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Royal Purple

Lucas Wimmer Blog: NBA Playoff First-Round Predictions


April 23, 2014

By Lucas Wimmer

Honestly, the NBA has been somewhat unwatchable this year. Between the outrageous number of teams tanking for this year’s draft and injuries to star players like Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant and Brook Lopez, the quality of play has been less than desirable.

For those teams tanking, we will see if that pays off for them in a couple of months. Thankfully, the playoffs are here, and we get to see which top team gets rewarded right now. Instead of being forced to watch the Knicks and Lakers, we get to watch matchups with real talent in them.

Speaking of matchups, let’s take a look at all the first-round series.

Eastern Conference:

Indiana (1) vs. Atlanta (8)

Somehow, even though they were pretty abysmal late in the season, the Pacers came away with the top spot in the Eastern Conference (or as I have taken to calling it, the Weakstern Conference). The Pacers are pretty much poised to take this one, but it really just depends on which Pacers team shows up. Will it be the one that dominated early in the season that had Paul George, the MVP candidate, and Roy Hibbert, the force in the middle that no one wanted a piece of? Or will it be the one we have seen lately, with George, who shot 37 percent in March and 40 percent in April, and Hibbert, the shell of himself averaging less rebounds and blocks with a lower field-goal percentage than Kwame Brown’s best season. Atlanta has been pretty bad, though, and is under .500 on the season, so the Pacers should have no problems unless they completely fall apart.

Pacers in 5

Miami (2) vs. Charlotte (7)

The Bobcats are one of my favorite stories this season. Kemba Walker has really come into his own, and Al Jefferson is looking like a man among boys in the paint, averaging almost 22 points and 11 rebounds on 50 percent shooting. That being said, it’s really unfortunate they had to get matched up with Miami. The Heat have shown some signs of fatigue lately, which is understandable after a run of back-to-back championships, but I don’t see that slowing them down. It remains to be seen whether Dwayne Wade will be healthy, but even without him, this will be a nearly impossible matchup for Charlotte.

Miami in 5

Toronto (3) vs. Brooklyn (6)

If the Bobcats are my favorite storyline this season, the Raptors are a close second. After trading Rudy Gay, probably the least-efficient basketball player that’s ever lived, the Raptors have looked like a very solid team (this year, that’s good for a 3 seed in the east). After looking like a team with five superstars in the lineup in the offseason, Brooklyn started off looking like they might not crack 20 wins. Since January 1, however, they have went 34-17 and looked like a team really finding its groove. This is a difficult matchup to predict, because both teams are pretty hot. Brooklyn has the obvious experience edge, but the Raptors move the ball extremely well and DeMar DeRozen and Terrence Ross can score in bunches. In the end, I’m taking the Raptors, the tiebreaker being that I just bought a sick Vince Carter throwback jersey and I need a reason to wear it.

Toronto in 7

Chicago (4) vs. Washington (5)

Washington has been a fun team this year. They are young, energetic and have one of the most promising young backcourts in John Wall and Bradley Beal. Depending on their offseason moves, they have potential to do very well in the future. Unfortunately for them this year, Chicago is exactly the type of team that will be an absolute buzzsaw for them. The Bulls have experience, they slow down the pace of the game, they rebound well and play tenacious, Tom Thibodeau style defense. Chicago averages the lowest opponent’s points per game in the NBA this season, and I don’t see the Wizards challenging that. Assuming Butler, one of the best one-on-one defenders in the league, is put on Wall, the Wizards should be somewhat helpless.

Chicago in 6

Western Conference

San Antonio (1) vs. Dallas (8)

The Spurs don’t make any sense. At all. They defy every logical conclusion you could possibly make about basketball. They aren’t very fast, they aren’t super athletic, they don’t have anyone who can jump high enough to get their chest at the rim, they haven’t had a lottery pick since 1997, and at least two of their three core players are almost old enough to get social security. Yet somehow, they are constantly in the playoffs, and not just that, but a one seed. Again, the Spurs have looked like the most fundamentally sound team in basketball and, even though Dirk Nowitzski and Monta Ellis have both had monstrous enough years to revive this all-Texas rivalry, there’s no way the Spurs don’t make it out of the first round.

San Antonio in 6

Oklahoma City (2) vs. Memphis (7)

Oklahoma City is probably rejoicing at this matchup. It’s not that the Grizzlies have been a bad team this year, but they really play right into Oklahoma City’s strengths. The Grizzlies are at their best when they can post up Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol on the inside, throw the ball into them and play inside-out. But with Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka on the block for Oklahoma City, they should be able to stop this. Plus, the Thunder have Kevin Durant and a hopefully healthy Westbrook, and the Grizzlies don’t. This alone gives them a pretty solid edge.

Oklahoma City in 5

Los Angeles (3) vs. Golden State (6)

Regardless of seeding, this is going to be the most fun playoff matchup to watch. Both teams have killer instincts on offense. The weapons on each side are endless. The Clippers have arguably the best point guard in the game in Chris Paul, and have Blake Griffin, who along with developing a solid jumper, can dunk on anyone in the entire league and then troll them into fighting him. With Jamal Crawford, the second coming of “The Microwave” from the Bad Boys era Pistons, their offense is as exciting as any. Golden State has two guards in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson that just flat out don’t miss from 3, and one of the best wing defenders in the game in Andre Iguodala. This series is going to be a shootout, and if you like excitement, fun, or good offensive basketball, this is the one to watch.

Los Angeles in 7

Houston (4) vs. Portland (5)

Besides Dwight Howard occasionally swatting a ball into row 63 of the stadium, this will be a series where defense probably will not matter much. Although we will probably watch them score 30 points a game, we will also have the pleasure of watching Damian Lillard and James Harden both let people blow right by them. The key matchup in this game is going to be LaMarcus Aldridge vs. whoever they throw at him. If he can clean up on the glass and stay efficient with his shooting, Portland will be able to come out of this series on top. However, that’s going to be pretty hard against the Rocket’s, and even if he does, Harden and Chandler Parsons can turn this game into a shootout, in which Portland probably could not keep up.

Houston in 6

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Lucas Wimmer Blog: NBA Playoff First-Round Predictions