Since the NBA didn't launch a half-witted marketing gimmick this year, I'm forced to base these predictions based nothing more than my own basketball knowledge. Ergo, these won't possibly be correct.
* Spurs over Grizzlies, in six My buddy Trev is a Spurs fan, and I was thinking a framed Tim Duncan jersey would be a cool birthday gift. One problem -- Trev isn't *that* big of a Spurs fan. He doesn't actively seek out their games, wear their gear, use 'GinobiliDawg' as his e-mail password, etc. And a framed Duncan jersey would cost a fair bit of scratch. Is it worth it? I mean, it is Tim Duncan, arguably the most fascinating athlete of the last 15 years. He's just so NORMAL. It's awesome. If you had to pick any pro athlete to babysit your kids, Duncan is pretty much the only choice, right? Anyway, San Antonio will win this series.
* Thunder over Nuggets, in five Doesn't "Thunder Nuggets" sound like it should be some sort of euphemism for sex, or vomit, or both? It seems like Denver's euphoric post-Carmelo run has run out of gas, which leaves up against a team that's just straight-up better. Oklahoma City gets the nod here.
* Mavericks over Trail Blazers, in seven Crazy tidbit from a recent Bill Simmons NBA playoffs podcast: the Mavericks and Lakers haven't met in the playoffs since 1988. Even though these two teams have been West powerhouses for over a decade, they've inexplicably never hooked up in the postseason. This almost seems impossible. Frankly, I think this streak should end just for probability's sake. A lot of people are picking Portland as a trendy upset, but with the NFL season in jeopardy, the poor folks in Dallas need some kind of a pick-me-up.
* Lakers over Hornets, in four Here's why I never really got into the NBA all that much: the underdogs never win. Basketball, more than any other sport, can be dominated by one or two teams for long stretches. In every other sport, crazy playoff upsets happen all the time, but in the NBA, you only see a genuinely big upset maybe once per decade, and even then, it isn't a BIG upset. I bring this up since unless Kobe, Gasol, Bynum, Odom and Phil Jackson all suffer a Springfield Nuclear Power Plant softball team-esque series of calamities, the Hornets don't have a goddamn chance in this series. If you're a New Orleans fan, there is no way you can fool yourself into thinking your team has a shot. This isn't true in other sports -- hell, I'm just a couple of weeks removed from thinking the Maple Leafs had a chance at the #8 seed and a first-round upset of the Capitals. I had it all laid out in my head, basically James Reimer was going to turn into Patrick Roy circa 1986....
* Heat over 76ers, in five ...and he'd just go nuts in the playoffs. Ovechkin would choke again, and after the Leafs shocked the Caps, they'd take out the Bruins (with Phil Kessel scoring the winner in every game), upset the Penguins in the conference finals and then deal the Canucks yet another Finals heartbreak and capture the most improbable Stanley Cup of all time. This was a perfectly legit fantasy! All it needed was the Leafs to be a much better hockey team than they actually were. Anyway, I kept rambling on about this nonsense since here's anther no-hoper of a series. As fun as it would be to see the Heat just completely immolate in a pressure game, it ain't happening here.
* Celtics over Knicks, in six The LeBron James free agent sweepstakes ended up being pretty much entirely obnoxious, but the second-most obnoxious moment (after The Decision itself) was the insistence from the New York media that LeBron somehow owed it to himself and to the league to try and "bring the Knicks back to glory." Um, sorry, the Knicks are a lousy franchise. Two titles, none since 1973. A decade of pure incompetence under James Dolan and Isiah Thomas. A brief revival in the 90's based on the single most unattractive brand of basketball known to man, and easily stopped by a team with actual talent (i.e. the Bulls). And...that's it. The Knicks are the Golden State Warriors with better marketing. Screw the Knicks. Let's hope Boston sweeps them.
* Bulls over Pacers, in five Also from that Simmons podcast...apparently Derrick Rose recently gave an interview where he said that he was creeped out by clowns. This has spawned a brief movement by some Pacers fans to show up at games 3 and 4 dressed as, you guessed it, creepy clowns. I'm hoping for 18,000 Hoosiers all showing up in It or Joker outfits, simply because it would be the most interesting moment in Pacers history. I'll even give the Pacers a win because during one of those games in Indianapolis, Rose will just collapse at midcourt, muttering "Can't sleep, clown'll eat me" over and over.
