I talked about the Western Conference a little bit earlier tonight, and now it’s the East’s turn. Make no mistake: the Eastern Conference is the Miami Heat’s to lose. Short of the Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs, or a healthy Denver Nuggets team, I think a Miami Heat championship repeat is inevitable. (And believe me, I say that without bias toward the Heat–I’m from Cleveland.) Here’s how I think Round 1 will play out…
(1) Miami Heat vs. (8) Milwaukee Bucks
Let’s be real here: Miami is essentially getting a bye in Round 1. The Miami Heat are peaking and far, far better than they’ve ever been before (including when they won the championship last year). Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Bucks had a strong early season and then completely collapsed in the second half of the season. The Bucks have no business being in the playoffs with the caliber of basketball that they’ve been playing, and even against the Heat’s “C-Team”, I see no chance whatsoever of the Heat not sweeping this series.
Prediction: Miami Heat win 4-0
(4) Brooklyn Nets vs. (5) Chicago Bulls
Charles Barkley keeps saying that the Clippers and Knicks are fool’s gold? Well, I’m pretty sure the real fool’s gold in the 2013 NBA Playoffs is the Brooklyn Nets. By far the worst of the top 4 seeds in the east or west, the Nets got the 4-seed through victories over lots of weak lottery teams and few wins against formidable threats. I think Brooklyn will get one victory to save face, but the smothering defense of the Bulls will ultimately send the Nets home early and Brooklyn fans disappointed.
Prediction: Chicago Bulls win 4-1
(2) New York Knicks vs. (7) Boston Celtics
This is a matchup near and dear to my heart, as I moved to Boston from New York last year. The Knicks have been tremendous this year, and Carmelo Anthony is looking unstoppable. Jason Kidd is my favorite basketball player ever, and I think he and the rest of the veteran Knicks will utilize their plethora of experiences to excel here in the playoffs. I love Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry, and I think that the Celtics will go down fighting, but I don’t see Boston having the firepower to take down New York this time out.
Prediction: New York Knicks win 4-2
(3) Indiana Pacers vs. (6) Atlanta Hawks
Both the Pacers and the Hawks have played some forgettable basketball lately, and the Pacers are looking the weakest that they have all season. That said, I would still take the Pacers at their worst over the Atlanta Hawks. I’ve watched a good number of Hawks games in the last few months, and none of it has given me confidence that they have a chance against the Pacers at all. It’s possible I’m underestimating Atlanta, but I think it’s more likely others are underestimating the Pacers. I see this as the other likely Round 1 sweep.
Prediction: Indiana Pacers win 4-0