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Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Playoff Predictor: Like the odds?

ESPN.com and the TrueHoop Network

NBA Playoff Predictor

Our Playoff Predictor is back with all the postseason scenarios. Here's what our 5-on-5 crew thinks about some of the major findings.

For a more complete explanation of how the ESPN Playoff Predictor works, see John Hollinger's Insider breakdown.


1. West first round: Lakers beat Grizzlies 55% to 45%.



Lakers' chances are rated ...

A. Too high
B. Too low
C. Just right


Tom Haberstroh, ESPN.com: Just right. What the computer doesn't know is that the Lakers just found a not-terrible point guard in Ramon Sessions. The Lakers should get an extra boost for that. But the formula also doesn't know that the Griz recently got Zach Randolph back. It all evens out.

Zach Harper, Daily Dime Live: Too low. I don't think this is a definite win for the Lakers by any means, but they are really hard to beat at home. They're 20-4 at home, and the Grizzlies are a sub-.500 team on the road. I realize a lot of that came without Z-Bo, but the Lakers can match Memphis' bulk on the inside. I'd say 65-35.

Devin Kharpertian, Nets Are Scorching: Just right. The Grizzlies have struggled all season against teams above .500, yet no team wants to face them in the first round. Know why? Because the Grizzlies are deep enough and good enough at every position to take down anybody. Any first-round matchup for Memphis in the West, save the Thunder, is basically a coin flip.

Danny Nowell, Magic Basketball: Just right. I would pick the Lakers in this series, but only just barely. And if Memphis has time to jell, this should be pretty much a coin flip. My tune will change, though, if Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo have some kind of vendetta with the Lakers, as it appeared Sunday.

Ethan Sherwood Strauss, HoopSpeak: Too high. Do the odds know about Zach Randolph's recent reintegration? Do the odds know about Mike Brown's diffidence-inspiring, open-mouth squint?


2. West semifinals: Thunder beat Mavs 73% to 27%.



Thunder's chances are rated ...

A. Too high
B. Too low
C. Just right


Haberstroh: Too high. Last season taught me never to underestimate the Mavericks, their sharp front office and their coaching staff in a playoff run. The Thunder should be the favorites here, but that sound you hear is a trophy-clutching Mark Cuban maniacally laughing at the Mavericks' 1-in-4 chance of topping the Thunder.

Harper: Too high. The Mavs have struggled to find consistency all season, and maybe that dooms them for the playoffs. But they still have a more balanced attack than OKC, and they can put Shawn Marion on Kevin Durant to take away easy scoring chances. The key is getting Lamar Odom and Jason Kidd to play better. OKC probably wins this series, but I'd put it at 60-40.

Kharpertian: Just right. Dallas' beautiful Cinderella story ended after last season's Finals, and the Thunder are just that good.

Nowell: Slightly too high. I like the Thunder overall, but I can't imagine this is as sure a bet as the probabilities indicate. I simply don't trust the Thunder's frontcourt defenders to keep Dirk locked up for an entire series, and he's proved that he can steal a series from OKC almost by himself.

Strauss: Just about right. Yes, Dallas has a championship aura. It also doesn't have Tyson Chandler anymore. I favor the young guys here.


3. East finals: Bulls beat Heat 54% to 46%.



Bulls' chances are rated ...

A. Too high
B. Too low
C. Just right


Haberstroh: Too high. I'd probably put it at a 50-50 push right now. The Heat are reeling right now, but Erik Spoelstra still has some tricks up his sleeve offensively that should help solve their offensive woes (LeBron/Dwyane Wade pick-and-rolls, anyone?). People forget how close the Eastern Conference finals were last year, but it was more of a toss-up than the five-game series suggested. Expect more of the same.

Harper: Just about right. I picked the Bulls in the preseason to win this matchup because of offensive rebounding and 3-point shooting. The Bulls are a better offensive unit this season relative to how the rest of the league has dropped because of (most likely) lockout ball. The Bulls also are easily the best road team in basketball and don't get rattled away from the United Center.

