Here's what I think might happen over the next two months in the NBA universe:
#1 Miami vs. #8 Milwaukee
Matchup to watch: Monta Ellis vs. Dwyane Wade - Ellis can catch fire and potentially win a game on his own...but that probably won’t happen. Although, If he can make Wade work defensively, it could have impact for the Heat’s run to the Finals.
Coolest potential subplot: LBJ averages a triple-double for the series, which would make him the 6th player to do so. (Oscar Robertson (1), Wilt Chamberlain (2), Magic Johnson (4), Fat Lever (1), Jason Kidd (2))
Prediction: This is a snoozer. Heat in 4.
#2 New York vs. #7 Boston
Matchup to watch: Raymond Felton vs. Avery Bradley - For all the talk about Carmelo, the Knicks play best when Felton is getting in the lane and finding open shooters. Bradley is more than capable as a defender, and his ability to shut down Felton could result in a dangerous situation for the Knicks.
Coolest potential subplot: Boston fans drench Carmelo with Honey-Nut-Cheerios-fueled trash talk and get in his head.
Prediction: Boston’s a little too old and a little too banged up, and will have to rely on the mercurial Jeff Green way too much. Knicks in 6.
#3 Indiana vs. #6 Atlanta
Matchup to watch: Roy Hibbert vs. Al Horford - In the 4 gams against Hotlanta this year, Big Roy has only averaged 9.5 PTS and 7.3 REB, putting up a donut in one of the L’s. If he can establish a presence in the post and get the Hawks’ already thin frontline in foul trouble, it will be good news for the Pacers.
Coolest potential subplot: The Undebeatbles partying with the Pacers after a Game 5 clincher.
Prediction: The Pacers aren’t playing well enough to sweep anyone. Pacers in 5.
#4 Brooklyn vs. #5 Chicago
Matchup to watch: Deron Williams vs. Tom Thibodeau’s scheme - D. Will is playing as well as anyone in the league now, and the Bulls do not have a single player to deal with his size and strength on the perimeter. But, “Thibs” is not going to sleep for the next 48 hours coming up with a way to stop him.
Coolest potential subplot: An over-emotional Carlos Boozer actual wakes Brook Lopez up from his life-long coma.
Prediction: Between the Nets being kinda up & down and the Bulls playing great D, this one goes the distance. But, in the end, Brooklyn will get their first playoff series win. Nets in 7.
#1 Oklahoma City vs. #8 Houston
Matchup to watch: James Harden vs. Thabo Sefolosha - The biggest trade of the season may come back to haunt the Thunder. Harden has been transcendent for Houston and will surely want to show Sam Presti he made a huge error. However, OKC has the luxury of having Thabo focus all of his energy on stopping the bearded wonder.
Coolest potential subplot: Durant averages 40 to send a message to the Association.
Prediction: This will be a fun series to watch and each game will hit the over, but OKC just has too much firepower. Thunder in 5.
#2 San Antonio vs. #7 LA Lakers
Matchup to watch: Tim Duncan vs. Dwight Howard - Duncan has been amazing this year in limited minutes. He’ll be asked to play more minutes now and against pretty tough competition. Howard is looking better, but my money is on TIMMMMMMAYYY!!!!
Coolest potential subplot: Tracy McGrady somehow looks like Tracy McGrady again and helps a team to a second round for the first time.
Prediction: It was a valiant effort by the Lakers to rally their way into the playoffs, but the Spurs don’t give a crap about that. Spurs in 4.
#3 Denver vs. #6 Golden State
Matchup to watch: Ty Lawson vs. Stephen Curry - Curry is on fire headed into his first playoff series, averaging 26 a game over his last 10. Lawson will put pressure on him, but has been hobbled of late, so his health may determine how far the Nuggets go.
Coolest potential subplot: Mark Jackson brings back the shimmy shake after a big GSW win.
Prediction: It’s been a great season in Denver, but they lose much of their home court advantage in the post-season due to a lack of back-to-backs. Plus, too many injuries. Warriors in 6.
#4 LA Clippers vs. #5 Memphis
Matchup to watch: Blake Griffin vs. Zach Randolph - This is a matchup of young man strength vs. old man strength. Z-Bo has an amazing ability to make buckets without jumping, and he specializes in sticking his Rick Mahorn-esque butt into his opponent. Griffin will have to avoid being frustrated by this and knock down 18-footers to balance things out for the Clips.
Coolest potential subplot: CP3 relieves Vinny del Negro of coaching duties after he blows game 4 in OT.
Prediction: This is the series I’m most looking forward to outside of Pacers-Hawks - goodbye sleep! The Clippers rattled off 7 straight to wrest home court advantage away from the Grizz in this series. That and Mr. Paul will get them to the second round. Clippers in 7.
Since the rest of the rounds are hypothetical, I’ll give no analysis for now. But here’s how I think it will shake out:
#1 Miami vs. #4 Brooklyn - Heat in 6.
#2 New York vs. #3 Indiana - Pacers in 6.
#1 Oklahoma City vs. #4 LA Clippers - Thunder in 7.
#2 San Antonio vs. #6 Golden State - Spurs in 5.
#1 Miami vs. #3 Indiana - Heat in 5.
#1 Oklahoma City vs. #2 San Antonio - Thunder in 7.
Miami vs. Oklahoma City - Miami in 7.