NBA Playoffs: 2012 Preview and Predictions

2012 NBA PLAYOFFS PREVIEW AND PREDICTIONS

WhatIfSports.com presents its preview of the 2012 NBA Playoffs. Below is the main bracket and round-by-round series breakdown. To the right of the bracket is a table explaining every NBA playoff team's chances of winning each round, including the NBA Finals.

We simulated the entire 2012 NBA playoffs schedule 1,001 times. Home court is taken into account. Average wins and losses per series are indicated in the bracket. To toggle between rounds, click the appropriate link. You can simulate any game in the playoffs yourself using our NBA SimMatchup feature.

1
8
Bulls
76ers
4
3
4
5
Celtics
Hawks
3
4
3
6
Pacers
Magic
4
2
2
7
Heat
Knicks
4
2
1
8
Spurs
Jazz
4
1
4
5
Grizzlies
Clippers
3
4
3
6
Lakers
Nuggets
3
4
2
7
Thunder
Mavericks
4
3
1
5
Bulls
Hawks
4
2
3
2
Pacers
Heat
2
4
1
5
Spurs
Clippers
4
2
6
2
Nuggets
Thunder
3
4
1
2
Bulls
Heat
3
4
1
2
Spurs
Thunder
4
3
2
1
Heat
Spurs
2
4

WINNING PERCENTAGES

Eastern Conference
Seed/Team Round 1 Conf. Semis Conf. Finals NBA Finals
2 Miami
77.5% 60.4% 43.2% 18.4%
1 Chicago
56.3% 39.1% 20.2% 7.1%
8 Philadelphia
43.7% 28.6% 11.7% 3.3%
3 Indiana
84.4% 26.8% 11.4% 2.2%
5 Atlanta
65.2% 23.0% 8.3% 1.8%
7 New York
22.5% 11.4% 4.1% 1.1%
4 Boston
34.8% 9.4% 1.2% 0.1%
6 Orlando
15.6% 1.4% 0.0% 0.0%
Western Conference
Seed/Team Round 1 Conf. Semis Conf. Finals NBA Finals
1 San Antonio
92.5% 74.4% 47.9% 36.2%
2 Oklahoma City
58.3% 39.0% 20.4% 13.4%
6 Denver
59.5% 25.0% 12.4% 6.3%
7 Dallas
41.7% 21.4% 7.6% 4.2%
5 L.A. Clippers
57.1% 15.8% 5.9% 3.0%
3 L.A. Lakers
40.5% 14.7% 4.8% 2.6%
4 Memphis
42.9% 7.3% 1.0% 0.4%
8 Utah
7.5% 2.5% 0.1% 0.0%
Bulls logo
Hawks logo
1
5
Bulls
Hawks
4
2
Bulls
Record: 50-16
Analysis: The Bulls have again ridden their defense to regular season success. After finishing the 2011 season with a league-best 62-20 record, the team's encore performance has netted a league-best 50-16 mark in 2012. The Bulls held opponents to the lowest scoring output in the NBA, limiting their adversaries to just 88.4 points per game. They also topped the league in total and offensive rebounds. Last year's MVP, Derrick Rose, was limited to 39 games, but appears to be healthy for the playoffs. Fifth-year player C.J. Watson has been a capable substitute in his absence, averaging 11.3 points and 4.6 assists in 25 starts. Newly acquired Richard Hamilton also suffered the injury bug, appearing in only 28 games, but the 34-year-old proved an effective option at shooting guard and is healthy heading into the postseason. All signs point to a playoff run for the Bulls. If the seeds hold true, they will meet the Heat in the Eastern Conference championship for the second year in a row. The two teams split four meetings during the season.

Hawks
Record: 40-26
Analysis: The Hawks have been a staple in the Eastern Conference playoff picture lately, as 2012 marks the club's fifth consecutive postseason trip. Only six other franchises, the Celtics, Lakers, Magic, Mavericks, Nuggets and Spurs, have been to the playoffs the last five years in a row. However, the Hawks have managed less success than their peers, never advancing past the conference semifinals. If they hope to achieve more this season, they'll have to do so without the services of center Al Horford. The two-time All-Star was lost in the 11th game of the season and it appears he'll be unable to return for the playoffs. In his absence, Josh Smith has averaged career-bests in points (18.8 per game) and rebounds (9.6 per game). He and Joe Johnson (18.8 points per game) do most of the heavy lifting in the scoring column. Third-year player Jeff Teague has settled in as the team's full-time starting point guard.

Chances of Winning Conference Semi-Finals: Bulls 39.1%- Hawks 23.0%
Pacers logo
Heat logo
3
2
Pacers
Heat
2
4
Pacers
Record: 42-24
Analysis: The Pacers snuck into the playoffs in 2011 despite a 37-45 record. Although they fell to the Bulls in five games, the franchise's first trip to the postseason since 2006 was cause for celebration. Heading into the new season, however, the bar was raised as new acquisitions David West and George Hill added experience to an incumbent roster of up-and-comers. The team exceeded expectations, claiming the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers are one of the hottest teams heading into the postseason, having won 12 of their last 15 games. The credit for much of their success can be doled out to West and Hill, as well as Leandro Barbosa, who was acquired from the Raptors in a mid-season trade. But the improved play of Roy Hibbert and Paul George has also been a welcome addition. Hibbert is averaging career highs in points, rebounds, blocks, steals and field goal percentage, while George has become a reliable option at shooting guard in only his second year in the league. Small forward Danny Granger led the team in scoring (18.7 points per game) for the fifth consecutive season.

