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.

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