Monday, April 17, 2006

Let's Get it Started

Well we now know the Sweet 16 NBA playoff teams so we can begin the saga that drags on through mid-June. What we do not know at this time are some of the seedings. My first thought was to wait until we knew that before proceeding with a preview/predictions article. But on second glance, in the East, the #5-8 seeds are completely unimpressive and I can’t imagine any making it out of the first round so they are all largely irrelevant. And in the West, we have the potential Clips/Grizz swap and the potential but less likely Lakers/Kings swap (and, of course, the extremely unlikely Mavs/Spurs swap). So I’m going to roll the dice and assume the playoff matches will be what we have as of today. This of course means that this will be the first and trendsetting piece among NBA playoff predictor posts and articles! Leave it to The Three Hamiltons to pave the way….

Round 1 –

Detroit (1) vs. Chicago (8) – As nice as it was to see Chicago claw their way past Philly to get here, their reward for missing the lottery will be a brief, four-game shellacking courtesy of a very dominating Pistons team. I’m guessing last year against the Wizards will be the best “playoff experience” this young Bulls team will have seen. This year won’t be much of an “experience”. They’ll be back next year, however, with the addition of the Knicks' ping-pong ball. (Thanks, Isiah!)

San Antonio (1) vs. Sacramento (8) – Artest has brought an entire new dimension to the Kings during the latter half of the season. However that doesn’t mean he can guard Duncan and San Antonio is just too good and too deep – they win 4-1 and give Duncan some much needed time to nurse his feet. (Note – if the Lakers fall to #8, no real change here)

Miami (2) vs. Milwaukee (7) – Flash will be motivated to put this series behind him and get the Diesel some rest before getting to the real meat of the playoffs. Miami advances 4-1.

Phoenix (2) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (7) – Now this is an intriguing series. LA dominates at home yesterday but with Nash and Bell on the bench. Phoenix wins the previous three meetings this year but has been on a slide the past few weeks. To be perfectly honest, I don’t want any part of Kobe Bryant right now (excellent MVP article from Bill Simmons, btw). He’s clearly elevated his game above that of his peers and I’m not sure anyone on Phoenix can really guard him, much less for seven games. Phoenix has been better for longer than I thought they would be without Amare, but I see them folding here. Lakers with the upset in six. (Note – if the Kings make the #7 seed, PHX runs away with this series).

New Jersey (3) vs. Indiana (6) – Much like I don’t want any piece of Kobe Bryant right now, I don’t want any piece of the Nets right now, either. I’m still kicking myself for forgetting to pick up that 35:1 future on them when I was in Vegas a few weeks ago when they hadn’t adjusted the odds yet. Carter and the Nets are playing very well right now and the Pacers are fumbling like all the rest of the East playoff bottom feeders. NJ, 4-0.

Denver (3) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (6) – The Clippers in the playoffs??!! Where are Danny Manning and Terry Dehere? Very intriguing matchup here. Hollinger points to Carmelo as one of the more clutch players in the league. If he can elevate his game and lead his team in the playoffs it will make his potential that much greater. Those whacky NBA playoff rules have them as a three seed against a six seed with a better record that’s beaten them 3-1 this season. KMart’s health is a question mark and Brand has elevated his game this year as much as anyone in the league not named Kobe. I think Sam Cassell’s leadership and experience are the difference-makers between two young teams here. Nugs take the Clips to seven games but lose. (Note – I like Denver here if they end up playing the Grizzlies)

Cleveland (4) vs. Washington (5) – You know, about two weeks ago, I would have said this had the makings of a very good and evenly matched playoff series. But then the Wizards imploded and LeBron became unstoppable. I don’t think this series is close anymore. I can’t even give the Wizards as much as two games here. Cleveland advances 4-1.

Dallas (4) vs. Memphis (5) – It’s sad that a 60-win Dallas team is a #4 seed and ends up playing Memphis. However if they were #2, they’dve had the Lakers and I’ll refer you to my earlier Kobe Bryant statements. So instead of running the risk of an embarrassing first round upset, the Mavs host the Grizzlies who unfortunately, are overmatched playing the real #2 seed in the West. Dallas in 5. (Note – I still like Dallas if they end up with the Clippers, too)

Round 2 –

Detroit (1) vs. Cleveland (4) – It’s a good thing LeBron can get that valued “playoff experience” winning a series against the Wizards because while a better matchup than the Bulls, the Cavs still don’t stand a chance against the Pistons. A one-dimensional team won’t be able to get around Detroit’s defense. Not that the Cavs are one-dimensional, really, but Detroit would have the ability to limit its other non-James players such that he’d be the only difference maker…and even then he'd be in limited capacity vs. underrated, long-armed Tayshaun Prince. Detroit in 5.

