The Commish’s Playoff Picks
Who’s advancing and why…
Intros are for pansies. These are my first round picks…
No. 1 Los Angeles vs. No. 8 Oklahoma City
Prediction: Lakers in 5
Why?: I can see Kevin Durant averaging 35 ppg in this series. Not likely, but I could see it happening. I cannot, under any circumstances, see a first year playoff team beating the defending champs, especially a defending champ led by Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson. Three or four of these games might end up being close, but this series is not in doubt.
No. 2 Dallas vs. No. 7 San Antonio
Prediction: Mavs in 6
Why?: I’m not hopping on the “rejuvenated Spurs” bandwagon. This Dallas squad might have the best eight-man rotation in the league and, although I respect the Duncan/Popovich tandem enough to know the Spurs have a shot here, I don’t see this old squad with an under-performing Tony Parker beating this loaded Mavs team.
No. 3 Phoenix vs. No. 6 Portland
Prediction: Suns in 5
Why?: Portland goes nowhere without Brandon Roy.
No. 4 Denver vs. No. 5 Utah
Prediction: Nuggets in 6
Why?: Utah is might be without Andrei Kirilenko and Carlos Boozer is nursing injured ribs. Even at full-strength, I’d have picked the ornery, chip-on-shoulder Nuggs; but with the Jazz hobbling (Denver isn’t exactly 100% healthy, either), Denver becomes a bigger favorite. Denver has an elite scorer in Carmelo Anthony, an elite big-game player in Chauncey Billups and one of the league’s true X-factors in JR Smith. With all due respect to Deron Williams, Utah has none of that.
No. 1 Cleveland vs. No. 8 Chicago
Prediction: Cavs in 5
Why?: Last season’s Bulls, with Ben Gordon and John Salmons, might have had a chance to extend this series into a competitive six or seven-game battle. But not this Bulls team. Plus, this Cavs squad is ultra-focused. More than any other squad, Cleveland is on a mission. Five games might even be too generous.
No. 2 Orlando vs. No. 7 Charlotte
Prediction: Magic in 6
Why?: The Bobcats have gained some national steam, in terms of public opinion, as the go-to Darkhorse pick. It’s valid. Stephen Jackson is an underrated leader, facilitator and crunch-time scorer. Gerald Wallace is the kind of mobile forward that can actually chase Rashard Lewis around the perimeter and then dominate him on the boards. And Charlotte has a nice trio of big men, led by the physical Tyson Chandler (if he plays) that has a fairly solid chance of slowing down Dwight Howard. Howard is the X-Factor. The Bobcats mirror the Magic for the most part, they just don’t have that Goliath in the middle. So, Dwight, be an MVP.
No. 3 Atlanta vs. No. 6 Milwaukee
Prediction: Hawks in 5
Why?: No Bogut, no chance. Even though the Hawks can be Jekyll/Hydeish and they love to give up leads, there’s no way this playoff tested team will lose to an inexperienced Bucks team without its best player.
No. 4 Boston vs. No. 5 Miami
Prediction: Celtics in 5
Why?: This series is either going to go five games or seven games. Either Boston refocuses and plays like the superior squad and dispatches Miami quickly or they continue to play old and uninspired and make it a long series. I’m of the school of thought that the Cs still believe they are playing for a championship and that can be an incredible motivating factor once the postseason begins. Either way, this is the fork in the road. Either they have one last playoff run worthy of a contender or they show us that all the old-talk was true and the KG-Pierce-Allen era was a short one.
Vincent Thomas is a columnist and feature writer for SLAM, a contributing commentator for ESPN, writes the weekly “From The Floor” column and co-hosts the Hang Time Podcast for NBA.com. You can email him your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @vincecathomas.