Editor’s note: The preview portions of this blog were written by Matthew Vinsko. Brett Murdock contributed predictions.
Basketball is my favorite sport and it has been for a long time. Unlike baseball, football, and hockey, basketball provides high scoring affairs that can captivate fans and casual viewers alike with quick plays that include dunks, alley-oops, and even well-timed blocks.
That’s why each postseason provides a bittersweet experience for this fan. Yes, the level of play intensifies as we work to finally crown an NBA Champion, but at the cost of a four month hiatus to one of the world’s most popular sports.
This year’s postseason is ripe with storylines (Can James Harden stop his old team from reaching the second round? How long can the Lakers last without Kobe Bryant? Who will stop the juggernaut that is the Miami Heat?). But the real goal of the first round of the playoffs isn’t so much to answer these questions, but rather separate pretenders from contenders as each team takes its first step to the Finals.
Read on for predictions from both myself and my longtime collaborator, Brett Murdock, as we break down the ins and outs of each matchup in the first round.
(1) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (8) Houston Rockets
This is one matchup that might be closer than you think because of both team’s ability to put the ball in the basket.
Houston finished second in the NBA in scoring this year at 106 points per game with James Harden leading the way at just over 25 points per game. OKC finished third in scoring with 105 points per game, led by its MVP candidate, Kevin Durant, who finished with 28 points per game, second in the scoring title race behind Carmelo Anthony.
But as it’s come to be known in postseason basketball, defense wins championships, and the Thunder finished in the top ten of the league in points allowed at a shade over 95 points per game. Houston, on the other hand, allowed over 102 points per game, which won’t help them against the high-scoring dynamic duo of Durant and Russell Westbrook (no respect to Kevin Martin either; the guy can flat out score).
Harden can score with the best of them, but unless Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin can score consistently, expect Houston to serve as practice for the Thunder’s defense on their journey back to the NBA Finals.
• Matt: Oklahoma City Thunder in 5 games
• Brett: Oklahoma City Thunder in 6 games (more…)
BY MATTHEW VINSKO AND BRETT MURDOCK, Couchsideshow.com writers
If you would have asked us this past summer who we thought would win the NBA Championship, I’m sure we would have had three answers for you: the Miami Heat, the Oklahoma City Thunder, or the most likely scenario, no champion at all.
With the lockout breathing down the NBA’s neck, it was hard to have realistic expectations for a 2011-12 NBA season. Though the shortened schedule has led to its share of surprises (I’m looking at you, Utah Jazz), the older mainstays have managed to stay true to form and the young, upcoming teams have seemingly dominated a shorter, more physically daunting schedule (with the exception of the San Antonio Spurs; how does Popovich do it?).
Now that the regular season is over and the match-ups are set, it’s prediction time, and who better to run down the NBA playoffs than two diehard fans? We will admit our last article was a WWE-themed article, so it’s time to pop our cherry once and for all and tackle a real sport.
(1) San Antonio Spurs vs. (8) Utah Jazz
Matt: I was a little disheartened to see the Jazz easily dismantle the Phoenix Suns this past Tuesday, breaking the hearts of Phoenix fans while ensuring Utah’s trip to the postseason. Now that it’s all said and done though, I have a hard time picking either of the two against the Spurs. Though San Antonio showed last year that one-seeds aren’t unbeatable, I don’t see them losing two years in a row in first-round upsets. Plus, Utah’s front court players (Derrick Favors, Al Jefferson, and Paul Millsap) aren’t nearly as intimidating as Memphis’ combination of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol a year ago. Expect a pretty lopsided series in my eyes where the veterans show the young studs a thing or two about postseason basketball.
Winner: San Antonio Spurs in 5
Brett: I spent last Tuesday night at Matt’s house, watching the Suns/Jazz battle it out for a playoff spot while simultaneously writing our Extreme Rules predictions. When the triple zeroes hit and the Suns had lost and missed out on a chance for the final berth, I was left not heartbroken nor happy, but relieved. Because I knew that I would not have to watch the Suns endure a humiliating first round exit to the Spurs, which is what the Jazz will encounter. San Antonio is a deep team, starting with their Big 3 of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili (bleh) and Tim Duncan, the greatest power forward ever. Their bench is young and talented and the late-season acquisitions of Stephen Jackson, Patty Mills and Boris Diaw were solid. The Jazz are young but inexperienced in the playoffs and will have trouble containing the Spurs on both ends of the floor. This one should be a cakewalk for San Antonio.
Winner: Spurs in 5 (more…)