NBA Playoffs: Eastern Conference First Round Predictions

It’s Christmas kids. Except instead of Jesus being born, we’re celebrating a bunch of overpaid athletes play a game we’d all happily do for a fraction of the money. It’s pretty much the same thing, right?
Let’s get right to it–MAMBINO official predictions and commentary from the whole team:
1) Miami Heat vs. 8) Milwaukee Bucks
Why is this a clean sweep for the Heat?

El Mariachi: LeBron James. 

How could the Bucks could steal 1 game?

The CDP: We all know why Miami is a destructive force, designed to crush opponents on both ends of the floor. Erik Spoelstra has been an absolute maestro, Dwayne Wade, although unlikable, is the best second banana in the league, and LeBron James just keeps getting better. So why wouldn’t they sweep the Bucks, a team that has toiled in mediocrity and is 3-7 in their last 10?

Because Milwaukee has enough offensive firepower to steal a game. If both Jennings and Monta are on fire, they’ll be tough to beat, and you can play your stars 48 minutes in the playoffs. Additionally, I’m willing to bet on some clutch shooting from JJ Redick (a great mid-season acquisition) and the resurrected zombie corpse of Mike Dunleavy. After a slow start, Ersan Ilyasova has turned in a very productive season, shooting 44% from three and stretching the floor effectively, pulling Bosh away from clogging the middle. Beyond that, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (as fun to say as it is hard to type) defends LeBron as well as anyone in the game. If he can get a bad performance or two out of LBJ while a couple of his Bucks brethren get hot, anything can happen. Let’s be crystal clear though: this is not a replicable formula and the Bucks will be lucky to say they took one from the East’s eventual champ. The Heat are heavily favored with good reason – but don’t be surprised if they let one slip. You heard it here first.

2) New York Knicks vs. 7) Boston Celtics

How the Knickerbockers take this in 7 games?

Bockerknocker: When Carmelo Anthony gets into a groove, even the best teams in the league have trouble stopping the Bockers’ onslaught of offensive efficiency. The Celtics are not close to being one of the Association’s best squads, and Melo isn’t going to have 4 bad games in a 7-game stretch. Credit must be given to New York’s MVP, of course, but it should be shared with head coach Mike Woodson. His rotations have become less puzzling as the season has worn on, and the Knicks’ perimeter athleticism on the defensive end has justified Woody’s approach of switching on the majority of screens and doubling on the majority of post-ups. So why will it go 7? Well, this past week’s horrific events will provide enough momentum to give the Celtics an automatic win in Game 3, and a good chance in Games 4 and 6. But when the games are played above Penn Station, we’ll give a little video promo, wax the floor with the opponent, and eat some post-game Honey Nut Cheerios.

How would they finish off the C’s in 5 games?

El Miz: My how the tables have turned since the last time the Knicks faced the Celtics in the playoffs. The last time we were here, Boston still had Ray Allen and a healthy Rajon Rondo, and the Knicks’ rotation featured losers like Billy Walker and Anthony Carter. At the end of Game 3 in 2011, a game which saw Carmelo Anthony finish with 42 points and 17 rebounds, Melo passed out of a double team to a wide open Jared Jeffries, who promptly missed a lay-up. And people get on this guy for not passing out of double teams!

The Knicks are far superior from their 2011 vintage, and the Celtics far weaker. On top of that, NY has home court. That should be enough to conclude the Knicks are going to take this series. If you needed any more convincing, the hottest player in the NBA right now is Anthony, who just won his first scoring title. J.R. Smith, the Knicks’ sixth man and likely Sixth Man of the Year, is also playing at a level not previously seen in his career. Smith has evolved from a no-conscience chucker and knucklehead to a fearless penetrator, willing to play within the team offense and to drive and finish at the rim when needed.

Yes, Kevin Garnett made derisive comments about Melo’s wife La La and will talk a lot of trash. Yes, the C’s have “been there before” and have Pierce and Doc Rivers. But this Knicks team looks a lot like the 2011 Mavericks, a team of role players built around a scorer at the peak of his powers. The Bockers have the best player in the series, the best bench player in the series, the better bench, home court, and something to prove.

