Friday, April 17, 2009

NBA Playoffs: A Look at the First Round

I'll spare you the narration. Here's my take on the first round of the playoffs.

Eastern Conference

(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (8) Detroit Pistons
Here are two teams going in the complete opposite direction; the Cavs are a young, energetic team on the rise with a player who's arguably the best basketball player to take the court since MJ last laced up. Detroit on the other hand, are a group of wily old vets that are still trying to maintain their gritty swagger despite having just experienced one of their worst regular seasons. As much as I hate voting against the home team, the Cavs will come out on top. Cleveland in 6.

(2) Boston Celtics vs. (7) Chicago Bulls
This is going to be a dangerous round for the defending champs; the Celtics are forced to begin their title defense without the anchor: Kevin Garnett. Though they've already played over a month without him, I'm not convinced that they're a sure thing. Chicago, winner of 5 of their last 6, are rapidly gaining confidence, and news of Garnett's injury is only more fuel to their fire. Looking at their matchups, I see Tyrus, Joakim, and Brad Miller giving Perkins, Mikki, and Big Baby Davis a tough time in the middle. However, Celts have the clear edge on the wings with Pierce and Allen. The point guard matchup is an interesting one; Rondo has had a breakout season, and also had the advantage in terms of playoff experience. Rose is a question mark, nobody knows how the rookie will handle the playoff pressure, but there's no question that he has the physical skills/tools to outplay Rondo. Rose and Tyrus Thomas are going to be the determining factors of whether or not the Bulls win, and I think it's their year to shine: Bulls in 7.

(3) Orlando Magic vs. (6) Philadelphia 76ers 
Both these teams fumbled past the finish line. Orlando, losers in 4 of their last 6, is still without Jameer Nelson,  and Rashard Lewis is dealing with lingering leg injuries. Philly, losers in 6 of their last 7, does not have significant injuries other than Brand,but simply doesn't match up well against he Magic. This series is going to be Dwight Howard playing "bull in a china shop" with the 76er's frontcourt. The Magic also have the advantage from behind the arc; Hedo, Lewis, Lee, and Alston will all have their turn lighting up the Sixers. Magic in 5.

(4) Atlanta Hawks vs. (5) Miami Heat  Dwayne Wade
Dwayne Wade has taken the Heat a long ways. But for them to win this series, someone else from the Heat needs to step up. Jermaine O'neal, Michael Beasley, and Mario Chalmers immediately come to mind. The Hawks (aka Blazers of the East) are ready to prove that they're ready to take the next step as an NBA team. With Marvin Williams returning this past week from back issues, the Hawks also have a healthy lineup. Horford and Smith are going to give Wade a hard time around the rim, and despite monumental efforts, Wade isn't going to beat the Hawks all by himself from the perimeter. Hawks in 6.

Western Conference

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (8) Utah Jazz
Other than Deron Williams, I would take the Lakers at every other position, and that's inclusive of the bench. Bynum is back from injury, Kobe wants that first post-Shaq title, and Phil Jackson's 10th finger has been missing a ring for too long (he's also got a pretty good track record against Jerry Sloan too). Lakers sweep.

(2) Denver Nuggets vs. (7)New Orleans Hornets
The stars have somewhat aligned for the Nuggets this season. Hometown hero Billups was shipped in via trade, Nene became one of the west's better centers in his first healthy season, Chris Andersen returned from suspension to be one of the league's top shot blockers, and J.R. Smith is maturing into a deadly assassin from beyond the arc. And let's also not forget that they've got Carmelo Anthony. Even with CP3, the Hornets do not have enough firepower to take down the Nuggets, and a non-existent bench. Nuggets in 6.

(3) San Antonio Spurs vs. (6) Dallas Mavericks
As much as I hate the Spurs, I'm hesitant to bet against them in the first round. On paper, the Mavs seem to have a chance; Kidd, Dirk, Josh Howard, and the Jet give them more than enough firepower to take down the Black and White. The Spurs will also be without the services of Manu Ginobili for the rest of the year. That being said, they've played fairly well without Manu for the majority of the season. Roger Mason can, and will come up big for the Spurs, And you know you can count on Greg Pop, Duncan, and Parker to pull some thing crazy out of their sleeves; they always do. Spurs in 7.

(4) Portland Trailblazers vs. (5) Houston Rockets
By far, this will be the most exciting matchup in the first round. The young blazers have finally grown up. Brandoy Roy, fresh out of the best season of his career, has matured into the go-to-guy and team leader. Przybilla and Oden, while both offensively unreliable, do all the things that the team needs from them on the defensive end. The Rockets have also been playing good ball; though T-mac is out(this may be a good thing), Yao has completed a whole season without any serious injuries. What this series comes down to is Roy vs. Artest/Battier. If Roy can overcome these two defensive hounds, then the Blazers will win. But seeing how the Rockets have not gotten past the first round for the past couple of years (with T-mac as the common denominator), I think they're going to come with some extra fire. Rockets in 7.

No comments: