Well, the regular season is done and there’s nothing left to do but look at the playoff brackets and dream. The season seemed to end on a sour note with a lot of teams experiencing injuries to their important players on their team. Other teams may have over thought this thing and rested some of their key players while at the same time enduring a small losing streak here and there. We’re going to take a look at the playoffs and see where it takes us.
Eastern Conference – Round 1
Cavaliers vs. Bulls
Part of me says the Bulls should have lost their last two to get a chance at this draft (I think they would have swapped that pick anyway), but they won out and earned the 8th spot and a chance to be bludgeoned by the Cavs. Derrick Rose looks like he’s in a nice groove right now (39 pts, 27 pts in the last two) with his jumper (never thought I’d say that). We know he can get to the rim, but he’s starting to consistently hit his jumper which makes him oh so dangerous. The Bulls are playing well as a team despite the fact that their GM and coach want to enter the Octagon.
The Cavaliers have limped along lately while sitting LeBron for several minor ailments (I can’t believe the league is getting involved with this). Despite the fact that one voter might not vote LBJ as the MVP, he’s gotten some rest while giving others some time to play. The Cavaliers also get back a fit and trim (and I expect focused) Shaq. A lot of people are saying that it’s going to be hard for the Cavaliers to get Shaq back into the mix since he’s been out for over a month. I say hogwash!!! Shaq and Jamison are going to put this team into the Eastern Conference Finals (yes, and LeBron too). This is what Shaq promised right, a for a Ring for the King. That quest starts now.
Series Roundup – Too much LBJ and too much Cavs. I expect this to be a little chippy, but a Cavaliers series victory. Prediction: Cavs in 5.
Celtics vs. Heat
This ought to be a good series. The Celtics struggled to turn on the switch to get the 4th seed. At times they looked like the old team that they are. I think all of Boston hopes that they are in fact sandbagging the rest of the league and they are ready for, dare I say it, a Championship run. The Big Three are two years older from the last time they won and their window is closing fast. I will say this, Paul Pierce and KG have started playing some good basketball lately. KG is looking like that knee is back and he’s no longer laboring to get up and down the floor. The Celtics are only going to be as good as their bench. Rasheed Wallace has got to start taking more shots in the paint than out, and somebody playing guard (off the bench) has got to score on a consistent basis. So if you are Nate Robinson, Michael Finley, Tony Allen, or Marquis Daniels, now is the time to step up.
The Heat have gotten here on the shoulders of Dwayne Wade, period. I don’t think that many realize how good this guy is and how much he has to carry EVERY game for them to compete. Wade is the only consistent threat that the Celtics need to worry about. Cut off the head and the rest of the snake dies, right. With all of that said, Jermaine O’Neal has rested the last few games and he was playing pretty well, so that will help against the Celtics front line, but I am expecting big things out of Michael Beasley. We know Haslem can handle his own and we know that Jamaal Magloire is done (about 2 years ago actually), but Beasley is the key to this series for the Heat. He’s got to be able to take good shots and make them. He stretches the floor for the Heat and could bring Garnett out to the wing so that he’s not able to help with the rebounding. Outside of that, the Heat would need a barrage of 3’s from Cook and Richardson.
Series Roundup – I actually think the old guard gets out of the 1st round. I’m not to inclined to think that the Heat can pull it off. They have a chance, but if the key to the series is Michael Beasley, that may be too much to overcome. Prediction: Celtics in 6.
Magic vs. Bobcats
Congratulations to Michael Jordan for getting HIS team to the playoffs. Now, you get the Magic. The Bobcats have played great defense all year and that’s probably the only thing that they can attribute their rise to the playoffs. Larry Brown knows how to teach defense. On the offensive side of the ball, Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson lead this team in shots taken and made (not a surprise, eh), but it seems to work. The Bobcats’ big men (Ratliff, Chandler, Diop, and Mohammed) can defend, rebound, and run the floor, while their guards seem to be pretty much interchangeable (Felton, Hughes, Wallace, and Augustin). In all, they are a solid team that probably won’t scare many people on paper.
The Magic come in to this series pretty much rolling. Dwight Howard is playing some of his best ball and Vince Carter is trying to forget how to shoot 3 pointers and instead is making his way to the basket. We know Van Gundy will have his team focused and ready to play. Carter’s rise seems to be taking some of the luster off of Rashard Lewis and it’s shown all year long. I expect Matt Barnes to get in Stephen Jackson’s shorts (this may get a little feisty) and the Magic bench to perform like they have all year long with Redick, Pietrus, and Jason Williams leading the way.
Series Roundup – This is going to come down to defense. We know that the Magic can afford to get into a knock’em out drag’em out type of game, but in the end, I think the Magic just have that much better of a bench. The Magic have to keep pace with the Cavs. Prediction: Magic in 5.
Hawks vs. Bucks
I love big Bucks and I can not lie!!! That has to be a funny tag line that doesn’t seem to get too old. The Bucks have been a Scott Skiles team all year long. Remember his days in Chicago when that team played defense, executed on offense and made you lose the game? Well, this Bucks team has done just that. They have played defense and kept themselves in games, but with the addition of John Salmons the Bucks have found a scorer to help Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut. Jennings has surprised many as a rookie (by NBA standards) pg leading his team to the playoffs. Bogut had finally started showing why the Bucks extended him to big money last summer before suffering a terrible elbow/wrist injury toward the end of the season. Ersan Ilyasova has stepped up his game and hopefully they won’t miss Bogut that much. People forgot about Jerry Stackhouse, but I expect him to make some waves for the Bucks coming off the bench.
The Hawks are like the ugly step child. I mean they should be considered one of the elite teams in the East, but for some reason people just talk about the Celtics, Cavs, and Magic. The Hawks have yet again, played well this season. Joe Johnson is leading this team along with Al Horford and they win. When you throw in Mike Bibby, who is playing pretty well and actually hitting 3’s, Josh Smith, and the 6th Man of the Year, Jamal Crawford, this team is stacked. Crawford gives them a scorer off the bench who is a big upgrade over former-Hawk Flip Murray. I think everyone wanted this team to play the Celtics in the first round again.
Series Roundup – The Bucks will miss Bogut and I’m not sure that they can afford to get into a shoot out with this Atlanta team. The Hawks frontline is going to be too much for the Bucks. Prediction: Hawks in 5.