Time for Battle
The 2012 NBA Season has been a wild ride. No one knew what to predict when the lockout ended and it was announced that a shortened season would begin on Christmas day. The shortened season has led to quite a few surprises (Pacers at third seed in the East!?) and the playoffs will surely continue this trend of unpredictability. Despite this, Jerryd and I will be doing our best to predict the unpredictable and tell you exactly how we think things are going to go down. Since I’m the staff’s resident Hawks fan, Jerryd suggested that I preview the Eastern Conference while he previewed the West (he is a Lakers fan after all). Without further ado, here are our picks and predictions for the 2012 NBA Playoffs.*
*Due to the shortened season there was just a one day break between the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs. Because of this, many predictions were slightly altered following this weekend’s games.
Eastern Conference Round 1
No. 1 Chicago Bulls vs. No. 8 Philadelphia 76ers
One of the biggest variables in this year’s playoffs is the health of Derrick Rose. Last year’s MVP has missed nearly half the season for the Bulls. Though Rose is still not playing at full strength, the rest of his team definitely is (despite injuries the Bulls still hold the best record in the East). This playoff series is the perfect opportunity for Derrick Rose to get back to his full potential. Chicago’s overwhelming defense will prove too much to handle for a floundering 76ers team. Chicago wins the series in a sweep.
After Game 1: Derrick Rose’s injury in game 1 dramatically alters the Bulls’ playoff chances. They will still win this round but it could potentially go to 5 or 6 games.
No. 2 Miami Heat vs. No. 7 New York Knicks
One of the biggest surprises of this year’s season is definitely the New York Knicks. After their roller coaster of a season, Linsanity and the resigning of Coach Mike D’Antoni, the Knicks finished the season strong despite a disappointing 18-24 start. Carmelo Anthony is playing better than ever and the Knicks look ready to seriously contend in the playoffs for the first time in over a decade. Unfortunately, no one told that to LeBron James and the rest of the Miami Heat. The Heat are hungry for a championship and the Knicks aren’t going to stop them. The Knicks may win their first playoff game in over a decade but there is no way they win the series. Miami wins the series in five.
After Game 1: Game 1 in Miami was a disaster for the Knicks. To make matters worse, the Knicks lost Rookie Iman Shumpert to a torn ACL. If they manage to pull off a win it will have to be at Madison Square Garden. They stand no chance at winning a game in Miami. A sweep seems far more likely.
No. 3 Indiana Pacers vs. No. 6 Orlando Magic
No team was more surprising this year than the Indiana Pacers. This young team has come out of nowhere to earn the number three spot in the Eastern Conference. They play excellent team basketball and have several capable scorers. Their only serious weakness is a lack of experience. The Orlando Magic would be given a run for their money with Dwight Howard on the court. Without him the Magic will get wrecked every single night. Indiana wins the series in a sweep.
After Game 1: A traveling turnover by Danny Granger led to an Orlando win in the first game of the series. I stand corrected. Still, I think the Pacers take this series in six.
No. 4 Boston Celtics vs. No. 5 Atlanta Hawks
As a Hawks fan, this entry was by far the hardest to write. Even with absence of Al Horford, the Hawks have put together a very strong season led by Josh Smith who’s having the best season of his career. That being said, the Celtics are just too experienced to lose to the Hawks in a seven game series. Despite a slow start, the Celtics had one of the best records after the All-Star Game and often perform even better in the playoffs. The Hawks will put up a strong fight but lose in the end. Boston wins the series in six.
After Game 1: After a surprising win by the Hawks in game one and the Rondo suspension, suddenly the Hawks chances look a lot better. Still, I’ve seen enough of the Hawks in the regular season to know how inconsistent they are. I’ll still say that Boston takes the series in seven games.
Eastern Conference Round 2
No. 1 Chicago Bulls vs. No. 4 Boston Celtics
Before the Derrick Rose injury I would have had the Bulls winning this series easily. With last year’s MVP out for the season, this series could go in a different direction entirely. The Bulls team may have done well without Rose during the regular season but the Celtics won’t have many more shots at a championship and will be playing their hearts out. Still, this is the same injury plagued Bulls team that earned the number one seed in the East and tied for the best record in the NBA. I wouldn’t count them out. Chicago wins the series in seven.
