1 Chicago vs 8 Philadelphia
The Bulls once again posted the best record in their conference, whereas Philadelphia got off to a hot start before fading down the stretch. Derrick Rose shredded his ACL in Chicago's Game 1 victory and will miss the remainder of the postseason. Chicago still has enough depth, defense and firepower to win the series (so long as Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng pick up the slack), but the loss of last season's MVP has crippled their title chances. Philly is also blessed with depth and defense so expect them to put up a fight, but their lack of a closer will hurt them in close games. This one could go the full seven games if everything breaks right for the Sixers.
Chicago in six
2 Miami vs 7 New York
Both teams boast some powerful trios, but I think we can all agree that LeBron James (the probable 2012 MVP), Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh > Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler. Anthony and Stoudemire didn't play well together this year, and were plagued by inconsistency. Plus New York's backcourt remains an issue.
Miami in five
3 Indiana vs 6 Orlando
The Magic will be hard pressed to win a game with Dwight Howard rehabbing in Los Angeles. Orlando's blueprint for success has been to build around a superstar in the paint and surround him with three point shooters, which is fine and dandy except when that superstar is out of commission. Sans Howard I believe Jason Richardson, J.J. Redick, Jameer Nelson and Ryan Anderson will struggle to find open looks. Without D-Ho the Magic are like "The Office" without Steve Carell.
Indiana in five
4 Boston vs 5 Atlanta
I provide an extensive preview here
Boston in five
1 San Antonio vs 8 Utah
A lot of people gave up on the Spurs after their meldown against Memphis last spring and tabbed OKC as the favorites to win the west, but San Antonio bounced back on the strength of what may be Tony Parker's best all around season to record the top record in their conference once again. Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Tim Duncan are mostly healthy and well rested for the playoffs. On paper, San Antonio's backcourt blows Utah's away, but Devin Harris and Gordon Hayward ended the season strong and could be poised for some big playoff games. The Jazz hold an advantage in the paint with Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson. The question is; has age caught up with the Spurs? Or do they have one more title run in them? I don't think they're done just yet,but wouldn't be totally shocked if the Jazz upset them.
Spurs in five
2 Oklahoma City vs 7 Dallas
Remember when I said Dallas wouldn't repeat in 2012? The Lamar Odom experience was a total disaster, father time finally caught up with Jason Kidd, and for much of the season Dirk Nowitzki just didn't look like himself. The aging Mavs will be making a first round exit, kids, and it won't be close. The Thunder, with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, simply have too much talent. Wouldn't be shocked if they swept, but then again I could see the Mavs pushing this thing to seven games, too.
OKC in five
3 Lakers vs 6 Denver
Kobe Bryant didn't win the scoring title, but proved he's still got game. Andrew Bynum is coming off a career year, Pau Gasol is still a top player, and Ramon Sessions is a long-overdue upgrade at point guard over a washed up Derek Fisher. Denver is one of those sneaky good teams that could upset the aging Lakers, but I think the Nene Hilario-JaVale McGee trade will be their version of the Kendrick Perkins-Jeff Green trade that diminished the Celtics last year. Nene is a vastly superior player to McGee, who's more athletic but lacks Hilario's finesse and polish. Nene will be sorely missed against Bynum and Gasol.
Lakers in six
4 Memphis vs 5 Clippers
This will be the best playoff series of them all. I'm tempted to go with the Clips here because a) they have Chris Paul, statistically one of the best crunch time players in the game and b) Zach Randolph didn't look like himself after spending most of the season on the sidelines, but I know better. The Clips are too top heavy. They don't shoot free throws well. Blake Griffin is overrated. The Grizzlies have so many weapons, with Z-Bo, Marc Gasol, Rudy Gay, the underrated Mike Conley Jr., and the always streaky O.J. Mayo. Bottom line: Memphis is a much more balanced and complete team.
Memphis in seven