Thursday, April 16, 2009

Uh-Oh

I was really looking forward to watching the Boston Celtics defend their NBA title, as the playoffs are scheduled to take place a few days from now. However, the new scoop out of Beantown is that the Celtics are not likely to have the services of Kevin Garnett, one of my all-time-faves, on account of some bad knees. In my opinion, this effectively ends Boston's hopes to win the title again, and also makes the NBA Finals matchup a relatively predictable one: it's hard to imagine anybody but the Cleveland Cavs coming out of the East, and hard to fathom anybody but the L.A. Lakers coming out of the West.

How did Nate's picks from the beginning of the year pan out? I predicted intially a Cleveland-New Orleans Final--which will probably turn out to be 50% correct. I also picked LeBron James to win his first MVP Award, which will likely turn out to be the case, though that wasn't too difficult a prediction to make. I called seven out of the eight playoff teams in the East (I missed Chicago Bulls) and six out of eight playoff teams in the West (I missed the Dallas Mavs & surprising Denver Nuggets).

My abridged predictions for the playoffs now that the matchups are set:
EAST
1st Round:
(1) Cleveland def (8) Detroit 4-0: hard to imagine Cleveland having any trouble with Detroit's aging lineup.
(2) Boston def (7) Chicago 4-2: even without KG, the Celtics are a much better team than Chicago, who will probably steal a game or two with their youthful enthusiasm.
(3) Orlando def (6) Philadelphia 4-1: the Magic's core of Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, and Hedo Turkoglu, if they are healthy, should have their way with the 76ers.
(5) Miami def (4) Atlanta 4-3: this could be a great series, but I'm going with the Heat because of Dwyane Wade's awesome postseason history--he cannot be stopped.

2nd Round:
(1) Cleveland def (5) Miami 4-2: expect at least one epic scoring duel between LeBron and Dwyane to define what could be a memorable 2nd round matchup.
(3) Orlando def (2) Boston 4-2: I would love to pick the Celtics here, but I'm afraid they'll be too skimpy on size without KG to contain Dwight Howard.

Eastern Finals:
(1) Cleveland def (3) Orlando 4-2: Who on Orlando will be able to prevent LeBron from dominating?

WEST:
1st Round:
(1) LA Lakers def (8) Utah 4-2: the Jazz have played the Lakers pretty well this year, but don't expect LA to be in any real danger of losing the series.
(7) New Orleans def (2) Denver 4-3: I don't know why, but I just haven't been convinced by the Nuggets' strong regular season all year. I'm also a big Chris Paul fan, so I'm going with the 1st-round upset here.
(3) San Antonio def (6) Dallas 4-2: Though Dallas has had a surge and San Antonio just found out it will be without Manu Ginobili for the remainder of the playoffs, I still think that the Spurs' playoff experience will be enough to squeak out a first round victory.
(4) Portland def (5) Houston 4-3: Both Portland and Houston are fun teams to watch; Portland seems to have more potential given its abundance of youth so I'll pick them.

2nd Round:
(1) LA Lakers def (4) Portland 4-1: The Lakers are just too experienced to allow the Blazers to make this a real series.
(7) New Orleans def (3) San Antonio 4-2: a matchup of two of the fastest point guards in the NBA (Chris Paul, Tony Parker) would be a treat to watch.

Western Finals:
(1) LA Lakers def (7) New Orleans 4-1: None of the Western teams appear to be peaking going into the playoffs--therefore I don't see the Lakers as experiencing too many real problems until...

NBA Finals:
(1) Cleveland def (1) LA Lakers 4-2. If LeBron wins this one, watch out: he may be winning several more. There just seems to be a better team vibe & chemistry with the Cleveland group--I think it may be their year.

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