Friday, April 29, 2011

Western Conference Playoffs Round 2 - Los Angeles Lakers vs. Dallas Mavericks

The Lakers come in to this series knowing that they escaped a game Hornets squad.  What I mean by that is if the Hornets had someone other than Chris Paul, they may not even be here.  The Mavericks pulled a series out against the Trailblazers and their only hope is that whatever curse that Portland team has on it didn't rub off on the Mavericks during their games there.   

Los Angeles Lakers:

This all starts with Kobe.  He looked terrible, at times, in the series against the Hornets.  Looked like his legs were dead or something was going on, maybe an ankle issue (hahahaha).  Once his bigs started playing Kobe could cheer from the bench.  The Lakers are the best team in the NBA, make no mistake, but they have to get it in gear.  This whole, we won't play until the playoffs is going to get them beat against quality teams.  Bynum and Gasol have to dominate.  If they do, I don't see anyone beating them.  If they don't, the Mavericks have a chance.    

Dallas Mavericks:

Not much to say about this team.  Dirk is Dirk, Jason Terry is Jason Terry, and when you add in the ageless wonder in Kidd, you have the Mavericks Big 3.  The difference this year will be the Mavericks with Chandler and Haywood in the paint.  They are going to be big for this team to win.  Roddy Beaubois is starting to play and his quickness will give Fisher and probably Blake some problems.  If Caron Butler can find a way to get on the floor he'll provide this team with a little bit of an emotional lift.  Dirk is going to have to play well against either Artest or Odom for the majority of this series.     


Lakers - Ron Artest and Shannon Brown.  Artest is going to have to play Dirk and beat him up.  If the refs let him get away with being physical, this one is over quickly.  Brown has to be that spark off the bench that he was earlier in the year.  He was doing his best (young) Kobe impersonation with his scoring and aerial displays.  He's gotta be that catalyst that gets this team going when they get lackadaisical.    

Mavericks - Tyson Chandler, Brendan Haywood, Peja Stojakovic.  Chandler and Haywood have got to be men and get the Laker big bodies out of the paint.  They may not have to score big numbers but they will have to dominate the boards.  Peja is the unkown.  I mean he hasn't been himself since he was in Sacramento and if you remember him from there,......he likes playing the Lakers.  If he can get some of that old Peja magic going, this Mavs team can pull one off.     

Prediction:  An old guy once said this, 'to be the man, you've got to BEAT the man, and I am THE man'.  Some old Ric Flair for those that remember.  With that said, the Lakers are THE man in this matchup and the Mavericks need to do something extra if they are going to win.  When it comes down to it, the Lakers have Kobe and the best I can say for the Mavericks is they have Dirk.  But, I've said that no one will win an NBA Championship with a 7-foot shooting guard.  Lakers 4-3

Eastern Conference Playoffs Round 2 - Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics

This is why they play the games, right?  The Celtics and the Heat meet for a chance to play the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics are coming off of a sweep of the New York Knicks and the Heat are coming out of an almost as easy series against a feisty Philadelphia 76ers squad. 

Miami Heat:

Ok, Phase I, complete.  Phase II - Not so easy.  The Heat get the Celtics early.  The Celtics have beaten the Heat in their season series, but I don't really think that matters right now.  Wade is probably playing the best of the Big 3 right now, and maybe that's what we all thought would happen anyway.  Look for Bron to have to play some defense in this series against Paul Pierce, but I also look for someone from the Heat to step up their game.  Bosh will have his hands full with KG (I'd love to hear what KG is going to say to Bosh this entire series) and Wade will have to continue with his roll for this team to win this series.  The Heat are confident at the right time of the year and if, a big IF, they get Haslem and or Miller back into the fold, they will be deadly.  

Boston Celtics:

The Big 3 versus the BIG 3.  This would be better served as the cover of a comic book just based on the two teams and how they were put together to battle each other.  We know that the Heat are still finding their cohesion but they are young enough to run the old Celtics out of the building.  If Ray Allen gets on a roll, the whole South Beach crew will be watching the rest of the playoffs at home.  The Celtics made the move to get rid of Perkins, in my opinion, on this series.  They need more firepower off the bench and some youth to keep up with the Heat.  With a healthy Shaq on the floor, this turns into a Celtic party.   


Heat - Mario Chalmers, James Jones and Chris Bosh.  Someone is going to have to keep up with Rondo and with Bibby closer to the end of his career, this will likely fall on Chalmers.  I imagine that you'll see a lot of him and Wade in the backcourt.  This will also give Chalmers an opportunity to run through some screens chasing Ray Allen.  With Miller hurting (thumb) the Heat are going to need some shooters to shoot.  James Jones looks to get lots of opportunities and he along with Bibby are going to have to make the Celtics pay for any lapses in defense.  All I have to say is that Bosh can NOT let KG punk him.  I don't care if it takes a technical foul or two(not all in one game), but he should just walk right up to him and smack him in the mouth.  #justtoseewhatwouldhappen.   

