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2014 NBA Playoffs: Day One Predictions

Today’s Games (All times are Eastern):

 

Time (ET) Visitor Home Prediction
12:30 PM Brooklyn Nets Toronto Raptors Nets
3:30 PM Golden State Warriors Los Angeles Clippers Clippers
7:00 PM Atlanta Hawks Indiana Pacers Pacers
9:30 PM Memphis Grizzlies Oklahoma City Thunder Thunder

Things to Watch For

In the Nets-Raptors matchup look for Kevin Garnett to do something—set a hard screen, give a subtle elbow, get in someone’s face, or possibly all three—early in the game to show the young Raptors that the intensity of the playoffs is totally and completely different than anything they have ever encountered before.

What will Mark Jackson do to adjust to Andrew Bogut’s absence in Game 1 of the Warriors-Clippers series? Will he go small and move David Lee to center and insert either Harrison Barnes or Draymond Green into the starting lineup, or will he start the 35-year old Jermaine O’Neal? Another thing to look out for is just how cleanly Stephen Curry will be able to come off of screens without Bogut in the lineup.

Look for the Pacers to try to prove to themselves—and the other 15 playoff teams—that their late season struggles are behind them and that they are a force to be reckoned with this postseason.

This is the third time in four years that the Thunder and Grizzlies will meet in the postseason and the core of each team has been present for all three previous matchups. These teams are quite familiar with one another. So instead of the customary feeling out process that goes on in Game 1s, I expect these teams get after one another right from the opening tip in an effort to gain any kind of upper hand that they can sooner rather than later.

Wednesday’s Results:

 

Visitor Home Prediction Result
Indiana Pacers 101 Orlando Magic 86 Magic Pacers
Utah Jazz 136 2OT Minnesota Timberwolves 130 Timberwolves Jazz
Atlanta Hawks 111 Milwaukee Bucks 103 Hawks Hawks
Los Angeles Lakers 113 San Antonio Spurs 100 Lakers Lakers
Houston Rockets 100 New Orleans Pelicans 105 Rockets Pelicans
Dallas Mavericks 105 Memphis Grizzlies 106 OT Grizzlies Grizzlies
Detroit Pistons 111 Oklahoma City Thunder 112 Thunder Thunder
Chicago Bulls 86 Charlotte Bobcats 91 OT Bulls Bobcats
Toronto Raptors 92 New York Knicks 95 Knicks Knicks
Washington Wizards 118 Boston Celtics 102 Celtics Wizards
Brooklyn Nets 85 Cleveland Cavaliers 114 Cavaliers Cavaliers
Philadelphia 76ers 100 Miami Heat 87 Heat 76ers
Golden State Warriors 116 Denver Nuggets 112 Warriors Warriors
Phoenix Suns 104 Sacramento Kings 99 Suns Suns
Los Angeles Clippers 104 Portland Trail Blazers 110 Trail Blazers Trail Blazers

Random NBA Fan’s Record in Wednesday’s Games: 9-6
Random NBA Fan’s Record for the Complete Regular Season: 747-483

***Unlike my regular-season game-by-game predictions, which are made well before the beginning of the season, my game-by-game playoff predictions will be made day-by-day as the playoffs progress.  This is mainly to avoid the mess that will be made whenever one of my predictions goes awry.***

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Playoffs: Western Conference First Round Predictions

Here are Random NBA Fan’s predictions for the first round of the Western Conference playoffs along with some keys that explain his prediction for each series.

 

Western Conference Series Prediction
# 1 San Antonio Spurs vs. # 8 Dallas Mavericks Spurs in four
# 4 Houston Rockets vs. # 5 Portland Trail Blazers Rockets in five
# 2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. # 7 Memphis Grizzlies Thunder in six
# 3 Los Angeles Clippers vs. # 6 Golden State Warriors Clippers in six

Keys to Each Series

San Antonio Spurs (1) vs. Dallas Mavericks (8): San Antonio’s ball and player movement will simply destroy Dallas’ defense.  The Mavericks, who gave up 105.9 points per 100 possessions during the regular season, have the most porous and inefficient defense of the 16 teams in the playoffs.  Unfortunately for them, they are matched up against one of the most efficient offenses in the game.  Add the fact that Dallas, who has lost nine consecutive games to San Antonio, has dropped 13 of its last 16 matchups with the Spurs—including seven straight losses in San Antonio and this is by far the worst possible matchup for the Mavericks.  This first-round matchup is basically purgatory for the Mavericks.

