2012 NBA Playoffs Predictions

April 28, 2012

I don’t always watch the NBA, but when I do, the players are trying hard.

The time of year where I actually care about professional hoops has finally arrived. I’m not a big regular season NBA fan, and I do not have an allegiance to a specific team, but I do enjoy the playoffs. I especially enjoy the first round, where we are very likely to see a fair share of amazing games and, hopefully, some parody.

At this point last year, I was limited to posting prediction posts on this site thanks to my busy schedule. Unfortunately (well, depending on how you look at it…) I am even busier this year, and my schedule has contributed to the lack of posts recently. I am sorry about that, even if you don’t care.

In keeping with the trend on Around The Corn, here is yet another set of predictions. This time, it’s the 2012 NBA Playoff predictions.

Eastern Conference

First Round

#1 Chicago Bulls vs. #8 Philadelphia 76ers

If there is one sure way to not make your first round any easier as an eight seed, then Sixers guard Evan Turner might have found it. Upon being asked about facing the Bulls instead of the Heat, Turner replied “it means we’re dodging the tougher team. That’s what I think.”

Well Evan, be that as it may, your team is still going to have a very tough time making it past Chicago. The Bulls beat the 76ers earlier this season without Derrick Rose, and you can be sure that, barring some sort of injury, Rose will be playing in every one of Chicago’s playoff games. Philadelphia will attempt to play an up-tempo style and beat the Bulls with speed, but have no answer for Chicago’s size inside.

This matchup may be better for Philadelphia than Miami, but they still won’t be able to take down the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Prediction: Bulls in five

#4 Boston Celtics vs. #5 Atlanta Hawks

A surge after the All-Star break has Celtics fans wondering whether the Big Three can make a run at a title one last time, before they are likely shipped off in favor for younger, fresher legs. The Celtics have been banged up at times this season, and the playoffs will be no different. It remains to be seen if Ray Allen will be ready to go for this series, and even if he does, how effective he is for Boston. The Celtics have received a shot of life thanks to shooting guard Avery Bradley, but would still miss the shooting of Allen if he is unable to perform.

The Hawks have more youth than the Celtics, but are considerably banged up as well, especially inside. Center Zaza Pachulia is unlikely to be available for at least part of the series, which means that third stringer Jason Collins will be called upon as a starter. Possibly the most important matchup will be Jeff Teague against Rajon Rondo. If Teague can contain Rondo and the Hawks get steady contributions from role players, Atlanta has a chance to take out Boston.

This should be a very entertaining series, which will probably go down to seven games. Atlanta has home court advantage, but I see the Celtics squeaking by in this one.

Prediction: Celtics in seven

#3 Indiana Pacers vs. #6 Orlando Magic

If Orlando’s front office wanted to send a message to Dwight Howard about the lack of talent around him, they would point a finger at Indiana’s lineup and say “look what they’re getting it done with”. The Pacers don’t have any bona fide stars, but play some of the best team basketball that I’ve seen in the NBA in awhile. Indiana gets things started with its defense, which forces a lot of turnovers and will look to create chances off of them. In addition, Indiana has gotten progressively better at taking care of the ball on its own offensive end.

There is no getting around it; Orlando will have a very difficult time getting out of the first round without Dwight Howard. Although the Magic are still capable of getting quality guard play without Howard, it remains to be seen how well guys like Jameer Nelson will do against Indiana’s pestering defense. This team isn’t exactly dead in the water, but they definitely won’t be the same team that beat the Pacers by 19 and 21 points during the regular season.

Orlando is probably hoping to keep this season going as long as possible, because the offseason could get ugly. Unfortunately, I don’t think that is going to happen.

Prediction: Pacers in six

#2 Miami Heat vs. #7 New York Knicks

This matchup has “primetime” written all over it. While the Knicks are likely unequipped to take down the Heat, the media is going to be able to sell this series for all it’s worth. Of course, it would have been worth about ten times as much had Jeremy Lin been able to play.

The Knicks might be able to surprise the Heat in the first game if it takes a little time for Miami’s Big Three to get used to playing with each other again (it has been two weeks since all three were on the court at the same time), which could be the spark needed to spur a monumental first round upset. New York has played well ever since head coach Mike Woodson took over for Mike D’Antoni, going 18-6 down the stretch and becoming a completely different team than the one D’Antoni left. Defensive resurgence aside, however, the Knicks will need to play flawless on the offensive end to have any shot of ruining the Heat’s title dreams this year.

For as much confidence as New York has coming into this series, the Heat have an equal amount of determination. All eyes will be on the Big Three, who have yet to make good on Lebron James’ promise of several championships. Although it is only their second season together, it feels as though they are already overdue. Don’t expect the Heat to come out flat; Erik Spoelstra’s team knows the importance of focus this time of year.

