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Fearless Predictions

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During the NBA regular season Tony Mejia provided his weekly Division Rankings, Playoff Projections, NBA Finals Prediction and Power Poll.

For the playoffs, he's providing his fearless predictions with analysis for each matchup.

Be sure to follow him on Twitter @TonyMejiaNBA

NBA Finals
Matchup Betting Notes
San Antonio Spurs vs. Miami Heat Analysis: Tony Parker's health will be the major variable over the next few weeks. If he's able to be his normal self, the Spurs have the firepower to reverse the 2013 Finals result. Seconds away from a six-game series win, a missed defensive rebound led to Ray Allen's heroic 3-pointer that forced OT and eventually, broke San Antonio's collective heart. That pain has been the driving force behind repeating as Western Conference champs, securing homecourt that should serve them well as the Finals return to a 2-2-1-1-1 format for the first time since 1984. The first two games work out beautifully for the Spurs since they begin on home soil and feature a 2-day break in between. If Parker can get loose enough to help San Antonio take advantage, it could capitalize on the Miami requiring an adjustment period against the best offensive team its seen in months. Kawhi Leonard will need to make LeBron James work for everything he gets, getting help from Danny Green and everyone else Gregg Popovich throws at him. It won't be easy, but Tim Duncan looks focused and prepared to right last year's wrong by exploiting the Heat's lack of size inside to collect a fifth championship.

Prediction: Spurs win 4-3
Eastern Conference Finals
Matchup Betting Notes
Indiana Pacers vs. Miami Heat Analysis: There has been plenty of intrigue in these playoffs, but we've arrived at the Eastern Conference finals most expected to see when we tipped off way back in late October. Despite winning the last meeting in South Florida, the Heat fell behind the Pacers in the regular season's final week and won't have homecourt advantage. It won't matter. The Heat will prove why in a June 1 series finale that will see them get over the hump in Game 7 once again, besting an Indiana team whose physical defense and size will inevitably give them more trouble than they've faced in Charlotte or Brooklyn. The Pacers haven't lost consecutive games this postseason, but their inconsistent effort on the boards and offensive ineptitude has seen them fail to protect their home floor far too often to trust here. It won't be easy, but LeBron James will again prove why he's at the top of his game, reaching a fourth consecutive NBA Finals in Miami.

Prediction: Heat win 4-3
Western Conference Finals
Matchup Betting Notes
San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Analysis: The Thunder beat the top-seeded Spurs all four times in the regular season. Unlike that Brooklyn sweep of Miami we rightfully scoffed at, OKC's dominance matters, indicative of a glaring edge in speed and athleticism that should make the difference in these Western Conference finals. There are injury concerns to monitor in Tony Parker's tight left hamstring and Serge Ibaka's ailing left calf, not to mention Kawhi Leonard currently being at the top of his game as he prepares to go toe-to-toe with MVP Kevin Durant. Still, look for Oklahoma City to steal homecourt early in the series, making it pay off in a Game 6 series clincher that will ensure it gets to stay home to open the NBA Finals at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Prediction: Thunder win 4-2
Eastern Conference - Second Round
Matchup Betting Notes
Indiana Pacers vs. Washington Wizards Analysis: After losing the first two regular-season meetings in Indianapolis by a combined 47 points, the Wizards most recently won in D.C. 91-78 on March 28 despite Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza combining to shoot 4-for-25. If those two stay hot like they were against the Bulls, this series will go the distance before the Pacers again save their best for a Game 7 to turn Washington away.

Prediction: Pacers win 4-3
Miami Heat vs. Brooklyn Nets Analysis: The Heat couldn't care less that they lost all four regular-season meetings, and deep down, the Nets know it doesn't matter either. What will make a difference is how well Kevin Garnett, Andray Blatche and Mason Plumlee impose their will inside, since controlling the paint will be the only way Brooklyn continues its dominance of Miami. Rested following the first round's only sweep, it's imperative that the Heat take the first two games at home to take advantage of fresher legs and end the narrative that the Nets have their number.

Prediction: Heat win 4-2
Western Conference - Second Round
Matchup Betting Notes
San Antonio Spurs vs. Portland Trail Blazers Analysis: This has the feel of a Trail Blazers team clearly on the rise trying to scale a colossal mountain in the established Spurs to truly signal their arrival. LaMarcus Aldridge has been getting the better of idol Tim Duncan for years, while Damian Lillard is going to test Tony Parker's suspect defense. Still, unless they can surprise early and land a series clincher at home in Game 6, Portland is set to find out that it's virtually impossible to win a deciding game in San Antonio.