Houston Rockets (4) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (5): The Trail Blazers have gotten to this point because of their ability to score the ball.  Unfortunately for them, they are matched up against a team that scores more than they do and scores more efficiently than they do.  And if Patrick Beverly harasses Damian Lillard and disrupts Portland’s offense the way that I suspect he will, the Trail Blazers might have trouble consistently scoring the ball in this series.  And if Portland is unable to score at will, the Trail Blazers will have to rely on their defense to slow down the dynamic Rockets, who score in the paint, from the three-point line and the free-throw line.  But unfortunately for the Trail Blazers, only Dallas trails them in defensive efficiency amongst the eight Western Conference playoff teams.  Basically, this series (and my prediction for it) comes down to the fact that Patrick Beverly and Dwight Howard will be able to disrupt Portland’s offense much more frequently and consistently than the Trail Blazers will be able to affect Houston’s ability to score the ball.

Oklahoma City Thunder (2) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (7): This is no ordinary 2-7 matchup and it will play out much differently than the 2-7 matchup in the East.  Both of these teams were missing key components for much of the season.  The Thunder played more than a third of the season without their All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook, and the Grizzlies were without the reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol for more than a third of the season.  Both Oklahoma City and Memphis could have easily earned higher seeds had Westbrook and Gasol been healthy the entire season.  In the four regular-season meetings between these two teams, there was only one game in which both Westbrook and Gasol played—Oklahoma City won that game.  The Thunder played 13 more games without Westbrook than the Grizzlies played without Gasol (36 versus 23) and still managed to win 59 games.  That is largely due to the greatness of Kevin Durant, who is the best player in this series.  So as solid as the Grizzlies are with their “Grit and Grind” style of basketball, the Thunder still have the best player in the series as well as home-court advantage and those two things—along with a healthy Russell Westbrook this time around—will be enough to carry Oklahoma City to the second round for the fourth consecutive postseason.

Los Angeles Clippers (3) vs. Golden State Warriors (6): This will be a highly competitive and highly entertaining series.  And how the Warriors adjust to the absence of Andrew Bogut, who is out indefinitely due to a fractured rib, will determine just how—shall we say, spirited—this series will be.  I won’t say that Bogut’s absence will make this series any less competitive or compelling, but I will say that if Bogut were available, this series would likely be even more compelling and competitive than it is going to be.  It is no secret that these two teams do not like each other very much and we will likely see some chippiness early in Game 1 as each team tries to set a tone and prove to the other that it will not back down.  Given the fact that both of these teams ranked in the top 10 in pace, points per game and three pointers attempted per game during the regular season, there will likely be quite a bit of up and down action and more than a fair share of threes taken.  But it will be Los Angeles’ ability to score in the paint and get to the line that will ultimately be the difference in this series.

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2014 NBA Playoffs: Eastern Conference First-Round Predictions

Here are Random NBA Fan’s predictions for the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs along with some keys that explain his prediction for each series.

 

Eastern Conference Series Prediction
# 1 Indiana Pacers vs. # 8 Atlanta Hawks Pacers in six
# 4 Chicago Bulls vs. # 5 Washington Wizards Bulls in six
# 2 Miami Heat vs. # 7 Charlotte Bobcats Heat in five
# 3 Toronto Raptors vs. # 6 Brooklyn Nets Nets in six

Keys to Each Series

Indiana Pacers (1) vs. Atlanta Hawks (8): Despite their recent struggles, the Pacers are clearly the better team in this series.  However, Indiana’s long-lasting struggles in Atlanta (where the Pacers have won just twice—including a Game 6 win to clinch last season’s first-round playoff matchup with the Hawks—since December 22, 2006) will probably help the Hawks (who are the only sub-.500 team in the playoffs) extend this series further than it should probably go.

Chicago Bulls (4) vs. Washington Wizards (5): Defense will be the difference here.  Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls will have time to prepare, hone in on, and scheme for John Wall and company.  The Bulls will undoubtedly go through their droughts on the offensive end, but it will be Chicago’s defense—and home-court advantage—that will carry the Bulls to the second round.

Miami Heat (2) vs. Charlotte Bobcats (7): The two-time defending champion Miami Heat will be facing a team that is making its second postseason appearance in franchise history.  The Bobcats have never won a playoff game and they will be facing a team that has won 46 playoff games en route to two NBA championships over the past three seasons.

Toronto Raptors (3) vs. Brooklyn Nets (6): Experience will be the deciding factor in this series.  The Nets have lots of it and the Raptors—well, not so much.  This is where the additions of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce will pay some dividends.  Brooklyn’s experience along with Toronto’s inability to close out games—the Raptors are just 3-8 in games decided by three points or less—will help the sixth-seeded Nets upset the third-seeded Raptors.  Admittedly, one of Toronto’s wins by three points or fewer did come against Brooklyn.  However, the Nets were playing their third game in four nights and the second half of a back-to-back.  In fact, both of Toronto’s regular-season victories over Brooklyn came when the Nets were playing the second half of a back to back and their third game in four nights.  And as we all know, there are no three-games-in-four-nights or back-to-back scenarios in the playoffs.

