NBA Playoffs 2011 Predictions: SB Nation Writers Pick First-Round Series

SB Nation's team of NBA writers predict the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

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Thunder Vs. Nuggets Prediction, 2011 NBA Playoffs

The 2011 NBA Playoffs begin on Saturday, with eight first-round series all playing their first game over the weekend. Who do we think will move on? Will there be any upsets? Which series will end quickly, and which will go the distance? SB Nation's trio of NBA writers -- Tom Ziller, Mike Prada and Andrew Sharp -- will be making their picks for each pick in this StoryStream.     

TOM ZILLER

Nuggets in 6. Vegas likes Oklahoma City, and many feel they can knock out the Lakers on the way to the Finals. I'm not convinced they can survive Denver, despite two recent OKC wins. The Nuggets' new offensive attack is so powerful from so many angles, and the Thunder's defense hasn't quite put it together. Kendrick Perkins should be a major factor along with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, but Denver is deep and excellent.    

ANDREW SHARP (link)

It's pretty amazing how much one trade can change. Eight weeks ago, you could make a convincing case that the Denver Nuggets were the most depressing team in the entire league. Selfish, plodding, and completely dysfunctional--every game Carmelo played in Denver this year was equal parts awkward and infuriating.

Then, they sent the "plodding" elements packing ('Melo, Chauncey) and with Gallo and Felton in their place, they became the most enjoyable team in the NBA. Even better, they were good. It's been the feel-good story of the regular season's second half. Unfortunately, unless you have four All-Stars (like those old Detroit teams) it's tough to win an NBA playoff series without a true superstar. Even more unfortunately, the feel-good story of the regular season is about to face the feel-good story of the postseason.

OKC made a big trade, too. With Kendrick Perkins on board, they're suddenly able to guard any team in the league, and with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook firing away on the other end, they can still outscore anyone. Suddenly, they've become a juggernaut.

MIKE PRADA

I love the Nuggets, but this is a horrible matchup for them. Their success depends heavily on wearing teams down in the open floor, and Oklahoma City is the one team that won't work against. Nene is also usually able to win his matchup, but I don't think he can against Kendrick Perkins. Their bench usually has the edge against most teams, but with James Harden playing so well and Eric Maynor being such a key in Oklahoma City's recent win at Denver, I don't think that works here.  I expect five competitive games, but the presence of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant late will carry the Thunder in most of them. Thunder in 5.

Be sure to bookmark our Thunder vs. Nuggets section. For Thunder analysis, visit Welcome To Loud City. For more on the Nuggets, check out Denver Stiffs and SB Nation Denver.

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Celtics Vs. Knicks Predictions, 2011 NBA Playoffs

The 2011 NBA Playoffs begin on Saturday, with eight first-round series all playing their first game over the weekend. Who do we think will move on? Will there be any upsets? Which series will end quickly, and which will go the distance? SB Nation's trio of NBA writers -- Tom Ziller, Mike Prada and Andrew Sharp -- will be making their picks for each pick in this StoryStream. Next up: the highly-anticipated Celtics vs. Knicks series.

TOM ZILLER

Boston in 7. For the balance of the season, the Celtics were a much, much better team. The Knicks go two deep in terms of star power; the C's go four deep, and have home court advantage. I can't see Boston losing more than one game at home, and I can definitely see the Celtics winning in New York.  

ANDREW SHARP (link)

Both teams enter the playoffs looking to do two things. A.) Survive as long as possible, and B.) Avoid embarrassment. Not exactly the ideal playoff mindset, especially for the Celtics, who looked like the best team in the East until six weeks ago. 'Course, that's when the Kendrick Perkins trade happened, and... You know the story by now. They're both struggling, they're both desperate, and they both have insane fans-all of this makes them the perfect matchup in a seven game series. The Pick: Boston in 7.    

MIKE PRADA

The Celtics beat the Knicks four times this season, but three were in tight games and the fourth was in a meaningless finale. New York is fully capable of stealing one of the first two on the road as the rested Celtics get back in rhythm, setting up two games at the Garden with a wild crowd. I don't expect Boston to win both, meaning we'll get to Game 5 with the series tied at two, setting up for a hell of a Game 7.

A lot in this series depends on Rajon Rondo. If he is fully engaged, Boston wins easily. If he is not -- and I suspect that will be the case -- this series goes seven, and Boston will struggle to pull through. Celtics in 7.

Keep up with our Celtics Vs. Knicks, NBA Playoffs section for all the coverage of this series you need. For more on the Knicks, head over to Posting And Toasting and SB Nation New York. For Celtics' coverage and analysis, visit CelticsBlog and SB Nation Boston.