No. 2 Miami Heat vs. No. 3 Indiana Pacers
While the Pacers may have surprised everyone this year and come out of nowhere to nab the third seed, the Heat are just unstoppable. There’s a reason that Miami made it to the finals last year. LeBron is playing better than ever and the Pacers aren’t going to stand in the way of the Heat making another Finals appearance. The big three will be well-rested after quickly ending their series against the Knicks and the Pacers won’t stand a chance. Miami wins the series in a sweep.
Eastern Conference Finals
No. 1 Chicago Bulls vs. No. 2 Miami Heat
With Rose the Bulls would definitely have their work cut out for them. Without Rose they stand no chance against LeBron James and rest of the Heat. No team will stand between the Heat and another finals appearance. Not the Bulls. Not the Celtics. Not the Hawks. The Heat are simply too good. Miami wins the series in five.
Western Conference Round 1
No. 1 San Antonio Spurs vs. No. 8 Utah Jazz
During this shortened season, the Spurs showed to everyone that age is nothing but a number. This well-seasoned veteran team has found themselves securing the No. 1 seed with a league tying best record of 50-16 (shared with the Chicago Bulls). They find themselves pitted against the Jazz in the first round. The Jazz have been an incredible scoring team having the 4th best scoring offense in the league but it’s their defense that has held them back and will ultimately cost them. With the Spurs having one of the top scoring offenses and the Jazz having one of the worst defenses in the league, the Spurs will find themselves coasting into the second round. Spurs in 4.
No. 2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. No. 7 Dallas Mavericks
This matchup is the one that mostly everyone will have their eyes on. The Thunder has been nothing short of impressive this year. Their dominance at home is a big part of it posting a 26-7 record at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook has been tearing up defenses all season long. This young team will be put to the test from the get go in the first round against the defending champions Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs have been playing “good enough” ball, just as they did last year. They don’t post triple-digit scores each game or blow out opponents by 30+ but they get the win when it matters. Picking this series is the toughest of them all to choose. The Thunder has probably the best offense in the league but the Mavs are extremely clutch when the time counts. In the end, Westbrook’s terrible shot selections will end up costing the Thunder some close wins and ultimately the series. Mavs in 7.
No. 3 Los Angeles Lakers vs. No. 6 Denver Nuggets
The Lakers find their way back into the playoffs this year after winning their fifth straight division title. The Lakers have had their ups and downs this season whether it was the horrid coaching of Mike Brown or the multiple ejections of Andrew Bynum and Ron Artest (Metta World Peace), they were able to pull themselves together with the leadership of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol and muscle to a 3 seed in the playoffs. They will be up against the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets has been the most productive offense in the NBA this year leading the league in points per game and assist. On the down side they’ve had the second worst defense in the league giving up 101 points per game. The Lakers should breeze through the first round due to the weak defense of the Nuggets. Lakers in 4.
No. 4 Memphis Grizzlies vs. No. 5 Los Angeles Clippers
The Grizzlies make it back to the playoffs after coming so close to having a shot at the finals last season. The Grizzlies have relied heavy on their defense which their offense producing low numbers this season. They have also posted an impressive 26-7 home record. They will need every advantage as they’ll have a tough task against the Clippers. Lob city has become the new name for the Clippers this season with new acquisition Chris Paul joining the lineup coupled with Blake Griffin. The Clippers have been average on both sides of the court stat wise being ranked 14th and 13th in scoring offense and defense, respectively. The Grizzlies will get some help with their defense but in the end the Clippers will prevail and move on to the next round. Clippers in 6.
Western Conference Round 2
No. 1 San Antonio Spurs vs. No. 5 Los Angeles Clippers
In this matchup the Spurs will need to rely heavy on Tony Parker and Tim Duncan to put the lockdown on Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. This series will also come down to how each team performs in the post with both teams being heavy set and aggressive in the paint. The Clippers will put up a fight but the Spurs will win the series and head to the Western Conference Finals. Spurs in 6.