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NBA Game of the Day: Dallas Mavericks at Memphis Grizzlies

Today’s Games (All times are Eastern):

 

Time (ET) Visitor Home Prediction
8:00 PM Indiana Pacers Orlando Magic Magic
8:00 PM Utah Jazz Minnesota Timberwolves Timberwolves
8:00 PM Atlanta Hawks Milwaukee Bucks Hawks
8:00 PM Los Angeles Lakers San Antonio Spurs Lakers
8:00 PM Houston Rockets New Orleans Pelicans Rockets
8:00 PM Dallas Mavericks Memphis Grizzlies Grizzlies
8:00 PM Detroit Pistons Oklahoma City Thunder Thunder
8:00 PM Chicago Bulls Charlotte Bobcats Bulls
8:00 PM Toronto Raptors New York Knicks Knicks
8:00 PM Washington Wizards Boston Celtics Celtics
8:00 PM Brooklyn Nets Cleveland Cavaliers Cavaliers
8:00 PM Philadelphia 76ers Miami Heat Heat
10:30 PM Golden State Warriors Denver Nuggets Warriors
10:30 PM Phoenix Suns Sacramento Kings Suns
10:30 PM Los Angeles Clippers Portland Trail Blazers Trail Blazers

The seventh seed in the Western Conference playoffs will be up for grabs when the Dallas Mavericks visit the Memphis Grizzlies in today’s NBA Game of the Day. This will be the fourth and final meeting between these Southwest Division rivals. Dallas won each of the first three games by double digits and can sweep the season series over the Grizzlies for the first time since winning all four meetings during the 2007-2008 season.

The Mavericks and Grizzlies come into the final night of the regular season with identical 49-32 records. Both teams will be seeking win 50 and both of them will be trying to avoid a first-round matchup with the overall top-seeded San Antonio Spurs. Dallas and Memphis were both swept by the Spurs and both would rather take their chances with the West’s second seed (which will be either the Los Angeles Clippers or Oklahoma City Thunder) than face San Antonio in the first round.

The winner of tonight’s matchup will have a 50-win season and avoid opening the playoffs in San Antonio. The loser will fall just short of the 50-win plateau and have to open the playoffs against a Spurs team that can finish the regular season with a single-season-franchise-tying 63 wins with a victory over the Los Angeles Lakers tonight.

Yesterday’s Results:

 

Visitor Home Prediction Result
New York Knicks 109 Brooklyn Nets 98 Nets Knicks
Denver Nuggets 105 Los Angeles Clippers 117 Clippers Clippers

Random NBA Fan’s Record in Yesterday’s Games: 1-1
Random NBA Fan’s Record for the Season: 738-477

NBA Game of the Day: New York Knicks at Brooklyn Nets

Today’s Games (All times are Eastern):

 

Time (ET) Visitor Home Prediction
8:00 PM New York Knicks Brooklyn Nets Nets
10:30 PM Denver Nuggets Los Angeles Clippers Clippers

The Brooklyn Nets (44-36) will try to lock up the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs when they host the New York Knicks (35-45) in today’s NBA Game of the Day. This will be the fourth and final meeting between these Atlantic Division rivals. The Knicks won two of the first three matchups and can win the season series for the third time in four years with a victory tonight.

Brooklyn currently has a game and a half lead over the sixth-place Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference standings. The Nets can push that lead to an insurmountable two games—with just one game remaining—with a victory tonight. Brooklyn, who has won 17 of its last 18 home games, will be going for its 29th victory at the Barclays center in its home season finale.

Despite being eliminated from playoff contention the night before, New York is coming off of an impressive 100-89 victory over the playoff-bound Chicago Bulls (who are still battling the Toronto Raptors for the Eastern Conference’s third seed) Sunday night. The Knicks are a solid 14-5 in their last 19 games—including an eight-game winning streak between March 5 and March 21. But even that hot streak could not help them overcome their abysmal 21-40 record through the first 61 games of the season.

New York’s last two victories have come against the Raptors and Bulls—one of which the Nets will face in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Yesterday’s Results:

 

Visitor Home Prediction Result
Boston Celtics 108 Philadelphia 76ers 113 76ers 76ers
Milwaukee Bucks 100 Toronto Raptors 110 Bucks Raptors
Miami Heat 93 Washington Wizards 114 Wizards Wizards
Charlotte Bobcats 95 Atlanta Hawks 93 Hawks Bobcats
Orlando Magic 95 Chicago Bulls 108 Bulls Bulls
Oklahoma City Thunder 89 New Orleans Pelicans 101 Pelicans Pelicans
San Antonio Spurs 98 Houston Rockets 104 Spurs Rockets
Los Angeles Lakers 119 Utah Jazz 104 Jazz Lakers
Memphis Grizzlies 97 Phoenix Suns 91 Suns Grizzlies
Minnesota Timberwolves 120 Golden State Warriors 130 Warriors Warriors

Random NBA Fan’s Record in Yesterday’s Games: 5-5
Random NBA Fan’s Record for the Season: 737-476

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