Thursday, April 17, 2008

NBA Playoffs Predictions

Yeah, this will go well. Though I don't think I did too badly last year (the Pistons surprised me by rolling over even more than I expected against the Cavs, though). Anyway, the playoffs are set to start, and I figure I might as well discuss the matchups a little, even though I haven't watched that much basketball this year, and I'll miss the first few days of the playoffs. {Edit: Now being updated as the first round draws to a close.}

Boston vs. Atlanta: First off, how about a big hand for the Hawks making the playoffs! I know, it's the Eastern Conference, but it's also the Atlanta Hawks, so it probably still counts as an accomplishment. And they get two home playoff fames (minimum) out of it. Can't say I like their odds though. I have to figure Pierce, Allen and Garnett are too much for the Hawks. I know Bibby's got the edge over Rondo at PG, and if Joe Johnson gets hot he could cause trouble, but I really don't see the Hawks having enough to keep things close. I think the Celts will win each game going away (though I hope at least one of the games in Atlanta is close, and that the Hawks get some good fan turnout for those games). Celtics in 4. {Actual result: Celtics in 7. It's about freaking time.}

Detroit vs. Philadelphia: So the 76ers don't hit many threes, which means it'll be hard to stretch the Pistons' defense. That's bad. The Pistons have a fairly impressive starting 5, but now they have a useful bench, which Flip Saunders will actually use no less. The Sixers don't have nearly the depth, and other than Dalembert against McDyess, I don't see them having a distinct advantage at any position (maybe Igoudala vs. Tayshaun Prince, although Prince seems to always up his game as necessary in the postseason). Still, I figure the Sixers are good for at least one win, just because I'm unconvinced these aren't the same Pistons who will ease up once they get up 2-0 in the series. Detroit in 5. {Actual result: Detroit in 6. Given how convincingly Detroit finished this series, I'd say they were even more disinterested than I figured they would be. Has to give the Orlando some hope that they can catch Detroit napping.}

Orlando vs. Toronto: The Raptors stumbled badly the last few months of the season, and there are a lot of grumblings they're starting the wrong point guard (that it should be Calderon, not T.J. Ford). They're both young teams, with good power forwards (Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh), but the Magic are probably at a disadvantage in the backcourt. I don't know much else about either team, but I think Stan van Gundy's a pretty good coach, so I'm picking the Magic to win this in six. {Actual result: Magic in 5.}

Cleveland vs. Washington: 3rd year in a row they square off. The Wizards seem stronger now that they've had some time to win without Arenas, but LeBron has something that might pass for a respectable supporting cast, if the lights are dim enough. In theory, the Cavs need good perimeter shooting to open things up for LeBron to drive, and that puts some focus on Mr. Szczerbiak, who didn't have the best track record during his postseasons in Minnesota, if I recall correctly. Then again, the Wizards aren't that imposing inside, so LeBron may simply drive to the hoop anyway, irregardless of how many Wizards' are stationed there. I think Washington's strong enough to make the Cavs really work for it, but I can't shake the feeling LeBron somehow trumps Arenas, Jamison, and Butler. Cavs in 7. {Actual result: Cavs in 6. So Washington's attempts to play the Bad Boy Pistons to Lebron's MJ didn't work. Big surprise there. Eventually that tactic stopped working for Detroit too, and the Wiz were not the Pistons. LeBron still needs more consistent help from the rest of his team though. Perhaps they spend too much time standing around watching him?}

Los Angeles vs. Denver: Look at it this way, Nuggets' fans: at least it isn't San Antonio again. I don't think the Lakers have looked quite as strong recently as they did when they first got Gasol, but they've been good enough to be #1 in the West. The Nuggets have offensive firepower up the wazoo, but they can't seem to stop people, though I was under the impression Marcus Camby had been a force in the middle. I suppose he can't do it all himself. With no Andrew Bynum, the Lakers might be thin up front, but defense seems to still be important in the NBA playoffs, and the Lakers play it, while the Nuggets don't so that's probably the difference. Lakers in 5. {Actual result: Lakers in 4. I suppose it helps when one team chooses not to play defense.}

New Orleans vs. Dallas: Smart move by Nowitzski, implying that the Mavs wanted to play the Hornets in the postseason. Dirk, given the stinkbombs your squad has dropped in the '06 Finals, and last year against Golden State, you might want to watch your mouth. Kidd against Chris Paul should be fun, especially if Kidd can have a few of those games where he actually has a jump shot (I distinctly remember those happening every once in awhile when the Nets were going to the Finals), this could be close, but I think the Mavs will have to guard Paul with someone else, Josh Howard perhaps. The Hornets have several players with a little playoff experience, but no one with a lot of it, except maybe Peja, who hasn't had the best luck in the playoffs. But I don't think experience is really that big of a deal, because I think the Hornets are a better team. Not by a lot, but the Mavs seem frequently out of sorts, and last year indicates you can scare them into playing your way, so I'll say Hornets in 6. {Actual result: Hornets in 5. Perhaps in the future, Dirk will refrain from running his mouth before the playoffs start.}

San Antonio vs. Phoenix: The Suns got Shaq for situations like this, so Big Gamble, you better at least neutralize Duncan's contributions. I think the Suns probably have the better starting 5, but the Spurs are definitely deeper, which comes in handy when you a) have a bunch of guys with lots of miles on their legs, like the Spurs, and b) when you play a team that likes to run, like the Suns still do. That's assuming you can't keep them from running, which the Spurs have done with about as much success as any other team in the league. Of course, all that running takes its toll on the Suns as well, and their bench is almost nonexistent, so that could be a problem. As much as I'd like to see the Suns win, if only because I'm sick of the Spurs (and all the debate about whether they're boring, or Bowen is dirty, or whatever), I can't help thinking the Spurs still have enough left to win this matchup. Spurs in 6. {Actual result: Spurs in 5. Damnit. I'm not surprised, but disappointed? Yeah, a little. I seem to remember that Steve Kerr said, back when he traded for Shaq, that he would either be a genius or an idiot. Steve, I liked you as an announcer, and you were my favorite player. Heck, I even rooted for the Spurs when you were there. But Steve, the votes are in, and you were an idiot. Next time, try and trade for a big man with some lateral movement, if you can find one available.}

Utah vs. Houston: The Jazz have the higher seed, the Rockets have the better record. I don't really know how the Rockets are doing what they've done without Yao Ming, and I don't know whether they can keep it up, or if it'll be enough against the Jazz. Even with Yao, they couldn't beat the Jazz last year, and presumably Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer are more in sync now than they were last year, when they were a pretty good outside/inside combo. I think McGrady might try and do too much in this series, but whether he does or not, I don't see it making a difference. Jazz in 5. {Actual result: Utah in 6. So the Rockets were more game than I predicted. Or Utah is just that bad on the road. I wonder what the problem is?}

And now we wait to see how I did.