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April 28, 2012

First-Round Picks

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 1:28 pm

Wanted to share my picks for each series save Indiana’s, including the ones Bradford previewed, as well as links to our comprehensive previews.
Chicago over Philadelphia in 4 (free)
I think the Sixers are better than this, yes, and they gave the Bulls some trouble in the regular season. However, Chicago is simply better at everything Philadelphia does well. Given the way the 76ers struggled in April, I see them packing it in if the Bulls win the first three games.

Miami over New York in 6 ($)
When Miami is at full strength, only a handful of teams can compare to its combination of front-line talent. The Knicks are closer than a year ago but not quite there.

Boston over Atlanta in 7 (coming)
I don’t think the Celtics are heavy favorites in this series. The Hawks have actually been the better team since March 1, and adjusting full-season results for likely playoff lineups only brings the two teams even. So don’t underestimate Atlanta’s chances. Still, home-court advantage may not matter as much for the Hawks, and it’s hard to pick against Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett in a close matchup.

San Antonio over Utah in 5 ($)
Given more time to prepare to match up and a solid counter in Kawhi Leonard, I think the Spurs can keep Utah’s big lineup from being as overwhelmingly effective as it has been. The Jazz is now perfectly capable of proving me wrong, but I see this as the trendy “gentleman’s sweep.”

Oklahoma City over Dallas in 6 ($)
If Rick Carlisle can manufacture close games using the zone and other in-game adjustments, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry may be enough to take the Mavericks home. Otherwise, the roster is just too deficient to knock off a Finals contender.

Denver over L.A. Lakers in 6 ($)
All four games were decided by single-digits and there’s no reason to expect anything else in this series. So, how predictive is the Lakers’ ability to win close games during the regular season? In the past, we’ve seen the same “skill” desert the Mavericks in the postseason–until last year, when they rode their clutch performance all the way to a championship. So I could certainly see this one going either way. Call it a tossup, in which case I’d prefer to buck conventional wisdom.

L.A. Clippers over Memphis in 6 ($)
the Clippers appear to be the stronger overall team. And this appears to be a particularly good matchup for the Clippers, who can neutralize the strongest part of Memphis’ defense with Chris Paul‘s ability to take care of the basketball and can use the zone to expose the Grizzlies’ weaknesses at the other end of the floor.

You can contact Kevin at kpelton@basketballprospectus.com. Follow him on Twitter at @kpelton.

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