It’s that time of year, playoff time. The Stanley Cup quest has begun, and the NBA playoffs begin. Since I know vastly more about basketball than hockey, I’ll stick with the hardwood.
#1 Spurs vs #8 Grizzlies – On the surface this looks like a major mismatch. The best record in the NBA taking on a young Memphis squad. But don’t be fooled. Memphis has a huge front line with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph that could very well wear out Duncan and Blair. Manu Ginobili will miss the beginning of the series, maybe longer, which is anhuge loss because Richard Jefferson is nowhere near the talent Ginobili is. Mike Conley has the quicks to stay with Parker. The teams split four games in the regular season, so the Griz are not afraid of the big bad Spurs. I still think the Spurs win because of their notoriously dirty tricks in the playoffs, but look for the Grizzlies to take it the distance. Spurs in 7.
#2 Lakers vs #7 Hornets – I honestly don’t see how New Orleans wins this series, let alone is competitive. Yeah the Lakers have struggled lately, but this is playoff time, it’s the Lakers time of year. LA’s front line will wear out the Hornets, and Kobe will, as usual, school his opponent. Chris Paul has a clear advantage over the Lakers guards, but that’s it. One man can’t do it all. Lakers in 5.
#3 Mavericks vs #6 Blazers – Ok, now we’re talking. I absolutely love this match up. Dallas is the odds on favorite, they did win 57 games this season for a reason. Jason Terry, Dirk and Kidd are elite level players leading the Mavs. But, I like Portland here. The Blazers are primed to make it past the first round. The past two seasons have been heartbreak city for Rip City, two 50+ win seasons coming to brutal ends in the first round. Not this year. With the addition of Gerald Wallace, the Blazers have that power forward to combat what Dallas can throw them up front. This leaves LaMarcus Aldridge free to focus on offense. I like Andre Miller in the back court, and Brandon Roy ain’t a bad sixth man. As good as Dallas is, I think Portland has the emotional and “chip on the shoulder” edge in this match up. They want out of the first round. Bad. Blazers in 6.
#4 Zombies vs #5 Nuggets – Screw you Clay Bennett. George Karl in 7.
#1 Bulls vs #8 Pacers – The Pacers made the playoffs? No brainer, MVP Derrick Rose and the Bulls roll Indy. Bulls in 4.
#2 Heat vs #7 76ers – A lot of pundits are saying Philly can make this a series, and maybe so, but I don’t see it. The Heat have literally been waiting for this moment since last summer, to get to the playoffs and prove all the hype was worth it. The Sixers have some nice young players with Jrue Holiday at PG, and Speights and Young up front, with vet Elton Brand in the middle. They will compete and may steal a game or two from Miami, but the Heat with be focused and determined to win. Heat in 5.
#3 Celtics vs #6 Knicks – This series will have more media attention than probably any first round match up. The Knicks are back in the playoffs after many years, and the Celtics return yet again to make another run to the Finals. There is talk NY could pull this one out, especially after how uninspired Boston has looked the past month or so, and since the Knicks have looked solid during that same time span. Both teams have weaknesses. The Knicks struggle defensively and Boston struggles to score. So I think the C’s could break out offensively in this series. I think Billups could work Rondo here. Rondo hasn’t been playing well lately, and Mr Big Shot shines in the post season. The trade of Kenderick Perkins has left a gaping defensive void in the middle for Boston, so Amare will go off for some big scoring nights. I don’t see how this series doesn’t go at least six games. As much as I want NY to win, I like Boston’s experience. Celtics in 7.
#4 Magic vs #5 Hawks – I honestly have no read on this series. What I see are two underachieving teams with tons of talent who have been uninspiring all season. Atlanta is a flat out mystery to me. They have talent, but no heart. I don’t trust them. They’ve stunk down the stretch and they notoriously flop in the playoffs. Even though Hotlanta has dominated Orlando this season, I just can’t pick the Hawks. They represent a lot of what I don’t like about pro sports. Over paid clowns who get their coach fired even though he led them to the playoffs each year. Orlando has many flaws of their own, but I like their experience in the playoffs and Dwight Howard is a beast in the middle. Orlando in 6.
Further thoughts and remaining match up predictions:
In the west, I ultimately like the Lakers (I know, original huh?), but I’m not very enthused about the pick. I think they’ll start to find their way and somehow get past Portland in the second round, even though I think the Blazers can get them. In the conference finals it could be a war. They’ll play the Spurs or Zombies (I picked Denver above, but that was for show, I just can’t pick “the others”). Either match up will be a seven game series.
In the east, it’s much more wide open. Chicago, Miami, Boston, Orlando, New York, any of them could make a run. I think the Bulls cruise to the conference finals where they’ll get the Heat. I know, Boston has dominated them this season, but like I said above, this is what LeBron has waited for and I don’t see him failing, at least early on. The Bulls will beat Miami in the conference finals because I think Derrick Rose is the best player in the league right now and the Bulls play defense, they rebound, they are hot, I just love how they are built.
Finals prediction? It’s 1991 all over again!! Bulls vs Lakers, but this time it’ll go longer. The Windy City will be rocking. Bulls in 7.
**Postscript: This time of year without my Sonics is painful, especially considering how well the team has played since moving to the dust bowl. I hope someday we get a team back so I can actually enjoy, yet once again, playoff basketball in Seattle. Many of my fondest sports memories are Sonics playoff games. So, with that, I’ll enjoy this years playoffs from a distance, enjoying the best players in the world play the best game in the world, but all the while keeping my emotions in check, watching with some level of cold detachment…