No. 3 Los Angeles Lakers vs. No. 7 Dallas Mavericks
It breaks my heart to do this but this rematch of last year’s playoff series will not be any different from the previous year. Although the Lakers handled the Mavs in the regular season, I don’t see the Lakers beating them the second time around especially with the momentum that the Mavs will have leading into this series after upsetting the Thunder. The Lakers will actually win some games but the Mavs will win the series. Mavs in 6.
Western Conference Finals
No. 1 San Antonio Spurs vs. No. 7 Dallas Mavericks
This matchup will be a great one to watch. Both teams are very experienced and each team has what it takes to win an NBA Championship. These teams split the regular season series 2 games apiece with each team winning at their respective home arenas. The two teams will go back and forth throughout the series with each team winning at their home arenas, but thanks to home court advantage, the Spurs will win the series and move on to the NBA Finals. Spurs in 7.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Miami Heat (Cody’s Pick)
Though I favor the Thunder coming out of the West, Jerryd picked the Spurs (a respectable choice) so that’s the matchup I will be talking about. As well as the Spurs did during the regular season (tied the Bulls for the best record) I think that this is finally LeBron’s year to win a championship. The Spurs are an excellent and incredibly deep team but much of their success was a product of unbelievable coaching. Pop did a fantastic job of keeping his players rested, confident and successful. However, the team is just too old. I just don’t think the Spurs can keep up with the younger, healthier Heat squad for a full series. Unless LeBron decides to bail out of the playoffs again this year, the Heat will win the chip. Miami wins the series in 7.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Miami Heat (Jerryd’s Pick)
These teams will have a strong fight for the NBA Championship. The teams only met once in the regular season and the Heat took the win in Miami, but dating back to last season, the Spurs took the win at home. Both teams hold down their home courts with plenty of strength each holding a 28-5 record at home. Ultimately it’ll come down to the clutch performance of the overall teams. The Spurs have proven time after time that they have what it takes to win an NBA Championship and LeBron has something to prove to himself after the disappointing end of last season. At the end of last year James said “the man upstairs knows when it’s my time” and to me this year isn’t the time. The lack of clutch performances and finishing in the fourth quarter will hurt the Heat big time. With this coupled along with the Spurs having home court advantage, and considering that the fact that each year the Spurs won the conference championship they would go on to win the Title, the Spurs will take home their 5th NBA title in 15 years. Spurs in 7.
Regular Season Awards (Cody’s Picks)
Most Valuable Player: LeBron James
As much as I love Kevin Durant, this year’s regular season is undoubtedly LeBron James. Sure, the Heat may not have the best record in the league. LeBron may have not won the scoring title. But you cannot ignore the impact he has had for the Heat. He led his team in points, rebounds, steals ANDassists all while shooting over 50% from the field.
Defensive Player of the Year: Tyson Chandler
Because of all of the drama regarding Stan Van Gundy, a season ending injury and voter fatigue, this is the first time in 3 years that Dwight Howard is not a shoo-in for DPOY. There are several players that made a case for the award but my favorite is New York Knick Tyson Chandler. Serge Ibaka’s 3.65 blocks per game is impressive but without Tyson Chandler’s defensive presence, the Knicks completely fall apart.
Rookie of the Year: Kyrie Irving
For a kid that played just 11 games in his time with Duke University, Kyrie Irving sure knows how to lead a team. After being selected first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers, Irving proved that he can be the new face of the franchise. Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio also deserves a mention despite being sidelined with a major injury. Watch out for both of them in the future.
Sixth Man of the Year: James Harden
Could this even be anyone else? No one this year has come close to his efficiency or production off the bench. He can create turnovers on the defensive end, draw fouls and provide a scoring spark off the bench. He can effectively play at small forward, shooting guard or point His versatility and explosiveness make him the most valuable sixth man in the league. Also, have you seen his beard?