Kharpertian: Too high. Unlike the Mavericks and Thunder, these teams return largely unchanged from last season -- both just one year more cohesive. We all saw what happens in crunch time when LeBron James checks Derrick Rose. Now, if LeBron is still feeling symptoms from his recent concussion, that throws the odds entirely out of whack.

Nowell: Too high. I think this is a tight series, and I agree that it should be almost 50-50, but I give the edge to Miami's more balanced attack in a series. Despite some recent evidence, I remain skeptical that the Bulls can win if Rose is slowed significantly.

Strauss: Too high. Perhaps this is reductive, but: I'm weary of favoring the team that lost in five games the last time this series was played. And this isn't like Dallas-OKC, because the teams are fundamentally the same as last season.


4. NBA Finals: Bulls beat Thunder 63% to 37%.



Bulls' chances are rated ...

A. Too high
B. Too low
C. Just right


Haberstroh: Too high. Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls don't get nearly enough credit for their improved offense (fourth in NBA!) even without Derrick Rose, but this still feels a little strong to me. Thibodeau's defense corrals opposing offenses into the midrange area, and that's precisely where Kevin Durant wants to be.

Harper: Too high. When you're matching up two of the best teams in the NBA, it's hard for me to go over 55-45. Let's pretend everybody is relatively healthy in this series (Eric Maynor aside). The Bulls have capable defenders to handle OKC's perimeter attack, but that could wear them out on the offensive end. The key is taking advantage of OKC's weak rebounding.

Kharpertian: Too high. How can a Bulls-Thunder matchup be anything but a coin flip? Both employ superstars. Both employ highly effective players guarding those superstars. Both have an immense interior presence. Both have a deep bench. And both run their respective conferences. Play that series 100 times, I don't think either team wins more than 55.

Nowell: Too high. I'd pick the Bulls in this one, but not by this wide a margin. I think the Bulls are a particularly tough matchup for the Thunder, but again, any team that can make life hard on Rose will have an advantage in the playoffs, as compared to the regular season.

Strauss: Way too high. Let's take the regular (lockout) season point differential with a shaker of salt. While the Bulls have been better on offense in 2011-12, that improvement is only (statistically) relative to other teams. I still see them as outgunned by OKC's multifaceted attack.


5. NBA Finals: Thunder beat Heat 61% to 39%.



Thunder's chances are rated ...

A. Too high
B. Too low
C. Just right


Haberstroh: Too high. I feel like a Debbie Downer with all these "too high" responses, but I just can't help myself. The Thunder exposed the Heat's aggressive rotations on Sunday, and that drubbing is cemented in our brains. But the Heat will make adjustments. I just don't see the Thunder smacking the Heat with the equivalent force of Kendrick Perkins' foot to Dwyane Wade's noggin. LeBron James and Wade are just too good to let last year's Finals happen again.

Harper: Too high. I'd probably go to the "flip-a-coin" mindset here and say we're at 50-50. I know the Thunder beat the Heat the other day in convincing form, but putting a lot of stock into regular-season matchups seems like an overly dramatic way to view how a seven-game series would go. Can LeBron stop being the worst superstar ever? Can Westbrook not submarine a title run? So much drama potential!

Kharpertian: Too high. Yes, the Thunder ran through the Heat this week with reckless abandon and left the franchise looking silly. But -- and I can't stress this enough -- post-concussion syndrome is not a joke. If LeBron is feeling any effects from his injuries -- and it appears that way, given his recent tailspin -- it'll seriously hamper his game and the Heat. These teams at full strength are a coin flip.

Nowell: Too high. I think the Heat win this series, in fact. The Thunder's regular-season advantages of depth and consistency would be mitigated by a full dose of the Heatles, and I can't imagine the Thunder keeping Miami's stars as quiet as they did Sunday for a full series.

Strauss: Just right. I flat don't like this matchup for Miami and didn't before Sunday. Is there a major positional advantage for Miami anywhere? And why have the Heat been playing Kevin Durant like he can't pass at all?