Golden State's Klay Thompson, left, and Stephen Curry need to stay… (Ben Margot / Associated…)
Writers from around the Tribune Co. pick which NBA team in each conference is the most likely to pull a first-round upset. Feel free to add your picks in the comments section.
Ben Bolch, Los Angeles Times
Golden State could beat Denver in the West. The young, athletic Warriors match up reasonably well with the young, athletic Nuggets. All it's going to take is for Golden State's Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to stay crazy hot throughout the series and for the Warriors to win a game at the Pepsi Center, where the Nuggets have an NBA-best 38-3 record. Not likely, sure, but doable.
In the East, Atlanta has the talent to topple Indiana. What it will need to pull the upset is consistency. The Hawks must somehow score in bunches against a Pacers defense that is physically punishing. Al Horford and Josh Smith will have to hit big shots in the final minutes for Atlanta to advance.
K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune
Sorry. The NCAA tournament is over. Cinderella has danced. There will be no first-round NBA playoff upsets. And, no, the fifth-seeded Grizzlies beating the Clippers or the fifth-seeded Bulls beating the Nets doesn't count. And neither of those scenarios will happen either, although Bulls-Nets will be a lengthy, physical, delicious affair.
Playoff basketball is all about talent and execution. Back-to-backs are gone. Four games in five nights disappear as well. The only travel is between city and city. So it's about a team locking in, focusing on its opponent and executing the game plan to maximize matchups. That's why the lower-seeded teams usually win. And why they will again this post-season.
Ira Winderman, South Florida Sun Sentinel
While the Spurs aren't particularly vulnerable, injuries are the great unknown at this time of year, and no one is quite sure where Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker stand entering the post-season.
Even with Tim Duncan playing as if a decade younger, the Spurs need their backcourt balance. It is difficult to envision a deep run with Ginobili and Parker less than 100%. At full health, the Spurs are as talented as anyone in the Western Conference bracket.
Based on the Spurs' all-or-nothing playoff history, we should know early, possibly the first round, where Gregg Popovich's team stands. That will be predicated by where Ginobili and Parker stand.
In the East, the Knicks will be tested early by the Celtics, a series that should offer a read on whether New York's over-the-top three-point approach can be sustained through a best-of-seven series.
Yes, the Knicks dominated the Celtics during the regular season. But anyone who knows Doc Rivers knows it has never been about the regular season in Boston.
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