1 Oklahoma City Thunder vs 8 Houston Rockets: The Thunder made an incredible run to the NBA finals last season only to be left heartbroken by the Miami Heat. Much of the Thunder’s success can be attributed to former shooting guard James Harden, despite proverbially wetting the bed in the Finals. Now, Harden is with the Rockets and would love to send his former team home early with an upset victory. But these are just pipe dreams. This young Thunder team has all weapons to start a dynasty including one of the best, if not the best, player in the NBA, Kevin Durant. There are match-ups that could make for potential upsets this postseason, but this is not one of them.
2 San Antonio Spurs vs 7 Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers won an ugly game against Houston for the seventh seed in the playoffs which didn’t entirely matter as either first round matchup would have ended the same for L.A.: in elimination. Without Kobe Bryant, the Lakers become dependent on the play of their big men, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard. How these two play against Spurs’ center Tim Duncan will make for the most competitive match-up in the series. Expect Tony Parker to dominate, especially if Steve Nash can’t return for the Lakers and Steve “Gummo” Blake is left to run the point. The Spurs still seem determined to send Timmy Duncan out with one more ring before he calls it a career and there’s no chance they will let a Kobe-less Lakers team stand in the way of that.
3 Denver Nuggets vs 6 Golden State Warriors: This is one of the most slept-on series of the 2013 playoffs, but is potentially the most intriguing. The Nuggets are consistently an explosive offensive juggernaut and are 21-3 in their last 24 games. But they will be missing three-point shooter Danilo Gallinari while forward Kenneth Faried and guard Ty Lawson play banged up. Golden State’s Stephen Curry has had a massive season, breaking the NBA’s single season three-point record. His explosive play matched with the injuries Denver has makes this one of the more difficult match-ups to predict. However, the Nuggets do not lose at home (22-game win streak) and will take this one.
4 Los Angeles Clippers vs 5 Memphis Grizzlies: The Clippers a.k.a. Los Angeles’ new favorite team, have been one of the most exciting to watch all season. This will be a rematch of last year’s first round series when Lob City won in seven games so one would think the Grizzlies will be out for Clipper blood. But the tenacity Memphis has cannot equal the dynamic play of L.A. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin will link up on several rim-shaking alley-oops and win the series for the second straight season.
1 Miami Heat vs 8 Milwaukee Bucks: It is rather simple, the Heat are the best team in the 2013 playoffs and the Bucks are the worst. This will be the biggest mismatch of teams in the first round. Milwaukee did not even have a winning record this season finishing just 38-44 and third in a weak central division. The dynamic duo of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are coming off their first NBA championship since forming the “Big Three.” They will be looking to keep their promise of not just repeating, not just three-peating, not just four-peating, etc. and Milwaukee does not stand much of a chance. Miami will easily sweep the Bucks in four games.
2 New York Knicks vs 7 Boston Celtics: Since his start in the NBA, Carmelo Anthony has been heavily scrutinized. Melo has been overshadowed by fellow 2003 draftees LeBron and D-Wade and is criticized for his lackluster defensive play. The one thing that has been consistent is his scoring ability and this year is arguably his best after beating out Kevin Durant for the scoring title. As Anthony continues to stunt as a scoring machine, the Knicks are playing their best basketball since the 90’s. The Celtics are experienced but aging. Kevin Garnett and crew will have a difficult time keeping up with one of the NBA’s hottest teams. The Knicks will come out on top and win their first playoff series since 2000.
3 Indiana Pacers vs 6 Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks lost key player Joe Johnson to Brooklyn and will rely on Josh Smith to provide that offensive spark. The Pacers also lost a key component; guard Danny Granger, to a lingering knee injury. This series also promises an intense match-up between two of the league’s best centers, the Pacers’ Roy Hibbert and the Hawks’ Al Horford. The team that wins the battle in the paint will advance to the next round and this writer’s money is on Indiana. This coupled with their strong defense will catapult the Pacers to victory.
4 Brooklyn Nets vs 5 Chicago Bulls: After losing superstar Derrick Rose to an ACL tear in the first round of the playoffs last year, there has been the utmost uncertainty about the Bulls’ 2013 campaign without him. Although it has not been ruled out, do not expect Rose to return for the 2013 playoffs, especially after all the flack coach Tom Thibodeau received last year for keeping Rose in during the closing minutes of the now infamous game against Philadelphia. The Bulls will definitely play it safe with Rose. However, fear not Bulls’ fans, stout defensive play will force Brooklyn, specifically point guard Deron Williams, to make poor offensive decisions which will lead to a Bulls’ series victory.