Celtics - Jeff Green and Carlos Arroyo.  This is why they brought in Green (and the fact that he's a young 3 that can take Pierce's spot in 3 more years).  The Heat are loaded with wing players and the Celtics need more scoring.  Green is going to have to dial into his former Thunder-self and play ball.  I'm not talking big numbers here, but he's got to be solid for the Celtics (somewhere in the 12 pts, 6 rebs range).  Carlos Arroyo,....doesn't get any better than this.  Arroyo will get to play against the one man that the Heat cut him so that they can acquire in Bibby.  Somebody is going to get smacked, trust me.   

Prediction:  This is tough.  My head says Celtics, but something is telling me that it's time for this Heat team to make some noise.  The Celtics did beat a Knicks team with really no one outside of Amare and Carmelo (Billups was hurt), so are they ready to step in the ring?  Throw the records out and just play ball.  You already know who I'm picking,......Heat 4-3.  

Eastern Conference Playoffs Round 2 - Chicago Bulls vs. Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks are riding into the Windy City after beating the Magic and the Bulls are at home licking their wounds from a tough series against the Indiana Pacers.

Chicago Bulls:

Tough series against the Pacers who decided if you can't beat them, BEAT them.  The Pacers used their bigs and their long wing players to literally beat up the Bulls which put them in a position to win each game.  The Bulls got an MVP series from Derrick Rose and that's about it.  Luol Deng has shown up in the playoffs and he's gotta show some moxie because he is playing a high number of minutes.  The strength of this team has been Rose and it's bench and with some timely shooting from Korver and defense by Noah, Gibson, etc. the Bulls are in a good position to,........(hold on now),.....I'll just say they are in a good position to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals.  Boozer has disappointed thus far and will need a good/great series to get back in to the good graces of the Chicago fans.  

Atlanta Hawks:

I did say that they would win, right?  You guys need to learn how to take this stuff to the bank.  The Hawks beat a Magic team that they probably shouldn't have.  The highlight of the series has to have been Joe Johnson (outside of Game 5).  Joe seemed to relish the opportunity to be 'THE MAN' for this team and with a lot of help from Jamal Crawford, the Hawks are here.  Hinrich got hurt and looks like he'll be limited when he does play again.  I know that for Hinrich and Crawford this has to be an opportunity that they enjoy having in playing their former team.  Josh Smith had a horrible Game 6 for the Hawks, so I imagine that he'll be ready to ball.  The matchups are going to be great in this series for the Hawks bigs, with Horford and Smith probably doing a lot of damage in this series. 


Bulls - Taj Gibson and Omer Asik.  Gibson has been a defensive presence all year long and with Boozer hobbled by turf toe (is this the Duke injury du joir?) Gibson will get extra run.  With Gibson playing extra, I imagine that the Bulls will try to go bigger than the Hawks by giving Asik more run in this series too.  If the Bulls can control the boards, this is a cake walk for them. 

Hawks - Joe Johnson and Jeff Teague.  Johnson proved that maybe, just maybe he looked good in that $120M contract.  Yes, he's the second leading scorer on his team in the playoffs, but Crawford is supposed to come in and just shoot.  Teague (I think I said this before) will have to come in and play more with Hinrich nursing a sore/pulled hamstring.  Teague is one of those smallish point guards that may be able to make Rose play some defense.  If Teague can play well, this Hawks team might pull the upset.   

Prediction: Is this the Bulls year?  We all know that Boozer has to step up, but this Bulls team is too deep to let the Hawks come in and beat them right?  What happens when Rose turns into a jump shooter?  Can the Hawks do that?  That's a lot of maybes and in that case, I'll take the Bulls.  Barring an injury to Deng or Rose, this one should be simple.  Bulls 4-2.  

Monday, April 18, 2011

Western Conference Playoffs Round 1 - Wrap Up Game 1's

And now the West,......

Spurs vs. Grizzlies - Just for a second I thought that everyone, including Charles Barkley, was going to be wrong after Matt Bonner hit his second 3 late in this game, but the Grizzlies didn't fold.  Tony Allen almost gave the game away with some missed free throws, but in the end it was the newly signed Zach Randolph (4 years, $71M) and Marc Gasol that proved to be the difference in this matchup.  The Spurs really missed Ginobili with the game on the line and it showed.  The Grizzlies stole one from the Spurs at home and now they have win Game 2 to keep it going.  Great shot by Battier there at the end, nothing like a veteran presence.  Duncan looked good, so maybe that rest all season really helped out.

