It’s playoff time in the NBA, and even though the Bobcats 2012-13 campaign is over, it doesn’t mean we can’t keep our attention focused on The Association. Charlotte took another step in its building process and the foundation is in place as the Cats look to build into a playoff contender. For now, I’ve caught up with Bobcats Television Announcer Steve Martin, Radio Broadcaster Scott Lauer and former Cats intern and Rufus of Fire Editor Ben Swanson to get their take on the first round. I’ve been doing this for a while on, and more than not tend to dominate these predictions. Let’s see if Steve or Scott can challenge me this year or if one of my former protégés can make a run at it.


No. 1 Miami Heat vs. No. 8 Milwaukee Bucks

Martin: They are holding it together with string in Milwaukee but the Bucks have the active size to give Miami some trouble, though not much. Whether they get a win or not depends on Larry Sanders’ back.  
Prediction: Heat in five

Lauer: One of the best teams ever against a Milwaukee team lucky to make the playoffs after a dreadful finish.
Prediction: Heat sweep

Swanson: Milwaukee practically fell butt-backwards into the playoffs, losing five of their last six games. They practically have zero shot at winning this series and only marginally better odds at winning one game. Miami is a dominant group. LeBron James is a wrecking ball and their offensive system gets great shots off good ball movement. Their defense rotates like few other teams can.
Prediction: Heat sweep

Rochinski: Brandon Jennings said the Bucks would take this series in six games. I believe… Jennings is out of his mind. Heat run doesn’t end here.
Prediction: Heat in five


No. 2 New York Knicks vs. No. 7 Boston Celtics

Martin: Pride means nothing when you are getting bombed from the perimeter. The Knicks won three times over the Celtics with their current configuration of talent. If the Knicks are healthy they can handle everybody in the East, including Boston and even Miami.
Prediction: Knicks in six

Lauer: Here's my biggest upset of the opening round.  Jeff Green has been blossoming and can make Carmelo Anthony work when matched against him.
Prediction: Celtics in seven

Swanson: The Knicks will live by the three and die by the three. That's just their modus operandi and it has given them a lot of success. When it's clicking, their ball movement can find the open shooters and capitalize. The Celtics aren't the defensive force they used to be, but they'll give New York a tough battle.
Prediction: Knicks in seven

Rochinski: When Rajon Rondo went down for the season, we all knew the Celtics were in trouble. From that point, Doc Rivers was at the helm of ship with no captain, as the C’s still don’t have a true point guard on the roster. That’s a problem, especially against a Knicks team of aging stars hoping this is their chance. Wow, did I just refer to the team playing against Boston as a team of aging stars? Scary.
Prediction: Knicks in five


No. 3 Indiana Pacers vs. No. 6 Atlanta Hawks

Martin: The teams split the season series. Indiana ends the season in a funk and they are not very deep. Atlanta very solid up front with Josh Smith and Al Horford.
Prediction: Hawks in six

Lauer: The Pacers have a much deeper team, and they'll win most of these very low scoring games.
Prediction: Pacers in five

Swanson: The Pacers are a top defensive team and their pace is very slow. This may not be the most fun series to watch, but Paul George, Josh Smith and Al Horford are fun players to watch on their own. The Hawks are a balanced team but just might not have the experience and talent to get past Indiana's tough defense.
Prediction: Pacers in six

Rochinski: I know many Cats fans like to look to Oklahoma City as the model for what we’re building towards here in Charlotte, and I’d love for that to be the case. In the East though, I think the Pacers have done things the right way too, and this could be their year to go off in the postseason.
Prediction: Pacers in six


No. 4 Brooklyn Nets vs. No. 5 Chicago Bulls

Martin: The Nets have a nice house in Brooklyn – too bad we’ll only see it twice.
Prediction: Bulls in five

Lauer: Deron Williams came back to become the elite point guard that we've known him to be.
Prediction: Nets in six

Swanson: It's really too bad we have no idea if Derrick Rose could return this postseason because this could be a lot more interesting with him. Chicago's offense does well for missing such a vital player, however. The Nets finished the season well, but I trust Thibodeau too much to think Chicago loses this series.
Prediction: Bulls in seven

Rochinski: I’m sorry, but I just don’t think a Bulls team without Derrick Rose is as good as a Brooklyn team that throws out Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Reggie Evans and Brook Lopez in its starting lineup. The Nets roster could give most teams in the East some trouble on both ends of the court.
Prediction: Nets in six



