NBA Playoffs Time!
I'd been planning to revisit a series of posts I did 5 years ago, but I haven't felt terribly motivated lately. And now the playoffs are starting, which means it's time for some lousy predictions.
Indiana vs. Atlanta: What's funny to me about the Hawks being here is they didn't even want to make the playoffs. They wanted in the lottery, yet here they are. So how pathetic does that make the Knicks, Pistons, Cavs, and Bucks? They were trying to make the playoffs, and none of them could beat out an Atlanta team with no Al Horford. So the Eastern Conference is kind of pitiful. On to new business.
The Pacers are playing like garbage themselves. The offense is a mess, and everyone is pointing fingers over it. The wing guys sat Hibbert isn't posting up hard enough, Hibbert and West complain the wing guys won't pass to them, guys are making stupid passes and bad shots. Will any of that preclude the Pacers from beating the Hawks? Probably not. I have no doubt the players would love to beat Indiana and shut up all the people complaining about how this sub-.500 team is in the playoffs and Phoenix isn't, but I'm not sure that's enough. What I'm hoping for is Atlanta to steal one of the first two games, then win game 3 to go up 2-1. At that point, either the Pacers disintegrate entirely and get bounced, or they finally get their shit together and run the table. I'm going to lean towards the latter. Pacers in 6.
Miami vs. Charlotte: Miami hasn't played at the same level this year they have in the past, but they're probably wisely conserving energy for the playoffs. Wade will- in theory - be rested and ready, though I'll be surprised if he makes it through the postseason without missing at least a few games. Charlotte's been very good defensively this year, but with the Heat, there's always that extra gear they seem to have. They can't always find it, but when they do, opponents tend to get destroyed. The Bobcats have improved offensively over the course of the season, and Al Jefferson ought to have a field day against what passes for big men in Miami's rotation, but they're still mediocre when it comes to scoring the ball.
"Scoring the ball"? Why do people say that? What else are you going to score with in basketball? I hear it practically every time I watch a game, and it always sounds stupid. Anyway, I expect the Bobcats to win one game, probably game 4, when they're down 3-0 and the Heat let off the throttle. At least they'll get their first playoff win. Heat in 5.
Toronto vs. Brooklyn: The Nets wanted to avoid Chicago, mission accomplished. Now we'll see how they do against a team that can actually put the ball in the hoop. I know there's a lot of talk about many of the Raptors being playoff neophytes, but I don't know how big a deal that is. Certainly I could be convinced playoff experience helps against the best teams, but that is not the Nets. Plus, the Nets have had some injury woes - not to be unexpected with old teams - and I'm curious whether Garnett, Kirlienko, Pierce, and Deron Williams will hold up when they can't take games off. At the end of the day, Toronto is better at both offense and defense than the Nets, they have homecourt, and probably plenty of crazy fans, and I simply don't believe in the Nets. Raptors in 6.
Chicago vs. Washington: The Wizards are 10th in the NBA in defensive efficiency. I wouldn't have expected that. The Bulls are second, which I did expect, and 27th in offensive efficiency, which is also unsurprising. The Wizards are 16th on that side of things. So mediocre O and above-average D against phenomenal D and shitastic O. If it's close late, I'd lean towards the Bulls, because the Wizards strike me as the team more likely to get sloppy with the ball, or make mental miscues. And I have a hard time seeing the Wizards managing to blow the doors off the Bulls in any games. If they can, those wins ought to be cakewalks, because Chicago isn't really built to make comeback. I don't see it being much of a problem though. Bulls in 5.
San Antonio vs. Dallas: Dallas is a little better on offense. The Spurs are much better on defense. I figure the Mavs will be slowed a little, but the Spurs will run wild pretty much whenever they want. Marion is about the only plus defender the Mavericks have, and he can't guard 5 guys at once. Rick Carlisle is one of the few coaches in the league who can work on Popvich's level, but the talent disparity is too great. Spurs in 4.
Oklahoma City vs.Memphis: The Thunder have Kevin Durant. That's probably enough to win. The Grizzlies are better than their rankings suggest, since Marc Gasol is back and healthy. I'd expect the Grizzlies to try and feed the big men and beat the hell out of the Thunder down low. Will that mean lots of Kendrick Perkins stifling OKC's offense, possibly more effectively than Memphis can? Probably. Probably too much Perkins and too much Derek Fisher. Scott Brooks loves those guys. I still expect the Thunder to win, though, barring another Westbrook knee injury. I'm just not sure Memphis can score enough. Thunder in 6.
Los Angeles vs. Golden State: The Clippers and the Warriors don't like each other. No surprise, after all, nobody seems to like Blake Griffin. It's very strange to see Golden State ranked 12th in offensive efficiency, and 3rd in defensive. I guess having Igoudala and Bogut will do that for you. Except now Bogut's gone, which ought to mean a field day for the Clippers' offense, since I don't expect Jermaine O'Neal to be much of a rim protector. Basically, I expect the Clips to score at will, and the Warriors to try and go berserk from downtown to keep up. It's not going to work. Clippers in 5.
Houston vs. Portland: The Blazers started strong, then cooled off, but are playing well again of late. The Rockets took some time, but seem to have figured out how to incorporate Howard into their offense, and he makes up for at least some of the defensive deficiencies of, oh, everyone except Patrick Beverly. The Blazers don't seem to have any luck stopping Harden or Howard, which is a problem. The Blazers need to hit a lot of threes to have success, which could be good or bad. It's very feast or famine. The Rockets shoot a lot of threes too, but they seem to have more drive and kick, shoot free throws to their offense. I think the Rockets are the better team, but not good enough to close the Blazers out with authority, especially in Portland. Factor in Portalnd winning at least a game based off insane 3-point shooting, and Rockets in 7.