2014 NBA Playoffs 1st round predictions

2014 NBA Playoffs 1st round predictions
Image by NBA Media Services

As I type this, we are about 6 hours from the start of the NBA Playoffs- also known as my favorite time of year.

The Bulls don't start their postseason until Sunday evening, so I'll have the complete series preview tomorrow morning. Today, I'll look at the rest of the first-round series.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

(1) Indiana Pacers vs (8) Atlanta Hawks

The Pacers have been horrible the last two months of the season, doing everything they could do give the Heat the #1 seed in the East. The Hawks couldn't even play .500 ball this season, but they did split the season series with Indy 2-2.

That being said, the Pacers haven't fallen that far off the face of the earth- and though the Hawks are very effective at spreading the floor and shooting 3's, Kyle Korver usually disappears in the playoffs, which will be the death of the Hawks. As much as I'd love to see the Pacers lose this series, I can't see them losing more than 2 games at the most. Pacers in 6.

(2) Miami Heat vs (7) Charlotte Bobcats

The Bobcats have made an incredible turnaround this season, and the Heat have played some very uninspired ball the last 25 games. The 'Cats have one of the best defenses in the league, but in the Big 3 era, they haven't been able to beat the Heat even once.

Everyone expects the Heat to just flip a switch once the playoffs start, and they probably will. But they have consistently struggled with size, and Al Jefferson has had an All-NBA caliber season. The Bobcats might steal Game 1 if the Heat come out unprepared, but I expect they'll only win Game 4 at home once they're down 3-0. Heat in 5.

(3) Toronto Raptors vs (6) Brooklyn Nets

The Raptors have had an unbelievable season, winning a franchise-record 48 games. The Nets have had an unbelievable 2nd half of the season, and as clueless as Jason Kidd seemed early in the season, he obviously has been doing something right since the first of the year.

Demar DeRozan has become an All-Star caliber scorer, and Kyle Lowry had a breakout season. But the Nets just have too much veteran experience for Toronto to overcome. They will make it a series, and if they can get it back to Canada for a Game 7, they've got a chance. But I don't think so. Nets in 6.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

(1) San Antonio Spurs vs (8) Dallas Mavericks

The Spurs continue to amaze people year after year, and they have become the league's model franchise. You want to build a team, do an internship in San Antonio as step 1. The Mavericks got lucky that Monta Ellis is finally starting to live up to the potential he showed coming out of high school.

The Mavs still have Dirk, and while he's aging, he can still score with the best of them. But his defense is worse than ever, and the Spurs machine will probably carve them up with utmost precision. Spurs in 5.

(2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs (7) Memphis Grizzlies

The Thunder needed a late comeback against the hapless Pistons in Game 82 just to hold on to the #2 seed. The Grizzlies struggled early, but they have the best record in the league since January 1st.

Memphis is a great defensive team that loves to play half-court basketball, which is what wins in the playoffs. OKC has more talent, and KD is the consensus pick to be MVP this season. This should be the best 1st round series out there, and the Thunder are lucky that they have home court, or my pick might be different. Thunder in 7.

(3) Los Angeles Clippers vs (6) Golden State Warriors

OKC/Memphis will be the best 1st round series, but this one will be the most exciting if you like offense, 3pt shooting and fast break basketball. Neither team is above average on defense, though the emergence of DeAndre Jordan and Doc's coaching has gotten the Clippers closer than they used to be.

The loss of Andrew Bogut is huge for GS, he was the rock in the middle that made them a decent team on defense. They can get hot and beat any team at any time, but the loss of Bogut is too much to overcome. Clippers in 5.

(4) Houston Rockets vs (5) Portland Trail Blazers

This could be a very good series as well, as both teams have an All-Star caliber perimeter player and an All-Star caliber big man. Damien Lillard vs James Harden could be an outstanding matchup if you like offense, because Harden is too good a scorer to stop, and Lillard is no slouch himself.

Aldridge could give the Rockets a lot of problems if Dwight Howard has to guard him, because he is one of the best big men in the league from 18-20 feet- and Dwight doesn't like to stray too far away from the basket. I could see either team winning this series in 5 games, but I suspect it will go the distance. And as close as it will be, the difference might just be that you can't give the ball to Howard late in games because he can't be counted on to hit a free throw.

But the actual difference will probably be the Blazers' lack of playoff experience vs the Rockets' two main players each having been to an NBA Finals. Rockets in 7.

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    Don Ellis started covering sports professionally when he was 15. He attended Ball State University, and some of his past credits include InsideHoops (NBA Runaround, The NBA According to Ellis) and ESPN Florida (The Florida Sports Reporters, SportsCenter anchor) . In addition to running Bullsville.net and ChicagoSportsWriters.com, and writing for ChicagoNow and SportsBlog.com, he is also a KHSAA and semi-pro baseball umpire. He's a 3rd-generation Cubs fan, a Bulls fan since the days of Van Lier and Sloan, and a life-long New England Patriots fan. Follow Don on Twitter @Bullsville.

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