The Los Angeles Lakers are not the typical No. 7 seed. While they face a tough matchup against the San Antonio Spurs, that series has more upset potential than the typical 2-7 matchup.
That is not the only matchup in the first round that deserves our attention as upset potential lurks, which is great for the fans. Upsets are what make postseason glorious.
No. 3: Los Angeles Lakers (No. 7 seed)
First-Round Opponent: No. 2 San Antonio Spurs
Let's just throw out the regular season battle between these two. The lineups have fluctuated too much with these two teams to glean any real meaning there.
What we do know, is that without Kobe Bryant, the Lakers' offense is not nearly as explosive, and defense has not been this team's strength.
What the Lakers do have, however, is a dominant front court. With Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol finally looking healthy, engaged and focused, the Lakers frontcourt is a daunting matchup for anyone.
This means that what is normally a strength for the Spurs is now a weakness. Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter give the Spurs the edge in almost any other matchup of bigs. Not in this one.
Of course, there is the little issue of the backcourt, and the Lakers must find a way to keep point guard Tony Parker from shredding them.
Also, with the Spurs' depth and lineup flexibility with a power forward like Matt Bonner on the bench, the Spurs know how to space the floor, which will open things up for Parker to work his magic.
I'm not going as far as to pick the Lakers in this one, but I'm not going to write them off. This is Dwight Howard's time to shine in L.A., and he's been magnificent in the postseason in his career.
In his five postseasons, he's averaged 19.9 points on 60 percent shooting from the floor, and 14.4 rebounds.
If Dwight dominates the paint, Gasol can hit his mid-range jumpers, and the Lakers get some quality outside shooting, they can pull off this massive upset.
No. 2: Memphis Grizzlies (No. 5 seed)
First-Round Opponent: No. 4 Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers and Grizzlies played an epic seven-game series in the first round last year. The Clippers edged that one out, but the Grizzlies have a great chance to even the score this year.
What I really like about the Grizzlies' upset chances is the defense. Memphis is second in team defense efficiency (h/t Team Rankings).
That kind of defense is difficult to face over a long series. Last year, the Grizzlies held the Clippers under 89 over the last three games. Of course, the Grizzlies' offense was not exactly lighting it up. Memphis mustered just 72 points in the seventh game.
However, with Mike Conley being more assertive after the departure of Rudy Gay, the offense has improved. While that group slowed in April a bit, the Grizzlies posted a 105.8 points per 100 possessions in March (via stats.nba.com).
This is going to be another great series.
No. 1: Chicago Bulls (No. 5 seed)
First-Round Opponent: No. 4 Brooklyn Nets
We don't know if Derrick Rose is going to be back. He says he's not coming back until he is ready, and who knows when that will be.
Obviously, if he is ready, the Bulls are loaded with upset potential, but even without him, this team has a great shot.
Chicago took this series in the regular season 3-1.
While Deron Williams improved his play as of late, the Bulls still took the last two from the Nets with an 11-point win on March 2, and then winning by two in Brooklyn on April 4.
Just like with the Grizzlies, one of the big reasons I like the Bulls here is this team can play some defense. The Bulls are fifth in defensive efficiency (h/t Team Rankings).
Chicago is a well-balanced team that can defend anywhere on the court, and I expect them to wear the Nets out over the course of this series.
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