Prediction: Spurs win 4-3
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Clippers Analysis: These teams split twice in November and twice post-All-Star break, but it's worth noting that Kevin Durant racked up 130 points over the four games, so slowing him down will be Doc Rivers' top priority. Roughing him up with Matt Barnes and Jared Dudley will likely be most effective, but there has to be a Plan B for when they get into foul trouble. Unlike last series against Golden State, the Thunder do have multiple options to keep Blake Griffin from imposing his will. Expect that to be the difference, in addition to Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson showing no mercy against an ailing Chris Paul.

Prediction: Thunder win 4-1
Eastern Conference - First Round
Matchup Betting Notes
Indiana Pacers vs. Atlanta Hawks Analysis: Pero Antic's 3-point shooting created huge issues for Indiana last time the teams played, so it's worth wondering whether the matchup woes he creates will keep Roy Hibbert from regaining his rhythm. The Pacers have had their struggles in Atlanta, too, snapping a 12-game regular-season losing streak there in February. This won't be an easy chore.

Prediction: Pacers win 4-3
Miami Heat vs. Chicago Bulls Analysis: Al Jefferson will test Miami inside, but unless Bismack Biyombo accelerates his development by two years these next few weeks, it won't be enough to keep the Heat from moving on comfortably. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist can potentially be a thorn in LeBron James' side down the road, but he's still too raw to make a significant dent.

Prediction: Heat win 4-1
Toronto Raptors vs. Brooklyn Nets Analysis: This series will be decided by how well the Nets can frustrate Jonas Valanciunas, since the Raptors are formidable when he stays out of foul trouble and imposes his will. He went for 20 and 13 in Toronto's lone win at Barclays Center this season, but Kevin Garnett is currently feeling spry and can still be one of the league's best agitators and paint defenders. Expect experience to win out as Brooklyn's decision to tank in order to avoid Chicago pays off.

Prediction: Nets win 4-2
Chicago Bulls vs. Washington Wizards Analysis: Tom Thibodeau will look to ruin John Wall's first playoff experience by attempting to make him work at every turn, so count on that battle of wills deciding what looks to be a very competitive series. It's easy to dismiss the Wizards' lack of playoff experience since they haven't been here since '08, but Marcin Gortat and Trevor Ariza have each reached the Finals as important role players. Wall, who shot 50 percent in leading the Wizards to wins in two of three regular-season meetings, has the athleticism to complicate matters and push this series to a deciding game. At home, Chicago should have the edge in a Game 7.

Prediction: Bulls win 4-3
Western Conference - First Round
Matchup Betting Notes
San Antonio Spurs vs. Dallas Mavericks Analysis: The Mavericks lost all four regular-season meetings against their Southwest Division rivals, surrendering 112.25 points in seeing their defensive deficiencies capitalized upon. Although you should never sell Dallas short due to Rick Carlisle's merit as a brilliant strategist, it's hard to imagine the Spurs losing four times to anyone this early in the postseason. Gregg Popovich has his guys rested, relatively healthy and ready to go.

Prediction: Spurs win 4-2
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Memphis Grizzlies Analysis: The Grizzlies sought out this matchup as opposed to dealing with the Spurs, so we'll see how they fare in containing Kevin Durant. The likely MVP topped 30 in three of the four meetings against Memphis, but Tayshaun Prince, Tony Allen and long potential x-factor James Johnson are worthy adversaries. Because Marc Gasol is so effective as a defensive anchor and Zach Randolph helps slow the pace down, OKC is going to have to work for everything it gets.

Prediction: Thunder win 4-3
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Golden State Warriors Analysis: With Andrew Bogut likely out for the entire playoffs and certainly for the length of this series, the Warriors have no answer inside for the Clippers. Stephen Curry is capable of keeping the Warriors in games with his shooting flurries, but keep in mind that Klay Thompson forced Chris Paul to miss seven of his first eight shots in the most recent meeting on March 12 and the Clippers won going away. Blake Griffin should continue his impressive season by helping L.A. control this series.

Prediction: Clippers win 4-1
Houston Rockets vs. Portland Trail Blazers Analysis: Dwight Howard and James Harden can absolutely lead the Rockets to an NBA Finals, but they're just as capable of flaming out early. Free-throw shooting is going to be a major factor, as is Patrick Beverley toiling at less than 100 percent at the point. Damian Lillard can take advantage and help steal this series if he's able to find his shooting stroke. He was held to 39 percent as Houston won three of four regular-season meetings, but his streaky nature and ability to raise his game in big moments can help a very capable Portland supporting cast steal a Game 7. LaMarcus Aldridge averaged 26.8 points and 15.5 rebounds against the Rockets, so Howard and friends have and will continue to struggle keeping him in check.

Prediction: Trail Blazers win 4-3

  
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