Playoff time is here, and the West is the best when it comes to matchups fans really want to see. Seeds are in parenthesis.
(1) Oklahoma City vs.(8) Houston: Thunder have a dynamic 1-2 punch in Durant and Westbrook. Problem is, Westbrook’s style of play can be asymmetrical to the offensive flow. Instead of working with K.D., Westbrook seems to work against him. The Rockets would win this series if they played any kind of D! Because they don’t, OKC wins 4-2.
(2) San Antonio vs.(7) L.A. Lakers: This one is hard to call believe it or not. Both Teams are playoff savy and experienced. It doesn’t matter that the Lakers roster has not been together for a long time, or that the Spurs are dealing with a rash of recent injuries as of late. This is a pick em’ series all day long.
(3) Denver vs.(6) Golden State: Denver was a league best 38-3 at home! Not having Galinari put a severe dent in their attempt to go all the way, but that won’t be a problem against the Warriors. Golden State has improved significantly on both ends of the floor under coach Mark Jackson and have one of the league’s most dangerous player’s in Curry. It’ll take more than that to win this series. Denver wins 4-2 in a series that will be played better than the end result.
(4) L.A. Clippers vs.(5) Memphis: Although the Griz’ have been playing well in the absence of Rudy Gay, I still think at some point it will come back to haunt them. Slow it down is the recipe for the Grizzlies. The Clippers outside shooting has been up and down this season, and the interior is inferior to the Griz’ despite Blake Griffin. Memphis wins 4-3; they better not make a fool out of me.
Well, that’s a wrap for this year’s predictions… Let the Madness begin!!
Now that both the East and West contestants of what is the 2013 NBA Playoffs are set, here’s my take on the winners/losers of each matchup starting with the East. Seeds are in parenthesis.
(1) Miami vs. (8) Milwaukee: LeBron (DNP), Wade (DNP), and Bosh (DNP); Miami still wins 4-0. The Heat have 3 of the Olympic starting 5; Bucks have Jennings, Ellis, and a bunch of no names. The Heat should have been granted a first-round bye. That’s how horrible this series will most likely turn out.
(2) New York vs. (7) Boston: The Celtics should not be underestimated because of their age. Doc Rivers knows all to well – as do his players- what playoff basketball is all about. Only the Spurs Popovich is better at getting the most out of his squad. As long as health is not an achilles heel, Boston has more than a puncher’s chance of winning this series. The Knicks have 2 of the league’s premier shooters in Melo and Smith, but need Chandler to balance everything out. Sometimes when the shots are not fallin, the Knicks get caught holding the ball to long and standing around. The lack of ball movement in halfcourt sets will be their undoing and exactly what the doctor ordered for the Celtics. The Knicks should win; I won’t be shocked if they don’t.
(3) Indiana vs. (6) Atlanta: Pacers are to inconsistent; one minute they look as though they could beat anybody, and then turn around and look as though couldn’t compete with the recently crowned state champ Mentor Cardinals. Hibbert’s production is critical to the Pacers advancing to the next round. 8 points and 5 rebound type numbers will not get it done. Horford and Smith can tip the scales in favor of the Hawks if Josh stops poutin’ and start playin’ up to his ability. Al will bring it every night; will Smith help him out? Indiana wins 4-3 by default.
(4) Brooklyn vs. (5) Chicago: Lopez, Johnson, and Williams make up a nice core for the Nets, but Carlesimo and inexperience may count against them in the end. The Bulls are battle tested like no other. Chicago needs to only put points on the board; everything else will take care of itself. Rose’s return (off the bench) would be a huge bonus. Bulls win this series 4-2 on grit alone.
Of all the playoff teams’ I’ve previewed up to this point, the Boston Celtics are by far the one playoff squad that is surrounded by a myriad of questions. Can Pierce and Garnett pull it together for one more championship run? Will they survive a playoff series without the playoff- walking triple-double- Rondo? Are Avery Bradley’s shoulder seperations a thing of the past? I’m not sure what the answers to these questions are, and I may never know if the Celtics get handed a first-round exit ticket by the Knicks, but I do know one thing: no matter who’s name is on the back of the jersey at the time, putting on that Celtics uniform has enabled all those who wear it to perform. How else would you explain 17 championships?
Doc Rivers is second only to Greg Popovich when it comes to being a complete coach. As has been mentioned before with the likes of Jerry Sloan, both Pop and Rivers were former players who’s teams’ seem to have taken on the identity of each. Despite the rash of injuries that have befallen the Celtics this season, Doc has managed to keep his troops moving forward towards another possible championship run that many think the Celtics are too old to pull off. Never underestimate the heart of a champion; did not the tortise beat the hare? This team’s horses may have lost some it’s Kentucky Derby speed, but their high playoff basketball I.Q. more than makes up for that.
The Celtics stack up pretty modestly against the rest of the league from a statistical standpoint, but we all know know numbers never tell the whole story when it comes to the tenants at T.D. Bank North. They rank 11th in points allowed (96.5), and 18th in points scored (96.6). I’d be worried if these numbers were attached to the Atlanta Hawks because of their style of play. In the case of the Celtics these are grind it out numbers, and grind it out is what Boston does best; slow you down and be physical in the process. Because of this fact, I believe the first-round matchup against the Knicks is a toss up.
