After 82 games of no defense and little effort on the court, effort returns with everything now on the line and with each team dreaming of hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy as NBA Champions. Although the Miami Heat are the prohibitive favorite the NBA Title will not be gift wrapped and handed to them with a bow on a silver platter.
The fortunate 16 teams who have made it to the postseason all are vulnerable and enter the playoffs not completely at full strength.
Miami Heat vs. Milwaukee Bucks
The Heat’s first round tussle with the Milwaukee Bucks may not be the cake walk that many expect. The Bucks led by scorers Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis will build a tent in the lane and fire from long-range with abandonment. The Heat will have several of their shots swatted by defensive player of the year candidate Larry Sanders who gave the Heat fits in the regular season. Although I do believe the Bucks have the talent to steal a game at home, many will not be surprised if the Heat use Jennings comments of beating the defending champions in six games as fuel to send a message to the rest of the teams in the playoffs.
Indiana Pacers vs. Atlanta Hawks
The Indiana Pacers limp into the playoffs on a three game losing streak without their full complement of players. With only two players under long-term contracts the Atlanta Hawks play each game trying to impress future suitors and also to change the mind of Hawks ownership to offer them a long-term contract. During the regular season the teams have split their match-ups but the Pacers were clearly the more talented team. Although the Hawks will not be swept the Pacer will be prime for an upset if their All-Star forward Paul George does not get out of his regular season scoring funk.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. San Antonio Spurs
At the start of the 2012 season each of these teams were projected by many to be the prohibitive favorite to challenge the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Western Conference title. Both of these aging franchise have been riddled with the injury bug and enter the playoff a shell of the team that many expected them to be. Tony Parker is hobbling on one leg and Steve Nash continues to make fans forget that he collected two MVPs in his career. This game will ultimately be won or loss in the paint. Does Tim Duncan have enough spring in his legs to thwart the Kobe-less Lakers and their twin towers. Dwight Howard‘s inability to hit free throws in the clutch combined with Kawhi Leonard and their bench will be the Spurs saving grace .
Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
James Harden returns to him home stomping ground poised to remind the Thunder front office that they made a huge mistake in trading him. The Thunders duo of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant should be enough to take down the Rockets lone star. Although the Houston Rockets are capable of scoring points in bunches their inability to make defensive stops will be their downfall. Expect Westbrook to do lay up drill against the Rockets and live at the free throw line when they decide to foul.
Anthony Denmark is a writer for eatdrnkslpsprtz.com. Follow him on Twitter@eatdrkslpsprtz2, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. Listen to eatdrnkslpsprtz radio Tues/Thurs 630 PM EST & Sat 1030 AM EST