The NBA playoffs begin tomorrow at 1 PM EST with the Indiana Pacers and the Chicago Bulls facing off as the eight and one seeds in the Eastern Conference. Starting tomorrow till into the month of June, the NBA playoffs will be on virtually constantly every night and may be one of the most exciting playoffs in recent history in the NBA. What was unique about the end of the NBA regular season this year was the fact that all 16 seeds had clinched in the East and West relatively early and the last few games of the year had seeding implications more than just playoff spots. For example, you had a team like the Memphis Grizzlies basically forfeit their last few games to try and play the Spurs who they had battled very hard this year and even came up with a few wins against them. We also saw the Los Angeles Lakers play their way out of the three seed so they most likely did not have to see the Portland Trailblazers in the first round, which was a group they had struggled with in the past. The end of the regular season was interesting, but not even close to what these NBA playoffs are going to bring to the table over the next month and a half.
Chicago Bulls/Indiana Pacers
Clearly, the Bulls are favorite to get out of this series over the Pacers who have struggled mightily at moments this year. I simply do not see a way that Indiana is going to be able to defend the MVP of the league in Derrick Rose and their big men are just not going to be able to stick with the hard nosed Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer. I think the Granger-Deng match up will be the best to watch during this series because of Granger's offensive presence and the ability of Luol Deng to extend his length on the floor and be an X-factor for Chicago. I think the Pacers will be lucky to come away with a game or two in this series, especially because I think the Pacers will struggle in the first few games in Chicago.
Philadelphia 76ers/Miami Heat
Ever since LeBron took his talents to South Beach, we all have been waiting for the playoffs to start so we can watch the Heat try to survive in the playoffs rather than worrying about a loss here or a loss there in the regular season. Both the Sixers and the Heat play a very similar type of basketball, but the problem with the Sixers is they just do not play that type of basketball more efficiently than Miami does. I believe for a team to be able to give Miami true trouble during these playoffs, they are going to need to slow the Heat down and play more of a half court offense against them.Doug Collins, coach of Sixers, already said that this match up with Miami was an absolute "nightmare" for them and I will have to agree. The Sixers had a very good season and definitely overachieved this year, but the Heat will be too much to handle in the first round of the playoffs this year.
Atlanta Hawks/Orlando Magic
This series is simple. The Orlando Magic will go as far as Dwight Howard takes them, no questions asked. The Atlanta Hawks will have a good chance to win this series if they can figure out a way to hold down Howard somehow someway. The Hawks only real answers to Dwight Howard are Zaza Pachulia and Al Horford and they will not be able to hold him down in any game played in this series. Atlanta will be forced to take at least one game in Orlando to start the series or there will be too much pressure at home in Atlanta I believe to get back in this series. The Hawks roster has not changed much since their first round exit last year and I think they will need to change up their schemes to have a chance against Stan Van Gundy and the Magic.
New York Knicks/Boston Celtics
I can hear the jubilation in New York as I write this section of the article, all Knicks fans have wanted is a chance to win a playoff game or two, have a few all-stars on their roster and have something to root for... well all of your dreams have come true and now it is time to step up. After the Boston Celtics traded away Kendrick Perkins they have honestly not looked the same and have not had that fire they had with him. The big thing we will see when the playoffs begin is if the Celtics can just turn the switch on and be ready for the grueling journey that is the NBA playoffs. Earlier this season Paul Pierce basically laughed at the idea that the Celtics-Knicks rivalry had been renewed because of one game was a joke; well now the Knicks have their chance to prove they belong.
Memphis Grizzlies/San Antonio Spurs
Manu Ginobili is now currently listed as doubtful for game one of this series and as you may know if you are an NBA fan, Memphis' best player Rudy Gay has been out for the year for at least a month. The interesting part of this series? The fact that the Grizzlies basically asked for the Spurs in the first round is shocking in itself. The Grizzlies have been looking very good against San Antonio all season long and now they have their wish, a 7-game series with the most complete team in the NBA. There are more questions than answers when I specifically look at this series. How many minutes will Tim Duncan get with his reduced minutes this year? Will the Big Three for San Antonio be able to stay healthy and produce at their normal level? Will the youth of Memphis give the Spurs some trouble? All I am saying, is the fact that this series may be closer than most expect.
New Orleans Hornets/Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers in the first round of the playoffs this year will face a team they have dealt with rather easily in the past, the New Orleans Hornets. The leader of the Lakers, Kobe Bryant, who was also drafted by the Hornets and then traded to LA, has always played very efficiently against the Hornets in the past. I think the Hornets are in trouble in this series for multiple reasons, but the one that is most prominently why I think they do not have a chance to upset LA is because they are going to be without their all-star David West for the rest of the year. Chris Paul has not been healthy in years and there is no secret potion to get him to be able to play all of his minutes healthy like he once could. The Lakers swept the Hornets during the regular season this year and I do not believe the Hornets will be able to show them anything they have not already seen.
Portland Trailblazers/Dallas Mavericks
Many people have said this will be the most entertaining series in the first round of the playoffs this year, I tend to disagree with that, but for a few different reasons. I think this series will be close, I think there is a good chance that Portland will be able to talk this series from Dallas, but to call this the most entertaining series is not accurate. Portland plays the type of basketball that can definitely mess with what the Mavericks do well and with the addition of Gerald Wallace at the trade deadline, the Blazers become even more dangerous. The player in this series who could be the reason Portland advances is Brandon Roy; neither the Blazers or Mavericks know what to expect when it comes to the former all-star guard, but if Dallas is smart they will not forget about this guy when it counts the most.
Denver Nuggets/Oklahoma City Thunder
This is the most entertaining series in the NBA playoffs first round this year for a few different reasons. The Thunder are the most youthfully talented team in the NBA, especially with the recent addition of Kendrick Perkins at the trade deadline this year. The Nuggets since the Carmelo Anthony trade to New York, have been one of the most impressive teams in the league. Denver with their new-look roster basically go 10-11 deep on the bench and will be able to put a fresh body on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook basically the entire game. I think the Thunder will be too much to handle for the Nuggets and like George Karl said a few weeks before the playoffs, "I would rather see Dallas than Oklahoma City this year."