The bright lights of the big city probably won’t be enough to cause the Heat to veer off course. Expect the Heat to be marching on to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Prediction: Heat in six


#1 Bulls over #4 Celtics in six

#2 Heat over #3 Pacers in six


#2 Heat over #1 Bulls in seven

Western Conference

First Round

#1 San Antonio Spurs vs. #8 Utah Jazz

The Spurs are in a familiar position, grabbing the top seed in the Western Conference and winning at least 50 games for the 13th consecutive season, quite a feat considering the shortened schedule this year. Healthier and considerably more rested than when they rolled into the playoffs in 2011, San Antonio looks primed to make another run at the NBA Finals. The Spurs should be just fine handling the playoff schedule, as well. Their depth has improved, and San Antonio can expect to get quality minutes off the bench from a multitude of players.

The Jazz were a surprise this season, but it would be even more surprising if Tyrone Corbin’s team gives the Spurs more than a couple of close games in this series. Utah is coming into the series on a five game winning streak, but that feat seems less spectacular when you consider that the Spurs have won ten in a row. Utah has youth on its side, but that could also prove to be its downfall, as the Spurs know what it takes to win a playoff series and Utah has several players who are making their first appearance in the playoffs.

Don’t expect the Spurs to fall early as they did in 2011. Healthy and playing well, San Antonio should quickly dispatch of the Jazz.

Prediction: Spurs in five

#4 Memphis Grizzlies vs. #5 Los Angeles Clippers

This is the kind of series that we expect from a 4 vs. 5 matchup. There is the flashy, and relatively playoff inexperienced Clippers, who can make even a blowout look interesting thanks to their offensive prowess. Then there is the Memphis Grizzlies, an underrated team that has the tools to make another unexpected playoff run thanks to its feisty defense. This series has the potential to go the distance, where the victor’s particular strength doesn’t necessarily break through and dominate, but simply survives a nasty battle of attrition.

Guard play will be key for Los Angeles if they want to win this series. Other than an occasional monstrous throwdown by Blake Griffin, I don’t see the Clippers being able to penetrate Memphis’ defensive wall in the block. In addition, Los Angeles will have to continue to take good care of the ball, as Memphis will attempt to create offensive opportunities off of steals.

This should be one of the most exciting series of the first round. If that prediction holds true, we’ll see a Game 7 in Memphis.

Prediction: Grizzlies in seven

#3 Los Angeles Lakers vs. #6 Denver Nuggets

Denver has a very capable rotation and likes to play an up-tempo style that could work out well if Kobe Bryant wants to put on a show and his shots aren’t falling. Shooting guard Arron Afflalo is emerging as one of the better shooting guards in the league, and could make Lakers fans very unhappy if Los Angeles begins to unravel as they did in last year’s playoff series against Dallas. The turning point in this series, however, will be how Denver’s frontcourt players fare against Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.

Los Angeles has an advantage in this series, but it remains to be seen whether or not they actually use it to, you know…their advantage. That advantage is in the post, where Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol are capable of shutting down Denver’s Kenneth Faried, Kosta Koufos, and to a lesser extent, JaVale McGee. However, whether Bynum shows up and whether Kobe wants to feed the ball to his big men instead of taking the shots himself is anyone’s guess.

My guess is that Kobe will play unselfishly and will be rewarded with a berth in the Western Conference semifinals.

Prediction: Lakers in six

#2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #7 Dallas Mavericks

This may be a rematch of the 2011 Western Conference finals, but this will not be a repeat of that series. Dallas is a very different team from the one that defeated the Thunder on its way to an NBA Championship. Dirk Nowitzki is back, but there was not much of an attempt to get younger (other than a failed experiment with Lamar Odom), which could be an issue for the defending champs. They are going up against a young team with a decent amount of playoff experience, which is a dangerous combination.

Oklahoma City may be kicking itself for struggling down the stretch (7-7 to end the regular season) and winding up with the number two seed in the Western Conference, but it may not necessarily be all that bad. Dallas has not had the best spring, and it seems unlikely that the Maverick’s cast of veterans have the legs or skill to keep up with Oklahoma City’s guard play. Unless the Thunder come undone due to costly turnovers (which they are prone to committing) and Russell Westbrook’s cold shooting, they look like a team ready to make a run.

In a battle of young vs. old, young should get the best of old this year.

Prediction: Thunder in six


#1 Spurs over #4 Grizzlies in seven

#2 Thunder over #3 Lakers in six


#1 Spurs over #2 Thunder in seven

NBA Finals

#2 Heat over #1 Spurs in six

For someone that doesn’t pay very close attention to the NBA, this is a very easy pick to make. The Heat get a lot of attention, so people are aware of their stifling defense and ability to make difficult offensive plays look routine. The downside to this carefully crafted squad is that, like their vilified star Lebron James, they sometimes cannot close out games when it matters most. This could be particularly problematic against a team like the Spurs, who know all too well about closing out important games. However, I believe that the Heat suffered in a way after last season that ensures their focus will be at an all-time high this spring. That focus will be the key to Miami capturing their first, of possibly many, NBA titles with the Big Three leading the way. 

– K. Becks

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