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By Evan Roberts
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Here are your predictions for this season, despite the fact that everyone thinks it will be Miami-Lakers in the NBA Finals.
OK, they’re probably right.
1. Miami Heat 62-20
Besides the obvious — injuries — nothing can stop the Heat other than complacency. I think a little bit of both will keep Miami’s win total in the low 60s, but the team will earn its first No. 1 seed in the Big Three era.
2. Boston Celtics 52-30
The Nets, Knicks and 76ers are pretty good, but the C’s are still the team to beat in the Atlantic. Love the additions of Courtney Lee and Jason Terry.
3. Indiana Pacers 47-35
Can George Hill build on his strong playoff performance and be a capable starting point guard? Can Paul George take the next step? Can David West stay healthy? Enough of those answers will be yes, which should help Indiana take advantage of the Derrick Rose injury to capture the Central.
4. Chicago Bulls 46-36
No Derrick Rose, but I expect a bounce-back year from Carlos Boozer, and I also expect the Bulls to remain their pesky defensive selves.
5. Brooklyn Nets 46-36
I fear a slow start for the new-look Nets as they try to develop chemistry. They need Brook Lopez to stay healthy and regain his respectable rebounding form from a few years ago. Their ability to defend the paint is also a worry.
6. New York Knicks 45-37
The Amar’e injury won’t kill them, but if Tyson Chandler’s knee is worse then we think, that would be a major problem. Despite what Melo says, the offense will continue to go through him.
7. Philadelphia 76ers 44-38
This team is quite different from the one that almost earned a berth to the Eastern Conference finals. I don’t know if Andrew Bynum can stay healthy, but I do know that Jrue Holiday will get even better.
8. Atlanta Hawks 42-40
Despite dumping Joe Johnson, the Hawks made some nice additions during the offseason to keep this squad playoff bound. This is now Josh Smith’s team, and he will handle that role well.
(1) Miami defeats (8) Atlanta 4-1: I can see Miami getting tripped up once or twice, but will avoid the first-round upset.
(4) Chicago defeats (5) Brooklyn 4-2: With a healthy Rose, the Bulls’ experience together will help them get past Brooklyn.
(2) Boston defeats (7) Philadelphia 4-2: In a postseason rematch, the Celtics’ veteran unit gets less of a scare than a year ago.
(6) New York defeats (3) Indiana 4-3: Just like the old days! Knicks win first playoff series in over a decade.
(1) Miami defeats (4) Chicago 4-2: The rematch we thought we’d see a year ago happens in the second round in 2013.
(2) Boston defeats (6) New York 4-1: The old Boston-New York rivalry plays out similar to their matchup in 2011.
(1) Miami defeats (2) Boston 4-3: Another hard-fought classic, with LeBron & Co. winning their third-straight conference title.
1. OKC Thunder 64-18
The James Harden deal was a shock, and Kevin Martin isn’t the playmaker or defender that Harden is, but the Thunder will still dominate the regular season behind the second-best player on the planet.
2. Denver Nuggets 53-29
I love this team — they have no superstar but are as deep as anybody. Iguodala was a great pick up and I think Gallinari will have his best season as a pro.
3. Los Angeles Lakers 53-29
It’s going to take time to mesh. Also this is an older team and I expect Kobe to miss a bunch of games. Plus it’s not about the regular season with these guys.
4. San Antonio Spurs 52-30
Same critique every year — the age! But two of the big three are over the age of 35. Also Greg Popovich will rest guys when need be. Still a very dangerous team come the spring.
5. Los Angeles Clippers 50-32
It starts with the health of Griffin and CP3. But they also need health from the veteran bench including Odom, Grant Hill and the return of Chauncey Billups.
6. Memphis Grizzlies 47-35
Memphis won 41 games in a lockout-shortened season despite Zach Randolph missing a big chunk of time. They will miss O.J. Mayo.
7. Dallas Mavericks 44-38
I don’t care what Mark Cuban says, missing out on Deron Williams was a big blow. I think Elton Brand will have a big year, but Dirk’s injury is concerning and the fact Eddy Curry is starting on opening night is a red flag.
8. Phoenix Suns 41-41
They will find a way to sneak in despite losing Steve Nash. A starting five of Dragic, Dudley, Beasley, Scola and Gortat is pretty good.
(1) OKC defeats (8) Phoenix 4-0: The Thunder are focused in easily disposing the upstart Suns.
(4) S. Antonio defeats (5) Clippers 4-2: The veteran Spurs wake up in the spring after going through the motions during the regular season.
(2) Denver defeats (7) Dallas 4-3: The Nuggets get a tough battle from the veteran Mavs but move on.
(3) Lakers defeat (6) Grizzlies 4-1: Playoff time in LA is the right time for this group to finally mesh.
(1) OKC defeats (4) San Antonio 4-2: A rematch from a year ago, with the same result.
(3) Lakers defeat (6) Nuggets 4-0: Lakers look unbeatable as they quickly advance to conference finals.
(1) OKC defeats (3) Lakers 4-3: Classic series, with one question the Lakers fail to answer: who can defend Russell Westbrook?
Thunder over Heat in seven — enough said!
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