Matchups all set for the 2013 NBA Playoffs


Eric Fishbin, Staff Writer

The NBA season has come to a close, and with it, the door to the Larry O’Brien Trophy has opened.  16 teams vie for the top spot in the sport, none with an easy road.  Here is how it has shaped up:


Eastern Conference:

1.  Miami Heat

2.  New York Knicks

3.  Indiana Pacers

4.  Brooklyn Nets

5.  Chicago Bulls

6.  Atlanta Hawks

7.  Boston Celtics

8.  Milwaukee Bucks


Western Conference:

1.  Oklahoma City Thunder

2.  San Antonio Spurs

3.  Denver Nuggets

4.  Los Angeles Clippers

5.  Memphis Grizzlies

6.  Golden State Warriors

7.  Los Angeles Lakers

8.  Houston Rockets


The Miami Heat, locked up the top seed in the Eastern Conference near the end of March and will play the Milwaukee Bucks led by their guards Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis.  Expect the Heat to roll as Lebron James and company are hungry to defend their title.  As for the New York area teams, the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets, both have clinched spots as well, winning the second, and fourth seeds, respectively.  The Knicks will face their in-division rival Boston Celtics, who have suffered the loss of all-star point guard Rajon Rondo.  The key to this series for the Knicks is whether or not Carmelo Anthony can continue to produce isolation plays against the likes of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.  The Celtics should focus on winning the bench battle, as they must overcome the depth and experience of a squad led by Sixth-Man of the Year, J.R. Smith.  The third seeded Indiana Pacers  will face the quietly successful Atlanta Hawks.  These teams tied their season series at two a piece.  Lastly, the Brooklyn Nets go against a Derrick Rose-less Bulls.  Look for the endurance of Luol Deng and Joakim Noah to be a factor.  At the end of the first round, the Heat, Knicks, Pacers, and Bulls should advance, with the Heat facing the Bulls and the Knicks facing the Pacers.  From there, the Heat will overtake their opponents and go on to face the agile Pacers (who would likely defeat the Knicks) in the Eastern Conference Finals.  Led by Paul George, it is possible that the Pacers can pull off the heavy upset and derail Lebron James’ plans of repeating.

In the Western Conference, the Oklahoma City Thunder made a statement as the team to beat by locking up the first seed.  They will face the Houston Rockets, who boast “Linsanity,” former Thunder Sixth-Man of the Year James Harden, and up-and-coming power forward Chase Budinger.  Despite their obvious age, the experienced San Antonio Spurs, led by Coach Gregg Popovich, have a seemingly easy matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers, sans Kobe Bryant.  In the third seed, the silent-but-deadly Denver Nuggets will match up with the Golden State Warriors, who are making their first playoff appearance since the 2006-2007 season.  The Warriors will look to pull off the upset behind the sharp shooting of Stephen Curry, who recently broke the record for most three-pointers in a single season.  However, that task only becomes more difficult after their game one loss of David Lee.  Lastly, the Memphis Grizzlies, the fifth seed, will travel to play the new kings of the Staples Center, the Los Angeles Clippers, and “Lob City” routine, featuring Blake Griffin and Chris Paul.  Although the Grizzlies seem like a dark horse this season, expect the Clippers to take this series with ease.  The Thunder, Spurs, Clippers, and the Denver Nuggets should advance.  The Western Conference Finals will come down to the wire as the Thunder, defeating the Spurs, and the Clippers, ending the Nuggets run, will vie for the title.  In seven games, look for Kevin Durant to make his second consecutive trip to the Finals.

The NBA Finals, beginning on June 6, will pit the Indiana Pacers against the Oklahoma City Thunder.  The Thunder were in the Finals last season, but lost to the Miami Heat in five games.  Unfortunately for the Pacers and their Cinderella-like run, the combination of the Thunder’s fast-paced offense, featuring Russell Westbrook, and their stingy defense, with Serge Ibaka, will be too much for Paul George and company to handle.  Kevin Durant will claim his first ring and Finals MVP in 6 games.