First round of NBA playoffs promises fireworks | Basketball | CBC Sports

NBAFirst round of NBA playoffs promises fireworks

Posted: Friday, April 19, 2013 | 10:22 AM

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James Harden (13) and the Rockets take on the top-seeded Thunder in an NBA Western Conference first-round playoff series. (Bill Baptist/Getty Images)  James Harden (13) and the Rockets take on the top-seeded Thunder in an NBA Western Conference first-round playoff series. (Bill Baptist/Getty Images)

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There will be fireworks when James Harden and the Houston Rockets take on his former team, the top-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder, in the first round of the NBA playoffs. 

Looking at this year's first-round playoff series, the West is best in terms of entertainment:

NBA Western Conference

Most Fun

Oklahoma City Thunder (1) vs. Houston Rockets (8)

James Harden goes up against his old team in a matchup that promises to provide fireworks. These teams finished 2-3 in points scored in the NBA. Here's a bold prediction: Harden will take a lot of shots. The Rockets, McDonald's unis and all, have been fun to watch all year. But they don't have anywhere near the defensive capabilities that the No. 8 Denver Nuggets did in 1994, when they pulled off an upset over the No. 1 Seattle SuperSonics.

Pick: Thunder in 6

Most Competitive

Los Angeles Clippers (4) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (5)

This is going to be a battle. They played in last year's first round and the Clippers came out on top in seven games. I'm calling the opposite this year.

Pick: Grizzlies in 7

Upset Special

San Antonio Spurs (2) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (7)
Yes, I know the Lakers don't have Kobe. But they are much happier playing an older, banged-up Spurs team than the Thunder. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili all missed time recently. If Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol continue to play well together, it's trouble up front for San Antonio. Two years ago, the top-ranked Spurs were knocked off by the eighth-seeded Grizzlies in a first-round upset.

Pick: I'm not making one

Most Intriguing

Denver Nuggets (3) vs. Golden State Warriors (6)

Denver's brand of no-star, up-tempo basketball has been an underrated storyline all season. The Nuggets, thanks, no doubt, in part to that thin air, had a league-best 38-3 home record this season. The Warriors, led by the lights-out backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have been fun to watch.

Pick: Nuggets in 6

NBA Eastern Conference

New York Knicks (2) vs. Boston Celtics (7)

Like the NHL's Bruins, the Celtics may be playing for something bigger than sports this spring. But the Knicks have been one of the hottest teams down the stretch and it's truly all about Carmelo Anthony right now.

Pick: Knicks in 5

Brooklyn Nets (4) vs. Chicago Bulls (5)
Derrick Rose hasn't been ruled out for the playoffs as the awkward dance between the ailing point guard and the team continues. Still, the Bulls have been winning without him all year, although their consistency has been maddening. The Nets have some holes, so this could be a good series.

Pick: Nets in 7

Indiana Pacers (3) vs. Atlanta Hawks (6)

If Toronto Raptors fans need perspective on what a mediocre playoff team looks like, see Atlanta. Indiana is more talented.

Pick: Pacers in 5

Miami Heat (1) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (8)

Are you kidding?

Pick: Heat in 4

Follow John Chick on Twitter @roofthatpeach

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