The 2013 NBA Playoffs are on the horizon and opinions and predictions are surfacing about which team will hoist the coveted Larry O’ Brien NBA Championship Trophy.
Favorites such as the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs are top picks for many fans and experts, but surprise teams such as the Indiana Pacers, Denver Nuggets and Memphis Grizzlies match up well with many teams around the league.
Injuries to All-Star guards Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo have several doubting how long the Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics will last.
The Eastern Conference is far more top heavy than the West. The Heat, New York Knicks and Pacers are performing better than the rest of the Eastern Conference, but playoff-experienced and well-coached teams such as the Bulls and Celtics make it hard to count against them.
Quiet storms in the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets are not to be looked over. Despite the seeding changes that may occur and decide what teams will enjoy home court throughout the playoffs, Miami has locked the top seed in the East and will take on the youthful Bucks.
The speedy guard-play of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis will make it an exciting series as they may give the Heat a hard time on defense.
I believe the veteran leadership and experience of the Heat that helped them win an impressive 27 straight games, the second longest streak in NBA history, will easily take care of the Bucks in the first round.
Brooklyn and Chicago will have the fourth and fifth seeds. This series could easily go all seven games. Ultimately, the Nets will advance past the injury-riddled Bulls.
Should the Pacers remain as the third seed, they will cruise through the Atlanta Hawks. The Pacers are too strong for the Hawks.
And with the Knicks slated against the Celtics, a tough series is expected. With a recent rivalry brewing and both teams battling injuries, All-Stars Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler of the Knicks will win the first-to-four series against the aging Celtics.
The Heat will remain Eastern Conference Champions for the third straight year. The Knicks will go the distance with the athletic Pacers but will eventually take the series.
After a second round battle with the Nets, the Heat will beat the Knicks in six games. The Heat have proven they can defend the sharpshooting Knicks. With the Knicks’ big men battling injuries, Chris Bosh will surely take advantage.
The team that can survive the power-packed teams in the Western Conference is capable of making a serious run to the NBA Finals, and it will be well deserved.
With the Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz competing for the final playoff spot, neither team will beat the surging San Antonio Spurs in a best-of-seven series.
The Spurs are well coached and definitely battle-tested with playoff experience. This could be the last great run for veterans Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.
The Houston Rockets against Oklahoma City will bring former teammates back in the playoffs as opponents. Current Rockets All-Star James Harden will go head-to-head against NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant and explosive point guard Russell Westbrook of the Thunder. Oklahoma City has more playoff experience and will advance.
The Denver Nuggets and Golden State Warriors bring together an interesting matchup with shifty point guards Stephen Curry of the Warriors and Ty Lawson of the Nuggets. But because the Nuggets have more depth, they will win the series.
The best first round matchup will be the fourth- and fifth-seeded Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies. Both teams are experienced and have the talent to take the Western Conference crown. The Clippers are slightly more athletic, have a deeper bench and will advance to the second round over the Grizzlies.
San Antonio will go to the wire with the high-flying Nuggets but will win the series in the end.
The youth and talent of the Oklahoma City Thunder will carry them past the inconsistent Clippers and, eventually, the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs are a veteran group, but the Thunder are an athletic bunch, and their young legs will exhaust San Antonio’s defense.
A rematch of last year is in store, bringing LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Bosh back to the NBA Finals against Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka.
Even with the way the Heat are playing heading toward the playoffs, it will not come as easy as the previous year. But Durant will have a tough time finding ways to score against the tough Miami defense.
James, Wade, Bosh and head coach Erik Spoelstra with key additions Ray Allen, Chris “Birdman” Andersen and Rashard Lewis are streaking right now and will be tough to beat in a seven-game series. The Heat will win the series in six games and repeat as NBA Champions.
Television coverage of the 2013 NBA Playoffs will begin April 20. All games will be shown on ABC, ESPN and TNT.