The first round of the playoffs was very exciting. There were many close games with crazy finishes. The less talented teams played hard and never gave up. Just a tremendous display of established talent along with up and comers stepping up.
I think I did pretty well with my first round predictions. I correctly predicted the outcome (including how many games the series would go) in 3 of the 8 series. This included the Dallas series, where Portland was getting a lot of hype going into the playoffs.
Chicago vs. Atlanta
Indiana gave Chicago all they could handle, and exposed a clear weakness of the Bulls. They rely too much on Derrick Rose on the offensive end and can easily go through scoring slumps. If Atlanta continues to score the way they did in the Orlando series and Boozer doesn't provide a healthy offensive presence, Atlanta can easily upset them. Even though Chicago has home court advantage, let's not forget that Atlanta is actually the more experienced playoff team. Given the Bulls' inability to really take advantage of Atlanta's lack of interior size, I'm going to pick an upset here. I predict that Atlanta will steal a game on the road by just shooting lights out, and hold court at home where the crowd seems to be quite good this year.
Prediction: Atlanta in 6
Miami vs. Boston
Boston wasn't really tested because of the injuries to the Knicks, but Miami's series against the 76ers did confirm one thing that we've all suspected. Miami has trouble closing out close games. They go back into their isolation mode and have problems scoring. This will be even more of a problem against the solid half court defense of the Celtics. I don't think home court will be a huge factor here, as Boston has the experience of playing well on the road in the postseason while Miami is capable of just going anywhere and blowing the opponents out with sheer explosiveness and talent. In terms of individual performances, if Dwyane Wade has to chase Ray Allen around while on defense, it's unclear how effective he will be on the offensive end. I expect large margins of victory in most of the games, but the really close ones will go to the Celtics.
Prediction: Boston in 6
Oklahoma City vs. Memphis
I think I did pretty well in predicting the Memphis-San Antonio series. I knew that both teams rated to win at home, and Memphis stealing the first game without Manu Ginobili turned out to be the difference. While the Thunder was my pre-playoff pick for overall champion, I think this will probably be their toughest test. Whereas Denver was a good matchup for them because their youth and interior length neutralized much of what makes Denver good, this will be a tough matchup for them offensively. Battier, who was deemed another Kobe stopper not that long ago, will probably be on Durant, while Tony Allen, probably the best perimeter defender in the playoffs, will be on Westbrook. That being said, the inside presence of Perkins, Ibaka, and Collison off the bench will make life much tougher for Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Those two will probably still be beasts on the boards, but it'll probably be harder for them to score. I expect a really close, relatively low-scoring (bet the unders) series that will go the distance. I expect Oklahoma City to pull it out, but only because of home court and their playoff experience last year. If Memphis also had a healthy Rudy Gay, I would pick Memphis.
Prediction: Oklahoma City in 7
Los Angeles vs Dallas
As dominant as both teams have been in the regular season the past decade, this is actually the first time the two teams have met in the playoffs in the Nowitzki era. I expect this to be an extremely entertaining series, but I'm really not sure how the matchups will work out. Dallas can spread the floor with shooters to nullify the Lakers' interior presence, but the Mavs don't really have anybody to stop Kobe. My guess is this series will come down to whether Kobe is able to take over games and be the Kobe of old.
Prediction: Los Angeles in 6