Finally, it matters. Like the Doc mentioned when he posted his NBA Playoff predictions, there are a lot of question marks heading into the 2011 postseason. When the year began the general consensus was that either the Lakers would continue to dominate after returning the same roster, the Heat super team would live up to their expectations, or the Celtics would make another great run. Any of those things can still happen, but the Lakers struggled mightily at times during the regular season and the Heat have yet to prove they are a dominant force together. The Celtics traded Kendrick Perkins and will be relying on the oft-injured Shaq, who is already out Game 1 against the Knicks. Oh yeah, and in the meantime the Bulls became very, very good.
WESTERN CONFERENCE (Del’s Picks)
(1) Spurs vs (8) Grizzlies – Spurs in five, experience wins out easily here as it so often does in the NBA playoffs.
(2) Lakers vs (7) Hornets – Lakers in five, Lakers lost five out of seven to close the season but they have too many weapons.
(3) Mavericks vs (6) Blazers – Blazers in seven, Blazers are solid and Mavs can’t close in the playoffs until they prove otherwise.
(4) Thunder vs (5) Nuggets – Thunder in six, OKC’s young talent combined with Perkins’ postseason experience could make them dangerous.
(1) Spurs vs (4) Thunder – Spurs in six, experience, experience, experience. Spurs have a ton, OKC has barely any.
(2) Lakers vs (6) Blazers – Lakers in five, Blazers will be spent from giving everything they have to win a series. Lakers will have coasted.
Western Conference Finals
(1) Spurs vs (2) Lakers – Lakers in seven, Even if Bynum misses time, it’s nothing L.A. isn’t used to. Kobe gets it done again.
EASTERN CONFERENCE (Del’s Picks)
(1) Bulls vs (8) Pacers – Bulls in four, my only sweep prediction of the playoffs. Derrick Rose is unreal and they have gelled perfectly.
(2) Heat vs (7) 76ers – Heat in six, Sixers can’t match Miami’s talent but they can exploit their inexperience for a couple cheap wins.
(3) Celtics vs (6) Knicks – Celtics in six, lack of size won’t kill the Celtics yet. The Knicks don’t play defense.
(4) Magic vs (5) Hawks – Magic in six, Hawks’ athleticism will allow them to hang around, but the Magic are a bit underrated heading in.
(1) Bulls vs (4) Magic – Bulls in six, Tom Thibodeau is a defensive genius. Derrick rose is an MVP. Great playoff combination.
(2) Heat vs (3) Celtics – Heat in seven, the Celtics will miss Perkins dearly in the second round. They’ll have trouble stopping the new Big 3.
Eastern Conference Finals
(1) Bulls vs (2) Heat – Bulls in seven, Chicago has the size to beat Miami and Thibodeau can find ways to stop LeBron and D-Wade.
Bulls beat the Lakers in seven. The Bulls are a young team, but one that’s ready to win a championship. Leadership tends to kill inexperienced teams in the playoffs. With Rose, that isn’t going to happen to Chicago. He can take over a game as well as any player in the league. I know it’s the regular season, but the Bulls showed their true identity in a 16-point win over the Celtics over a week ago. This is as complete a basketball team as you’ll find in the NBA.