Tuesday, April 13, 2010

2010 NBA Playoffrs Preview

I probably would of had this preview out a little earlier had their not been so much chaos involving the seeding for certain teams. The NBA Playoffs - the time period where yet again the American public can witness the impossible. This past year I came to realize that no matter how frustrated I get with the lopsided officiating in NBA games sometimes, or the over-commercialization, I will always follow the NBA. I will always be submerged in the playoffs and I will always think I know what I'm talking about when it comes to who will win what and why.

Eastern Conference Playoffs

1 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 8 Chicago Bulls

Back story: The season series between these two teams is 2-2 with LeBron sitting out the last Bull win. Cleveland comes into the playoffs having rested their key players, while Chicago comes after having won six out of their last eight games. Yes, there are the individual performance that will prove valuable. LeBron James has to continue his domination on the court that he showed during the regular season where he averaged just about 30 points, 7 rebounds, and 9 assists per game.

On the other end is Derek Rose. In Chicago's last six victories Rose has averaged roughly 28 points per game. If Rose can not get going the Bulls will be lying on the mat before the round even begins.

The only way Chicago can stay with Cleveland is if the team has good team defense, gives Cleveland only one shot a possession, and establish a post presence. In Chicago's victory early in the year Cleveland only had a slight advantage in points in the paint. In Cleveland's seven point victory later in the season, again the points in the paint where close. But in Cleveland's 14 point victory the Cavs had a 46-20 points in the paint advantage.

What Will Happen: Chicago had a nice run to make the playoffs, but that's where it stops. Even if the Bulls somehow managed to play terrific defense they're still in trouble when it comes to guarding LeBron James. James has been known to increase all his stats during the playoffs. Also, add in the fact that Shaq is back in the lineup and you have another big problem for Chicago on the front court. (No pun intended). Derek Rose will perform terrifically, but it will not be nearly enough. The Cavs win a relatively close Game 1, blow out Chicago Game 2, and have another easy win Game 3. In Game 4 Chicago loses one right at the end. Right now the Bulls don't have the horses to hang with Cleveland.

Cavs in 4

2 Orlando Magic vs. 7 Charlotte Bobcats

(Side note: This needs to be done. ASAP. The New Orleans Hornets need to give Charlotte their name back so they can once again be the Charlotte Hornets. Then the Bobcats need to send their name to the Utah Jazz. Then the Utah Jazz need to send the Jazz name back home to the New Orleans Hornets. We would have the Charlotte Hornets, the Utah Bobcats, and the New Orleans Jazz. Come on tell me why this would not work.)

Backstory: The Magic's run to the Finals last year put the entire franchise on the spotlight. Sure the team had been doing good, but maybe the Magic were farther along than any of us imagined. After getting dismantled in the Finals by LA, Orlando spent the off season upgrading the roster. To help not only get the Magic back into the Finals, but to win it Orlando added some personnel. Matt Barnes (8.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and Vince Carter (16.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg) are the two biggest names to join the Magic.

For the first time in the franchise's history the Charlotte Bobcats will be playing in the postseason. The Bobcats' defense leads the league in least points allowed. Leading the way for the Bobcats are Gerald Wallace (18.2 ppg, 10 rpg) and Stephen Jackson (21.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg). Charlotte thrives a tough half court defense and is led by journeyman head coach Larry Brown. Having an offense with no one single threat gives the Bobcats a chance.

What Will Happen: I am glad to see the Bobcats finally get into the playoffs, but the magical run ends rather quickly. Orlando is a terrific rebounding team, while the Bobcats are in the bottom half of the league. Add in playoff experience and Orlando's deadly three point shooting and you have the reason why the Bobcats will struggle. Larry Brown's team will try and slow it down, but Orlando plays that game as well. The Magic score 102.75 while only giving up 95.26. That 7.48 difference is the largest in the league.