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Lakers Vs. Hornets Predictions, 2011 NBA Playoffs

The 2011 NBA Playoffs begin on Saturday, with eight first-round series all playing their first game over the weekend. Who do we think will move on? Will there be any upsets? Which series will end quickly, and which will go the distance? SB Nation's trio of NBA writers -- Tom Ziller, Mike Prada and Andrew Sharp -- will be making their picks for each pick in this StoryStream. Next up: the Lakers vs. Hornets series.

TOM ZILLER

Lakers in 5. Chris Paul's worth a game in New Orleans, right? I'm not sure the Hornets, great as they can be on the defensive glass, can hold off Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom; that's a whole lot of work for Emeka Okafor, considering how poor a rebounder Carl Landry remains. Chris Paul has had to focus on passing the ball a lot this season due to overwhelming attention paid by defenses, and his shooters just aren't what they were back in 2008.    

ANDREW SHARP (link)

The Lakers have looked like crap for the past 10 days, Kobe just sparked a gay rights controversy, and between Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, and Derrick Rose, there's a good chance that Derek Fisher might drop dead on the court before the 2011 playoffs are over with. But if you want to question the champs, just know that 15 years from now, all the skepticism and panic will be on YouTube, and it'll look ridiculous. The Pick: Lakers in 4.    

MIKE PRADA

The Lakers will get bored for a game, but this is going to be a laugher. Emeka Okafor against that frontcourt? I feel bad for him. Lakers in 5

Be sure to bookmark our Lakers vs. Hornets section. For Hornets analysis, visit At the Hive. For more on the Lakers, check out Silver Screen and Roll and SB Nation Los Angeles.

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Spurs Vs. Grizzlies Predictions, 2011 NBA Playoffs

The 2011 NBA Playoffs begin on Saturday, with eight first-round series all playing their first game over the weekend. Who do we think will move on? Will there be any upsets? Which series will end quickly, and which will go the distance? SB Nation's trio of NBA writers -- Tom Ziller, Mike Prada and Andrew Sharp -- will be making their picks for each pick in this StoryStream. We move next to the Spurs vs. Grizzlies series.

TOM ZILLER

San Antonio in five. I believe the eulogies for the Spurs are seriously premature, and I think San Antonio has too much depth to submit. Hill and Gary Neal, in particular, could shred the Grizzlies' backcourt reserves, and I don't trust Conley and Allen to have multiple big offensive games. Randolph might average 30-20, but the Spurs have much more overall talent.

ANDREW SHARP

I'm not saying Memphis will win, but if the first round was still five games like it was '94, they'd have a 50-50 shot against this Spurs team. Alas, we've moved to seven, and the chances that Popovich gets outcoached over a two week span are about the same as the chances that a team built around Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, O.J. Mayo, and Mike Conley can possibly keep it together to string together four wins under pressure.

On the bright side, we get to watch a team with flawless perimeter defense with an offense that revolves around a dominant low post player and a bunch of quality role players. The Memphis Grizzlies are just like all the best Spurs teams from the past decade, but f**king insane and liable to self-destruct at any moment. If you're looking for the most surreal matchup of the playoffs, you won't do better than Griz-Spurs. The Pick: Spurs in 6.

MIKE PRADA

If you believe the Grizzlies' tanking to get the eight spot will revive the sleeping giant, then you think the Spurs will roll. Me? I see the last two Grizzlies wins over San Antonio as major causes for concern, and that's even before accounting for however serious Manu Ginobili's elbow injury may be. Ginobili is going to be hassled by Tony Allen all series, and Memphis' pick and roll defense will corral Tony Parker fairly well. On the other end, Tim Duncan will have his issues handling Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol all by himself. I'm only taking the Spurs to win because I believe in their experience, whereas Memphis is liable to self-destruct. But I don't feel that confident about it. Spurs in 7.

Bookmark or RSS our Spurs vs. Grizzlies section. For Spurs' analysis, visit Pounding The Rock. For more on the Grizzlies, check out Straight Outta Vancouver.    

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Mavericks Vs. Blazers Predictions, 2011 NBA Playoffs

The 2011 NBA Playoffs begin on Saturday, with eight first-round series all playing their first game over the weekend. Who do we think will move on? Will there be any upsets? Which series will end quickly, and which will go the distance? SB Nation's trio of NBA writers -- Tom Ziller, Mike Prada and Andrew Sharp -- will be making their picks for each pick in this StoryStream. Next up: the Mavericks vs. Blazers series.

