It was a good time to pick home-team dominance in the first round where a chaotic few days saw road teams steal everything, but by the end the real champion, regression to the mean, triumphed, and almost every favorite advanced.
Miami Heat (2) vs. Brooklyn Nets (6)
-The Brooklyn Nets are the story of the new NBA, where they become more powerful after losing the "best" offensive center in basketball -- they went with smallball and skill.
-This is a Don Nelson superteam without the fatal flaw: his elimination of the center position. Nelson wanted a team where every player is the same height, including the center, but you can't replace what you'd lose there: rebounding and rim protection will always be important.
-Switch-heavy Brooklyn should fare well versus the Heat offense. Their power forwards won't be thrown by defending the perimeter, and their point guards are big enough to switch and not get killed.
-Last series, prognosticators were divided on the Nets -- do you believe their full-season results or their post Jan. 1 results? Obviously, they were a stronger team than their point differential suggested. People who cited their negative point differential needed to realize that was because of a horrid first couple months with a basically different team.
-I was afraid the Heat weren't coasting but had lost a gear too. However, they beat a -0.9 SRS point (basically average) by 10 points a game.
-Wade didn't play in every game in the close season series, but neither did Garnett.
-It's difficult doing lineup analysis for the Heat because their best lineups barely played. In other words, it's hard saying what full-strength Miami will do against them. I can say for sure Brooklyn will put up a fight, but how tough of one?
Prediction: the Heat in five games.
Indiana Pacers (1) vs. Washington Wizards (5)
-The series already started, but I soured on Indiana. I do believe that sometimes it's better to use half-season results to predict future games when there's a major change. They traded for Evan Turner, a bad defender and an inefficient gunner on an awful team, and team cancer Andrew Bynum.
-I worked for a long time on a piece on Hibbert and Atlanta. (Error-finding is critical.)
-Why don't people bring up the fact that Hibbert was terrible in the first half of the '13 season and great after that? It's a weird pattern.
-The healthy Wizards are like the healthy Warriors. They're stronger than you think.
-Full season results state that the defense is better with Mahinmi in the middle over Hibbert. And at least with Mahinmi you don't have to force feed him post-ups.
Prediction: the Wizards in six games.
Oklahoma City Thunder (2) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (3)
-I realize I'm setting these predictions after the series started, but other things in life happened over the weekend. That said, I'm going all in with my metric from before the playoffs -- I think these Clippers are the best in the west by a hair.
-It'll be an amazing series. I'll post a longer piece on them after two or three games have gone by to reflect on their stars and their teams.
Prediction: the Clippers in six games.
San Antonio Spurs (1) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (5)
-There's a lot of criticism for the Rockets right now, but I don't understand why. It's a four-seed losing to a five-seed; both teams had the same number of wins in the regular season. Before Lillard's crazy shot, Houston make a huge basket and would have gone home with the series tied.
-It'll be interesting to see where they put Tony Parker -- guarding Lillard? Matthews? Matthews is aggressive enough to take advantage of that.
-Zach Lowe said that people who say Aldridge is hoisting midrange shots to "beat analytics" should be shut up because Portland is one of the heaviest analytics teams in the league, and Aldridge rates very well by advanced +/-. Zach's boss Bill Simmons, however, has already said that Aldridge is draining midrange shots to beat analytics. He should be better informed.
-Critics said the Blazers would falter in the playoffs because their style wouldn't translate. Aldridge's post game and jumpers are useful because he can get them off at whatever time even versus elite defenders, and you don't want to double him because of their shooters. Then there's Lillard as Curry-lite, making three-pointers off the dribble. These two can score against the best of them.
-If Portland had been in the west, they would have arguably been the best team in their conference (in the regular season, as Miami was resting and coasting.)
-This series hearkens back to the opening game in Portland, where San Antonio lost.
-As a team that combines three-point shooting with offensive rebounding with Aldridge and a high-scoring clutch guard, they're reminiscent of the 2009 Blazers.
-But the Spurs are too strong. The benches are like a well-coached college team versus a high school one. It's not fair.
Prediction: San Antonio in seven games.