2011 NBA playoffs: “Best post-season of the millennium”

After 82 games, 24 anomalies in which the all-powerful Miami Heat lost, too much Melo-drama to stomach, Illinois alumnus Deron Williams switching conferences, about 2,000 awesome Blake Griffin dunks and a Chicago Bulls team that was as satisfying as it was surprising, the NBA playoffs are upon us.

I have to be honest, though, I’m a little disappointed in the first-round matchups. Bulls-Pacers is just fine, and Atlanta and Orlando have been locked in to play each other since, what, the second week of the season? Other than that, I’m a little bummed about the Eastern Conference. New York-Boston will be a good series, but I would have preferred that Boston get set up with Philadelphia — a team it could easily dispatch — and be more well-rested for its inevitable showdown with Miami. Meanwhile, Miami would have to get rid of New York in the first round, which would have proven difficult for the Heatles.

As is, the Heat should run circles around the rag-tag 76ers.

The Western Conference is no better. The No. 1-seeded San Antonio Spurs will face a tough match in the Memphis Grizzlies. The teams split the season series at two games apiece. This will be a much closer series than a typical one versus eight, as the Grizzlies will be ecstatic to merely be in the playoffs, while the Spurs will have their sights set on a more ambitious goal.

Meanwhile, the defending-champion Lakers will play New Orleans, a team being called the worst in the postseason. This is odd because the Indiana Pacers are definitely awful and don’t have Chris Paul, but I digress. Paul and the Hornets will probably get smacked down by the Lakers in a tune-up for the later rounds for the defending champions.

In the least interesting matchup in the West, Dallas will take on Portland in a 3-6 battle. Everyone has lost all faith in Dallas to make an impact on the postseason after years of underachieving from Dirk Nowitzki, and with an entire roster of aging veterans who haven’t won a title. No offense to Corey Brewer’s two NCAA championships.

Winning the title of most tragic first-round pairing, the new-look Denver Nuggets will face the Kendrick Perkins-enforced Oklahoma City Thunder. The Nuggets (or as I prefer to call them, the Thuggets) are Carmelo-less, and better than ever. They are the closest thing we have to the 2007 Warriors team that captivated NBA fans and beat the No. 1-seeded Mavericks. The Thunder are a team many point to as one that can beat the Lakers, especially since adding Perkins. Basically, these are the two coolest teams in the West, and one of them is going to beat the other and knock them out in the first round. What a waste.

In the playoffs, games become more about individual matchups and less about who’s hot on a particular night. For the Bulls, the biggest challenge will be limiting Danny Granger and guarding Indiana’s frontcourt. Yeah, Chicago should be OK. In Miami, the Heat should easily destroy the overmatched 76ers. Philadelphia has no one who can guard Wade or James, and Bosh should be able to dominate Elton Brand. Best of luck to Coach of the Year candidate Doug Collins.

Boston and New York will likely conjure up some drama, and Madison Square Garden is sure to go ballistic at a mere whiff of a playoff win. Both homecourts will be tough environments, and Boston should prevail in the end. Atlanta, the world’s most underachieving consistent postseason team, hasn’t showed an ounce of toughness since in 2008 when they took eventual champion Boston to seven games. I don’t expect the Hawks to gain a pulse against the playoff-savvy Magic, setting the scene for an intense second round in the East.

The West is where we could see some upsets. Don’t sleep on Memphis to upend San Antonio, and Portland has a chance to out-tough Dallas. New Orleans will get spanked, but don’t be surprised if the Lakers are seeing the winner of the Nuggets-Thunder series in the conference finals. Despite what experts would have you believe, anyone can win in the postseason. It will take a lot, however, to make it to the promised land that is the NBA Finals. In my opinion, this is going to be the best postseason of the millennium. Prepare to be amazed.

Eliot Sill is a freshman in Media. He can be reached at [email protected]