* Magic over Hawks, in five This is also the series where you find the clear demarcation line between the Western and Eastern conferences. If Atlanta was in the West, do they even make the bracket? Hell, the Magic might even have a tough time, since Dwight 'Force Of Nature' Howard can only do so much.
* Thunder over Spurs, in seven OOOOOHH, well, this is where it gets interesting. Young vs. old, model franchise of the present vs. model franchise of the last 15 years, point guard who cheated on Eva Longoria vs. point guard who to my knowledge has never dated a Desperate Housewives cast member, power forward you'd trust your kids with vs. power forward who you wouldn't leave your kids with since he's a stranger but he still seems like a nice dude.....this series has it all. Spurs run out of gas, Thunder take it. "ThunderSpurs" sounds like a really lame country-western bar.
* Lakers over Mavericks, in six Well, here's the long-awaited L.A./Dallas series! Now the Mavs can choke to a whole new opponent! Let's take a moment to discuss Kobe Bryant. Over the last two years, the Lakers' title wins have been Kobe's way of showing LeBron that he's still the top dog in the NBA. But now, Kobe is just so competitive that he can't even let LeBron enjoy the niche as the NBA's most disliked player. No, Kobe just had to toss in a homophobic slur and manage to trump James yet again. Oh, that Bryant!
* Celtics over Heat, in six There's been a lot made from Boston fans about how trading Kendrick Perkins robbed the Celtics of their necessary toughness and forced the team to rely on the Magical Injured O'Neals at center. This is all probably true, and it's why I don't think Boston will win the title. (Also: the team is a combined 8895 years old.) But even without Perkins, the Celtics still have enough grit to deal out some humiliation to these upstarts that thought they could win a championship with three guys. Or, two guys and Chris Bosh. I'm not sure how the 10-day contract rule applies in the NBA playoffs, but is it possible for the Celtics to sign Delonte West for this series just so West can sit on the bench and wave at LeBron? Or, if West tore tights with Gloria James' face spray-painted on them, like Ravishing Rick Rude in his feud with Jake "The Snake Roberts." The NBA is pretty much to WWE anyway, why not embrace it?
* Bulls over Magic, in six Dwight Howard is basically the new-age David Robinson -- great center, but kinda limited and too darn nice of a guy to carry a team to a title. Now, the good thing about this comparison is that as we saw with San Antonio, there is an easy solution. All the Magic have to do is draft a guy that ends up being the best power forward of all time. Simple as that! Surely a player like that will still be available with, like, the 20th pick or whatever Orlando has. While I mentioned the draft, I'm predicting the Raptors will win the lottery simply because the 2011 draft is supposed to be terrible. The last time the draft was this bad was in 2006...when Toronto also had the first pick and took Andrea Bargnani. Ugh. The Raptors are cursed.
* Lakers over Thunder, in six You have no idea how much I want to take Oklahoma City here, but it's the Lakers. Remember what I said earlier about how upsets don't happen in the NBA? San Antonio may be the #1 seed, but everyone knows the path through the West goes through L.A. By now I've learned to just not pick against these guys. Phil Jackson will think up something, Kobe will go nuts, Kobe will have an awful game and Gasol will pick up the slack, the ghost of George Mikan will go all Paranormal Activity on Kevin Durant....something will happen, and the Lakers will win. Again.
* Bulls over Celtics, in seven The seeds for this one were planted in 2009 when these two teams had that surprising, awesome, war of a seven-game series in the first round that Boston narrowly won. Now the Bulls are older, a bit more mature, and Derrick Rose has "bloomed" (original joke!) into one of the best players in the NBA. Boston, meanwhile, is a bit older, a bit more beaten-up, and they have that aforementioned lack of depth at center. The Celtics give it all they have, but in the end, Chicago firmly establishes itself as the new power in the East.
* Bulls over Lakers, in seven Ok, well, remember what I said about the Lakers always winning? Even my black heart can't go all the way and pick Los Angeles to win another soul-deadening NBA championship. Maybe if Kobe hadn't been a moron and busted out the F-bomb last week I could've picked them, but nope, screw the Lakers. Chicago continues its quietly great recent sports history and wins another title, on the 20-year anniversary of Michael Jordan's first championship...when the Bulls beat the Lakers in the finals. Ah, poetry.