Heat
Record: 46-20
Analysis: After playing second-fiddle to the Mavericks in last year's championship series, Miami is prepared for another run. The cast of characters remains mostly intact, with new additions Shane Battier and Norris Cole joining the rotation. LeBron James appears likely to earn his third MVP trophy when the awards are handed out. Credit his overwhelming efficiency in submitting a stellar season that even the most jaded voters won't be able to ignore. James attempted the fewest three-pointers of his career (2.4 per game), making 36.2 percent, a career-high. As a result, his field goal percentage also climbed to a career-best 53.1 percent. James leads the Heat in points, rebounds, assists and steals. His running mate, Dwyane Wade, has been limited to the fewest minutes of his career (33.2 per game), but has still chipped in 22.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.3 blocks and 1.7 steals per game. If Miami again meets Chicago in the conference finals, they'll concede home court advantage. However, that didn't prove to be a detriment last year when the Heat ousted the Bulls in five games.

Chances of Winning Conference Semi-Finals: Pacers 26.8% - Heat 60.4%
Spurs logo
Clippers logo
1
5
Spurs
Clippers
4
2
Spurs
Record: 50-16
Analysis: For seemingly the third straight season, the Spurs geared up for "one last run" at a championship. But these aren't the same Spurs that dominated the last decade, even if the old guard of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker remains intact. Gone is the defense-first philosophy in favor of a style more reminiscent of Mike D'Antoni's Suns squads. The Spurs are second in the NBA in scoring, while ranking only 16th in points allowed. It's hard to argue the success of the new style, as it's enabled the Spurs to capture the No. 1 seed while limiting the minutes of Duncan (career-low 28.2 minutes per game) and Ginobili (23.3 minutes per game). However, a faster pace hasn't traditionally translated to playoff success, as D'Antoni's Suns proved with four playoff appearances in five years without reaching the NBA Finals. Perhaps the Spurs will shorten their bench (12 players average 6.4 or more points per game) and slow their pace during the postseason. After last year's first round loss to the No. 8-seed Grizzlies, they certainly won't be looking past any opponents.

Clippers
Record: 40-26
Analysis: Is it fair for Clippers fans to dream of postseason success when simply making the playoffs was a feat in itself? The franchise is playoff-bound for the first time since 2006 and just the fifth time in the past 36 years. Regardless of the outcome of their first round matchup with the Grizzlies, the season has to be considered a resounding success for the other team in L.A. The December trade for Chris Paul instantly transformed the Clippers into a contender. He teamed up with Blake Griffin and Chauncey Billups to form a nucleus that ignited the Clippers to a 15-7 start before Billups was lost to a season-ending injury. Without Mr. Big Shot's veteran presence at off-guard, the team struggled to find consistency, losing 14 of their next 25 games. Ignoring calls to dismiss head coach Vinny Del Negro, the Clippers righted the ship and finished the season by winning 14 of their remaining 19 contests. The late-game heroics of Paul will likely determine how far the Clippers are capable of advancing.

Chances of Winning Conference Semi-Finals: Spurs 74.4 % - Clippers 15.8%
Nuggets logo
Thunder logo
6
2
Nuggets
Thunder
3
4
Nuggets
Record: 38-28
Analysis: The squad's inclusion in the playoffs is testament in itself to the fortitude of this Denver team, as the club was dealt a plethora of injuries and underwent a major roster upheaval midway through the season. Despite prolonged absences from scorer Danilo Gallinari, the Nuggets led the NBA in points (104.1) and assists (24.0) per game on their way to a 38-28 record and No. 6 seed in the postseason.

While coach George Karl undoubtedly deserves praise for keeping the team's focus intact through turbulent times, unwavering guard play from Ty Lawson, Andre Miller and Arron Afflalo was the catalyst for the team's success. Lawson and Miller have directed the up-tempo pace, fueling this engine with a combined 26 points and 13 assists per contest, while Afflalo has bounced-back from injures in winter to pour in 18.7 points per game during April. Gallinari, while still battling a thumb injury, appears to be coming into form, contributing 12.1 the past month. Down low, newly-acquired JaVale McGee has assimilated into the high-octane offense fairly smoothly, and rookie Kenneth Faried has been a pleasant surprise, leading the team in rebounding with 7.7 boards a game. Though they lack a bona fide star, Denver's depth and speed make the Nuggets a worthy first-round adversary.

Thunder
Record: 47-19
Analysis: Oklahoma City's methodical ascent to the league's elevated stratum has come to fruition, as the Thunder enter the playoffs as one of the top seeds in the Western Conference. Franchise foundation Kevin Durant submitted his finest overall campaign, sporting career highs in field-goal percentage, rebounds, assists and blocks. Oh, and he also led the league in scoring at 28.0 points per game, good enough for his third straight scoring title. At age 23, the Durantula has already fulfilled his prophecy as savior to the once-beleaguered ball club.

Not that he's alone in this quest. Russell Westbrook continues to develop into one of the Association's elite guards, averaging 23.6 points on the season, although his drop in assists (8.2 mark last season to a 5.5 clip this year) is somewhat disconcerting. Helping Durant and Westbrook light up the scoreboard has been James Harden. The Arizona State product, a shoo-in for Sixth Man of the Year and fresh off a 40-point performance against the Suns, is chipping in 16.8 points a game off the bench. On the defensive end, Serge Ibaka led the NBA in blocks, swatting shots to the tune of 3.7 rejections a contest, while Kendrick Perkins provides an overpowering presence in the post. Perhaps a little green in last year's conference finals, Oklahoma City is more than ready to cast their claim as top dogs in the West.

Chances of Winning Conference Semi-Finals: Nuggets 66.8% - Thunder 28.4%

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