TOM ZILLER

Mavericks in 7. They are better than you think. A new wrinkle here is Gerald Wallace, the toughest monster on either team and a new Blazer. He'll be charged with defending Dirk in spots (or more), and he could be a real difference-maker. But the Mavericks' defense is strong, too, with Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood ready to meet LaMarcus Aldridge. It's too close to count either team out, which is just perfect.    

ANDREW SHARP (link)

On paper, this series should go to the Blazers. The Mavericks overachieved all season long--maybe the best testament to Dirk Nowitzki yet-and then finally came crashing back to earth over the final stretch of the season. Except for their season finale against the Hornets, since March 1st, Dallas lost to every single Western Conference playoff team they played.

Meanwhile, winning the Gerald Wallace Charity AuctionTM (sponsored by Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Bobcats) has given Portland new life. With Wallace next to Nicholas Batum, Lamarcus Aldridge, Wes Matthews, Marcus Camby, and a one-legged Brandon Roy, they look like the biggest sleeper in either conference. So, what happens when one of the NBA's hottest teams plays the team that hasn't beaten a good team since February? Uhhh... Duh. Blazers win, and set up a fascinating second round matchup with the Lakers. You would think...

But while we're here, consider two things. First, whether it's fair or not, just when it looks like things are going right for the Blazers, things have a tendency to fall apart. Sam Bowie, Greg Oden, the 2000 Conference finals... Take your pick. Second, Dirk Nowitzki may not be good enough to carry Dallas to the Finals by himself, but isn't he too good to let them lose in the first round? I know Dallas isn't playing well, but Dirk's the only true superstar in this series, he's far more clutch than he gets credit for, and both those things matter twice as much in the playoffs. The Pick: Dallas in 7.

MIKE PRADA

This is being billed as a series with lots of upset potential, but I think we're overreacting to the end of the season. Dallas had a lot of lineup changes to deal with at the end of the year, which they won't have now. Tyson Chandler is fully healthy, and that means Dallas' defense will be locked in. The Mavericks also won't be trying too hard to get Rodrigue Beaubois integrated, meaning they can go back to being themselves. Portland, meanwhile, has a lot of guys to throw at Dirk Nowitzki, but they also are a poor perimeter shooting team and lack a really good gameplan at crunch time. I like LaMarcus Aldridge, but I don't think he's ready to assume that mantle yet, especially going against one of the strongest crunch-time teams in the league. I suspect this series will go seven because I don't see Dallas winning at the Rose Garden, but I think Dallas is the much better team. Mavericks in 7.

Follow our Mavericks vs. Blazers section for everything you care to know about this series. For more on the Mavericks, visit Mavs Moneyball and SB Nation Dallas. For Portland analysis and news, check out Blazers Edge.

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Magic Vs. Hawks Predictions, 2011 NBA Playoffs

The 2011 NBA Playoffs begin on Saturday, with eight first-round series all playing their first game over the weekend. Who do we think will move on? Will there be any upsets? Which series will end quickly, and which will go the distance? SB Nation's trio of NBA writers -- Tom Ziller, Mike Prada and Andrew Sharp -- will be making their picks for each pick in this StoryStream. Next up: the Magic vs. Hawks series.

TOM ZILLER 

Magic in 4. Orlando has struggled a bit since February, but the Magic are so, so much better than the Hawks. Atlanta's offense has been a disaster this compared to last year, and facing Dwight Howard won't help. Jason Collins is a mirage who helps kill Atlanta's offense, and he won't make much of an impact, in my opinion.    

ANDREW SHARP (link)

If Dwight Howard leaves after next season, I feel comfortable saying that Lil Penny's still the best thing to ever come of the Orlando Magic franchise. It's not to downplay those two Finals appearances, either. It's just... It'd take A LOT to top the Lil Penny era. Like, it'd take Dwight Howard going into full-on Shaq mode one year, unleashing what we've always suspected lies somewhere within, and single-handedly destroying the league.

Until that happens... The Magic aren't much different from this Hawks team. The same Hawks team that's two months away from auctioning off Josh Smith and conceding that the current roster just isn't good enough to compete in the East. Orlando's got Dwight instead of Joe Johnson, so things don't appear quite as dire, but the pieces around Dwight are even worse than Atlanta's supporting cast. So, split the difference, I guess? The Pick: Orlando in 6.

