Saturday, May 30, 2009

NBA Finals 2009 Predictions

Kind of ironic how two series that started with games decided by less than five points both ended up being won in blowouts.

Good basketball nonetheless. Moving on...

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Orlando Magic

Both clubs caught their stride at the end of their respective conference finals. Each snowballing with momentum, we're bound to have a colossal collision between these two giants.

After dismantling the Nuggets, the Lakers are back in the championship round, but staring into the eyes of new adversaries. Though questioned and criticized by critics in their series against Houston and Denver, Phil Jackson and Kobe pulled out victories, telling everyone in the basketball world, "we know we're doing".

Dwight Howard, sick of the media hyping the Kobe/Lebron NBA finals showdown, took it upon himself to erase the Cavaliers from the playoff picture in game six. 40 points and 14 rebounds later, he and the Magic find themselves somewhere the team hasn't been in over a decade. Here in new territory, Superman and crew get to prove to the world just how hungry they are.

Many people out there won't give Orlando much of a chance at winning this series, and for good reason; the Lakers are battle tested, more experienced, and have pieces that the Cavs didn't have to take down the Magic.

Bynum and Pau Gasol are very capable on both ends of the court. While on defense, Stan Van Gundy won't be able to cheat off of them to focus on Kobe without paying a price. The Cavaliers did not make the Magic pay for doubling Lebron, but if SVG implements a similar strategy for Kobe, don't expect the same outcome. One glaring problem for the Magic is the Lakers' size down on the block. With Pau and Bynum are on the floor at the same time, I doubt Lewis playing power forward will suffice defensively speaking. Additionally, if Phil runs plays for his big men early and often, Howard is in danger of getting into early foul trouble. It'll be interesting to see whether or not SVG decides to play Gortat and Howard together more often for matchup purposes.

That being said, the Magic can also impose their will on offense if they take the initiative. Playing Rashard at PF allows them to stretch the floor (with Turkoglu, Howard, Lee, and Alston filling the other four spots), drawing Gasol out of the paint. This gives Dwight some room in the middle to execute some post moves, and get Bynum in foul trouble. When the double team comes, Howard knows the kick out to one of his open shooters. If the Magic can consistently hit from behind the arc, then they've got a shot at winning this thing.

For this reason, I think Phil Jackson will choose not to play Gasol and Bynum at the same time, instead opting to have Odom play big minutes at the 4. Kobe, Ariza, and Odom are going to give Orlando's wing-men lots of trouble on defense, and have more than enough offense ability between the three of them keep Orlando defenders honest while the Lakers have the ball.

Much of this battle will be dependent on the coaches. Both teams have multiple options, and it really comes down to how the coaches choose to adjust based on what's happening.

Who do I want to win? 60% of me wants Orlando and Dwight to see success; the other 40% wants to see Phil Jackson attain his 10th ring.

Who do I think will win? The Lakers in 6.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Good Debate: Carmelo Anthony vs. Dwight Howard

I call it a "good" debate because neither of the players involved are in the discussion for being the NBA's best player; in no way will this approach the level of Kobe vs. Lebron. However, with Cleveland down 1-2 against Orlando, and the Lakers having just had their asses blown out of the water by the Nuggets in game 4, the chances of a Denver and Orlando finals matchup is becoming more and more probable.

And here is where the debate emerges. Carmelo and Dwight are superstars of the NBA, each in their own respect. Both competed on the gold medal winning 2008 Olympic basketball team, and both have their clubs very much in the hunt for the Larry O'Brien championship trophy. So who is better? Let's dive right in...