Lakers vs. Hornets - Please go and look at what I wrote here, and then read the rest.  Paul came out and got his 33 pts, 14 asts, 7 rebs (all defensive), and 4 stls.  That's not quite what I said, but that's damn close.  This is all fools gold anyway.  The Hornets can't play this well for 4 games, so I imagine that they lose this series 4-1 now instead of the 4-0 prediction.  The sad part is that Kobe had a chance, twice, late in the game to bring his team back and he couldn't.  He missed two layups and didn't get any calls.  Is this how it ends for him?  Kobe actually looked human on Sunday.  He can't do that again if Gasol plays as bad as he did, if the Lakers expect to win.

Thunder vs. Nuggets - The refs had better be in shape for this series because these two teams are going to run and put up numbers.  Nene should be outlawed in about 25 states the way he is abusing the rims.  I haven't seen any big man just dunk on people like he did in this Game 1 and the Thunder for the most part were watching the entire time.  Give Westbrook his props (that's aimed at some of my co-workers) because he balled for this team.  With Westbrook the Thunder can't put up enough points to win this series against this loaded (did you see the ease with which Gallinari was shooting the rock, Chandler played well, and both point guards for Denver pushed the rock) Nuggets team.

Mavs vs. Blazers - Ho hum,....another well intentioned badly reffed game that helped the Mavs win this down the stretch.  Are the refs trying to make it up to Dirk from their calls when the Mavs played the Heat for the title a few years ago?  Dirk had 13 free throw attempts in the 4th quarter.  Stop, read it again, 13 free throw attempts.  Not much else to say.  The Blazers have got to win Game 2 or they may get bounced early.

What game did you enjoy the most?  Who you got?    

Eastern Conference Playoffs Round 1 - Wrap Up Game 1's

Let's do a quick recap.

Bulls vs. Pacers - Talk about the one that got away?  The Pacers should have won this game.  Outside of the heroics of one Derrick Rose, the Bulls would have opened the 2011 Playoffs with an 'L'.  (Hint to the Bulls, no more night before partying and then coming out flat against a Pacers team you should beat with ease).  Psycho T had a helluva game and almost won it for the Pacers (he picked Boozer pocket at the 3 point line?).  I don't think that the Pacers play this well again in this series, but the Bulls have got to also play better.  I am going to say it, if I haven't already, but a team with a mean streak is going to start putting Rose on the deck.  Wait for it.  You can't let a dude just score 39 on you.  He did have 21 free throw attempts, but he should have had ice on all parts of his body.  Good win for the Bulls when everyone but Rose played badly. 

Heat vs. Sixers - The Heat must have watched the Bulls play and they decided that they would get down early and then try and mount a comeback.  The Heat are going to need more than the Big 3 to get into double figures.  If Lou Williams hits a few more shots, this may have been a loss for the Heat.  In the end it's a 'W' and that's all that really matters, but the Heat can't allow this Sixers team to even think that they can win.  Thaddeus Young, great game and he almost brought his team all the way back. 

Magic vs. Hawks - Wow!!!  I'm not talking about Dwight Howard either.  Welcome home Joe Johnson!!!!  Johnson was the aggressor for the Hawks and he ended the game with 25 pts (9 of 16 shots, 7 of 8 free throws).  Might he finally live up to that contract?  The answer is no, but he should be the man on that team, even if it only means because of the money.  Yes, Howard had a monster game (46 pts, 16 of 23, 14 of 22 from the line, and 19 rebounds) but the rest of his team disappeared.  I like the tactic that the Hawks are going with, we'll let Howard get his but stop the rest of the Magic players because (I don't) they don't think that Howard can beat them by himself.  We'll see if this strategy works in the long run, but for one game it was king.  Congrats to Howard for winning the Defensive Player of the Year. 

Celtics vs. Knicks - Well there goes the series.  With Chauncey out for Game 2 and possibly hampered for the rest of the series, it's over for the Knicks.  Yes, the Celtics are going to have to play these games, but they shouldn't allow the Knicks to think they can win this.  Allen hits a big 3 and all is well in Boston.  Melo disappeared for a little in the 4th but they really didn't need him now that they have the new and improved Amare Stoudamire.  I am still sitting here wondering if he actually dunked the ball against KG.  I mean I saw him go to the rack, and then the ball was on the ground, but the Celtics took it out of bounds.

We can at least say that these playoffs are very exciting and that's with just the Game #1's.  Who you got?   

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Western Conference Playoffs Round 1 - Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Denver Nuggets

I think this is the series that shapes the entire Western conference playoff picture.  I would have loved for them to have played different teams in the opening rounds, but it is what it is.  The Thunder may have finally become that team with the addition of Perkins while the Nuggets have been playing as well as I think they can even when they had Carmelo. 


