NBA PLAYOFF PICKS (FIRST ROUND)
The NBA playoffs are here, and with the Final Four over and done with, the real basketball madness begins.
The great Laker-Celtic rivalry of the 1980’s has a chance to resurface should both 1 seeds take care of business, and with Kobe and KG leading the way, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if thats the match up we see come June.
The Western Conference playoffs offer 4 compelling first round match-ups, while that ‘other’ conference should end up remaining irrelevant until the Boston-Detroit conference finals match up everyone anticpates.
Lets break down those match-ups and pick some winners
What I like to refer to as the NBA’s minor leagues (a lower class of basketball than the NBDL), the Eastern Conference lacks depth and features only two real threats to whoever survives the Western Conference gauntlet. Boston and Detroit are the class of the conference, whlie Lebron lurks at the 4th spot, looking for a return to the Finals after last season’s disappointing sweep at the hands of the Spurs. There are some nice stories with Atlanta and Philly making surprising post season appearences, but expect to see an 80’s flashback with the Celtics and Piston’s making all the noise.
1 Boston Celtics vs. 8 Atlanta Hawks
The big three shouldn’t have much trouble with the young, up and coming Hawks who held off the Pacers and clinched their first playoff birth since 1999. Josh Smith and Joe Johnson are nice pieces and both have off the chart talent, but the lack of experience combined with the determination of the C’s will cause Atlanta’s run to end early.
Celtics in 4
2 Detoirt Pistons vs. 7 Philadelphia 76’ers
After embarassing themselves against Lebron in the conference finals last year, Detroit this season had stretches where they looked absolutely unbeatable. Their fab four remains as good as any, and this is another case where experience and talent just completely overmatches a young Sixer’s squad, led by Maurice Cheeks who deserves consideration for coach of the year. Andre Iguadala took a big step forward this past year, but needs more help before he’ll see the second round.
Pistons in 4
3 Orlando Magic vs. 6 Toronto Raptors
The Magic look to build off of their brief taste of playoff basketball from last season, and with Stan Van Gundy running the show and Rashard Lewis giving Dwight Howard some outside help, Orlando shouldn’t have too much trouble with a Raptors teams that outside of Chris Bosh, lacks a real offensive threat. This series will probably get back to Orlando, but won’t last much beyond that.
Magic in 5
4 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 5 Washington Wizards
The most compelling (probably the only compelling) first round match up in the East, Lebron James and the new look Cavs take on the Washington Wizards in what is turning into a war of words, at least from the boys from D.C. Washington’s big three of Arenas, Butler and Jamison can hold their own, but the health of the first two remain a big question mark. The Cav’s looked about as mediocre after the trade as they did before it, but as has been the case since he was drafted, as King James goes, so go the Cav’s. This series can easily go 6 or 7, as both teams are pretty evenly matched.
Wizards in 7
The Western conference playoffs actually started 2 weeks ago, with the 7th and 8th spots coming down to 3 potential 50 win teams. The Maverick’s and Nuggets got the job done, with the Warriors ending up on the outside looking in, despite a record of 48-34. The Lakers seemed primed for a return to glory for the first time since Shaq was around, but all 8 teams are very good and, anything can happen in a 7 game series, as Golden State showed us last year against Dallas.
1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. 8 Denver Nuggets
Those MVP chants are well deserved, and while Kobe Bryant should be hoisting his first ever Most Valuable Player award, his he has bigger plans with a new frontcourt and a deeper bench. The Lakers are back, and along with the best player on the planet, Pau Gasol and (if healthy) Andrew Bynum present matchup problems for a Denver team that couldn’t defend a JV high school team. Carmelo Anthony and his legal issues aisde will put up his points, along with AI, but this series, while intriguing on paper, won’t translate on the hardwood.
Lakers in 5
2 New Orleans Hornets vs 7 Dallas Mavericks
Was there a better story this season than the rise of Chris Paul and the Hornets? Byron Scott, who is no stranger to the post season with his short lived success in New Jersey a few years ago, has led a renaissance in New Orleans, led by do-it-all Paul who gave Kobe all he could can handle in the run for MVP. The Mavericks were flirting with one-upping the disppointment from their first round upset last season by nearly missing the playoffs, but a healthy Dirk Nowitzki can lead Dallas into a tough 6 or 7 game series against the trendy Hornets.
Mavericks in 7
3 San Antonio Spurs vs. 6 Pheonix Suns
Talk about storylines. The defending champs, who have never repeated as champs, will have a tall challenge ahead of them, as they get a rematch with the team they won a controversial conference finals from last year. By tall challenge, I am of course referring to the new man in the middle for the Suns, Shaquille O’neal, who returns to the western conference for the first time since breaking up his marriage with Kobe and winning a championship in Miami. The big fundamental, Tim Duncan, faces his former nemasis as the Big Aristotle looks to validate Suns GM Steve Kerr for acquiring him. This series will be fun to watch, and won’t be decided in less than 6 games.
Spurs in 7
4 Utah Jazz vs. 5 Houston Rockets
No Yao? No problem. The Rockets, who never seem to have both Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming playing well, and healthy, at the same time, will face a dangerous Jazz team that struggled away from home but with floor general Deron Williams leading the way, Utah can definitely handle a Yao-less Rockets team that went on to win 22 straight games, while entering the playoffs with homecourt advantage in the first round despite their lower seeding. McGrady continues his quest to reach the second round of the playoffs, but it will be difficult against a Jazz team that has become another trendy pick to make some noise late into the postseason.
Jazz in 6
Celtics, Pistons, Magic and Wizards in the east
Lakers, Mavericks, Spurs and Jazz in the west
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