Statistically speaking...(stats from

Career Averages
Carmelo Anthony: 24.2 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 3.09 TO, 0.460 FG%, 0.796 FT%
Dwight Howard: 17.3 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.9 SPG, 2.0 BPG, 2.95 TO, 0.568 FG%, 0.601 FT%

Taking these 8 categories into account, Carmelo and Dwight are even at 4-4. Melo's scoring average, FT% and APG are noticeably superior to Dwight's, but he can't touch Dwight's RPG, FG%, and BPG. It's also important to note that Howard is steadily improving is offensive post-game, as evidenced by his increasing annual PPG (20.6 in 08-09). In terms of PER, more differences can be observed. Over the 08-09 regular season, Howard was ranked 4th (25.44), while Anthony was ranked 33rd (19.09) amongst all NBA athletes. However, Melo has made up ground in the post-season; Howard (26.26) and Anthony (26.10) are ranked 7th and 8th respectively in the playoffs.

Advantage: Neither.

On the defensive end...

Carmelo Anthony has made his efforts to improve his defensive play public. And in the current series against the Lakers, it's evident that he's taken this goal to heart. Melo has very active hands while guarding around the player, constantly slapping at the ball or waving around his man's face. In the post, Melo also has the size to play physical defense, and give the opposing player a tough time.

Dwight Howard, on the other hand, is current NBA Defensive Player of the Year. He's sent numerous shots into the next area code (a good number of which are documented on youtube). For the shots that he can't get to, Dwight's sheer size and vertical are usually enough to alter the opposing player's shot. In the post, Dwight is quick enough to keep up with any move executed against him, and strong enough to prevent opposing centers from getting too close to the basket. As for his tendency to challenge players attacking the rim, playing this highlight reel friendly type of defense has its downside: foul trouble. Luckily, the Magic have an adequate back-up center in Martin Gortat.

Advantage: Dwight Howard. Having this guy guarding the rim screws over positions 1 through 5 on the opposing team. He's not Defensive Player of the Year for no reason.

On the offensive end...

Carmelo Anthony is an extremely versatile player when trying to put the ball into the bucket. At 6'8", 230 lbs he is strong enough to post up many opposing power forwards, and almost all opposing small forwards. At the same time, his above average foot-speed and athleticism allow him to take defenders off the dribble to attack the rim. His size and strength also come into play here by helping him finish after contact.

Melo's offensive arsenal encompasses post-ups, fadeaways, and spins, just to name a few. He's got great touch around the rim, and has the ability to hit from beyond the arc. A couple areas he could improve in are passing and decision making. When the Nuggets are playing well, and momentum is on their side (as in game 4), we get to see Melo make some crisp passes to cutting big men for easy dunks. But when the game slows down, and the options aren't so clear, Melo many times makes the wrong move (partially evidenced by his 3.09 turnovers per game).

Dwight Howard's offensive game is comparatively rather limited. Over the last year or two, he's developed a couple moves under the mentoring of former Knicks' superstar Patrick Ewing. If you see Howard get the ball in the post (outside of dunking range), he does one of two moves: a running right-handed hook shot, and a spin-move to the right. Though limited, Howard is becoming increasingly effective; the hook shot is almost unguardable, and falling at a fairly consistent rate. The spin move is Dwight's way of getting off a shot on the left-side, and works well when he's matched up with guys close to him in size. However, taller centers like Yao and Ilgauskus can neutralize the spin with their length.

I would write more about his poor free throw shooting... but there's not that much to say about it than this; it's often a liability in the 4th quarter. I hope he improves it for the sake of all of us; I'd hate to see the last 5 minutes of a game be reduced down to a game of Hack-a-Howard.

Let's not overlook the one offensive aspect Dwight is unparalleled in: dunking. Dwight attempts this high-percentage shot at every opportunity he gets. With intimidating size and strength, he dares anyone to even try stopping him when he goes up. Those who do almost always end up on a shiny new Dwight Howard poster. When passing to Howard, you can pretty much throw it anywhere and he'll catch it; if the ball is 3 ft above the rim, he'll go get it and cram it for an easy two.

Advantage: Carmelo Anthony. Dwight Howard is improving, but at this point, Melo has a much deeper and more refined offensive arsenal to draw from.

and the winner is...