The Thunder come into this series knowing that this may in fact be their opportunity to represent the West in the NBA Finals.  They went out and got Kendrick Perkins and had to give up a lot in Krstic and Green, but he may be the missing piece.  Of course the Thunder are Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.  The ying to the other's yang.  Durant is the man, but Westbrook can lead this team and provide scoring too.  How much can Perkins help this team? 


These guys have played out of their minds since the trade.  You have to have played at UNC to get a lot of run at point guard (Felton and Lawson), but it's the wings that have come over and flourished since the trade.  Gallinari and Chandler provide scoring (and in bunches) for this team.  Add to the fact that the Nuggets already had Nene, Kenyon Martin, Arron Afflalo, and JR Smith and you can see why they haven't missed a beat. 


Thunder - James Harden and Serge Ibaka.  Harden is the third member of the Thunder Big 3.  Harden can fill it up when he starts rolling and can definitely alleviate some of the scoring from Durant and Westbrook.  Serge Ibaka is going to have to rebound and get those garbage points against the Nuggets.  He'll probably have K-Mart covering him, so he'll have to mentally be prepared too. 

Nuggets - JR Smith and Gallinari.  JR Smith has all of the talent in the world (could you imagine him in a Bulls jersey), but sometimes his head gets in the way.  If he can not fall in love with the 3 point shot and play some defense this will definitely help the Nuggets' cause.  We don't know how Gallinari will play in his first playoff appearance, but if he shows up, the Thunder may be in trouble. 

Prediction:  The Thunder are going to have to have other people score because the Knicks, I mean the Nuggets bench can put up numbers too.  I just want to watch two big men in Perkins and Nene duke it out in the paint.  Thunder 4-3.

Western Conference Playoffs Round 1 - Los Angeles Lakers vs. New Orleans Hornets

This is what the Lakers played for the entire season, playoff time.  They are the only team (outside of the Celtics) that have been able to flip that switch when it comes to the postseason.  The Hornets are a good team, but with the loss of David West, they are in one of the most unenviable positions that I've seen a team in in a long time. 


The Lakers limped in to the 2nd spot in the West, whether that's Bynum's knee or the losing streak that they were experiencing.  Kobe probably is somewhere practicing his shooting (that's a joke).  The Lakers have it all when healthy with Kobe, Gasol, Bynum, and Odom.  What we haven't seen much of this year is Artest really playing well and Fisher being able to play some defense.  Barnes is hurt, Steve Blake is getting over his chicken pox, and I'm not sure the Lakers can win it all with Joe Smith and Luke Walton playing too much.  If Bynum's injury is major, this makes the Lakers suspect, although not in this series.  They always have Kobe when things break down. 


The Hornets are a decent team.  That's about it.  I know Chris Paul didn't think it'd be like this.  They lost David West to injury and to me that pretty much ends their season after these next 4 games.  I like Okafor for this team (when West is there) and no one else really impresses me.  Trevor Ariza is really an athlete (run and jump) and that's it.  I don't think he's hit a shot all year long.  Marcus Banks can fill it up, but you can't have him and Paul on the floor together too much or Kobe's going to post one of them up. 


Lakers - Luke Walton.  The Lakers don't need an X-factor for this series, but they need to know that Walton will be available for the next round. 

Hornets - Got prayer?  Paul would have to have the series of his career and probably some other people too.  It's have to read like 20 pts, 20 asts, 10 stls, and 10 rebs.  Even then I think they would have a tough time winning. 

Prediction:  No chance for the Hornets.  At least the season will be over in 4 games.  Lakers 4-0.

Western Conference Playoffs Round 1 - San Antonio vs. Memphis Grizzlies

I never thought the Spurs would have had the best record in the West, but they found a way to hold to their lead over the Lakers and be the #1 seed.  The Grizzlies have been quiet all year but they toughed it out to make the playoffs this year and they are a little scary. 


The old guard is back.  The Spurs draft well and make good decisions and that's why they are always here.  They still have Tim Duncan, although somewhat limited, they have Ginobili and Parker, that's the core.  Add to that the way the bench has played, (Neal, Blair, Bonner, etc.) and this Spurs team looks like just about as good as any they've had going in to the playoffs.  With Ginobili ailing from his elbow injury, this will give more time to the bench until he's ready to return.  After Tiago splitter, the Spurs lack big men, so that can be an issue for them. 


The young guns.  Mike Conley is playing like he signed a big contract, Randolph and Gasol are big and talented enough to score in the post and command double teams.  I like the guys that they can throw out there on defense to shut down an opposing teams' wings (Tony Allen and Shane Battier).  If the Grizzlies are smart they will run on this Spurs team and try to make this a sprint.  They have to impose their will and dominate the game in the post. 


