2013 NBA Playoff Preview: Round 1

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As the NBA Playoffs inch ever closer, there is one question on the mind of every basketball fan — who will follow the Miami Heat as NBA Champions?

Will it be the seemingly ageless San Antonio Spurs or the New York Knicks, whose star Carmelo Anthony has been playing with a huge chip on his shoulder? Will it be Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, who caught a whiff of greatness a year ago in the NBA Finals, or will it be LeBron, Wade, and the Heat once again? Here’s what our bloggers believe will go down in the first round of the NBA playoffs, which start Saturday at 3:00 PM EST:

Eastern Conference

1 Miami Heat vs. 8 Milwaukee Bucks

“The only chance that the Bucks are going to win is if LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh all oversleep and miss the entire series. Even if that happens, I would still have the Heat winning. The Bucks made it into the playoffs with an abysmal 38-44 record. It makes no sense to me that a team with such a poor record makes the playoffs. Also, the Bucks have no momentum coming into the game. They finished 4-12 in their final 16 games, most of them to teams with a sub-.500 record. Some analysts have picked the Bucks to pull out a win at home in Game 3 or 4, but I think the Heat are going to show why they are the best team in the NBA.” – Tim

Prediction: Heat 4-0

4 Brooklyn Nets vs. 5 Chicago Bulls

“This was the hardest series to choose for me. Both teams have their merits and look to challenge the Heat in the next round. The Nets have the advantage in the backcourt, with Deron Williams and Joe Johnson taking on a Derrick Rose-less Chicago team which doesn’t quite have that spark on offense. However, the reason I believe the Bulls are going to take this series is defense. Although Joakim Noah will play in a limited role and the Bulls will be down a key rebounder and defender, the team defense of the Bulls will be able to wear down the Nets over the course of a seven game series. Be prepared for a slugfest.” – Tom

Prediction: Bulls 4-3

3 Indiana Pacers vs. 6 Atlanta Hawks

“For me, the winner will be the team that plays the best defense. Defense is especially important entering the post-season. It has been a long, grueling season. Players are sore and beat up. The Pacers allowed 90.7 points per game during the regular season while Atlanta allowed 97.0. Atlanta traded Joe Johnson, a superior offensive weapon, among other roster moves that left a large void in talent. Indiana is solid offensively and stout defensively. The three-seeded Pacers will take this one in 6.” – AJ

Prediction: Pacers 4-2

2 New York Knicks vs. 7 Boston Celtics

“I see this being a series where emotion fuels both sides. The Knicks have Carmelo Anthony, who has been a man on a mission for the entire season. He has scored 25 points or more in every game he has played since the calendar turned to the month of April. With the support of Sixth Man of the Year candidate J.R. Smith as well as Tyson Chandler, Iman Shumpert, Steve Novak, and others, Anthony will light up the scoreboard against the Celtics. However, their experience, grit, and physicality coupled with the tragedy unfolding in Boston will lead to the Celtics pushing this series to its absolute brink. To the chagrin of the city of Boston, I see the Knicks finally prevailing in the end, in a classic series.” – Tom

Prediction: Knicks 4-3

Western Conference

1 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. 8 Houston Rockets

“The eight seed has beaten the one seed just five times in NBA history. I do not expect this total to increase in 2013. The storyline is very intriguing, with Rockets’ star James Harden facing off against the team that dealt him in the offseason, but the plot will be more entertaining than the series. While the Rockets have a collection of talented young players, they are a season and an acquisition or two away from becoming serious contenders. The 2012 Western Conference Champions will look to continue their dominance of the conference and they will win in 5.” – AJ

Prediction: Thunder 4-1

4 Los Angeles Clippers vs. 5 Memphis Grizzlies

“These two teams are equally matched. The Clippers just completed their best season in franchise history with a 50+ win season and claimed their first division title. The Grizzlies made a huge move in the middle of the season, getting rid of star small forward Rudy Gay. I was one of many who disagreed with the move when it happened, but the Grizzlies proved their doubters wrong, showing they could succeed without him. In the end, with such a closely matched series, there is no way I can go against the best point guard in the NBA, Chris Paul. Clippers take this one and move on to the Western Conference Semifinals.” – Tim

Prediction: Clippers 4-2

3 Denver Nuggets vs. 6 Golden State Warriors

“Denver has undoubtedly the best offense in the league. During the regular season they ranked 1st in points per game, 2nd in rebounds per game, and 3rd in assists per game. They simply know how to score and they are one of the most fun teams to watch. With a fast paced offense involving Ty Lawson, Andre Iguodala, Kenneth “The Man-imal” Faried and a solid bench consisting of Wilson Chandler, Corey Brewer, Andre Miller and Javale McGee, the Warriors are going to have a tough time guarding this team. The Warriors have a solid backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, but they are severely undersized and they don’t quite hustle as well as the Nuggets do. Unless Stephen Curry puts up 50 points every game, it’s going to be hard for the Warriors.” – Tom

Prediction: Nuggets 4-2

2 San Antonio Spurs vs. 7 Los Angeles Lakers

“The Spurs have proven time and time again that they are at their most dangerous when they appear down and out. Yearly, critics write them off for being too old, and while time certainly is running low on their core of Parker, Ginobili, and Duncan, the Spurs perennially notch a high playoff seed. They claimed 58 victories this season, seventh-most in franchise history, and yet another Southwest Division title. While I believe that Dwight Howard is a far better player when the offense is run through him as opposed to supporting another superstar like Kobe Bryant, the loss of Kobe proves too much for the Lakers to overcome. The Spurs battle off their injuries and put it together for one more postseason run.” – Tom

Prediction: Spurs 4-2

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