Dwight Howard

Scoring gets you recognition, but defense wins you championships. And no one plays defense better than Dwight.

The other deciding factor for me was room for improvement. I see Howard's ceiling being much higher than Melo's. If Howard can hone his offensive skills (and free throw shooting), add a handful of more moves, then I don't know who would be able to stop him down-low. Couple that with his highlight blocks and ridiculous athleticism, and you've got someone that could potentially be better than Shaq.

Who do you think is better?

...and just in case you were wondering, I am all for Dwight and Melo crashing the NBA Finals party.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

L.A. Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets Game 3: Afterthoughts

This series does not fail to deliver. Though there were no last second theatrics, the game was close down to the last minute.
  • That intro-music in the arena before the start of the game? Whatever it was, I loved it.
  • J.R. Smith came up huge for the Nuggets today. He defended Kobe admirably, and did a good job of making plays on the offensive end by picking up 6 assists throughout the course of the game. That 3-pointer he stuck at the end of the 3rd quarter was pretty ridiculous too... if only he didn't pick up the technical foul for taunting afterwards.
  • I love Chris Andersen; this guys is about 30 years old, but jumps like he's still 25. Blocking, dunking, rebounding... he did everything today. And you gotta love that mohawk thing he's got going on.
  • George Karl has to be nervous about how the game ran its course today. Despite leading the majority of the game, the ruckus home crowd, and the Laker's off-night, the Nuggets still lost. This is in large due to the relative poor play of his two stars: Anthony and Billups. Though Carmelo managed to get to the line (12-14 FT), he only shot 4-13 from the field, and wound up fouling out during the critical moments of the game. And Billups...
  • ... played a subpar game as well. Chauncey went 5-15 from the field, and turned the ball over four times - uncharacteristic for a former Finals MVP known for his discipline. Billups also loves pulling up for a long 3-ball while in transition early in the shot clock: a play that works wonders in getting the crowd to go crazy, but only when you make it. However, Billups hasn't been able to hit this shot - a problem that goes back to his last couple of seasons in Detroit. These bricks are huge momentum killers...
  • Did anyone see the half-time footage of the Laker's locker-room? It looked like the entire team was asleep while Phil Jackson was giving a barely-audible speech. Funny stuff.
  • Andrew Bynum is by far the most frustrating player in L.A. For all the hype for his crazy workouts and training with Kareem, he's not playing remotely close to the level he can be. Early in the 3rd quarter, he showed a flash of his potential by aggressively posting up, executing a beautiful spin and baby hook. But other than that, he was pretty much invisible during the game.
  • Trevor Ariza is L.A.'s X-factor. This is the second game in this series where he's come up with a steal in the final minute. His also did a relatively good job of containing Melo, and hitting open shots today.
  • The Lakers need to keep feeding Gasol. Neither Martin nor Nene is tall enough to defend Pau, and his turn around jumper from 5ft is money.
  • 41pts, 6rebs, 5 assists, 15-17 from the line - Kobe Bryant did his best to show us that, even considering Lebron's historic buzzer-beater last night, Black Mamba is still the game's best clutch player (13 pts in the third quarter and a monumental 3 for the lead with 1:08 left in the game).
Things to take away from Game 3:

Denver Nuggets: It's critical that Denver doesn't wilt after this defeat. They're a highly emotional team that just lost their first home game in 16 games. Their complimentary players came up big today, so that's something they should try to carry over to game 4. Billups needs to go back to playing more disciplined ball, and give his offense time to set-up instead of launching ill-advised threes. Carmelo also cannot let himself get too discouraged after a disappointing night. He's gotta hit the remember to hit the glass (zero O-rebs tonight compared to 5 O-Rebs in Game 2), and continue to attack the Lakers bigs.

