2010 NBA Playoff Picture
***EDITOR’S NOTE: The Playoffs begin on Saturday afternoon. With that said, I’m going to post a quick-hit blog — not my normal in-depth work, because I have tons ($$$ comes first ha) to do in order to make May a life-changing month. I have not written lately, and for that I am halfway sorry. However, no images, no team logos, no long, drawn-out diatribes about players and teams. Just simple analysis.
EASTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS
As with all team sports, the playoff season is all about MATCHUPS. And well, frankly, the Bulls don’t have any favorable matchup at any position over Cleveland. The Cavaliers should be thanking God every night that the Bobcats moved up to the #7 seed, because the ‘cats OWN Cleveland.
Cleveland Wins, 4-1.
Miami is a one-man show and a couple of jesters who may show up once a week and drop a 20 point game. They have Haslem who does all the grunt work and hits 5 or 6 baseline/FT line area jumpers per game. But beyond that, even with the creaky C’s all getting up there in age, the depth of Boston (despite Rasheed Wallace’s negative effect on the team) dwarfs that of Miami’s.
Boston Wins, 4-1.
The Bucks surprised me this year, I will say. But then again, I thought they had underachieved every year for the past 3-4. They’ve had talent. They’ve drafted well and had some athletes. Too often they were seriously injured (Simmons, Redd, Bogut at various intervals in time) to be a cohesive unit, but now they have something.
This couldn’t have been a worse time for the Hawks to have their best record since Steve Smith was “workin’ that baseline” back in my senior year of high school. The Bucks can go toe-to-toe with the young Hawks, whereas, if the Hawks had slipped to #4 and had a 1st round rematch from last season with the Heat, they’d have a cakewalk in that series and are another team that has had playoff experience playing against Cleveland and is no longer fearful of them.
Atlanta Wins, 4-3.
Congrats to the young Bobcats for finally making the playoffs. This team is no pushover. G. Dub is having a career season and they really play as a true team. Old man Jordan finally got it right (although a bulk of the credit belongs to Larry Brown and players willing to “PRACTICE” what he was preaching). This is a tough matchup to call. The Magic have their eyes set on getting back to the Finals. After all, they are where the Lakers were in 2008. The young Magic looked horrendous in the 2009 Finals, just as the Lakers had in the 2008 Finals. The Lakers won in 2009 and the Magic feel “why not us?”
I don’t blame them.
I think SVG (Stan Van Gundy, for those who don’t know internet shorthand for the Van Gundy brothers — “JVG” hereafter is to refer to Jeff Van Gundy, for those who didn’t know that 15 years ago) will keep his team on edge and not allow them to fall into a lull. After defeating Cleveland last season (despite the referees’ best efforts to give Cleveland two games with criminally blatant bad calls) and garnering the experience of playing the Lakers in the Finals last season, they are FOCUSED. I just don’t think the Bobcats are an easy out for ANYONE in the Eastern Conference. They actually match up BEST with Cleveland of all the teams in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Attention will be palpable. As long as the Magic do not look past Charlotte, they SHOULD win in 6.
Orlando Wins, 4-2.
WESTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS
Los Angeles Lakers
Oklahoma City Thunder
I know, I know. Shades of ’07, Dallas vs. Golden State. And in a way, it is, except Dirk Nowitzki just does not possess the killer instinct to galvanize a team when it is reeling — he was one of the people at the starboard side of the Titanic frozen in disbelief instead of being one to round everyone up so that the ship didn’t sink with everyone already with their destination packets stamped (as Dallas, as is trend here, felt like Orlando feels currently, and as the Lakers felt last year — back in 2007, after being robbed by some of the worst officiating known to man in the 2006 NBA Finals vs. Miami — wanted to redeem themselves and had their sights set on the Finals).
Why do I go on that rant, you say?
Because it is plausible. It could go down as it did in 2007.
Except one thing. Phil Jackson has already gotten into the officials’ heads as well as Kevin Durant’s — he, who can score 60 per night if he wanted to and barely sweat — will be trying to prove Jackson wrong and take the Thunder out of the very philosophy that could enable them to win this series. They’ve already lost it if Durant’s reacting aghast and flummoxed to Jackson’s annual playoff tweaking is any indication.
And Kobe is still the Black Mamba, no homo.
Los Angeles Wins, 4-1.
Tough call here. The Nuggets feel as though they can overtake the Lakers this year if they were to meet again. And by extension, beat anyone in the East. They are correct in that assumption. Still has to be done. And quite frankly, since the Nuggets and Lakers could/should conceivably meet in the 2nd round of the playoffs, their toughest tests are this series with the Jazz, and, if they were to win, which is DEFINITELY not assured, the Lakers following that.
The Nuggets are in a precarious situation, relatively speaking. I don’t think people understand how tenuous coach George Karl’s situation is (God’s best to him, by the way), but Adrian Dantley as a coach is about as inspiring as he was as a player. And for those of you who did not have the joy of watching him work in the paint/low block, score tons of points, massage the ball when he shot free throws and never come CLOSE to winning anything in the NBA — well, I just explained to you what you missed (and he was one of my guys, so don’t think this is a slight. My dad and I loved watching him play). Kenyon Martin won’t be in shape anytime soon. If Karl makes it back, can he jump into playoff intensity mode so soon?
The Nuggets have had some troubling losses and the Jazz actually match up well with Denver. Won-Loss stats head to head aside, the point guard match up bears watching and the Jazz stretch the floor with their big men either being able to run the floor or stroke it from deep (pause). I won’t go so far as to say the Jazz will win, because the Nuggets have all the talent in the world, but they are a collective head case on the court, and it has been their downfall (and troubling so, the downfall of every George Karl team — 3 or 4 of which should have won titles, when he has 0 to date).
Denver Wins, 4-2.
#6 Portland TrailBlazers
Tough break (no pun) for the Blazers. Brandon Roy gets injured on a rather common play in a game that all of a sudden had importance following games the night before it. Now he has surgery (as of 4.16.10) and will most likely not play in this first round. The Blazers showed well enough to defeat a Laker team battling hard to come back and still held them at bay to win in Los Angeles. So they CAN win without him, but the Suns’ offense may be a bit too much for the Blazers to handle.
Phoenix Wins, 4-2
*4-3 if Roy comes back for a Game 6. Still think the Suns have too much offense and play at too fast of a pace in general.
#7 San Antonio Spurs
Compelling matchup. The Spurs have made a living the past decade of coasting through the season, nursing a nick or bruise here and there and resting guys at pivotal junctures of the season. They did it again this year, although Tony Parker’s injury to his hand bears watching. He’s rusty. Ginobili went off the last month or so of the season, so he’s lathered up and ready for the playoffs.
Lost in all this is the fact that Tim Duncan has noticeably lost a step or two (not that he ever had that much) and although he’s still the best in the game overall at his position, is he really head and shoulders (no pun) over Dirk at this point? Just as they measure height-wise (Dirk by a smidge for those who can’t tel 6’11” apart from 7’0″), that’s about the edge that Dirk has over Duncan — being 2 years younger and a little more rangy.
Dallas likes to run at times, but the Spurs have proven they can make ANYONE play their style of ball (and can even run with teams if they really want to).
Toughest series to call. I’m gonna go with my (ever-decreasing, thank God) GUT and stick with Dallas.
Dallas Wins, 4-2.
SECOND ROUND PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS COMING AT THE CLOSE OF THE FIRST ROUND.
Analysis and Breakdown beforehand.