Friday, April 17, 2009

NBA Playoffs Preview

Wake me up for the Finals, will you?

After the three consecutive humdingers that were the '06, '07 and '08 playoffs, we're going to be treated to the basketball equivalent of a Nadal/Federer waltz to a Grand Slam final, which is when the real competition begins. As Simmons said, Vegas had the Cavs-Lakers prospective match-up in the finals at 4-to-7 odds...before the Garnett injury. Think about that for a second -- technically speaking, there could be 64 potential matchups in the Finals, and oddsmakers think one of them is so overwhelmingly likely that they will give you $400 if you put up a $700 risk. And again, this is before the only other team that could realistically challenge that has just seen its chances go up in smoke.

Be that as it may, here are my first round picks.

Eastern Conference

1 Cleveland vs. 8 Detroit

To anyone who thinks that Detroit can "cause the Cavs trouble" or "make this a long series" because of their "championship experience", I have two words: um, no. Have you seen Detroit play? Have you seen Cleveland play? Look at every single first-round series (including the West), and tell me this isn't the most lopsided matchup, the one in which one team has no shot to win. Come on, tell me. I'm waiting.

Didn't think so.

Prediction: Cavs in four.

2 Boston vs. 7 Chicago

Hmmm. Actually, let's add a few m's to that. Here goes: hmmmmmmmm.

This series is very intruiging. You have the wounded champs -- dealt a killer psychological and physical blow -- on the one hand, and an upstart team led by an insanely talented and heady rookie on the other. I'm tempted to go with Chicago, because (a) they have momentum, (b) they're not scared, and (c) for Obama's sake. But in my heart of hearts, I can't. At the end of the day, even if Boston with KG is a better team than Boston without KG, Boston without KG is a better team than Chicago.

Prediction: Celtics in six.

3 Orlando vs. 6 Philly

Well done, Stan Van Gundy. By running your mouth against Shaq, the Knicks, refs, the league, Chinese currency manipulators, the international non-proliferation regime, and Russian fiction, you succeeded in attracting bad karma. Now the whole world -- courtesy of that late-season swoon -- knows the following things:

1. Dwight Howard is not an offensive force in this league just yet.
2. If the 3s aren't falling in the first three quarters, it doesn't matter how hot you get in the 4th, because you've dug yourself too big a hole.
3. Despite the gaudy regular season numbers, your team is closer to the East's second tier (Philly, Miami) than the top (Cleveland, Boston).

We're about to find out just how close. I'm feeling an upset here.

Prediction: Sixers in six.

4 Atlanta vs. 5 Miami

The whole "the best player in a series usually wins it" argument is so overblown. If that was true, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Lebron James would never have lost playoff series. I'm willing to grant that Dwyane Wade is a phenomenal player with a phenomenal season behind him. I'm not willing to disrespect the very solid strides Atlanta have made this year. And please stop thinking of Joe Johnson as chopped liver. Dude can play. And can someone please tell me who Miami's second best player is?

Prediction: Atlanta in six.

Western Conference

1 L.A. vs. 8 Utah

What the hell happened to Utah? Weren't they supposed to be the proverbial "toughest team" in the West? The one team that could legitimately challenge all other heavy-hitters in the post-season? The team that would execute, execute, execute on offense and suffocate, suffocate, suffocate on defense?

Man, remember how tough Utah played the Lakers last year? Good, because it won't happen again.

Prediction: Lakers in five.

2 Denver vs. 7 New Orleans

What an insanely fun series this is going to be. You've got two highly entertaining teams, one of them highly combustible (no, I don't trust you yet Denver), one of them with the best point guard this league has seen in the last five years (not you, Chauncey), and some great individual match-ups.

It's going to turn on Chandler's physical health and the Nuggets' mental health. I think Denver takes it, but only just.

Prediction: Nuggets in seven

3. San Antonio vs. 6 Dallas

Can you imagine how fun this series would be if it were 2003? Sadly it is not, so we're going to see two teams past their prime trying their hardest not to lose. Though I have to say, I was really impressed with Dallas' rise from wherever the hell they were at the beginning of the season to number 6 in the West. As Ali G might say, respect.

As for the Ginobili injury, even though I hate him and the Spurs, I was really bummed when I read about it, because it meant the only viable challenge to the Lakers (whom I hate even more) were dead and buried. They'll survive this series, if only because Tony Parker is going to have a monster series (trust me), but after that, all bets are off.

Prediction: Spurs in five.