L.A. Lakers: The pressure is still very much on the Lakers. They have not played up to their potential for a good while now, and sooner or later this poor play is going to catch up to them. Phil Jackson needs to figure out a way to get better PG play out of Fisher/Farmar/Brown. Getting Lamar Odom more involved on the offensive end should also be another priority; the Lakers desperately need another reliable source of offense to get Kobe some rest (he looked exhausted during his post-game interview). Bynum could take a page out of Pau's book in exploiting his match-up. This team looks much better on paper than they're showing on the court.

This was Denver's game to win, but they just couldn't hang on in the end...

Friday, May 22, 2009

Cavaliers vs Magic Game 2: Afterthoughts

Holy crap that game was insane.
(AP Photo/David Richard)
  • Magic down by 23pts at one point in the first half...12 by halftime...and 6 by the end of the third quarter. The Cavaliers are going to have to learn how to protect their leads if they want to win it all.
  • Courtney Lee's stat line does not do him justice (11pts, 1 assist). This guy has a beautiful jumpshot, range from beyond the arc, and is fearless when attacking the rim.
  • Mo Williams is overrated. Sure he came up with a couple of big shots down the stretch, but I mean he's just playing the role of an undersized 2 that only has to hit jump shots.
  • Anderson Varejao...I hate that guy.
  • Gortat had a right to be angry after the refs called that blocking foul on him. I swear he was planted for an eternity before (whoever it was) made his move. It's calls like these that make you wonder if the refs are rigging these games...
  • Dwight Howard - where was he the entire fourth quarter? I don't think he shot the ball once. I can understand SVG wanting the ball in Hedo's and Lewis's hands...but not to go to your beast down low at all during the most critical moments of the game? That just doesn't seem right.
  • a quote from a friend: "have you noticed how much better Hedo is in the fourth quarter than the rest of the game?" And to answer that, yes I have. Hedo made so many huge plays down the stretch. It's too bad that...
  • ...Lebron hit that game winning three-pointer. That shot was a thing of beauty; a huge rainbow right as the clock expired. It may have also saved the Cavs from losing the series. Imagine how they would feel being down 0-2 after not having lost a single game in the first two rounds...
Things to take away from games 1 & 2:

Orlando Magic: SVG needs to get his players ready to play right from the get-go, as opposed to 8 minutes into the second quarter. Instead of playing catch-up in the 3rd quarter, they could be building on a lead. However, as heartbreaking as game 2's loss was, Orlando shouldn't feel too bad about it. Hedo guarded Lebron as well as anyone could without fouling James. Leaving Cleveland with a 1-1 split ain't bad either.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Mo Williams needs to step up. Shooting 33% in times as crucial as these is simply unacceptable. He is supposed to be the Robin to Lebron's Batman, but right now he's barely passing as Alfred. The Cavs need someone else to put the ball in the bucket so Lebron can get some rest. James might be able to single-handedly will his team past the Magic, but he's going to be exhausted for the finals if he does.

I must say that these conference finals, both in the East and the West, are giving us fans some amazing basketball to watch.

Billups Off Kobe's Back

Billups was my favorite player on those Pistons teams a few years back; here's why.

Straight from that scene in Like Mike...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Lebron vs. Kobe

With the predicted Lakers-Cavaliers matchup drawing closer and closer, the debate regarding who's the better player between Kobe and Lebron has reached an all-time high. And while the next few weeks will add much more substantial bullets to both their resumes, there's already more than enough material available to compare the two.

...on the defensive end...

Lebron has gone a long ways this season in improving his defense. Youtube is stuffed full with highlight clips of James sprinting the length of the floor to spike down a layup attempt by the opposing team. But outside these highlight reel plays, Lebron is learning to utilize his physical gifts to play sound defense, and shut down opponents. Mike Brown has also said that Lebron is now much more vocal, and taken to initiative to direct Cleveland's defensive stand. With season averages of 1.7stls and 1.1 bpg, Lebron earned a spot on the NBA All-Defensive First Team.