Spurs - Gary Neal and George Hill.  Both of these guys are intricate members of the Spurs, but they are going to have to step up in this series because the Grizzlies are more athletic than the Spurs.  Being the younger member of the Spurs, they are going to have to stay in fron of the Mike Conleys and OJ Mayos of the world.  They will also have to pick up the slack in scoring for any games Ginobili misses. 

Grizzlies - OJ Mayo and Sam Young.  OJ Mayo has got to find a way to get the ball in the basket, but he can't be a volume shooter.  He's going to have to play off of the Grizzlies big men to have a complete game.  Sam Young has quietly had a decent game.  He's going to have to good games against these smaller Spurs' guards.  If they can get them into foul trouble along with the absence of Ginobili, this could get interesting quickly. 

Prediction: The Grizzlies are a good enough matchup against the Spurs to cause them problems.  If Randolph is able to play the best series of his life, they can upset this Spurs team.  Will he and will the Grizzlies be ready to step up against the veteran squad?  Spurs 4-3.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Western Conference Playoffs Round 1 - Dallas Mavericks vs. Portland Trail Blazers

Another good series, but this time on the Western side of the NBA.  The Mavs seem to always be there, no matter what, and this Portland team is just snaked bitten or something, but they are always reloading.


This is the girl that you date that you know she's always going to be there, but you know there's something about her that you can't quite put your finger on that you know your relationship is only going so far.  I guess I'll put it this way, I don't think a team will ever win the NBA championship with a 7-foot shooting guard (Nowitzki).  Dirk has consistently put up numbers for this team and he's had some decent supporting casts, but they can't seem to get over the hump.  I like Kidd, I like Terry off the bench for scoring, I even like Tyson Chandler who brings the closest thing to toughness to this team (I think that says something within itself).  Good team, just not sold on them.

Trail Blazers

Talk about a team that with bad luck, every good player for this team has had some kind of knee issue.  But this team makes the playoffs and everyone sees this as a team that is dangerous.  I think this is the year for them to fulfill that prophecy.  They have LaMarcus Alridge (think how good the Bulls could be if they would have drafted him), they have 'Crash' (Gerald Wallace), Marcus Camby, and the unheralded Andre Miller.  Miller knows how to run this team and that's probably what makes them dangerous. 


Mavericks - Shawn Marion and Jose Juan Barea.  Shawn Marion doesn't have plays run for him so all the extra points he gets are what I call hustleman stats.  The more her gets the better the Mavs will be.  JJ Barea is going to have to ignite this team from the bench.  He can provide a change of pace for the Mavs when they need it, but they have to be careful playing too much of Terry and JJ together because they'll get killed on defense. 

Trail Blazers - Gerald Wallace and Wesley Matthews.  Crash is coming over from the Bobcats and we know he can play but he's been on a tear since arriving in the pacific northwest.  He's gotta continue to play well for the Blazers for them to pull this minor upset off.  Wesley Matthews has been solid and that got him his money this past season, but I need to see more from him in this series.  He provides balance and probably some scoring for the injured Brandon Roy.

Prediction:  Can the Mavs avoid a letdown?  Can these Blazers pull of the upset?  For some reason I just can't ride with the Mavs.  Everything should say that they win this going away, but I don't see them getting out of the 1st round this year.  Blazers 4-2.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Eastern Conference Playoffs Round 1 - Orlando Magic vs. Atlanta Hawks

This is the first time that I think that I can say that I want to see the Atlanta Hawks play.  The Hawks are running into a Magic team that is trying to find itself.  The Hawks are also trying to figure themselves out, so this one is going to be must see TV. 


Dwight Howard and Stan Van Gundy will both probably be mad that Dwight doesn't get the MVP.  Not saying that he should, but he does change the game big time for the Magic.  I love what Howard brings to the table on both O and D, but there's a part of his team that lacks that mental toughness.  Richardson is hitting the 3 like he's making layups and Jameer Nelson seems to be the cog that makes the engine run.  Ryan Andersen is great off the bench (he's starting at times) but this team struggles when Howard is out because of technical fouls or in foul trouble.  Turkoglu is a mismatch for many because of his size and ability to handle the rock at times. 


This is it.  This is what you paid Joe Johnson $119.2 M for.  Can he lead this team to an upset of the Magic?  The Hawks have size, a gunner off the bench in Crawford, a point guard that can run a team in Hinrich, and that's about it.  I really think that Johnson has got to come on and play ball, which is going to mean at least 20-plus points per game.  Horford should be able to play Howard and possibly get him in foul trouble.  Worst case is that the Hawks have about 4 guys that they can throw at Howard and beat him up.  The Hawks are going to have to rebound and force the Magic into shooting the 3 ball which hasn't been going in as of late.


