April 23, 2013

2013 NBA Playoffs: First Round Picks

This time last year I embarked on my blogging journey. My vision for a basketball blog became reality at the start of the 2012 NBA Playoffs. I called one of my associates and we prematurely recorded our predictions for each postseason round. Since then, this blog has taken many forms: discussion panel, trade analysis, and subjectively legitimate critique. More importantly, I've since collaborated this blog with three of my colleagues to form a talk show on Blog Talk Radio - The Collective - where we discuss and criticize topics in sports/music entertainment, television, and film. With the 2013 NBA Playoffs underway, our picks for the first round were made on the air during our latest show. Find our picks here through each round, in addition to game notes and further analysis throughout the playoffs. Hosts: Martin Soaries (@marley_mcfly) Tommy Hill (RealThrillHill) Jason Reels (Jayreels3) Lawrence Reels (Lreels_919)


1 Miami Heat vs. 8 Milwaukee Bucks

The most important storyline of these playoffs is the Miami Heat's title defense. After following up with a historic regular season; a 27-game win streak for 2nd most consecutive victories in a regular season, LeBron's 30-point game spree while shooting above 60% from the field, clinching the Eastern Conference in March, and finishing with a 66-win season, arguments are futile against the defending champs to repeat. That is, of course, with the exception of Brandon Jennings, who has the Bucks in 6.

MARTIN: MIAMI IN 5 - "I think Milwaukee comes out fearless and maybe steals one."
TOMMY: MIAMI IN 4 - "There's absolutely no reason why we should be discussing this."
LAWRENCE: MIAMI IN 4 - "No-brainer."
JASON: MIAMI IN 4 - "I think Miami will run them off the floor in every game."


3 Indiana Pacers vs. 6 Atlanta Hawks
The leading rebounding and defensive team in the league this season (Indiana) faces the second best assisting team (Atlanta) for a scrappy first round match up. Most Improved Player of the Year Paul George will be head-to-head with Josh Smith for the rights to take on the winner of New York/Boston in the second round.

MARTIN: PACERS IN 6 - "Indiana will play New York in the next round."

TOMMY- PACERS IN 6 - "Indiana is too strong, Atlanta is too weak."
LAWRENCE- PACERS IN 5 - "Josh Smith is fantastic for Atlanta but they're too thin."

JASON- PACERS IN 5 - "I see Indiana taking care of this relatively easily."


2 New York Knicks vs. 7 Boston Celtics
The New York Knicks represent another storyline in the Eastern Conference. Carmelo Anthony is riding the pine of his first league scoring title, J.R. Smith has earned himself Sixth Man of the Year, and Mike Woodson's squad won the Atlantic Division for the first time since the 1993-1994 season. Immediately in their way of a storied run are the prided Celtics. Doc Rivers' team has had to endure a season plagued by injuries to Rajon Rondo, most notably. The Celtics' fluctuating season will be on the line against the new Division powerhouse. 

MARTIN: KNICKS IN 7 - "For the Knicks, it's very important to stay healthy."
TOMMY: KNICKS IN 5 - "Started from the bottom now we here. Knicks in 5."
LAWRENCE: KNICKS IN 7 - "What's scary is the Knicks rely on the three point shot."
JASON: KNICKS IN 6 - "They're missing their star player (Rondo). I don't trust them to score with the Knicks."

4 Brooklyn Nets vs. 5 Chicago Bulls
In a series that involves two teams who finished the regular season in the top ten in opponents PPG, this match up is predicated on defense. Deron Williams has come on for his squad as of late, averaging 24.6 points and shooting 52 percent from the field in the month of April. Chicago looks to continue their prideful season without Derrick Rose. With Joakim Noah's health questionable, the Bulls will certainly be challenged to grind out a first round playoff victory.

MARTIN: BROOKLYN IN 7 - "Brooklyn can play ground and pound and have their stars."
TOMMY: BULLS IN 7 - "I'm a little skeptical if Brooklyn can execute their plays when it slows down."
LAWRENCE: BULLS IN 7 - "I think Chicago just beats them with their defense."
JASON: BROOKLYN IN 7 -  "I'm going for entertainment value. I want to see LeBron in Brooklyn in the playoffs (second round). In the playoffs, your best players win you games."


1 OKC Thunder vs. 8 Houston Rockets
An engaging storyline in this first round match up as old friends become foes. I posted on this blog in October when the Harden trade went down, and now we can examine Oklahoma City's response as they embark on another journey to the NBA Finals. Houston finished the season 2nd in the NBA in scoring (106 PPG) and averages 29 three point attempts per contest. But as just 28th in opponent's PPG, McHale, the youngest team in the NBA will have their hands full trying to outscore the explosive Thunder, who average just under 106 PPG and ranks 9th in opponent's PPG.

MARTIN: OKC IN 6 "The storyline is great, but OKC's nucleus is that much better."
TOMMY: OKC IN 4 - "This should be a sweep. 
LAWRENCE: OKC IN 6 - "I think Houston just barely wins two games."
TOMMY: OKC IN 4 - "This should be a sweep. 


4 LA Clippers vs. 5 Memphis Grizzlies
A rematch of last season's first round match up, we can expect a series of the same physical nature. Lob City has since acquired the likes of Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, and Lamar Odom, while Memphis had adjusted smoothly after trading Rudy Gay during the trade deadline period three months ago. This series will be won in the paint and on the glass as both teams look to impose their contrasting styles on the other.

MARTIN: LAC IN 7 - "The star power proves to be too much in the end."
TOMMY: LAC IN 6 - "I would hope the Clippers can pull this out in six."
LAWRENCE: LAC IN 5 - "I don't think Memphis will do much here."
JASON: LAC IN 5 - "If Jamal Crawford can keep things steady, the Clippers are dangerous."


2 Spurs vs. 7 LA Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers are visibly deficient without Kobe Bryant, but they fought their way into a 7-seed to face their long time rival in the first round. The Lakers will likely need a full strength Steve Nash and a dominant Dwight Howard to keep this series competitive. As the best passing team in the league (1st in assists), San Antonio is primed to make another strong start to the postseason. Their fluent offense will likely have the Lakers scrambling the entire first round.

MARTIN: LAKERS IN 7 - "Maybe D'Antoni has seen the light when it comes to Pau. If Nash is back they could be good enough."

TOMMY: LAKERS IN 7 - "If they play inside out they can prolong this series."
LAWRENCE: SPURS IN 5 - "They can do things to make Pau and Dwight less effective."

JASON: LAKERS IN 6 - "If Dwight comes out aggressive on the offensive end, the Spurs are in trouble."

3 Denver Nuggets vs. 6 Golden State Warriors
Fans have enjoyed the styles of both of squads in this series. George Karl's Nuggets have compiled the best home record in the NBA, not to mention of the deepest rosters in the league. Their team has depth, youth, veteran experience, and good coaching. Mark Jackson's club in Golden State has Stephen Curry- one of the most lethal scoring guards in the league. This first round series could be the most high-paced, as both teams like to play in transition. 

Tommy- Denver in 5 - "Denver has more intangibles on the defensive end."
Jason- Golden State in 7 - "I think Steph Curry has a coming out party in the first round."
Martin- Denver in 6 - "Depth is my recurring theme which will help Denver on the road."
Lawrence- Denver in 6 - "Denver will have too much for them in the end."

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