Kobe is no defensive flake either; a fellow All-Defensive First Teamer (6th time too), Kobe has been known to play swarming man-to-man defense. Starting during last summer's olympic tournament, "the Doberman" showed a side of his game that he doesn't always get praised for. Though not as athletic as James, Kobe plays equally (if not more) suffocating defense when he tries. He's also picked up a number of veteran tricks that Lebron has not yet. Statistically speaking, Kobe trails James with season averages of 1.5spg and 0.4bpg.

... if they were D-ing you up...
  • Lebron is the guy that frustrates you because he's quick enough to beat you to your spots, and also blocks everything you toss up.
  • Kobe is the guy that frustrates you by stripping the ball from behind when you drive, or by poking it up as you bring it up for the shot.
It's hard to say who's "better". But if I had to pick, I'd give Lebron the slight edge because of his superior athleticism and improving defensive mind.

...on the offensive end...

While both are extremely effective scorers, they play with a completely different mentality.

Kobe's got the mind-set of an assassin; his natural tendency is to find his own shot - for better or for worse. If you watch any Lakers' game, pay attention to Bryant's extensive offensive repertoire. Kobe is a visual display of every offensive move in the books, refined to near perfection. Spin-moves, fade-aways, floaters, hesitation dribbles...any and every move you've learned since the 5th grade, he's perfected. Kobe's arsenal makes him an extremely versatile player; if his jumper isn't falling, he'll back you down in the post. If you start doubling him, he's a good enough passer to find the open man.

Lebron's playbook isn't nearly as deep as Kobe's, and that's expected given that he's spent less time in the league. But it doesn't need to be because Lebron is an offensive play-maker; he looks to help his teammates get buckets. This keeps everyone involved and happy, something Kobe hasn't always been able to do. Another superior aspect of James's offensive game is getting to the basket. As cliche as it is, the best way to describe Lebron coming down the lane is a runaway freight-train. The only defense against him is either a triple-team, or a foul. And sometimes even that isn't enough to stop him; Lebron is strong enough to finish after contact, and his free throw shooting has also dramatically improved from his past years' percentages. While they're improving, Lebron's biggest weaknesses are his +15ft jump shots and his post game.

... if you were guarding them...
  • Lebron beats you because he's naturally stronger, jumps higher, and runs faster than you. He put's his head down, runs at the rim, and there's nothing you can do about it...other than hope to God that your help-defense is watching your back.
  • Kobe is that guy who catches you off guard. You go left, and he crossed right. You jump for the block, but he just pump faked...and now you just fouled him. You never know what he's going to do, or how he's going to release that ball. All you can do is try your best to stay between him and the bucket.
Here's where the tricky part comes in; on what basis do we judge the "better" offensive player? Kobe's got enough moves and tricks to make Lebron's head spin. But Lebron's relatively limited offensive options are just as, if not more effective than Kobe's. If we just look at ability to score, Kobe is better at this point in time. However, Lebron's superior athleticism, court-vision, and playmaking abilities make him the more effective offensive player.

the intangibles...

So far, Lebron has been a perfect citizen on and off the court. On the court, Lebron is the ideal teammate; he makes those around him better - something that Kobe isn't always able to do. Off the court, James has managed to maintain a positive public image free of controversy. He also leads by example by eating, training, and acting wisely during both the season and offseason.

One intangible Lebron could learn a bit about from Kobe is the mentality to take over games (when it's necessary). He's got the physical ability to do it, but sometimes lacks the inner desire to do so. His willingness to pass and keep teammates involved prevents him from taking too many shots in a row. While I can't really say this is a total negative, this intangible should be a requirement for any superstar being considered to be the NBA's best player.

Though Bryant's behaved admirably for last two seasons, his past holds numerous examples of times when he's rubbed coaches and teammates the wrong way. Kobe's score-first mentality is good only when he's on his game. If not, he sometimes shoots the Lakers into a loss.