Magic - The Artist Formerly known as Agent 0.  IF, and that's a big if, Arenas can somehow put it together and play his game, this Magic team would probably be the most dangerous team in the playoffs.  Arenas has not looked totally healthy and that may be a factor in him not playing like many expected him to. 

Hawks - Jeff Teague and Jamal Crawford.  Teague has the opportunity to prove to people that he is the point guard of the future for the Hawks.  Teague hasn't done much in the league yet, but I did like this kid when he was in college.  He doesn't have to be too fancy, just run the team and hit an occasional 3.  Crawford is looking for a big contract next year.  The Hawks are maxed out with the deal they gave Joe Johnson and they are going to have to pay Horford too.  So,...when you have an opportunity to lead your team on national stage during the playoffs, now is the time to step up. 

Prediction: Can Howard keep his cool during the playoffs?  If I'm the Hawks I find out quick with Jason Collins just cleaning his clock.  Can the Magic hit the 3 ball consistently?  Will Howard dominate Horford and the rest of the Hawks front line?  Are the Magic mentally tough?  Lots of questions, not many answers.  Hawks 4-3.

Eastern Conference Playoffs Round 1 - Boston Celtics vs. New York Knicks

This is the series that I think everyone wants to see in the East.  Two cities known for basketball and with New York actually becoming relevant again.  Boston seems to be sliding after trading away Kendrick Perkins, so this one ought to be a good matchup. 

Boston Celtics:

The original Big 3, well at least for the young people, are getting old.  It seems as though over the last month of the season, they would run out of gas.  I've watched them play great for 3 quarters and then they just check out in the 4th and lose games that they had no business.  There was word that many on the team and even Doc Rivers wondered why they would have gotten rid of Perkins.  It seems as though Danny Ainge was willing to get rid of the size they had for more wing scoring to battle the teams in the East.  It looked like a deal that would allow them to answer the young legs of the Heat, Bulls and (funny) the Knicks.  There is reason for pause in this series.  You've got to respect the old guard (Pierce, KG, Ray, Shaq and Rondo), but the bigger question is can they stay healthy?  Shaq and Jermaine O'Neal seem to be duct taped together right now.  One goes down, the other gets better, then he goes down.  If Shaq's calf is ok, this series isn't much of test for the Celtics.  Pierce may not be scoring that much because I imagine that he's going to be trying to lock down Carmelo, although we all know that Pierce has heart.  For the most part, KG should be able to match Amare.  The Celtics know it's playoff time, but they can't afford to start slow like they did last year. 

New York Knicks:

Well, the trade that brought in Carmelo and Chauncey Billups is still providing blah results, especially compared to the way the Nuggets have been playing since the trade.  Carmelo is going to get his and Amare is going to get his, but really it's going to come down to the other guys.  The other question is whether the Knicks can dial in on defense for this series.  They have a lot of young athletic bodies but no size upfront (Jared Jeffries, Ronny Turiaf, and Shelden Williams don't equate to size).  The Knicks will try and speed up the pace and run the Celtics out of the gym but they are going to have to rebound well enough to run.  


Celtics - Shaq, Jeff Green and Troy Murphy.  Gentlemen, the honeymoon is over.  It's time for you to play ball.  Shaq has to be healthy because this is what they signed him for, the playoffs.  Jeff Green can't have the playoffs that he had at OKC, he's gotta step up and he'll be a tough cover for a lot of the bigs on the Knicks team.  Troy Murphy, you were brought in to be a significant member of this team.  If he's shaken off the rust, he should definitely help the Celtics win on the boards and he will have 6 fouls for Amare. 

Knicks - Toney Douglas and Bill Walker.  Douglas was running D'Antoni's system pretty well for a month or two.  He's a shoot first point guard but once he realized that he has scorers on his team, he became a better playmaker.  We know that Billups is going to get the majority of the minutes at the end of the game, but Douglas has a chance to make this a coming out party.  Walker has been through the playoffs most recently with the Celtics.  He probably can relate to the Knicks team some of the nuances of the Celtics, but somewhere deep down inside, he's going to be motivated to beat his former team. 

Prediction: This is going to be a tough one.  These two teams matchup well and that's good for the Knicks as they try and prove themselves.  My head says that the Celtics put it on snooze here at the end of the season while trying to find a rhythm with their new pieces.  Although this will add another chapter to the Celtics vs. Knicks lore, I gotta go with the green guys.  Celtics 4-3.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Eastern Conference Playoffs Round 1 - Miami Heat vs. Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers finally made the playoffs and for that they get the Miami Heat.  Add to the fact that one of their more explosive players, Lou Williams, will be trying to come back from injury.  Things aren't adding up in the 76ers favor.

