Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Just Because: Predictions for the 2011-2012 Lockout-Shortened NBA Season

It's usually an annual October tradition -- see the last three years' iterations -- but, of course, the lockout has delayed and contracted this year's season; so now, the week of Christmas, I offer my usual predictions for how things are going to shake out in the National Basketball Association.

It's odd: continuity and experience take on a bigger role in this sort of season, even as youth and depth absorb the toll of 66 games in 120 days. (You read that right.) All in all, things look basically similar to last season, with the ascension of the Clippers to NBA royalty and my premonition that Indiana will make a leap. Note also the asterisk for Orlando and New Jersey: my pick for the Magic presumes the presence of one Dwight Howard, while if he leaves, they will almost certainly bottom out while their trade partner (the Nets?) will take their place in the playoff picture.

I'm also gunning for a first round Staples Center showdown between the Lakers and Clippers, though I have Kobe's maniacal competitiveness winning out over Lob City's inexperience. (Also a repeat of last year's Boston-New York series, with the same result.) And while the good guys won the prize last year, I have the Heat triumphing in the Finals over the ultimate good guys, the Thunder. LeBron and Wade holding a trophy while the camera pans to Kevin Durant in tears? That sounds just tragic enough to become true. Just know that, after the Spurs, I'll be cheering for OKC all the way.

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Western Conference
1. Oklahoma City Thunder (53-13)
2. Dallas Mavericks (49-17)
3. Los Angeles Clippers (47-19)
4. San Antonio Spurs (45-21)
5. Memphis Grizzlies (44-22)
6. Los Angeles Lakers (42-24)
7. Denver Nuggets (40-26)
8. Portland Trailblazers (36-30)

9. Minnesota Timberwolves (34-32)
10. Phoenix Suns (33-33)
11. New Orleans Hornets (27-39)
12. Utah Jazz (23-43)
13. Houston Rockets (19-47)
14. Golden State Warriors (13-53)
15. Sacramento Kings (10-56)

Eastern Conference
1. Miami Heat (56-10)
2. Chicago Bulls (53-13)
3. Orlando Magic (44-22)*
4. New York Knicks (40-26)
5. Boston Celtics (39-27)
6. Indiana Pacers (37-29)
7. Atlanta Hawks (34-32)
8. Philadelphia 76ers (33-33)

9. New Jersey Nets (32-34)*
10. Washington Wizards (30-36)
11. Milwaukee Bucks (29-37)
12. Detroit Pistons (18-48)
13. Toronto Raptors (13-53)
14. Cleveland Cavaliers (9-57)
15. Charlotte Bobcats (8-58)

Western Conference First Round
Oklahoma City Thunder (1) over Portland Trailblazers (8) in 5 games
Dallas Mavericks (2) over Denver Nuggets (7) in 6 games
Los Angeles Lakers (6) over Los Angeles Clippers (3) in 6 games
San Antonio Spurs (5) over Memphis Grizzlies (4) in 7 games

Eastern Conference First Round
Miami Heat (1) over Philadelphia 76ers (8) in 5 games
Chicago Bulls (2) over Atlanta Hawks (7) in 6 games
Indiana Pacers (6) over Orlando Magic (3) in 6 games
Boston Celtics (5) over New York Knicks (4) in 7 games

Western Conference Semifinals
Oklahoma City Thunder (1) over San Antonio Spurs (5) in 7 games
Dallas Mavericks (2) over Los Angeles Lakers (6) in 6 games

Eastern Conference Semifinals
Miami Heat (1) over Boston Celtics (5) in 7 games
Chicago Bulls (2) over Indiana Pacers (6) in 6 games

Western Conference Finals
Oklahoma City Thunder (1) over Dallas Mavericks (2) in 7 games

Eastern Conference Finals
Miami Heat (1) over Chicago Bulls (2) in 6 games

NBA Finals
Miami Heat (1) over Oklahoma City Thunder (1) in 7 games

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