Thunder-Grizzlies Playoff Preview: Five Key Factors

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bealeA certain someone made a bold prediction prior to the season that the Memphis Grizzlies would be facing the Indiana Pacers in the NBA finals. OK, it was me. Which means you can guess which way my prediction is going to go, for better or worse.

You do not get to divorce yourself from your preseason predictions unless something crazy happens along the way, such as a team trading away its best player of something similar (that was the case last year when  the Grizzlies shed Rudy Gay). So a warning is in order: I am looking at this series with a rooting interest in the team from Beale Street, though I will try not to let that impact my coverage.

Warriors-Clippers Playoff Preview: Five Key Factors

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hehatemeIn terms of competitiveness and venom, nothing comes close to matching what this series should bring.

These teams simply do not like one another, and their rivalry has been building over the course of two seasons in which the hatred between the teams has only grown with each encounter. If you had to pick one series and one series only to watch every minute of, this would be the winner among those who like their hoops with some histrionics.

If you had to pick a series Most Likely to Include a Brawl, this is where you would make your wager.

Memo to East Coast fans: Buy coffee. Buy Red Bull. Heck, buy straight caffeine pills if that is what it takes. The scheduling gods have done you a favor by putting two of the first four games in afternoon time slots. If they can pull some more of that magic for the as-of-yet unscheduled Games 5, 6 and 7, we can all count ourselves as lucky.

Spurs-Mavericks Playoff Preview: Five Key Factors

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benched spursWell, we might as well start things by reminding everyone how the Spurs should be the team calling themselves the defending champions, except for the part where Gregg Popovich had his three best players on the bench at the end of Game 6 in Miami.

That’s when we stopped calling him “genius” and vowed to never do so again.

So this spring, we will laud Pop with congratulations for finishing with the league’s best record, for putting together a 19-game winning streak, for replacing a top reserve (Gary Neal) with an even better reserve (Marco Belinelli) and for having so much balance on his team that not one single player merited a mention on my postseason individual awards ballot.

Blazers-Rockets Playoff Preview: Five Key Factors

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CarlesimoI was listening to P.J. Carlesimo on the radio yesterday morning (how many of y’all remember that he guided the Brooklyn Nets last season?), and he made a good point. Almost never is there an upset in a 4 vs. 5 series. The teams are usually too evenly matched.

In this case,  we have two teams that finished with identical 54-28 records.

Houston gets the home court by virtue of winning the season series 3-1. And if they get past the Blazers, they move into the second round against the San Antonio Spurs (baring a major upset by Dallas) knowing they had the Spurs’ number this season, sweeping them 4-0.

Heat-Bobcats Playoff Preview: Five Key Factors

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oppositesWell, this series brings together two polar opposites.

On the one hand we have the Miami Heat going for their three-peat, striving to get as close to perfection as possible before they move on to the second round. On the other hand we have the “just happy to be here” Bobcats, who have never won a playoff series in their existence and aren’t about to start now.

The Bobcats are listed at 250-1 to win the championship, the same odds as the sad sack Atlanta Hawks.

We all know that Charlotte will be lucky to win even a single game, don’t we?