Yes, Melo and J.R. Smith are two of the game’s hottest shooters who have an uncanny ability to shoot the three. However, without an inside presence to compliment what the Knicks can do from the perimeter, the Celtics win this series. We all saw what happend to the Thunder in last last year’s Finals. Tyson Chandler is the key element for both teams in this series. The Knicks need him to balance out their half court offense, and the Celtics need his absence in order for their 29th league rank rebounding position to not rear it’s ugly head. Last but not least, the Celtics do a much better job of moving the ball in the halfcourt offense than do the Knicks.
With the playoffs set to start about a week from now, this is the only Eastern conf. matchup I look forward to seeing. The Celtics D vs. the Knicks love for the 3… Win or go home!
At 37 wins and 43 losses, the Milwaukee Bucks having the 8th seed in this year’s playoffs is more formality than deservingly. NBA rules say that there must be 8 teams’ in both conferences to make the season ending tournament. Because the Sixers, Cavs, Pistons, Raptors, Wizards, Magic, and Bobcats are all so bad, the Bucks get a free pass. How does a team with a losing record make the playoffs at all? Even from a statistical standpoint I can’t figure out how to make a case for the Bucks that would give them any chance against the Heat in a first round matchup. This team is 20th in points allowed (100.4/per) and 12th in points for (98.8/per); what chance do the Bucks have realistically against any team if they can’t score enough, and can’t stop the other team from scoring too many? Not to mention a league rank 10th in the turnover dept. The Heat should be allowed a first round by instead of having to play the Bucks; the Bucks are not worthy of being called a basketball team let alone a playoff team.
The Bucks do have 5 players’ who average double digits in points per; Monta Ellis (19.2), Brandon Jennings (17.6), Ersan Ilyasova (13.2), J.J. Redick (12.0), and Mike Dunleavy (10.4) can all put the ball in the basket, but it all seems to be perimeter oriented. At times Jennings and Ellis will put the ball on the floor and get to the basket, but of the five aforementioned, Jennings, Ilyasova, and Dunleavy shoot better than 36% from the three. Can’t win in the playoffs being to jumpshot heavy; especially when those shots are long three’s. Long jumpshots lead to long misses and fastbreak oppportunities for the opposition. The Heat will feast on any and all runouts going the other way.
Despite the no chance at all proclamation I put forth when the Bucks play the Heat, there is one area for this Buck team that is worthy of mention and is a mandatory criterion for playoff basketball- offensive rebounding. It makes no sense to me how this team is ranked number 2 in both offensive (1033) and defensive (2475) rebounds with 43 losses on the season. Whether you agree with me or not, there is a direct correlation between the two. Teams’ who rebound the ball well -especially offensive- usually have a winning record.
Stern should insitute an NBA rule that disallows a team to make the playoffs if said team has a below .500 overall record. If only for this season, Stern should allow the loser of the 8th spot in the Western conference to take the place of the winner of the 8th spot in the East. I guarantee the Lakers’ or Jazz would make for a better series against the Heat than Milwaukee. Instead of playing to their strength that is rebounding and punishing the Heat on the inside, the Bucks will settle for jumpshots on the outside. Playing harder and not smarter is a recipe for disaster; a disaster that is the Milwaukee Bucks.
If you ask me, the only reason the Atlanta Hawks are a playoff team is because they play in the Eastern conference. Or, as some might say, they’re a playoff team by default. It’s not as if they don’t have a pretty decent roster makeup from an ability standpoint with guys like Al Horford, Josh Smith, Devin Harris, and Kyle Korver. I just have a hard time trying to figure out at what point is the mentality going to coincide with the ability. Without the two coming together, falling short is usually the end result.
The Hawks are 15th in points scored (97.6/per), and 13th in points allowed (97.2/per) for the 2013 campaign. Who will they beat with those enigma-type numbers? Not many -if any- come playoff time.
Horford is the only player I can truly say is deserving of being on a contender. His production goes well beyond a box score -when not injured- and his intensity is there night in and night out. Consistent is the first word that comes to mind when I watch big Al play.
Smith, Korver, and Harris give me cause for concern going into the playoffs. Smith is one of those “talented” players’ who never really materialized into the player he should have because of his pouting. Loves to play out on the perimeter to shoot the three, but doesn’t seem to realize he would be better served -as would the Hawks- to start out on the interior and then go on the outside. Helping Al on the inside will help Atlanta’s chances for winning.
Korver is a spot-up shooter who would help the Hawks more if he could put the ball on the floor. Not being able to be shoot of the dribble makes him no different than Rashad Lewis – a career journeyman. What does it say about you as a player when the Bulls (who are in need of perimeter scoring) decide to let you go. Korver is most effective when being fed; one dimensional is definitely guardable. What happens when a team runs him off the three-point line?
Of the Hawk point guards, Harris is taller than Teague, but not smarter. Teague is more of a facilitator than Harris, but lacks the size to deal with big guards. Both however are defensive deficient. Harris plays too fast and out of control more times than I care to count. A better understanding of tempo would allow everyone else -especially Korver- to play within themselves and play better overall. The Hawks have to understand that Al cannot do it by himself on the inside if they are to have at least a fighting chance to advance.