Miami Heat:

Yes, they all took their talents to South Beach, yes they had parades and such before they even practiced together, and yes it put the bulls-eye square on their backs for the course of the year.  Right now, none of that matters and it's Season 1 - Part Deux, the playoffs.  They got Wade, LBJ, and Bosh.  They might get Haslem back from injury and as of right now, a healthy crew.  They should dominate this 76ers team easily because this is a bad matchup for the 76ers.  The addition of Bibby has made this team lethal, when they hit their threes, and this is the time to shine.  The Heat get a chance to make it or break it starting now. 

Philadelphia 76ers:

The Sixers have played well under the radar.  They have some pieces in Iggy, Williams, and the rock, Elton Brand.  With Williams, hurt, that really hurts their chances of winning this series.  They have gotten a great year out of Brand and they seem to have buy in to follow Doug Collins into a battle.  There's not much more I can say about this team, because they are 'Sean Penn', aka 'Dead Man (Men) Walking'.  This won't be pretty. 


Heat - Mike Bibby and Eric Dampier.  Bibby has got to hit his 3's and Dampier has got to clean the boards and be the enforcer.  That's what they were brought in for and if they do their jobs, this team is unstoppable.  I'll add Haslem to this list because he's been out for a long time and if they are able to get something out of him from a defensive standpoint, that will definitely help. 

76ers - Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner.  The Heat have problems with PGs that can get in the lane and collapse their defense and Holiday can do just that.  He's going to have to have a monster series if the 76ers hope to win a game or 2.  The 76ers have been pretty good all year without the play of Evan Turner for the most part.  He's struggled at times and has been terrible other times.  If he can find some of that juice/magic that helped make him the 'man' at OSU, he can provide some solid minutes off the bench for this 76ers team. 

Prediction: No chance, really, chance the 76ers win one game.  Well, maybe one, but that's it.  The Heat should have a cake walk, but this will be an opportune time to work more on their chemistry and their defined roles, while at the same time resting some of their starters.  Heat 4-1.   

Eastern Conference Playoffs Round 1 - Chicago Bulls vs. Indiana Pacers

We have the Bulls playing the Pacers in Round 1.  The Bulls are the best team in the East and there are some that still don't give them a chance at winning it all.  Let's see if they can get out of the first round (a little humor there).

Chicago Bulls:

Of course this is Derrick Rose and friends.  The Bulls have found ways to win when you talk about their team defense, you can see why.  Other than Rose, you aren't going to find a 'Superstars', but there are good pieces in Deng, Noah, and Boozer.  The Bulls need a two guard or the government approval to clone Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver into the same body.  I'm not sure what else to say about this team other than the whole is better than the sum of the parts.  They have bought in on the coaching and they are in a position to win it all.

Indiana Pacers:

The Pacers are one of those teams with a losing record actually making the playoffs in the East.  The team hasn't really played that well until late and they have this meeting with the top seed in the East as their reward.  I will say this, the Pacers aren't going to get swept and I expect them to play the Bulls tough.  They have a speedy point guard in Collison (backup in Price), they have a decent big man patrolling the middle, Roy Hibbert, and enough scorers on the wing (George, Granger, etc.) to put points on the board.


Bulls - Omer Asik.  He's been playing very well all year long but hasn't gotten much pub outside of the Chicago area.  He's tall and can move, so that will help him.   

Pacers - James Posey.  Yes, you haven't heard much from him in the past years, but Posey can still come in and provide a veteran presence, some scoring and some defense in spots.  If the Pacers can keep it close, expect Posey on the floor when it all counts.  The other spark for the Pacers is going to be McRoberts or Hansbrough.  Yes, a former Dukie and a Tarheel will have a bearing on an NBA playoff matchup.

Prediction: The Bulls have to get out of the 1st round after hitting the 60 mark in wins, right?  The Bulls should take this one and move on to the next round.  Bulls 4-2.   

The East is Set

With one game left (for some) in the NBA regular season, the East side of the bracket is already set.  The Bulls have clinched the #1 seed and the Heat are right there at #2.  The East matchups in the first round are looking like this:

(1) Chicago Bulls vs. (8) Indiana Pacers

(3) Boston Celtics vs. (6) New York Knicks

(4) Orlando Magic vs. (5) Atlanta Hawks

(2) Miami Heat vs. (7) Philadelphia 76ers

I'll break down the East bracket shortly, but what do you think?  Who's going to win it all?  Any upsets in the earlier rounds? 

