Final NBA Playoff Preview Extravaganza

We’re in the final hours before the beginning of the 2012 NBA Playoffs. TheSportsNotebook has spent the last two days previewing all eight first-round matchups. Today we tie it all together. Below are links to each preview post. In parentheses next to each team are the Las Vegas odds for each on making it the Finals and winning the championship. And while TheSportsNotebook has already made picks on each of the first-round series, here’s my last call on who’s going to win the whole thing…

#1 Chicago (3-2, 7-2) vs. #8 Philadelphia (50-1, 100-1)
#4 Boston (8-1, 15-1) vs. #5 Atlanta (30-1, 60-1)

#3 Indiana (15-1, 30-1) vs. #6 Orlando (50-1, 100-1)
#2 Miami (2-1, 2-3) vs. #7 New York (10-1, 20-1)

#1 San Antonio (3-2, 7-2) vs. #8 Utah (50-1, 100-1)
#4 Memphis (9-1, 20-1) vs. #5 LA Clippers (8-1, 20-1)

#3 LA Lakers (5-1, 10-1) vs. #6 Denver (30-1, 60-1)
#2 Oklahoma City (5-4, 11-4)) vs. #7 Dallas (15-1, 30-1)

Please note that the NBA does not re-seed in the second of the playoffs, so what you see is what you get as far as bracket position. Also note that in the East the 5th-seeded Hawks get homecourt advantage in their series against the Celtics thanks to a better regular season record. Boston was guaranteed a top-4 seed thanks to their Atlantic Division title, but not homecourt.

My first-round picks were Chicago-Boston and Miami-Indiana in the East, with San Antonio-Memphis and Oklahoma City-Denver in the West. Not much in the way of upsets with only the Nuggets beating the Artest-less Lakers chosen to go against the grain. I suppose you can argue the Celts-Hawks either way, based on seeding or homecourt, but in Las Vegas, Boston is a solid favorite at (-210) to win that series.

Projecting the bracket forward, I might be a biased Celtics fan, but I’m not at all sold than Derrick Rose is going to be ready to contribute at MVP-levels in this postseason and that’s what it’s going to take for Chicago to advance past the second round. I’m picking Boston to win this series and take on Miami, who survives a stiff test from Indiana. Again, maybe I’m imposing my Celts bias on the rest of the country, but who—outside of Los Angeles anyway, wouldn’t enjoy a Boston-Indiana conference finals, with Larry Bird as Pacers’ team president. But nothing matters in the NBA more than stars, and LeBron and D-Wade get it done against Indiana and then again in a brutally tough series against the Celtics. My guess is that both of these go the distance.

Out west, do my eyes deceive me on those numbers, but is Oklahoma City the betting line favorite? They are rated slightly ahead of San Antonio, and also ahead of Chicago for the championship. The Thunder will blast their way past Denver, while San Antonio takes revenge on Memphis for last year’s first-round upset in a 1-8 matchup—but it isn’t easy, as the Spurs have to go all seven games to do it. For Oklahoma City-San Antonio, I’m seeing another conference final going the distance. San Antonio has the depth to not be overrun by fast-paced OkC, and the veteran savvy that counts for so much at this round. The Spurs make it to the Finals and the Thunder are left to evaluate what they need to take the final step.

This brings us to a San Antonio-Miami final, which is not the boldest prediction, but we’ve learned often enough in the NBA that the chalkier your picks are, the more likely you are to be right. So I’ve got a #1 seed in the Spurs and a betting-line favorite in the Heat. I like Tim Duncan to pull himself even with   Kobe Bryant   and grab ring #5, winning the series in six games (The Finals goes 2-3-2 in homecourt, so my thesis has the Spurs defending the home floor early, sneaking out a win in South Beach and then  locking it up at home in Game 6).  Duncan and head coach Gregg Popovich build on what are already Hall of Fame legacies.