No. 1 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. No. 8 Houston Rockets

Martin: The Rockets will try to bomb away at the Thunder. Did you see Chandler Parson’s 3-pointer against the Lakers last Wednesday? But it won’t be enough.
Prediction: Thunder in six

Lauer: James Harden may steal one game against his former team, but you won't see me picking against the Durant/Westbrook combination often.
Prediction: Thunder in five

Swanson: Houston had a great first season with their new young players, but Oklahoma City is just too dominant to suffer a revenge series from James Harden. Houston might pull out one win based on a hot night on offense, but you have to be very good on defense and be able to control your turnovers to consistently beat the Thunder.
Prediction: Thunder sweep

Rochinski: I spent some great years with the Rockets and would love to say they’ll shock the world against the Thunder, but that’s not going to happen. James Harden will find a way to get one win in Houston, but that should be it.
Prediction: Thunder in five


No. 2 San Antonio Spurs vs. No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers

Martin: Some say that the Spurs are too banged up to do anything in the playoffs this year. You can get pretty healthy when you are in the playoffs for two months. For the Lakers, getting to the playoffs will be more memorable than dealing with the Spurs with no Mamba. 
Prediction: Spurs in five

Lauer: I know the Spurs were a .500 team for the last quarter of the season, but they care about the post-season, where they dominate.  Without Bryant, LA has no shot.
Prediction: Spurs in five

Swanson: I was sad to see Stephen Jackson depart from the Spurs, but they'll still be okay with Tracy McGrady in his stead. Coach Pop is brilliant in creating ball movement, playing to their strengths and managing their roster. Whether they still have enough in the tank to go deep in the playoffs remains to be seen, but I don't think the Kobe-less Lakers will stop them in the first round.
Prediction: Spurs in six

Rochinski: Sometimes you have to take chances, right? I know one of my former interns who used to work for the Spurs is going to hate me for this, but what the heck, let’s take this chance. The Lakers are riding momentum and still have Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol inside. Maybe Steve Nash can help make a miracle happen.
Prediction: Lakers in seven


No. 3 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 6 Golden State Warriors

Martin: Best series to watch in the first round, East or West.  I like the Nuggets and the altitude.
Prediction: Nuggets in seven

Lauer: Here it's about offense.  The Nuggets are too deep, and if they neutralize Steph Curry, games won't be close.
Prediction: Nuggets in five

Swanson: I love the Warrior's roster and the improvement they've made this year, but George Karl has the Nuggets playing at a supreme level right now. They've only lost three games in their last 26. Three! It's really unfortunate how banged up both teams are. Danilo Gallinari is done with a torn ACL for Denver and Andrew Bogut's status is unclear for Golden State. Denver's depth will help enough to still get past the Warriors with Gallinari out.
Prediction: Nuggets in six

Rochinski: There was a recent article in ESPN the Magazine about how teams without a superstar aren’t expected to win NBA Championships. The Nuggets said the critics are wrong and they can get it done. They may not be the Detroit Pistons from 2003-04, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Denver make a run.
Prediction: Nuggets in six

No. 4 Los Angeles Clippers vs. No. 5 Memphis Grizzlies

Martin: No first round magic for the Grizz this year. This throwback team gets thrown back into offseason mode by the Lob City gang.
Prediction: Clippers in six

Lauer: Memphis and L.A. in the opening round, means that one of these teams won't play in May, which is a shame, if not startling.  I'm enamored by the defense that Lionel Hollins has his team playing.
Prediction: Grizzlies in seven

Swanson: I'm going to need Zach Randolph to play like he did a few years ago to convince me that the Clippers will go down in the first round. Memphis has a great defense that didn't really miss a step after the Rudy Gay trade but Chris Paul. Yes, I meant to end that sentence as a fragment. Chris Paul lives for the playoffs and not many players right now shine like he does in the postseason. They're not too shabby on defense either. The way I see it, this series will be another close one like last year.
Prediction: Clippers in seven

Rochinski: No team in the playoffs is athletic as the Clippers and this might finally be the year they take over as L.A.’s team with a deep playoff run. I know the Grizzlies continued to play well post-Rudy Gay but think he’ll be sorely missed by Memphis in the playoffs if it comes down to a game or two on the line.
Prediction: Clippers in five