Friday, April 20, 2007

Gettin' the Skinny on the NBA Playoffs

Maybe it was because I didn't do much sports betting this year (thanks, Feds!), but this NBA season seemed especially dull to me. While I caught pieces of plenty of games, I don't think I was able to watch a single game in its entirety this year, which probably gives me a lot in common with most sports fans. But now the playoffs are starting, so I'll begin to pay closer attention. I asked loyal reader JSon to get me up to speed with the season and provide me with some predictions. Of course, just because I'm woefully uninformed this year doesn't mean that I can't give my own opinions as well. Here's what JSon had to say, along with a few responses of my own in italics:

Round One

Detroit over Orlando (4-1) It would be 4-2 if Darko's ankle lets him play the whole series.
Sorry, but Grant Hill insists that if anyone's ankles be blamed for the Magic's woes, it be his.

Chicago over Miami (4-2) Am I the only one seeing Nocioni body slam Wade onto his shoulder in game one? The only thing more predictable is Bill Simmons making a Cobra Kai reference involving "sweep the shoulder".
That's a safe bet. Unless there's an 80's Celtics analogy to be made that trumps it.

Cleveland over Washington (4-1). (No comment)
No Agent Zero means Zero interest in this series. (I probably should have stuck w/ no comment.)

New Jersey over Toronto (4-2). Vince Carter is pumped up about this one. The homecoming will give him some motivation and team experience will carry the Nets over the Raptors. Pop quiz: how many Raptors have playoff experience?
Vince Carter can get pumped up about a basketball game? I had no idea. As for the pop quiz...Mo Pete is still on the team, right? I think he used to be good.

Dallas over Golden St. (4-3) A battle of homecourt advantage and biased officiating. It'll be weird to see a Cuban team get legacy calls from refs.
This is the only series in which the Dallas defense will have the edge. I'll be rooting for Baron Davis and Matt Barnes, but I see Dallas taking this in four or five.

San Antonio over Denver (4-2) I want to say Camby's D reduces Duncan's impact and that Iverson will switch over to guard Parker while Melo takes Manu out with some physical play. But I have a feeling it will be Blake letting Parker race by while JR Smith tries to learn D for the first time and Bowen does his thing to rattle Melo. It would be a close series if Karl weren't so easily outcoached.
I'm pretty sure the players stopped listening to Karl months ago, so coaching may not be as big of a factor.

Phoenix over LA (4-1) Lakers have last year's series to buoy their confidence, but Odom will have to come up huge to replicate that series. Lakers are just playing ugly ball right now - can you turn it around in a weekend?
Giving the Lakers one game here is generous.

Houston over Utah (4-3) Might be the closest series of the first round. Ultimately it comes down to the disparities at the 2 and on the boards. Utah isn't a good enough rebounding team to make up for the Fisher/McGrady matchup.
If Derek Fisher is really guarding McGrady in this series, then the only hope Utah has is for T-Mac to get one of his trademark back spasms this week.

Round Two

Detroit over Chicago (4-3) I used to think that whoever wins the Miami-Chicago series would win the East, but Ben Wallace has disappeared against the Pistons before and the Bulls still have no answer at the 4. Best hope for the Bulls is quick hands down low to rattle Webber's passing game. Bulls have patterned their roster after the Pistons (Hinrich-Billups, Gordon-Rip, Sefalosha-Prince, Thomas-Sheed then they buy Big Ben) but I don't think the junior squad can get it done against the varsity. Miami would have beaten them, though.
The Bulls were my opening day pick to win the East. I'll stick with them because I'm stubborn and a fool. And really, anytime you can bet against C-Webb in the playoffs, you have to go for it.

Cavs over Nets (4-2). Vince probably shoots his wad in round one and their size down low wins it for Cleveland.
(What would Rod Benson say about this?)

Mavs over Rockets (4-1) Van Gundy's high screen and roll usually nullifies Yao's advantage down low. Unless he revamps the offense quick (feed post, look weak-side cut, otherwise Yao shoot or kick, swing & reset balanced with T-Mac one-on-one weakside on the overload) Mavs whoop em. I do hope the microphones pick up on Mutumbo and Diop trashtalking.
I like the Mutumbo/Diop dialogue, but another subplot is who will collect more in fines this series- Mark Cuban or Jeff Van Gundy?

Phoenix (4-3) over San Antonio. Amare has used Duncan in the low block before. Barbosa-Parker should be interesting, although the speed matchup really only matches up vertically, not laterally. Parker still has the edge in a half court set. The strength of this matchup may let Nash rest a bit, especially if Banks (good defender) gets some burn.
This is the series where people realize that Bruce Bowen is no longer the shutdown defender he's reputed to be.

Conference Finals

Detroit over Cavs (4-2). God, what a boring conference final. It was only close last year because the Cavs all rallied around Hughes and played with an emotional intensity outside of their normal character. Now that it's back to X's and O's, Cavs don't have a chance.
I've got Chicago here, but whichever team faces the Cavs should have an easy path to the Finals.

Phoenix over Mavs (4-3). Look at the Mavs roster and eliminate all players that have no business playing up tempo ball. That leaves Harris, Howard maybe Dirk. Terry and George lack the creativity to drive with the ball and Stack lacks the wind. Mavs D is not as good as people give them credit for (they went from embarrassing to average, but still have no stoppers) which means Suns will be able to play their game, calls notwithstanding. If Nash is rested, this is the Suns to lose.
This will be the best series of the playoffs, which probably means that San Antonio will screw it all up in the previous round by beating Phoenix. Either way, I think Dallas is on a mission and will find a way to win this in 7.


Phoenix over Detroit (4-3). Detroit doesn't force enough turnovers anymore to balance their plodding offence. They need to shoot a ridiculously high percentage to offset fewer possessions and are relying on Chris Webber to come up big in the clutch. Chris Webber. Not good for them.

So the Suns win the championship, might get the Hawks pick at four, which they package with their two other first rounders & Diaw to get Durant. That team could be good for awhile.
I'll go with Dallas over Chicago in six. Mark Cuban will have the biggest sh*t eating grin when David Stern has to hand him the championship trophy. As an added bonus, this win will give him credibility amongst MLB owners and he'll be allowed to buy the Cubs at a time when the NL Central is ready for a changing of the guard. As for JSon's draft prediction- any GM that surrenders the rights to Kevin Durant in a deal should be fired on the spot.

Ok, after all that, I've almost generated enough interest in the playoffs that I might watch the actual games. Almost. I think I need to find a bookie to seal the deal.



At Wed Aug 01, 12:55:00 PM PDT , Blogger lonebadger said...

where do you get your wonderful pictures.


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