that little matter of the Nuggets’ going 38-3 at home, and having home-court advantage in Round 1. It will be fun to watch Golden State’s three-point assassin, Stephen Curry, in the postseason, but don’t blink, it could be quick.
Prediction: Nuggets in five.
#4 L.A. CLIPPERS (56-26) vs. #5 MEMPHIS (56-26)
Regular season: Clippers 3-1.
The most-hyped series in the first round sees “Lob City’’ facing off against a team that just doesn’t like them. The Grizzlies and the Clippers have had some heated games — and heated moments — and that’s not about to slow down in the playoffs. The Clippers have been begging for attention since moving to Los Angeles, and now they have it. If they fall short it will cost Vinny Del Negro his coaching job — as it should.
Prediction: Clippers in seven.