MIKE PRADA

Dwight Howard is shooting just 43 percent from the field against the Hawks this season, so I actually think the Jason Collins-as-Dwight-stopper stuff is kind of legit. Dwight would be the kind of guy to stubbornly go at Collins in the post instead of exploiting him in the pick and roll. That said, I don't see how Atlanta can score on the Magic consistently, and I hate the way they ended the season. Stan Van Gundy vs. Larry Drew is also a massive coaching mismatch. Magic in 6.

Follow our Magic Vs. Hawks, NBA Playoffs section for all things Magic Vs. Hawks. For more on the Magic' playoff run, check out Orlando Pinstriped Post. For more on the Hawks, visit Peachtree Hoops and SB Nation Atlanta.       

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Heat Vs. 76ers Predictions, 2011 NBA Playoffs

The 2011 NBA Playoffs begin on Saturday, with eight first-round series all playing their first game over the weekend. Who do we think will move on? Will there be any upsets? Which series will end quickly, and which will go the distance? SB Nation's trio of NBA writers -- Tom Ziller, Mike Prada and Andrew Sharp -- will be making their picks for each pick in this StoryStream. Here are our picks for the Heat vs. 76ers series.

TOM ZILLER

Heat in 5. Philadelphia has a solid defense and a couple of dangerous scorers in Jrue Holiday, Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala. But the Sixers have no one to capitalize on the Heat's center problem, and Miami's defense should be able to suffocate Philly's wing scoring. Expect Dwyane Wade to get off to a great start.    

ANDREW SHARP (link)

Philly's best chance to make some noise here is to steal Game 1 on Saturday, and then hope that the media FREAKS OUT in the ensuing four days before Game 2 Wednesday. LeBron and the Miami Heat have a lot of strengths, but tuning out the media hasn't been one of them this year. I mean, why else would they cry over a regular season losing streak? The Lakers just lost five straight games, and the Lamar Odom's biggest drama had to do with his reality show's ratings.

For the Heat, this could be a serious issue later on, but if they lose Saturday, it could start sooner than expected. 'Course, even then, there's still no way Miami loses. The Pick: Heat in 5. 

MIKE PRADA

I feel bad for the 76ers, because this is an awful matchup. Miami's perimeter defense is too strong, and without a big-time post presence, the 76ers are going to have trouble scoring unless Elton Brand really turns back the clock. Philly also needs Jrue Holiday to really step up, and I'm not sure he's capable of doing that at such a young age in such a big spot. Heat in 5.

Keep up with our Heat Vs. 76ers, NBA Playoffs section for all the coverage of this series you need. For more on the Heat, head over to Peninsula is Mightier. For 76ers' coverage and analysis, visit Liberty Ballers and SB Nation Philly.    

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Bulls Vs. Pacers Predictions, 2011 NBA Playoffs

The 2011 NBA Playoffs begin on Saturday, with eight first-round series all playing their first game over the weekend. Who do we think will move on? Will there be any upsets? Which series will end quickly, and which will go the distance? SB Nation's trio of NBA writers -- Tom Ziller, Mike Prada and Andrew Sharp -- will be making their picks for each pick in this StoryStream. Here are their picks for the Bulls vs. Pacers series.

TOM ZILLER

Bulls in 4. Thibodeau with time to prepare and gameplan? Are you kidding me? Rose is by far the best player in the series, and frankly, the Bulls may have four of the best five players here (with forgotten man Danny Granger slipping in behind Rose, Noah, Luol Deng and Boozer). This series should almost certainly be over in five, but I'll predict four.    

ANDREW SHARP (link)

Yeah, so... The Pick: Bulls in 4.    

MIKE PRADA

Chicago might struggle a bit with Indiana's frontcourt, but c'mon, who is guarding Derrick Rose? Also, how, exactly, will the Pacers score any points with Luol Deng's stifling defense on Danny Granger and Rose's much-improved defense on Darren Collison. Bulls in 4

Follow our Bulls Vs. Pacers, NBA Playoffs section for all things Bulls Vs. Pacers. For more on the Bulls' playoff run, check out Blog-a-Bull and SB Nation Chicago. For more on the Pacers' first playoff berth since 2006, visit Indy Cornrows and SB Nation Indiana.    

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NBA Playoffs 2011 Predictions: SB Nation Writers Pick First-Round Series

The 2011 NBA Playoffs begin on Saturday, with eight first-round series all playing their first game over the weekend. Who do we think will move on? Will there be any upsets? Which series will end quickly, and which will go the distance? SB Nation's trio of NBA writers -- Tom Ziller, Mike Prada and Andrew Sharp -- will be making their picks for each pick in this StoryStream. 

For more on the NBA Playoffs, be sure to head over to our NBA hub.

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