But let's be real; Kobe usually succeeds when he decides to take over a game. When that happens, you can count on some new records for the NBA history books. Remember his 62pt-in-3-quarters outing against the Mavs? Or how about that ridiculous string of 40+ point games two seasons ago? And of course, there's the 81 point decimation of the Raptors. This killer instinct is what separates Kobe from the rest of the league. It's what motivates him to hone his skills every offseason, what drives him to take over in the 4th quarter, and what gives him the ability to rise to the occasion during those waning moments of close games. Whatever you want to call it, this "clutch-factor" cannot be taught.

This category isn't as close as the other two. Kobe's got better intangibles than LBJ at this point in time.

And the winner is...

Lebron James.

Kobe is great, but Lebron is the better player. If I had to start a franchise, I'd take Lebron. If I was down one point with 4 seconds left, I'd rather have Lebron attack the lane than Kobe launch a jumper. I won't even get into the statistics because those clearly point to Lebron being the winner. Keep in mind I'm not comparing who's had a better career; though Kobe is currently ahead in that respect, Lebron has plenty of time to rack up the championship rings and personal awards.

If you'd like some more material on this debate, check out these articles on ESPN:

Monday, May 18, 2009

NBA Playoffs: Conference Finals Predictions

Eastern Conference

(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (3) Orlando Magic
I must first say that I am overjoyed that the Magic blew the Celtics out of their green socks Sunday night. As good as they are, I'm pretty sure everyone across America was sick of watching Paul Pierce's flops, Kevin Garnett's goofy faces from the sidelines, and Glen Davis trying to run the court. Now done with the previous NBA champs, DHo and the Magic get to take on (arguably) the best player in the league, and the #1 ranked Cavs.

Looking at the matchups, Cleveland has the pieces to give Orlando trouble all over the court. While Perkins wasn't much of an offensive threat, Ilgauskus has the size to rough Dwight up in the post, and enough range to lure Dwight away from the basket. If Howard isn't playing defense near the basket, or not on the court at all due to foul trouble, no one else on the Magic can stop Lebron from barreling down the lane.

For Orlando to win, they're going to need to keep Howard on the court long enough to deter Lebron away from the rim. SVG should keep alternating Courtney Lee and Hedo on Lebron, with Howard waiting in the post. Make Lebron beat you with his jumpshot or make him pass; I'd rather have Mo Will, Delonte, or Big Z (as hot as they are) launch jumpers than Lebron getting layups and getting to the free throw line. On top of all this, they're going to need a superhuman effort from their Superman on both ends of the court. The Cavs' stifling defense will be able to keep Orlando's slashers away from the rim, so DHo must wreck some havoc in the middle or be ready to dish to his shooters around the arc.

For the Cavs to win, they just have to keep playing the same game they've been playing for the last few weeks. Keep the defense tight, play physically, and let Lebron make plays. They've had a while to rest, so hopefully rust won't be too much of a factor( I doubt it will). And as long as they don't get overconfident, they should be able to take care of business. Cavs in 6.

Western Conference

(1) L.A. Lakers vs. (2) Denver Nuggets

With all the skepticism surrounding L.A.'s recent play and Phil Jackson's coaching tactics, the Lakers' biggest obstacle to the ring is themselves. With no injuries and a roster overloaded with talent, there is no excuse for coming up short this year... so what happens if they don't win it all in June? I'm not sure, but it won't be pretty.

Having said that, the Nuggets have a very good chance at taking down the reigning Western Conference champs. Though haters call them a bunch of thugs, thugs might just be what the Nuggets need to beat L.A. The Lakers have always had trouble playing against physical teams, and Denver has the personnel to give them just that. Gasol and Bynum are going to have their hands full trying to bang with Nene, Kmart, and Chris Andersen for a whole series. To win, Karl has to take the rest of the Lakers out of the equation; if Kobe shoots 30+ shots every game, you've got a great chance at winning. Billups, who's playing amazing ball this postseason, will also most likely have the size and skill advantage on whoever ends up guarding him.

