#1 Indiana vs. #8 Atlanta
Match-up to watch: Clearly it’s the Pero “land of” Antic “-quity” against the struggling Roy Hibbert. Antic can straight stroke it from deep, which is a difficult defensive assignment for Hibbs and pulls him away as a help rim protector to boot. Hibbert will HAVE to make Atlanta pay on the other end to justify his being on the floor.
Coolest potential subplot: The George Hill vs. Jeff Teague battle. Though a couple years his senior, Hill seems to play with an extra chip on his shoulder against Teague (or any other Indy PG that went to more highly-touted high school and collegiate programs). Maybe this is just the challenge Hill needs to snap out of his funk.
Prediction: Pacers in 6. Indy is definitely better than this team and will win the series, but they’re not playing well enough to sweep anyone.
#2 Miami vs. #7 Charlotte
Match-up to watch: Al Jefferson vs. the Birdman-Haslem-Oden pupu platter. Big Al has killed it this year and demands a double team every possession. He has the potential to win a game by himself.
Coolest potential subplot: McBob’s antics. Josh McRoberts has been very effective this year, somewhat epitomizing the scrappy nature of this Bobcats team. How many T’s does he draw? Can he lure LBJ into a mini-scuffle and a suspension?
Prediction: Miami in 5. Charlotte hasn’t beaten Miami since the big 3 took their talents to south beach. They get one, finally, but only because Miami rests Wade and/or gets bored.
#3 Toronto vs. #6 Brooklyn
Match-up to watch: Amir Johnson vs. Paul Pierce. Brooklyn has played Pierce at the 4 for more than half the season to great success. The ability of Toronto to deal with this strange line-up will be critical to the outcome of the series.
Coolest potential subplot: Jason Kidd’s ability to handle a playoff series as a coach. We all saw how he struggled out of the gates to coach an NBA team. The playoffs are a whole other animal. How will he deal with game-to-game adjustments? Luckily for him, Dwayne Casey on the other bench has just as little experience.
Prediction: Toronto in 7. The basketball gods hate tanking. Brooklyn pussed out of a potential playoff re-match with the Bulls, and they will pay the price with another first round exit.
#4 Chicago vs. #5 Washington
Match-up to watch: John Wall vs. Kirk Hinrich. Allright, Johnny, you broke out a bit this year. How do you play on the big stage? This is a match-up you should dominate and stake your claim as the best player in this series. Can you do it?
Coolest potential subplot: PLAYOFF BASKETBALL IN THE DISTRICT!!!!! Although, people here seem more bummed that the Caps are missing the NHL playoffs than they are that the Wiz climbed to the 5th seed. Will they actually have a home court advantage? There are tons of stupid Bulls fans in and around DC.
Prediction: Chicago in 6. Los Bulls just have the experience edge here. There will be at least three games that come down to the wire, and I bet Chicago takes all three. I don’t trust Randy Whitman as far as I can throw him.
#1 San Antonio vs. #8 Dallas
Match-up to watch: Tim Duncan vs. Dirk Nowitzski. Is it 2005? If you watched these two dudes play all year, you might think so. Nothing in particular to pay attention to, just enjoy these future Hall of Famers do their thing.
Coolest potential subplot: Monty Ellis on a big stage. Monty is playing at a much more efficient level this year, and his still almost impossible to guard if he gets it going. He’s been stuck on shitty teams most of his career, if he can lead the Mavs to an upset, lots of people will know his name.
Prediction: San Antonio in 6. Dallas is good enough to steal a couple of games, but the Spurs are just on another level and have the experience, skill and professionalism to take care of business in their two-month quest for a 5th ring.
#2 Oklahoma City vs. #7 Memphis
Match-up to watch: Marc Gasol vs. Kendrick Perkins. OK, Perk, here’s the series where you earn your money. The NBA intelligentsia thinks it’s clear the Thunder should play small, but Scotty Brooks has stuck by his man Perk for just such situations. Can he slow down Gasol and help OKC win quickly?
Coolest potential subplot: The chess match that is Brooks vs.Joerger. Brooks is apparently on the hotseat based on his aforementioned penchant for playing Perkins too much. On the other side, this is Joerger’s first trip to the playoffs. Will he get the pants coached off him?
Prediction: OKC in 7. The Thunder might finish these guys off sooner, but the Grizzlies just fight soooo hard and give themselves a chance to win every game.
#3 Los Angeles vs. #6 Golden State
Match-up to watch: Chris Paul vs. Stephen Curry. How in the hell will Curry deal with the size and strength of Paul? He certainly will make CP3 work super hard on the defensive end, but will he limit him enough.
Coolest potential subplot: Hopefully, a lot of Curry/Crawford heat-check games. Both of these guys can light it up, and I’m hoping for at least one game when they trade threes for 7-8 straight possessions.
Prediction: LA in 5. I just think that the W’s won’t be able to deal with either Paul or Blake Griffin. The Clips have been playing very focused ball for a good month now and are ready to make the case that they belong in the upper echelon of title contenders.
#4 Houston vs. #5 Portland
Match-up to watch: LaMarcus Aldridge vs. Terrance Jones. LMA was playing at an MVP level before the All-Star break, but then battled a bit of an injury. He seems to be back to form, which spells trouble for the Rockets. Can Jones limit him enough?
Coolest potential subplot: A shattering of the 3P FG attempts in a playoff game and series. Both of these teams launch it from deep a ton (26.6 a game for HOU, 25.3 for POR).
Prediction: Portland in 6. I think that Portland plays slightly better defense than Houston, and that gives them the edge here.