Magic in 5

3 Atlanta Hawks vs. 6 Milwaukee Bucks

Backstory: The Bucks season remaining one of the more surprising this year. Without Michael Redd for much of the season the Bucks managed a 46-36. In the months of February and March the Bucks went a combined 21-8. After a late season acquisition of former Chicago Bull John Salmons, the Bucks started to look like a sleeper in the playoffs. Then it happened. Andrew Bogut, the starting center averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds, got injured and put out for the playoffs. Milwaukee already was an average rebounding team, but now that task will be even more difficult.

The Atlanta Hawks are right on the heels of the Magic and Cavs. A team once happy to be in the postseason looks to make more noise. The growth of Al Hortford has been impressive as well as Joe Johnson and Josh Smith's, but the one thing that impressed me the most was the resurrection of Jamal Crawford. Crawford the University of Michigan after his freshman year. For much of his career he has been on losing teams and has often been marked an NBA bust. But things changed this year for Crawford. He is shooting a career best 44.9%, all while taking fewer shots. Having a sixth man who is averaging 18 points and 4 assists is crucial come playoff time.

What Will Happen: The loss of Bogut is huge because with Hortford (9.9 rpg) and Josh Smith (8.7 rpg) banging on the glass is a big disadvantage. I just do not think Ersan Ilyasova (6.4 rpg) and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (5.5 rpg) will be enough to win the battle on the glass. Plus, Ilyasova and Mbah a Moute are not seen as an offensive threat the way Bogut was meaning more defense will be played on other Buck players like Salmons and Jennings. Milwaukee will sneak out a couple games, but winning the battle on the glass, plus the presence of key playoff veteran players (Mike Bibby especially) will prove to be too much.

Hawks in 6

4 Boston Celtics vs. 5 Miami Heat

Backstory: The Celtics come to the playoffs after a season of ups and downs. Two years removed from a title the Celtics remain a coin-flip team. One night the squad can take down the league's best team (Cavaliers), while another night they can fall to the worst (Nets). Rajan Rondo has emerged as one of the game's best point guards, yet the age of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen is beginning to show. Heck, even through Paul Pierce in there. One of the biggest concerns for the Celtics has been their tendency to lose big leads in games. Against the Cavs the Celtics were playing their best game of the year. The team was up by 22. Toward the end of the fourth the Cavs had reclaimed the lead. The once steady defense of Boston had evaporated again. Rondo has had to carry the team during certain games when he should be getting more help. And do we even have to mention that pathetic effort displayed by the once respected Rasheed Wallace.

The Heat come in after having won 12 of their last 13 games. Dwyane Wade is averaging 26 points, while Michael Beasley is beginning to take form (14.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg). Their defense gives up only 94 points a game as well as allow opponents to only hit 43% of their shots. With Wade being a free agent this summer it's safe to assume he will be giving it all plus one for this series.

What Will Happen: Of Miami's 12 wins towards the end of the season only three were against teams currently in the playoffs. Despite their up and down season, Boston has remained strong on the defensive end. Knowing Wade is Miami's bloodline Doc Rivers will attack him from the get-go. Boston wants to put the ball in a young player like Beasley's hands. Sure he is averaging 14.8 points per game, but can he pick up some slack when Wade is having serious trouble. Wade is an all-star and will keep Miami in the series when they seem out. I like Boston taking a 3-1 lead only to have Miami tie it up. With Game 7 in Boston, the Celtics put the clamp down and Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett play like their old selves.

Celtics in 7

Western Conference

1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. 8 Oklahoma City Thunder

Backstory: The Lakers finished the season on a sour note. They come into the playoffs having lost six of their last nine. Yes, there were times Kobe Bryant was not playing, but still this Laker team has looked out of sorts. The 91-88 loss to the Trailblazers was the most surprising. For the first time all year the Lakers lost a game after going into the fourth quarter with the lead. Even more shocking was Kobe missing shots late in the game.

