Organized Sports is a recurring sports column named for a seminal DC avant-hardcore song by the equally stupid and brilliant (to me, “equally stupid and brilliant” pretty much just means “brilliant”) band Void. Take from that what you will.
To a number of teams in the NBA, the regular season this year was even more meaningless than it is normally. The Miami Heat coasted to a second seed in the piss-poor Eastern Conference, keeping Dwyane Wade rested up for the games that really matter, and allowing Lebron to coast through the first half of the season and still remain the best player in the league—though his coasting likely cost him another MVP. The Indiana Pacers, dominant throughout the season in the East, pooped to a halt in the season’s final month, but still have the number one seed because the Heat didn’t care to take it from them. And then there are the rest of the teams in the East, who jockeyed for least-mediocre and the chance to lose to the Heat and Pacers on their way to the Conference Finals.
Out west, it was different. The regular season mattered because there were actually more good teams than could fit into the playoffs. The Phoenix Suns made a huge comeback after last year and still fell short of the postseason—Jeff Hornacek may wind up coach of the year anyway. The Spurs were dominant as usual, even after last year’s heartbreaking Finals loss. And the Thunder coasted to the second seed even while missing Russell Westbrook for most of the year, because Kevin Durant cannot be stopped.
Now, the real games begin, though. Come with me after the jump as I make some predictions on how this first round will go. Shall we?
Round 1 Predictions – Western Conference
(1) San Antonio Spurs vs. (8) Dallas Mavericks
The Spurs are healthy this year, a machine. Tim Duncan is ageless, Manu Ginobili actually appears to be close to his old self, and Tony Parker remains one of the most underappreciated players in the game. Also, since Tony Parker is French, if he did some extreme walking, would his name be Tony Parkour?
Prediction: Spurs in 6
(2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (7) Memphis Grizzlies
One who Thunds Oklahoma City will be tough to beat in the first round. Kevin Durant is legitimately the MVP this year since Lebron took parts of the year off, and the Grizzlies have no answer for his scoring. This’ll probably be a closer series than the seeding warrants, but Zeus and Thor will make sure their output makes it at least until the second round.
Prediction: Thunder in 6
(3) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (6) Golden State Warriors
Before the season, since I don’t live in a place that has its own team to root for, I decided I was going to cheer on the Golden State Warriors this year. They made a nice little run in the playoffs last year, they shoot the lights out, they’re fun to watch, and this past offseason they obtained one of my favorite players, Andre Iguodala, the ultimate defense-and-dunks athletic wing player in the league right now. Sadly, I don’t think they’ll make it out of the first round, because the Clips look legit, and Blake Griffin has added so much to his game since last year that there’s no answer the Warriors could possibly have for him over a lengthy series.
Prediction: Clippers in 5
(4) Houston Rockets vs. (5) Portland Trail Blazers
The Rockets are a weird team, in that they seem like they should be better than they are, and that they seem like they should be worse than they are. Jeremy Lin just isn’t that great, James Harden was the least of the OKC Big Three when he was there, and Dwight Howard has no offensive game. But, they have home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Those who Blaze Trails in the setting of an annoying indie sketch comedy series have a star point guard on the rise and LaMarcus Aldridge, who has the most beautiful shot of any big man in the game. This series honestly seems like a coin toss to me, so I’ll take the higher seed in seven.
Prediction: Rockets in 7
Round 1 Predictions – Eastern Conference
(1) Indiana Pacers vs. (8) Atlanta Hawks
For most of the year, the Pacers looked like a team that could continue to challenge the Heat in the East. Paul George seemed like he’d moved from potential superstar to kinetic superstar (see what I did there?) and Lance Stephenson had finally found a role that fit his ridiculous athleticism and brash overconfidence. But Roy Hibbert, as solid as he is defensively, is terrible offensively, making Dwight Howard look like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the post. And Paul George (no relation to Tombstone villain John Ringo), has regressed more in a month than he progressed in the season’s first five. They’ll make it out of the first round easily because the Hawks are just not very good, but depending on who they wind up facing in the second round, that might be as far as they can go.
Prediction: Pacers in 5
(2) Miami Heat vs. (7) Charlotte Bobcats
As I wrote earlier, the regular season didn’t matter to the Heat or to Lebron James. Off back-to-back titles and back-to-back Finals MVPs, the team and the league’s primary star only care to be judged at winning time. Hell, they might coast a bit in this series, playing a Charlotte team that improved immensely behind new addition Al Jefferson but still wouldn’t have come near the playoffs in a better year for the East and who’ll collapse quickly as soon as the Heat start to take things seriously.
Prediction: Heat in 4
(3) Toronto Raptors vs. (6) Brooklyn Nets
Yes, you read that right: the Toronto Raptors are not only in the playoffs, but they have home court advantage in the first round. Kyle Lowry had a hell of a year at the point, and DeMar DeRozan scored enough to make his lack of discipline in other areas of the game moot. The Nets, though, will probably take this series: they’re back healthy, all the veterans are in place, and they’ve been clicking on all cylinders in the season’s second half. Deron Williams finally looks the way he did in Utah, when people debated whether he or Chris Paul was the league’s best young floor general, and Shawn Livingston has carved out a nice little role for himself as the team’s sparkplug. I think the lower seed wins in a result that really doesn’t feel like an upset.
Prediction: Nets in 6
(4) Chicago Bulls vs. (5) Washington Wizards
No matter what happens—trading away their second best healthy player, losing Derrick Rose for another year—the Bulls stick around on the coaching of Tom Thibodeau and the strangely virtuosic point-center play of Joakim Noah. The Wizards are a young team on the rise, but the Bulls are the veterans here. John Wall and Bradley Beal will have plenty of time for playoff success on the other side of twenty-five—this one goes the vets’ way.
Prediction: Bulls in 6
So that’s how I think it’ll go down. Disagree with me? Leave your picks in the comments and if yours are more accurate than mine, you’ll win a great prize*.