Monday, April 11, 2011

To Go or Not To Go

Well, the NCAA Tournament isn't quite over yet, but with only 4 teams left, there are a lot of college ballers who are contemplating their next decision, do you stay or go to the NBA?  It's always a tough question for some and then there are others that are motivated by the need for money that may make them do something that isn't in their best interests.  Let's take a look at some of the big names that may be on the fence.  (As a note, let's not even entertain the possibility of the anticipated NBA lockout).

Kyrie Irving, Duke - Ohhh, this is a tough one.  I know if Irving had helped Duke win a title, this would be a much easier decision.  With the loss to Arizona fresh in some people's minds, I imagine that Irving has quite a decision to make.  On one hand, he's been scouted enough (since middle school) and he's shown enough on the court for Duke that we all know he can play.  On the other hand, is this toe thing going to be a recurring issue?  If it is, it's best for him to go pro now and make his money and have access to a professional training staff (he actually has that at Duke already).  If he wants to come back and help Duke win one next year, they are going to be stacked in the back court.  Can you make player trades in college?  Duke is just one Udonis Haslem-type away from cutting down nets. Decision: Go.

Harrison Barnes, UNC - He's ready.  I mean he has all the tools needed to make the jump.  You really saw how he handled the pressure of being the man later in the season.  With that Larry Drew II stuff going on at UNC, we know that that ended up causing that team problems.  The kid is a legit 6'7" or 6'8" and he can score with the best of them.  I know he wants to help UNC win one, but, I'm not sure how much better he gets playing at UNC next year.  Decision: Go.

Derrick Williams, Arizona - You just put your team on your back and beat one of the best schools in the country in front of a national TV audience.  Williams is a tweener but brings some length and some heart to the NBA.  He can attack the basket against slower guys and is a good enough shooter to stretch the defense out to the 3 point line.  Decision: Go.

Jared Sullinger, Ohio State - Looks like Sullinger is heading back to Columbus for his sophomore year.  I think this is a good idea for him.  He played well as a freshman, but I think he serves himself better by getting in the weight room and working on his moves when he's guarded by bigger/taller defenders.  OSU was in trouble when teams were able to play Sullinger one on one and guard their 3 point shooters.  Part of the work for Sullinger is that he has to work on his body.  I'm not saying he's got to look like Dwight Howard, but he can't keep looking like Paul Pierce (no definition).  Decision: Stay.

Kemba Walker, Connecticut - If you don't get a National title this year, you did everything that you could do.  Walker has proven that one man can carry a team and I'm not discounting the play of the UConn bigs or Lamb, but Walker has been nothing short of amazing over the last month or so.  Walker is a little height challenged, but he will definitely be a great pick for the right team.  He does know how to pick and roll.  Decision: Go.

Tyler Zeller, UNC - I've said this all year long, this kid is legit.  He has a jump hook with both hands, a face up game and dominate the boards in stretches.  Zeller isn't going to get any better at UNC this next year (although his presence and John Henson's would cause my Dukies problems), but I think that he could win a National title next year at UNC.  So, the big question is, is it worth it?  Do you stay and get a title or do you bolt.  The NBA loves height.  Decision: Go.

John Henson, UNC - The pogo stick finally played well this year and with some determination.  Henson is a shot blocking machine.  He's LONG and he seems to be able to play two people at any one time while he's in the paint.  Henson put on 20lbs of weight last summer and he could add an additional 30 if possible, but why not do that in the NBA.  The people that he resembles from an NBA standpoint are Tayshawn Prince and Marcus Camby.  Not bad.  If one of these guys (Zeller or Henson) decide to stay, I think that'll weigh heavy on the other.  Decision: Go.

What's your take?  Do you have any advice for these young guys?  Let them hear it.  

Who's Better? Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook?

Ok, this conversation started today and I'm going to caveat it a little here.  We know based on this season that D. Rose is definitely going to get the MVP and has pushed his Bulls team to the 60 win mark which hasn't been done since a guy wearing his own trademarked sneakers and rocking the '23' lived in the United Center (and also the Chicago Stadium), so we can say that Derrick Rose is better than Westbrook, but can we say that Rose is better than Westbrook by far?  I'll start with the numbers and just the numbers.

Derrick Rose - 25.1 Points per game, 7.8 Assists per game, 4.1 rebounds per game; probable MVP, 60 Win team.

Russell Westbrook - 21.8 Points per game, 8.2 Assists per game, 4.6 rebounds per game; 54 Win team.

So for the sake of the argument, I'm saying that these guys are closer than most people think as far as what they bring to the table. 

With that, let the games begin.  Who do you think is better, and why?!?!? 

Who's Better?!?!?

Since most of you are similar to my friends and I, I want to start these topics going about 'Who's Better?!?!'.  I figured that we'd definitely get a lot of conversation going and we'll see who can prove their point.  I'll take a tally of the comments and then come up with the final results.  It'll be fun.