4 Portland vs. 5 Houston

The most compelling series for sure. Portland has more talent man-for-man, has home court, and has the best player. Houston as...I'm not sure what, but I do know that they're very much in this series. I don't know who's going to stop Yao in this series, and the Rockets can throw either Battier or Artest on Roy. If McGrady was playing, I would take Portland for sure. But now that his cursed body and mind have been removed from the premises, I think Houston might take this. But I'm not sure.

Prediction: Rockets in six.

UPDATE: One more day.


zeyd said...

Thank god dude, was gonna email you asking for a post. Here are my predictions:

Cavs in 4
Celtics in 5
Magic in 6
Hawks in 6

Lakers in 7
Hornets in 6
Spurs in 6
Blazers in 7

And can you, someone, please explain to me why pundits have been creaming themselves about how this is the closest mvp race we've had in ages? And about how any of the 3 nominees deserve it? They're talking shit right? It's irony right? It's so fucking obvious who the mvp is that they're all having a laugh and suggesting that there's actually competition, that's what it is, right?

No seriously, I'm asking...

JJY said...

You turd, after unequivocally shutting down my observation that chicago has a shot against kg-less boston, you go and give the matchup a "hmmmmmmmm"


Also - Philly has no shot against Orl. No shot.

And Miami beats Atlanta. Wade is that good. People only make the best player in a series argument when the teams are relatively closely-matched, and you know this...your statement is downright stupid. And it's not that overblown - see Lebron vs. Detroit, 2 years ago (recent notable exception - Kobe vs Pho that year...can't believe they didn't win that series). Actually, those two teams weren't relatively close, so that shouldn't really count.

As for what happened to Utah...I really don't know. It made me cry, because I genuinely think they could have made the Western conf. finals as a 7-seed. Stupid sports.

All that being said, my predictions:

Cavs in 4
Celts in 7
Magic in 6
Heat in 6

Lakers in 7
Hornets in 6
Spurs in 5
Rockets in 6

Ahsan said...

It's funny that both of you have the Lakers taking 7 to get by Utah. Don't know why the Jazz are getting so much respect, or alternatively, why the Lakers are getting so little. They absolutely destroyed Utah last week, when they (the Lakers) had nothing to play for and Utah had everything to play for.

Both of you have also picked New Orleans (that too in 6 games) but how can you be so sure about their health? They had a mini-collapse of their own to end the season too.

Seems like the only point we all agree on is that Pistons are getting swept this year.

On the MVP discussion, Zeyd, I think the media has confused the discussion by saying there were 3 guys who deserved it, when (as you say) there is only one. I think what they mean to say is that there were 3 guys who had MVP-type years, i.e. seasons you would ordinarily expect to reward with the MVP, but obviously cannot. I also think Chris Paul gets unfairly shafted in these discussions; it really should be a big four, not a big three.

zeyd said...

Utah, for all their troubles on the road, are still a fantastic home team (you mentioned the Lakers destroying them recently, well check the game before that) and I see them winning 2, if not all 3 of their home games. So challo, I'd say it's going to at least 6.

Gone with the Hornets more so because of Denver's inability to get out of the first round (same applies with the Rockets) for so long. Oh and the Hornets have one of best 5 players in the league who should have been mvp last year. At the same time I can see Billups having his say which could make this series a fuckin great one.

Looks like the Bulls have nicked the first one, as have the Mavs and Rockets. So much for home court eh?

Ahsan said...

Picked the Rockets already, and am pretty sure the Spurs will be back. But the Boston-Chicago prediction is one which I may live to regret -- if you saw Rose play yesterday, you'd know why. Kid was awesome.

Ahsan said...

"Also - Philly has no shot against Orl. No shot."

Hahahahahahahhahahahahahahahaahha. We await your mea culpa with bated breath, JJY. Choot.

JJY said...

I was actually rooting for Philly as I watched the game...I like Iggy. An absolutely amazing comeback - from 18 down on the road. Wow.

But it's 1 game. How about we take it easy for a minute. I did say the Magic would win in 6, and I stand by that.

Ahsan said...

Ok. We'll see. I'm telling you, Orlando is not as good as everyone thinks they are. I've watched them quite a bit this year, and they really go through those phases where if the 3s aren't falling, you have no idea how their next bucket is coming.

And even the stuff they're good at (wide open threes) is very different in 3rd quarter of a game against Sacramento in February than one in with 2 minutes to go in a playoff game.

Billups was sick last night. I felt so bad for CP3. His teammates sucked balls yesterday. But that's going to be the most fun series -- I definitely see it going 7 games, with a couple of suspensions and a fist fight or two.

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