The Thunder enter the playoffs for the first time since getting to Oklahoma. Kevin Durant, 21, is the youngest player to ever win the NBA scoring title (30.1 ppg). The inexperience of the Thunder remains a factor. The average age is only 23 years old. Behind Durant is Russell Westbrook (16.1) and Jeff Green (15).

What Will Happen: Inexperience may have been irrelevant when the Warriors beat the Mavericks back in 2007, but that's not the case here. It's one thing to get into the playoffs and be matched up against an experienced squad, it's another thing to be matched against the defending champs. The Lakers have been hearing for the past week why they are not going to win the title. Add in the criticisms Kobe has been getting about his play lately and you have the reason not only that LA will win, but that Kobe will put up huge numbers.

Lakers in 5

2 Dallas Mavericks vs. 7 San Antonio Spurs

Back story: Rick Carisle showed his success in Detroit was no fluke. Behind Jason Kidd the Mavs relied off one of the league's best records. Dallas comes in with a roster filled with Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki, Caron Butler, Erick Dampier, Brendan Haywood, and Jason Terry. One of Dallas's biggest weapons lies behind their ability to put so many lineups out on the floor. Small ball? No problem. Need to control the glass? No problem.

Last year marked the first time in Tim Duncan's career that San Antonio got eliminated in the first round. This year the Spurs can get payback. For much of the year the Spurs struggled to move up the standings. Despite having finished as a No. 7 seed the Spurs start to look like their old selves. Manu Ginobili's welcome back party has sent shivers to every opponent.

What Will Happen: The Spurs want to make one more stand. Who else would be better to start their journey the team they have played four times in the playoffs since 2000? In the past Duncan's defense remained critical, but lately we can all see that wear and tear is beginning to take place even for the Big Fundamental. Dallas's ability to put out many line ups gives them an advantage that will prove critical in this series. Dirk knows this might be one of his last chances to make a run at a title. Alos, San Antonio does not have a stopper like Bruce Bowen anymore. Who can stop Dirk?

Mavericks in 7

3 Phoenix Suns vs. 6 Portland Trailblazers

Back story: The Suns finished the season as the league's hottest team. The team won 17 of their last 20 games, including a ten game winning streak. Just when you thought the Phoenix Scoring Machine was dead it had a resurrection.

The Blazers have easily had the worst luck this year. Again Greg Oden goes out with an injury...as well as Joel Przybilla...and now Brandon Roy. Despite all the bad luck the team is still in the playoffs. Portland remains a half court defense that slows the ball down while Phoenix speeds it up. Whoever wins this battle wins the series.

What Will Happen: The Suns have to knock an opponent out five minutes in to the game. During the last day of the regular season the Jazz started to make a rally. After spending 20 seconds getting a good shot Utah scored. Then Phoenix came down and buried a three. Then Phoenix stole the ball and buried another three. Just like that the rally was squashed. When Phoenix is on they can only be stopped when the opponent has a big time scorer. Brandon Roy's absence will hurt.

Suns in 6

4 Denver Nuggets vs. 5 Utah Jazz

Last year's playoff run for the first one for the Nuggets to go back the first round since 1994. We know now that Denver has the potential to run the tables. Carmelo Anthony seems to get even better in the crunch time each game. He shoots an incredible 60% during crunch time. Behind Chauncey's leadership, Nene's emergence, Kenyon Martin's defense this team has all the ingredients to make a run.

After an average start to the season the Jazz have turned it around. Andrei Kirilenko is more valuable than his 11 points and 4 rebounds per game suggests. Him, along with the rest of the Jazz strive to play great defense. Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer look more and more like Stockton and Malone every year.

What Will Happen: The Jazz were embarrassed in their last regular season game at home. The Suns were able to score at will. Sure it's the Suns, but still the defense of Utah remained one of their stronger points. I see issue with going with Utah because their play is simple, add in the fact Carmelo is on a different level compared with anyone else on the court and that's why I go with Denver.

Denver in 7