The Clippers won this series last year in seven.
Much has changed since then.
Gone are Rudy Gay, Kenyon Martin & Reggie Evans.
Here are Jamal Crawford, Jerryd Bayless & a healthy Chauncey Billups
Zach Randolph and Blake Griffin still don’t like each other.
But, from the looks of it - The Grizzlies will be able to exact revenge on their elimination last year.
Why - because with no Rudy Gay, the Grizzlies have moved the ball well, and have gone from the jump-shooting team, to one that feeds the post.
How to beat the Clippers? Take away their aerial assault and force them into a halfcourt game. Basically - force them to play like the Grizzlies against the Grizzlies.
If Marc Gasol is healthy, then he will have a huge impact on this series, offensively and defensively.
The Clippers usually require a Superman effort from Chris Paul or Jamal Crawford to win close games.
They’ll need it.
GRIZZLIES in SEVEN
This is, has the potential to remind NBA fans of the Dallas-Sacramento playoff battles from the early 2000s. Scores in the 130s & 140s at the end of regulation, three point barrages, fast break dunks and alley oops.
Therefore, it’s safe to say, the team who plays the better defense throughout the series will win.
All the signs point to a Nuggets victory, they have homecourt, they boast one of the best homecourt advantages in the NBA, and they have pieces to be able to slow a team down defensively when needed.
But the Warriors have Stephen Curry. He is unquestionably the leader and more importantly their closer in the 4th. Something the Nuggets lack.
If he steps up the way he has been all season, this series, as exciting as we all hope it will be, will go to Golden State.
WARRIORS in SEVEN
The Lakers are in the playoffs, but Kobe’s out for the rest of the season.
Now if Kobe were healthy, I’d like this matchup against the Spurs.
A hobbled Tony Parker, Manu’s playing, but obviously hurt, Tim Duncan, as great as he is, is still 37 years old and the underrated roster move of cutting Stephen Jackson due to insubordination.
This is the matchup the Lakers wanted and got.
I believe the Lakers can beat this version of the Spurs. I want to say they can. Pau Gasol has been playing out of his mind and Dwight Howard is finally resembling the player who is universally known as the best big man in basketball.
What worries me is the Laker guard play. Steve Nash and Steve Blake don’t scare me, and they shouldn’t scare Parker, Ginobili, or even Danny Green. As big of an advantage the Lakers have down low, the Spurs have an even better one in the backcourt.
SPURS in SIX
We just never expected in to be his first season since being traded last September.
The Rockets play at one of the fastest paces in the NBA, and have the potential to explode for 110+ on any given night, but the Thunder counter that with Russell Westbrook, who is a fast break all by himself and Kevin Durant, who will have every opportunity to take advantage of Chandler Parsons and whoever the Rockets will throw as a sacrificial lamb. Seeing as how Houston has no answer for Westbrook and you can write Durant in for 25-30 a night throughout the playoffs, this series shouldn’t take TOO long for OKC to wrap up.
Jeremy Lin has to play well for Houston to have a chance. Odds are, he won’t.
THUNDER in FIVE
Considering how much alike these two teams are, this series can go either way.
On one side, the Nets are back in the playoffs after a 5 year absence, led again by an elite PG in Deron Williams. The Bulls are back again, despite the absence of former MVP Derrick Rose.
The two teams rebound extremely well. They also defend well, Chicago being a better defensive team. The Nets have an All Star center in Brook Lopez. The Bulls counter him with their All Star center in Joakim Noah. The Nets force their opponents to play a slow and methodical pace. The Bulls do as well. The Nets count on big production from the bench. The Bulls bench, once considering gutted by many during the offseason, is one of the best in the East.
So who will win?
Joe Johnson will decide that.
If he’s healthy and playing well, the backcourt of the Nets (including inspired play from former Bull CJ Watson) will be too much for Kirk Hinrich, Marco Bellineli, Nate Robinson & Richard Hamilton to overcome without a healthy Derrick Rose.
NETS in SIX
This series has the potential to be a sweep, or can go 6 to 7 games. It all depends on which Atlanta team shows up and how effective they are in handling the Pacers’ stifling defense.
When the Hawks play inspired ball, they move the ball, Josh Smith isn’t launching so much 18-21 footers, Al Horford is aggressive in the paint, and Jeff Teague uses his speed to burn defenders for layups.
The Pacers struggle to score, which will be their downfall in these playoffs. Luckily for them, they play a team that cannot capitalize on the Pacers’ one glaring weakness.
Throw in the fact that the Hawks have no answer for Paul George, and you realize that as close as this series could be, it really isn’t.
PACERS in FIVE
On paper, this isn’t a close one.
Boston has suffered season ending injuries to their star guard Rajon Rondo and an important piece in Jared Sullinger. They are undersized, struggle to score, and their older players have just looked.. old.
New York should ROMP over the Celtics.
But — never underestimate the heart and will of champions
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are older, but battle tested and proud and won’t get bounced out without the Knicks’ best efforts.
New York CANNOT let Carmelo Anthony & JR Smith go two on five against the Celtics, or they WILL lose.
Jeff Green is the key to a Boston series win. If he plays aggressive and focused, the Knicks will struggle to guard his combination of size and skill.
In the end, the talent of the Knicks will win out. The gap between the two teams in too big for heart and effort to overcome.
KNICKS in SIX