3) Indiana Pacers vs. 6) Atlanta Hawks

Indy is gonna win this series in 5 or 6 games. Give me a reason this isn’t boring?

KOBEsh: Well, if you really, really REALLY like defense, this series is gonna be the best thing you’ve ever seen. It’ll feature two of the top 10 best defenses in the league with no particularly dynamic scorer on either team. Your girlfriend does NOT want to watch this. The Pacers will win this series in 5 or 6 games, bogging down an already mediocre Hawks offense. Al Horford and the other Atlanta interior scorers aren’t going to have much breathing room when a suffocating Indy perimeter D takes away their three-point shot.

That being said, reason to watch these games? Paul George and Al Horford.

Even as George’s name gets floated around in the “Most Improved Player” race, he’s still not a household name, despite such a dynamic and unique moniker. He’s quietly become the Pacers’ best all-around player with Danny Granger essentially sitting out the season with knee trouble. Though George isn’t a particularly exciting scorer, his length, willingness to pull up for a jumper and bulldog one-on-one defense has all the ingredients for becoming one of the more must-see scorers of the future. Get in on the ground floor with Paul George. He’s better than you think.

On the other side, Horford has turned into one of the best bigs in the league since after the All-Star break. He’s averaging 21/11 on nearly 55% shooting with 3 assists and a block per night. Like George, he’s not the most exciting scorer in the world, but at this point he’s nearly unstoppable. That’s always great basketball watchin’.

4) Brooklyn Nets vs. 5) Chicago Bulls

How Chicago pulls out the upset in 6 games:

El Mariachi: Without knowing how long Joakim Noah will be out makes this a tough call. On one hand I want to say that the stifling defense that Thibodeau employs in his team will be more than enough to stop the on again off again offense of the Nets. But with Deron finally splurging for his bionic foot replacement, the emergence of a superstar in the form of a gigantic, hispanic Q-tip, and one of the most underrated coaches in the league, the Nets have all that is needed to make this an interesting series. And with Derrick “The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come” Rose hovering over the franchise giving the entirety of Chi-Town blue balls, who knows where this one is going to go.

More than likely Joakim will miss at least one game if not more. I’ve had plantar fasciitis and let me tell you I’ve written many strongly worded letters to the medical world to lobby for the condition’s name change to plantar fasciiwishiwasdead. Rasheed Wallace once said it is like playing basketball with a marble in your shoe. No joke that shit hurts and it could hurt the Bulls even worse if Noah is out. Noah’s ability to see passing lanes allowed him to average 5 assists when playing the Nets, and his suffocating defense awarded him an average of 3 blocks and 2.5 steals which would sorely be missed.

But even with Deron ending the regular series averaging 27 points and 8.7 assists, the Nets don’t have the scoring power to match the Bulls defensive effort. And with the veritable death of Gerald Wallace’s game, Joe Johnson will have to score more than 13 points which is his average when play Chicago. In the end this will be the least watchable playoff series in the eastern conference unless Derick Rose comes back.

How do the Nets win this in 7?

The King: Besides the New York-Boston series, the only Eastern Conference playoff series likely to be competitive will be the Brooklyn Nets versus the Chicago Bulls. Neither of these teams are as strong as the 4 and 5 seeds in the West, but they are both decent and equally talented. Will the Nets be able to win the first playoff series in their new home? I think so and here is why:

Home Court Advantage: In close series like these, home court matters.

Deron Williams: Given his play since the All-Star break, Deron Williams is the best player in the series. Once again, this matters in competitive series. Also, in the closing minutes of a tie game, which player in the series would you feel most comfortable with having the ball in their hands? It’s Deron Williams and isn’t even close.

Who’s Playing Well: The Nets have been playing well since the all-star break, despite a heavy road schedule. Chicago is 15-17 over their last 32 games and that record actually overstates their performance as they’ve had numerous close wins and several blow out losses.

Health: Everybody knows about Derrick Rose, who I can’t see coming back in this series. But Joakim Noah isn’t healthy either.  This is starting to feel like last season’s matchup against the Sixers, a team far less talented than this year’s Nets team.

Because of Chicago’s defense this series will be close and is likely to go the full seven games. In the end however, the Nets will prevail.

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