Less than a week into the NBA playoffs and things are already exciting. This year’s playoffs are, as expected, a tale of two conferences. In the East, it appears that the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat have clear paths to the conference finals. Despite the Pacers’ embarrassing loss to the Atlanta Hawks in Game 1, Indiana is loaded with talent from top to bottom. With forward Paul George and center Roy Hibbert holding down the frontcourt, their defense will be nearly impossible to conquer.
Enter Miami. Despite having the No. 2 seed for the second year in a row, the two-time champs are the clear favorites according to many experts, myself included (I’m an expert, right?). The key for the Heat during this year’s playoffs will be to keep Dwyane Wade healthy. As important as LeBron James is, Wade is the catalyst that makes this team function. Most importantly, he’s averaged 21.3 points per game against Indiana this season.
The other two series, Chicago Bills vs. Washington Wizards and Brooklyn Nets vs. Toronto Raptors, though interesting, are really just mediocre teams fighting to see who gets to lose against Indiana or Miami. None of these teams have the ability to hang with the top teams in the seven-game series.
Out West, there are some incredible first-round matchups. Most notably, the Los Angeles Clippers playing host to Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors. Everyone knows Curry can hit a 3-pointer from the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. That alone gives them the ability to win this series.
What makes this Clippers team different from the one that lost in the first round last year, however, is J.J. Redick. Redick, similar to Curry, can hit any three at any given time.
This is the first season that he has started more than 25 games and his numbers reflect it. He is averaging over 15 points per game and hitting more than 39 percent of his three pointers. Paired with the frontcourt of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, this could give the Clippers something special.
Another interesting series in the West is the No. 1 versus No. 8 matchup: San Antonio Spurs vs. Dallas Mavericks. A No. 8 seed has only beaten a No. 1 seed twice in NBA history (1994 Denver Nuggets, 1999 New York Knicks), and both of those times were in five game series. If any team can pull it off this year, it’s the Mavericks.
Dirk Nowitzki is the greatest European player of all time and is still amongst the best in the league today. Add in the experience of Vince Carter and Shawn Marion and it is anyone’s series.
The Western Conference is wide open. I didn’t even mention Oklahoma City or Houston – both teams that could make a run to the finals.
My trite prediction: The 2014 NBA Finals will pit Griffin and the Clippers up against James and the Heat with Miami winning in six games.
Bonus prediction: This will be the “Big Three’s” last championship before Wade’s knee explodes and a new team can (finally) get a championship.