Saturday, April 28, 2012
Super-Quick NBA Playoff Predictions.
Actually, it's not quite that simplified, but that's how it feels as we count down the minutes to the Second Season. Since that last sentence is literal in the sense that it is 12:10 PM EST as I type this and the playoffs tip off at 1:00, I'm going to quickly bang out some post-season prognostications before settling in for the ride.
Chicago-Philly. The Sixers were an endearing story this season, one of a few intriguing squads who eschewed the Alpha-dog Superstar in favor of team chemistry and hustle. The sport what may be the league's best bench in the "Night Shift", and they can give opponents a variety of looks. They don't have a prayer. Even with D-Rose running at less than optimum, the Bulls are going to flatten this likeable Philly squad. They torched opponents without their PG in the lineup, and even though he's been shaky in his return, Philly is going to be his personal tune-up as he plays back into form.
Bulls in 5.
Miami-New York. I think the Knicks are going to put up one hell of a fight in this series. Tyson Chandler is going to neutralize a fair bit of the Heat's penetration inside, and 'Melo is playing out of his brain of late. STAT vs. Bosh will be interesting to watch, as will the lack of real PGs for either team. In the end, though, I just don't see LBJ and Wade (even if he's not fully healthy) falling apart this early.
Heat in 6.
Indy-Orlando. This Pacers team served notice last year when they gave the Bulls all they wanted in the playoffs, and they've only improved this season. Given the fact that "Superman" will be a DNP: Clark Kent'd, this isn't close. I honestly don't even see any close games coming in this one.
Pacers in 4.
Boston-Atlanta. Everyone is whining about how crappy this series is going to be, but I'm actually kind of interested in this Battle Of The Out-Of-Position Bigs. The C's have been forced to play KG at the 5 a ton, while the Hawks have survived the absence of Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia with the zombified corpses of Jason Collins and Eric Dampier. Ray Allen is questionable health-wise, but Rondo will kill Jeff Teague. Pierce and Joe Johnson will shoot each other into oblivion. Atlanta is going to need huge minutes from Ivan Johnson and mistake-free awesomeness from J-Smoove and Marvin Williams to have a chance. Doc Rivers' superior coaching, Avery Bradley's emerging prowess and KG's playoff-gear intensity are going to be the major factors for Boston. This will be a grind and a question, pardon the cliche, of who wants it more.
Celtics in 7.
San Antonio-Utah. The Jazz are a blast to watch. Millsap, Jefferson, Hayward, and co. have coalesced into a very nice team, and a tip of the cap is in order for head coach Ty Corbin. It's just that a bigger tip of a ten-gallon hat goes to Pop and the ageless-even-as-they-age-into-hoops-geezerdom Spurs. Tony Parker just played his best season ever, Timmy and Manu are well-rested, and the S-Jax/Bonner/Leonard triumvirate of contribution goodness augmenting the Big 3 should be enough to power past a Jazz squad who, despite enjoying a huge frontcourt size advantage, aren't deep enough.
Spurs in 6.
OKC-Dallas. Maybe this won't be the coronation ceremony Thunder fans have been waiting for, but knocking off the defending champs (who eliminated them in an epic series last year) would be a huge step for Durant, Westbrook, and friends. James Harden has been medically cleared to play, but could be shaky in the early games. Ibaka will be his usual block-factory self, and of course KD and Russ are going to go off huge. For Dallas, Dirk will put up his usual insane stats, Jason Kidd will be solid, Jet will rain points off the bench, and Vince Carter and Delonte West may or may not do anything worth a damn. The Mavs are far from that devil-may-care, momentum happy championship team of last season. They're going to seriously miss Tyson Chandler's defensive anchorage and J.J. Barea's spark plug presence off the bench. The torch is about to be passed, people.
Thunder in 7.
L.A.(1)-Denver. Yet another thoroughly enjoyable team without a real star, the Nuggets have been one of my favorite viewing experiences of the season. Sadly, they're about to run into the buzzsaw known as Kobe Bryant and Two Massive And Incredibly Talented Big Men. Even with trade-deadline acquisition JaVale McGee, Denver simply doesn't have the size to handle Gasol and Bynum, and while they have a few guys (most notably Afflalo) who can slow The Mamba down a bit, we all know Kobe is a stone assassin and he'll win by sheer force of will if he has to. Denver's one shot to steal a game or two is if Kenneth Faried plays out of his mind (don't rule this out) and their deeper bench can make up for the Kobe factor. Ultimately, The Laker's experience and size will prove decisive.
Lakers in 5.
L.A.(2)-Memphis. Toss Z-Bo, Marc Gasol, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and pretty much everyone else out the window. This entire series hinges on one thing: Can Tony Allen stop Chris Paul? Allen was essentially put on earth to lock people down defensively, and he does it with a single-mindedness we've rarely, if ever, witnessed before. If he can put the clamps on the world's best point guard, the Clippers are going down. Conversely, if CP3 has himself a series like he did against the Lakers last year (or something close to it), the Grizz will be on their couches in about ten days. I say Paul does his thing in spite of a ferocious effort by Allen, and the Clips find playoff success for the first time since ... well it's been a looooooong time.
Clippers in 6.
Enjoy the playoffs everyone.