Naturally, the Lakers have to keep the whole team involved to come out on top. Kobe can only try to take over when it's absolutely necessary. Bynum and Gasol have to keep attacking the rim on the offensive end, and be ready to get rough on defense. Phil Jackson should also consider putting Shannon Brown on Billups to negate Chauncey's blatant size advantage on Fisher and Farmar. Ariza and Odom have the pleasure of manning up Carmelo (I didn't forget him); the best way to neutralize Melo's offensive game is to attack him when he's on defense. To top it off, Phil Jackson should probably start coaching like he actually cares about whether or not his team wins.

I don't think L.A. will be able to pull it together in time, and the Nuggets are playing too well for me to overlook them. Billups has also always been one of my favorites: Denver in 7.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

NBA Playoffs: Conference Semifinals Predictions

Relative to the rest of the series, game 7 in Bulls vs. Celtics was a bit of a let-down. That being said, that was some of the most exciting basketball we will see in a long time; there were simply too many clutch moments to count.

But here at doubledribbling, we don't like spending too much time reveling in the past. Though round 1 hasn't finished, here's a look at round 2 of the playoffs:

Eastern Conference

(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (Winner of Miami Heat vs. Atlanta Hawks)
Honestly it doesn't even matter who wins between Miami and Atlanta. Lebron and the Cavs are on a mission this year, and neither the Heat or the Hawks have the firepower to beat them. If the Hawks can get Horford and Williams healthy, they along with Johnson, Smith, and Bibby will be able to give Lebron a tougher time than Wade will by himself. Either way, the Cavs will come out on top. Cavs in 5 if against the Heat; Cavs in 6 if against the Hawks.

(2) Boston Celtics vs. (3) Orlando Magic
Boston's fatigue is going to be the major factor in this matchup. Pierce, and Allen both logged huge minutes in their series against the Bulls, exhausting both physically and mentally. Orlando ,on the other hand, has had ample time to rest. It would be unwise for me to rule out the Green, but they beat the Bulls because of the Bulls' playoff inexperience. For the Celtics to win, they're going to either need some real hot shooting from behind the arc all series, or for KG to come back. Orlando has weapons both inside and outside, but they are going to need to keep Dwight Howard out of foul trouble (or trouble in general). I think they'll be able to do that much; Magic in 6.

Western Conference

(1) L.A. Lakers vs. (5) Houston Rockets
The Rockets, fresh off their breakthrough series against Portland, are gearing up to face the West's #1 team. Outside of Tmac, both teams are pretty much completely healthy. Bynum has already publicly stated that he wanted the matchup against Yao, but I don't think he's actually ready for China's big-man. Yao's offensive arsenal is simply too much for the Bynum to handle. However, let's not forget Kobe. Kobe has given Artest and Battier buckets in the past, and I expect him to continue doing so. Fueled by Artest's comments praising Brandon Roy, Kobe is going to lift the Lakers over the Rockets. LA in 6.

(2) Denver Nuggets vs. (6) Dallas Mavericks
It's safe to say that the Nuggets are no Championship contender wannabes after their first round destruction of CP3 and the Hornets. Chauncey Billups has regained his old swagger, and is leading the Nuggets in some great basketball. Dallas's dismantling of the Spurs was no joke either; they've got the offensive abilities to score with any team in the league. Composure and consistency are going to win this matchup. Nuggets in 6.

Friday, May 1, 2009

I'm Back

Finals are officially over and I am back from my blogging hiatus.

Unfortunately, I have not had the time to watch most of the first round... and as a result I've missed some of the greatest basketball in a long time. Denver owned the Hornets like I expected. The Pistons were a joke. Orlando beat Philly in surprising fashion...without Superman. Mavs over the Spurs - I didn't predict, but understandable given the Ginobili situation. And of course, Bulls and Celtics are taking their historic series to game 7.

I promise more will come later. For now, I leave you with Gortat on Philly.