First Round NBA Playoff Predictions

Dylan Pulver and Kristen Duarte

Now that the first round of the NBA Playoffs has started, our NBA experts Dylan Pulver and Kristen Duarte give us their predictions for each matchup.

Miami Heat vs. Milwaukee Bucks:

Dylan Pulver:Brandon Jennings has already set the tone for this series. In mid-March, he declared that he wanted to play the Heat in the first round of the playoffs, and this past week, though half-jokingly, he said that the Bucks would beat the Heat in six games. While the Bucks played behind their words with passion, the Heat would come in, without fighting words, and continue the dominance that they have maintained throughout the regular season. Even though the Heat struggled against the Bucks in the lockout-shortened 2011-2012 season and lost one game out of four to the Bucks over this season, the Bucks should watch out, because this series might be over before you even know it.

Kristen Duarte:The Miami Heat have proven they mean business once again this season. After a 27-game win streak led by superstars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, the Heat are hungry for consecutive titles. This team will be judged not by winning a championship, but by how many they win. The Bucks haven’t won a road game since March 10 and are no match for the powerful Heat. The Heat is up 1-0 and should win this series 4-0 or 4-1.

 New York Knicks vs. Boston Celtics: 

DP:These two teams can go at it all day long and no one would be bored. While the Celtics have not been as strong this season as in the past -partially because of Rajon Rondo’s absence due to an ACL injury – the competitive, defensive grit enforced by coach Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett is tough for any team to overcome. The Knicks, however, have played some of their best basketball of the season as of late, with the offensive prowess, defensive mindset and team play of a true contender. Also, Carmelo Anthony seems to be looking for revenge on the Celtics for schooling his Knickerbockers in the first round of the 2011 playoffs.

KD:The Knicks have enjoyed the best season since the Ewing era and hope to make it past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since the end of those Ewing glory years (1999-2000). The Knicks won the first game of what will be a close series. Both teams are sound and have all-star caliber players, but the Celtics will struggle with the loss of the explosive Rajon Rondo and a sub-par Kevin Garnett. I predict the Knicks will win the series in six games.

Indiana Pacers vs. Atlanta Hawks:

DP:Only one thing about this series is for certain: it is Paul George’s time to prove that he can lead the Pacers throughout the playoffs. He is certainly on his way there after notching a triple-double and the Pacers’ win in the first game of the series. In general, though, the Pacers’ dominant defense should hold off the Hawks’ slightly above average offense and defense and give Josh Smith ample time to think about the upcoming free agency.

KD:The Pacers played great defense this regular season, allowing only 99.8 points per 100 possessions. The true matchup between these teams will be between Hawks center Al Horford and Pacers center Roy Hibbert. Whichever player can establish his presence in the paint and on the glass will have the advantage. The Pacers will take the Hawks in five.

Brooklyn Nets vs. Chicago Bulls:

DP:The Nets and the Bulls come into this series with different overall feelings about their respective seasons. The Nets, who made the move to Brooklyn after last season, made a splash on the NBA Playoff race with the great play of Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson and, towards the end of the season, Deron Williams. The Bulls were left in mystery and disappointment throughout the season as they awaited the return of Derrick Rose, who is not coming back for the first round, and struggled at points to solidify their playoff presence. This matchup of two great defensive teams will be one of the more entertaining ones of the first round, and will show what the team who will, most likely, play the Heat next has in store.

KD:While they are responsible for ending two of this season’s hottest streaks, the Bulls have been struggling to score without

superstar Derrick Rose, and now Joakim Noah is nursing a bad foot. The Nets posted a strong regular season, and while this matchup will be close, I think the Nets will come out on top over an injury-depleted Bulls team.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Houston Rockets:

DP:There is only one Rockets player that matters in this series, and that is none other than James Harden. In order for the Rockets to make any sort of noise in the playoffs, Harden will have to match his best performances from the season against his former Thunder buddies Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who are looking to start off their path to the NBA Finals right against the No. 8 seed Rockets. As long as the Thunder’s supporting cast steps up or they crush Houston’s amazing offense, there is no doubt who will win here.

KD:This is James Harden’s chance to prove to the Thunder that they made a huge mistake in not renewing his contract. While Harden is a force to be reckoned with, I don’t think the Rockets can take Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. The Thunder should win in five games.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Los Angeles Lakers:

DP:The Lakers and Spurs have quite the history together. This meeting will be the seventh time these two teams have met in the playoffs since 1999, but the first time they have met in the first round since 1988. However, one thing to note about those past six times is that Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest competitors in basketball history, competed in each of those series and will not be a part of this one. Nonetheless, if the Lakers play like they did towards the end of the season, with Dwight Howard and the supporting cast really stepping up, they could make this series interesting. It will be very tough for them to overtake the Spurs’ playoff-savvy Big 3 of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ignobility, though, even if the Lakers somehow get another moment like Derek Fisher’s 0.4 second shot against the Spurs in the 2004 Playoffs.

 KD:With no Kobe due to a torn Achilles and an older team, I don’t think the Lakers can keep up with the number two Spurs. While the Tim Duncan-Dwight Howard matchup will be interesting to watch, the Spurs will win the series in five or six games.

Denver Nuggets vs. Golden State Warriors:

DP:Well, at least one team is bound to make more noise in the playoffs than it usually does. The Golden State Warriors, who last made the playoffs in 2007, and before that all the way back in 1994, have another shot at pleasing their dedicated fans. Meanwhile, the Denver Nuggets can get out of the first round for just the second time since 1995. Denver’s overall team effort, especially with excellent play from Ty Lawson, Andre Iguodala and Andre Miller, will likely propel them to the second round, but you never know when players like Stephen Curry can heat up from downtown almost instantly.

KD:The Nuggets have had a successful season led by head coach George Karl. Without any all-stars this season, the Nuggets had the best home record in the league. While the first game went to the Nuggets with 1.3 seconds left in overtime, this series will be very close due to the even skill matchup. Despite Danilo Gallinari’s torn ACL and Kenneth Faried’s ankle injury, I predict the Nuggets win 4-3.

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Memphis Grizzlies:

DP:After losing to the Clippers in seven games in last year’s first round, the Grizzlies are bound to be looking for revenge. But there were some main questions at hand for one of the first round’s bigger mysteries: Will Memphis’ league-best defense be able to stop a top-five offense? Will Mike Conley play like the confident leader Memphis needs or get shown up by Chris Paul and Eric Bledsoe? Will the Clippers keep their heads up like they did to close out the season? Will the Grizzlies stop Lob City form doing what it does best? Tune in to find out.

KD:Led by Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the Clippers have achieved the greatest season in franchise history. Similarity in styles of play and athleticism should result in close matchups, but led by the momentum of their successful season, I think the Clippers will win 4-3.