Monday, April 30, 2012


San Antonio Spurs vs. Utah Jazz
SEASON SERIES: Spurs won 3-1
ANALYSIS: The San Antonio Spurs are once again the West’s top seed, but they are vowing not to be on the wrong side of another monumental 1/8 upset like last season. Gregg Popovich continued to manage Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker’s minutes, while giving younger players much valuable playing time. Despite only averaging 32.1 minutes, Parker scored 18.3 points per game and average 7.7 assists.

The Utah Jazz make it back to the playoffs after a one-year absence after making an effective playoff push. Utah finished No. 4 in scoring with 99.7 points per game and part of that is due to their ability to score inside. Al Jefferson scored 19.2 points and had 9.6 rebounds per game this season and Paul Millsap added 16.6 PPG and 8.8 RPG. What could hurt the Jazz is their defense as they allow 99.0 points per game—No. 23 in the NBA. 
PREDICTION: Spurs in 5

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Dallas Mavericks
SEASON SERIES: Thunder won 3-1
ANALYSIS: The Oklahoma City Thunder might be the No. 2 seed in the West, but they are the arguably the conference’s favorites to make it to the NBA Finals. In two bonafide superstars in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Thunder are one of the more exciting teams in the NBA. Durant won his third straight scoring title with 28.0 points per game and is considered to be in the MVP race.

The Dallas Mavericks looked like a shell of their former selves this season, but as they showed last year that when they get it together, they can win. The defending champions overcame rest, injuries and controversy to sneak into the playoffs as a dangerous No. 7 seed. Dirk Nowitzki put together another good season with 21.6 PPG and 6.8 REB. 
PREDICTION: Mavericks in 6.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets
SEASON SERIES: Lakers won 3-1
ANALYSIS: The Los Angeles Lakers started slow of the gate, but bounced back to take the Pacific Division crown over their city rivals, the Clippers. While Kobe Bryant continues to show why he is one of the best players in the NBA, the play of Andrew Bynum—for the most part—has been impressive. Bynum averaged 18.7 points and 11.7 rebounds for the Lakers this year and showed that he can be a good center in the NBA.

The Denver Nuggets are a deep and an explosive team as shown by their ability to score. Denver was tops in scoring average with 104.1 points per game and seven different players averaged at least 10 PPG, including midseason acquisition JaVale McGee. Rookie Kenneth Faried had a great showing in his first year, averaging 11.1 points and 8.3 rebounds after taking the starting power forward position for good on Feb. 19.
PREDICTION: Lakers in 7.

Memphis Grizzlies vs. Los Angeles Clippers
SEASON SERIES: Clippers won 2-1
ANALYSIS: After a strong playoff showing last year, the Memphis Grizzlies are back and better than ever this season by securing the No. 4 seed and homecourt advantage for at least one round in this year’s playoffs. Unable to play in last year’s run, Rudy Gay is back as he led the team with 19.0 points per game. The Grizzlies’ strong inside with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol will make for a tough out in the playoffs.

The Los Angeles Clippers are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2006 after the best season in franchise history. Having Chris Paul gave the Clippers excitement, hope and leadership. With his 19.8 points and 9.1 assists per game, he made everyone around him better. Blake Griffin was a good beneficiary to Paul joining the Clippers by scoring 20.7 points and having 10.7 rebounds per game along with many thunderous dunks.
PREDICTION: Grizzlies in 7.


Chicago Bulls vs. Philadelphia 76ers
SEASON SERIES: Bulls won 2-1
ANALYSIS: The Chicago Bulls won the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed for the second year in a row despite nagging injuries to reigning Most Valuable Player Derrick Rose. Limited to 39 games, Rose only averaged 21.8 points and 7.9 assists per game but never missed a beat thanks to their stifling defense. The Bulls gave up 88.2 points per game and had a defensive rating—points per 100 possessions—of 98.3, both lower than last season.

The Philadelphia 76ers looked as if they would take a huge leap forward after leading the Atlantic Division for most of the year, but they faded all the way down to the No. 8 seed following a 20-9 start to the season. They started so hot thanks to their defense as it allowed 89.4 points per game and 99.2 per 100 possessions—both good for third in the NBA. However, their 15-24 finish was a cause of not having enough offense. Lou Williams led Philadelphia with 14.9 points per game and Andre Iguodala continued to be a good, all-around player.
PREDICTION: Bulls in 5.

Miami Heat vs. New York Knicks
SEASON SERIES: Heat won 3-0
ANALYSIS: The Miami Heat is a team on a mission after losing in the NBA Finals last year. Miami is again the No. 2 seed in the East, but they are still a juggernaut on both sides of the ball. Leading that charge is LeBron James, who could be the favorite to this year’s MVP award. James averaged 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 1.9 steals this year as he, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh seek the elusive title that slipped away last year.

The New York Knicks had a crazy season, but then again, what else would you expect from the Big Apple? A coaching change, the rise of an unknown player, two stars still trying to mesh, you name it! But the Knicks have played well as of late—going 18-6 and playing better defense under Mike Woodson. Carmelo Anthony’s 22.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game is good, but he has turned his game up this April by averaging 29.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.  
PREDICTION: Heat in 6.

Indiana Pacers vs. Orlando Magic
SEASON SERIES: Magic won 3-1
ANALYSIS: Since taking over midway during the 2010-11 season, Frank Vogel has coached up the Indiana Pacers to a very good young team with much potential. This season, they jumped all the way up to the No. 3 seed in the East, thanks to a solid core of players who stayed healthy for most of the season. Danny Granger had 18.7 points and 5.0 rebounds per game, while All-Star Roy Hibbert improved his offensive rebounding and swatted away 128 shots.

The Orlando Magic finished with the No. 6 seed in the East, but they had to suffer through a “Dwightmare” to get to it. While Dwight Howard was a bit of a distraction off of the court, he played well on the court. However, he will miss the playoffs due to his back. However, Ryan Anderson will pick up the slack left behind by Howard. Anderson improved his game this season by averaging 16.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, while being a great 3-point shooter in the process.
PREDICTION: Pacers in 5.

Boston Celtics vs. Atlanta Hawks
SEASON SERIES: Celtics won 2-1
ANALYSIS: Nearly left for dead at the All-Star break, the Boston Celtics staved off a rebuilding phase at the trading deadline to win their fifth consecutive Atlantic Division title. Boston continues to have the experience in its terrific trio of Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, but it is Rajon Rondo who continues to progress as one of the NBA’s elite point guards. During his current 23-game streak with at least 10 assists, Rondo is averaging 13.8 dimes, 9.8 points and 1.9 steals per game.

The Atlanta Hawks are back yet again in the playoffs and they will have home-court advantage in this series. The Hawks allowed the sixth fewest points this season (93.2 PPG) and will be looking to advance into the second round for the fourth straight year. To do so, Atlanta will look to the complete game of Josh Smith, who averaged 18.8 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game.
PREDICTION: Celtics in 6.