Miami (2) vs. New Jersey (3) – Shaq is older and poorly conditioned. Zo may be a no-go for the whole playoffs. Miami is missing the ‘inside’ of it’s inside-outside game. With the limited minutes Shaq can put out anymore, they have to have Zo backing him up to run with the big boys. I think we’ll enjoy the Carter/Wade duel, though. But I think New Jersey takes this one in six. They’re still playing at a very high level and I don’t see whoever they play in the first round having the ability to slow that down.

San Antonio (1) vs. Dallas (4) – This is the matchup you think you should see in the Western Conference finals, right? Darn shame, huh? As good as the Spurs have been all season, Duncan still isn’t quite himself. And he’ll have to be a lot quicker on his feet than he has been to keep up with Nowitzki. (Excellent Mark Cuban post repping Dirk for MVP) And as much as Eva has helped Tony Parker pick up his game this year, it’s not enough to make up the difference in Duncan’s decline. This may be one of the better matchups of the playoffs, but I think this is the year San Antonio bows out early. Mavs in six.

Los Angeles Lakers (7) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (6) – Is every game a home game? How does this work? Why aren’t more people talking about this potential convergence on the Staples Center? And really, does anyone want either of these two teams in the conference finals? I don’t think the Clips have the answer for Bryant (does anyone?) and I don’t think the Lakers have the answer for Brand and/or Cassell. Smush and Kwame (or Odom) aren’t holding it down here. If the entire series is in LA, then the real home court advantage is with the Lakers. They’re always the trendier team and you just don’t see rabid Clippers fans. Additional edge goes to Phil Jackson – Lakers advance 4-2.

Conference Finals – Round 3 –

Detroit (1) vs. New Jersey (3) – If anything can slow down the streaking Nets, it’s the Pistons defense. After covering LeBron for a week, Prince should find Carter a little easier – in that he only has to worry about playing one end of the floor. And Vince is gonna wish he had his legs as of five years ago for those moments when he gets past Prince and has to contend with the Wallaces. And even though I kick myself for not taking that Nets future, I still can’t see them getting past the Pistons. They’re just too good and too deep – but they’ll at least give them a run – Pistons in 6.

Dalls (4) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (7) – Well if getting the #4 seed instead of the #2 avoided the Lakers in the first round, Dallas still gets them here. While the Clips have been a good and solid team this year and the Suns have been dominant at times and have a better roster on paper, the Mavs have far more weapons than either team the Lakers would have seen up to this point. This Mavs team would give a good run to the best combined roster of the Clips/Suns (that’s assuming Stoudemire is still sidelined). Behind Kobe, the Lakers are just too thin. And the Mavs can run point-for-point with anyone – they don’t care if they can’t guard Kobe. And, actually, the reason they’ve been so good this year is that they’re finally playing decent team defense. Kobe can’t make up for all of that by himself….for an entire series. Mavs in 5.

NBA Finals –

Detroit (1) vs. Dalls (4) – Detroit’s historic stifling defense but notched up offense now that they’re out of LB’s shadow vs. Dallas historic run-and-gun offense but notched up defense. This could also be an amazing series. I look inside and I see Nowitzki and Howard vs. Wallace and Wallace plus a little help from Prince on the wing – I might give a slight edge to Dallas. Jason Terry has been pretty good, but the edge at the point definitely goes to Detroit as Billups is a deserving MVP candidate. Here’s the difference – who’s going to stop Richard Hamilton? Stackhouse? Griffin? Daniels? Please. Seriously, Rip makes the difference here. And I like Detroit’s bench (previously mentioned in this forum) over Dallas’s and I’ll take Flip for an edge, too. I think Detroit wins this in six games. Another Hamilton, another champion. Any questions?


At 11:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Wiz have Karen Butler back and they look quite good against the lowly cavs yesterday. -JC

At 8:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

True. However they played at home in a must-win game (to avoid facing the Nets) against a Cavs team with nothing to win or lose and with no Cleveland starter playing more than 30 minutes. I don't think it's indicative of what we'll see in the playoffs.

Editor's note - Pacers/Bucks flip-flop doesn't affect picks. And no more worries about the potential Spurs/Mavs shakeup.

At 9:35 AM, Blogger Scott said...

I'll wait for the final seedings to make my playoff calls, but I like the Mavs call.

At 9:01 PM, Blogger Boyer said...

This "Karen" Butler character must be a real impact player for the Wiz.


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