NBA Playoffs: Everything you need to know for a safe bet - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

NBA Playoffs: Everything you need to know for a safe bet

The NBA playoffs begin Saturday and won’t end until nearly July, so it’s time to accept their ubiquity and get with the program.

We’ve compiled short previews on every first round match-up (both Eastern and Western Conference) to get you up to speed with the various headlines, narratives, and our best guesses as to the outcomes of the opening salvo of the beautiful chaos to come. It is our hope that this will hold you in good stead as you make conversation at wine and cheese parties, job interviews, and with strangers in broken elevators. Without further adieu, the 2013 NBA Playoffs:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

LeBron means game over.

LeBron means game over.

Miami Heat vs. Milwaukee Bucks

What You Need To Know: The Milwaukee Bucks literally have a chance to win this series. There is nothing written in the cosmos that says that they are doomed to be first round cannon fodder. They have a few players capable of great offensive outbursts in the mercurial Monta Ellis and the inefficient but daring Brandon Jennings. They have a dead-eye shooter in J.J. Reddick and a horde of quality big men led by the ever-improving Larry Sanders. But let’s be real. None of this will matter. The Miami Heat are the best team in the league and LeBron James is the best player in the game and it isn’t even close. This series won’t merely be a slaughter, but a reckoning.

The Safe Bet: Heat in 4. If it was possible, Heat in 3.

Game 1: Sunday, 7 p.m. ET on TNT

New York Knicks vs. Boston Celtics

What You Need To Know: The New York Knicks enter the playoffs with the wind at their backs, winning eight of their last ten games. They have the firepower, the scoring champion in Carmelo Anthony, and a strange but often effective roster of cast-offs, specialists, and really old guys. They face down the Celtics, a rugged bunch of bluebloods that have always been unwilling to go quietly into the good night. The Knicks found their purpose late in the season, but if there is any team that you don’t want to underestimate, it is the Boston Celtics.

The Safe Bet: Knicks in 6.

Game 1: Saturday, 3 p.m. ET on ABC

Indiana Pacers vs. Atlanta Hawks

What You Need To Know: The epic pathos of a very good but not great team and a pretty good but not very good team! I predict this series will get the lowest ratings of the first round, but there’s definitely reasons to tune in, like two of the best athletes in the game (Paul George and Josh Smith), rosters that are designed to be more than the sum of their parts, the suffocating defense of Pacers and the feast or famine uncertainty of the Hawks. This series is definitely not your primetime superstar laden feast, but it’s the type of series someone who loudly proclaims that they watched The Wire or Breaking Bad before they got big might want to get in on.

The Safe Bet: Indiana in 5

Game 1: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET on TNT

Brooklyn Nets vs. Chicago Bulls

What You Need To Know: The Bulls lost their undisputed best player, Derrick Rose, last year in the first round and have admirably patched together enough offense to get into the playoffs. They might even sneak into the second round, depending on which version of the untested Brooklyn Nets shows up in the playoffs. They aren’t the most consistent of teams, and have often snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. But with possible injuries to Joakim Noah, and the wear and tear of a long season, this will most likely be the last stand of the Bulls.

The Safe Bet: Brooklyn in 7

Game 1: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Kevin Durant and company might be just too much to handle.

Kevin Durant and company might be too much to handle. Not just dangerous but this is danger, danger, danger.

OKC Thunder vs. Houston Rockets

 What You Need To Know: The Thunder traded their 6th Man James Harden shortly before the season started and he has against all odds led the Houston Rockets to a playoff berth and become the undisputed bearded face of the franchise. Houston plays a hyper-efficient uptempo style, a bombardment of corner threes and relentless and reckless drives to the rim courtesy of Harden and backcourt mate Jeremy Lin. They are a dangerous team and should not be taken lightly. Unfortunately, in a twist of cosmic injustice, they drew Harden’s old squad, The Oklahoma City Thunder. The Rockets are dangerous, but the Thunder are danger. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and the rest of the Thunder will never stop attacking. They are inexorable.

The Safe Bet: Thunder in 5.

Game 1: Sunday, 9:30 p.m. ET on TNT

San Antonio Spurs vs. Los Angeles Lakers

What You Need To Know: A miracle! The Los Angeles Lakers made the playoffs on the last day of the regular season. A team that some talking heads predicted would win seventy games! Kobe is out for the year, which shifts the burden to former indefatigable force known as Dwight Howard. If there ever was a time for Dwight to seize what the Chinese once dubbed “the mandate of heaven”, the time is now. Their opponents are the San Antonio Spurs, a team that was over the hill five years ago, given up for dead four years ago, and has been blitzing the league with gaudy regular season victories these past three years based on depth, the continuing brilliance of Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, a system that maximizes the talent on the floor, and the best coach in the game, Gregg Popovich. The Lakers might match up well with the aging Spurs, but the Spurs are a team, and the Lakers are a beautiful mess (though with a ton of talent, obviously). I can’t say this series will be “entertaining”, but it should be interesting.

The Safe Bet: There is no safe bet. Spurs in 4 or Lakers in 7 or anything in between.

Game 1: Sunday, 3 p.m. ET on ABC  

Denver Nuggets vs. Golden State Warriors

What You Need To Know: Casual fan of basketball? Sick of the same old aging stars doing hero ball? Only watch college and have a negative attitude towards the NBA? This is your series. In fact, this is the series of the first round (besides OKC and Houston). Denver and Golden State both push the tempo, and can score with a frenzied ease, the Nuggets at the rim with their athletic finishers like Andre Iguodala and Ty Lawson, and the Warriors behind the three point line with the sharp shooting duo of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. The Nuggets won three out of four in the regular season but have lost one of their best players in Danilo Gallinari, and the Warriors have to do everything right to withstand the Denver juggernaut, but every game should be packed with buzzer beating threes, ferocious dunks, constant lead changes, and ten guys running back and forth like the world was going to end.

The Safe Bet: Denver in 5. But I’m going to cast off objectivity and throw a provincial grenade and say Warriors in 7.

Game 1: Saturday, 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Memphis Grizzles

What you need to know: The Clippers put down the Grizzles in the first round last year and Memphis is seeking vengeance. This series is the betting man’s extension of the omnipotence paradox: what happens when an unstoppable force (The Clippers, but particularly Chris Paul, the best point guard in the NBA and a surly tenacious competitor) meets an immovable object (the unrelenting defense and low post domination of the Grizzlies). On paper this looks like a classic. Classic in the tradition of World War 1: a war of attrition, no man’s land, the occasional massacre (a 10-0 run for instance). The War of the Boxers and the Brawlers.

The Safe Bet: Clippers in 7.

Series begins: Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN


About the author

Alex Siquig

Alex Siquig is a writer who recently left the San Francisco Bay Area for the lovely streets of Baltimore. His work has been published in Thought Catalog, Lubricated, Urban Image Magazine, and he is the co-creator of the web-comic Black Snow: Two Drink Minimum, which finished second place in the Washington Post's Best Web-Comic of 2011. He lives with two fine cats and a fine woman. Contact the author.
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