Most Improved: Andrew Bynum
A case could easily be made for Jeremy Lin to win this award. How often does a D-leaguer spark a global phenomenon and lead a team to its largest winning streak of the season. It’s like a story straight out of the movies. Unfortunately, a torn meniscus put a screeching halt to Linsanity and he simply didn’t play enough games to deserve the award. Bynum has improved from a decent option for starting center to a perennial all-star and the consensus 2nd best center in the league after Dwight Howard. His numbers have improved across the board and he is the future face of the Lakers.
Coach of the Year: Tom Thibodeau
Last year’s coach of the year has arguably done an even better job this year. Despite being plagued with injuries (Rose missed 27 games, Deng missed 12, Hamilton missed 38), the Bulls took the number 1 seed in the East and tied for the best record in the league. Many teams would give up with the absence of their superstar but the Bulls stepped up to fill the void left by last year’s MVP.
Beard of the Year: James Harden
Regular Season Awards (Jerryd’s Picks)
Most Valuable Player: Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant has showed himself to be an elite basketball player in the NBA this year. While winning the scoring title with an average of 28.0PPGand having a modest 8.0 RPG, Durant has proven himself to be a great leader on the court for the Thunder. He has shown great maturity on the basketball court as a potent scorer and a clutch performer when the time comes partly due to his 49.6% FG pct. Add along the leadership factor that he has acquired for the Thunder I say Durant deserves the MVP award this year.
Defensive Player of the Year: Serge Ibaka
When it comes to defense, Serge Ibaka has been absolutely scary to go up against anywhere near the paint. He has dominated the block category all up and down the board this year leading the league in blocks per game, total blocks and blocks per 48 minutes. Besides having more blocks than a school server, Ibaka’s overall presence in the paint plays a psychological aspect to players around the league. Have you seen how this guy looks? EvenKobewas scared to drive the lane against him in their matchup. That large 6’10” stature is nothing to play around with. He has played a giant defensive role in getting the Thunder as far as they’ve gotten this year and the DPOY award should go to him.
Rookie of the Year: Kyrie Irving
With the NBA being plagued with injuries this year, the long awaited rookie season of Ricky Rubio was cut short this season with an ACL injury. Regardless Kyrie Irving has shown great potential for the Cavaliers in the upcoming years. While averaging 18.5PPG, Irving was able to lead his team to some of the few wins that they had this year.Irving’s consistency and ability to lead a team will ultimately give him theROYaward this season.
Sixth Man of the Year: James Harden
Is there really another option for this award? Harden has been a dominant force for the Thunder off the bench, a lot of it is due to his beard. Averaging 16.8PPG, Harden provides that extra offensive spark for the Thunder while resting starters. What really makes Harden a great bench player is that he is able to hit 3 pointers like a guard, but also has the size and power of a forward with his 6’5” stature. Harden is able to keep the Thunder in the game while starters Durant or Westbrook may be on the bench resting which makes him perfect for this honor.
Most Improved: Andrew Bynum
Faced with many injury problems in his past years, Bynum finally had his breakout season that everyone has been expecting for a while. His production levels skyrocketed and his role on the court for the Lakers grew immensely. Bynum stepped up his game this season with his point per game average jumping up to 18.7 from last year’s 11.3. His rebounds per game also went up from 9.4 to 11.8 this season. His seven foot presence on the court has added another much-needed big body to the inside game for the Lakers, adding on to Pau Gasol. Bynum has been compared to Shaquille O’Neal by many people and with Bynum playing the way he is now, he could fulfill that destiny within a few years.
Coach of the Year: Scott Brooks
The Thunder has been tearing up teams throughout the whole season. Many say it’s thanks to the electric offense and the strong roar of the home crowd, but it’s largely due to the great coaching skill by Brooks. The Thunder is a very young and inexperienced team and it takes a strong coach to create chemistry between the players to work together as a team and win games during the season. Brooks is able to piece together this group of talented individuals to create a dominating team that has great title potential. Because of that, Brooks greatly deserves credit for getting the Thunder this far.
Clutch Player of the Year: Kobe Bryant
The Mamba is lethal in the clutch.
Ok. We’re done. You might disagree with some of our picks but we really don’t care. You probably don’t write for a school news publication like we do. Plus we’re ESPN we can write what we want. Cheers.