The Best NBA Playoffs…EVER?
April 16, 2011 2 Comments
One of my favorite times of the year: baseball is underway and its playoff time in the NBA. Forgive me for taking a hiatus the past few weeks; I’ve been working with NBA Futurecast and the Austin Toros. My NBA playoff picks article has been a personal favorite of mine, so without further adieu…my picks:
Chicago vs. Indiana- Starting off with the best record vs. the worst record; I’m sure the windy city loves the fact that the Bulls once again have the best record in the NBA. D-Rose continues his MVP campaign peaking at the right time. This team has all the tools to succeed come playoff time: a plethora of rebounders and shot-blockers, low post scoring, and of course that one superstar capable of taking a game over. As for Indiana, NO TEAM should be allowed to make the playoffs with a sub .500 record (Indiana is eight games under .500 in fact.) When Chicago has four of the best five guys in a series, the result shouldn’t be close. Unlike the great 1990’s rivalry between these two teams (MJ vs. Reggie), Derrick Rose should have no problem taking care of this awful Pacers team.
Stick’s Pick: Chicago in four
Miami vs. Philadelphia- The quest for eight titles begins here. After all the publicity, all the expectations, all the criticisms…it is all erased come playoff time. Given how much I’ve heard about the Heat’s disappointing regular season, it is amazing that they still achieved 58 wins and a two seed in the East. Not to mention, there are no hotter teams right now than Miami and Chicago (more on this later.) Their opponent, Philadelphia, has been flying under the radar all season. Andre Iguodala has emerged as quite possibly the league’s best perimeter defender (which will come in very handy this series), and Doug Collins has rebuilt this team for the future. Despite this, Miami should be on cruise control throughout this series. Lebron and Wade both had remarkable regular seasons as usual, but these players enter another gear come playoff time.
Stick’s Pick: Miami in four
Boston vs. New York- From the 1990’s Bulls-Pacers rivalry to an even more storied matchup; whenever these two cities matchup in a sporting event, there is no love lost. Dating back to the Bill Russell-Willis Reed days, it is nice to once again have relevant basketball being played between these two teams. Boston surprised most last year, making yet another Finals run and coming within minutes of another NBA championship. And yet another season…players get older, the Eastern Conference gets better, and of course your GM trades away your starting center. It is unreal how unpopular this Perkins trade has been. From nearly every sportswriter, NBA analyst to even the Celtics players, I haven’t come across one person who truly believes this was a good deal for the Celtics (except Danny Ainge of course.) Sadly, I think this trade may have all but squandered this year’s title hopes for the Celtics. This series will be no cakewalk for Boston either. When the Knicks have arguably the two best players in the series, anything’s possible. However, in the playoffs, you MUST play defense. And as we all know, that concept doesn’t appear in Mike D’Antoni’s scheme. Boston might have a scare, but experience should pull through in the end.
Stick’s Pick: Boston in six
Orlando vs. Atlanta- A rematch of last year’s playoff beat down: in case you missed it, last year Atlanta was bounced out of the playoffs by none other than Orlando, losing in a sweep by an average of 25 POINTS PER GAME. So what’s changed? Not much. If anything, Orlando cut dead weight with Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis, and added Agent Zero (or agent nine in this case). Dwight Howard is having his best statistical season ever (some stat geeks believe he is this year’s true MVP, most notably ESPN’s own John Hollinger). What is stopping me from picking yet another sweep? That’s right, nothing.
Stick’s Pick: Orlando in four
San Antonio vs. Memphis- Wait, what? The Memphis Grizzlies tanked on purpose so they could be able to matchup with the playoff-veteran San Antonio Spurs? You can’t make this up. As if Gregg Poppovich and his four NBA championships needed any extra motivation come playoff time. As long as Tim Duncan is healthy and anchoring the offense and defense, pencil this Spurs into at least the second round. There is no better team than San Antonio at taking away what the other team does best, and quite frankly I’m not sure what Memphis does best. I guess double team Zach Randolph? Maybe this series would last longer if Rudy Gay wasn’t out, maybe not?
Stick’s Pick: Spurs in five
LA Lakers vs. New Orleans- Do I need to say anything here? The Los Angeles Lakers are two-time defending NBA champions, and are on pace to make their fourth-consecutive trip to the NBA Finals (something two teams have done EVER). Unless Chris Paul channels his inner Isaiah for a majority of this series, it’s tough not picking a sweep here. Even with a healthy Davis West (currently out for the season), LA won all four meetings in the regular season. I don’t see much else to say here…moving on.
Stick’s Pick: Lakers in four
Dallas vs. Portland- I’ve done my research, listened to all the expert’s picks… and everybody is picking Portland. So how is Dallas favored to win this series? I haven’t come across one person who has picked the Mavericks to get past Portland (but Vegas still has Dallas as the odds-on favorite). I think there is something to be said when the media and everybody you know are calling an upset. I’m going to stray away from the norm and pick my Mavs to somehow get past Portland. As great as Portland’s frontcourt may be, I’m sure Coach Carlisle will have something planned. And last but not least, Dirk Nowitzki is one of the top ten basketball players ever in the playoffs. Don’t believe me? Look it up (top 10 in PPG, top 8 in PER). My first upset pick of the first round, if you can call it that.
Stick’s Pick: Dallas in seven
OKC vs. Denver- This series may turn out to be the most entertaining of the first round. The Nuggets sure look good for having lost their best player (tie it to the Ewing theory). This team finally has an identity with its run and gun style. Who would have thought losing Carmelo would make this team better? However, playoff basketball slows the game down and relies on superstars to carry teams through. This high-paced Denver team isn’t made for the playoffs. And of course, I love the Thunder as always. More on this later.
Stick’s Pick: Thunder in five
Quick question, has the second round NBA playoffs ever set up to be this good? I don’t think so. D-rose’s Bulls vs. Howard’s Magic, the hated rivals Heat vs. Celtics, the up-and-coming Thunder vs. the grizzly veteran Spurs, and the first ever Dirk vs. Kobe in the playoffs. Sounds pretty intriguing to me.
Chicago vs. Orlando- As great of a season as Dwight Howard has had (23 PPG, 14 RPG, 2.4 BPG), I believe it ends here. The Bulls are one of the few teams who have enough big bodies to throw at Dwight, and there is no guard capable of slowing Derrick Rose. Orlando is going to need a strong series from their guards J-Rich and Jameer to have any hope in this series. I’m aware of the Magic’s strong playoff experience, but something doesn’t seem right about this year’s team. I can’t put my finger on it; I just know the Bulls will be too much for the Magic to overcome.
Stick’s Pick: Bulls in six
Miami vs. Boston- SPOILER ALERT: You heard it hear first, the winner of this series will not only go to the Finals; they will win the Finals. The Celtics have been the Heat’s Kryptonite all season long. That is, until recently. The Heat are heading into the playoffs having won 15 of the final 18 games. Most notably, an April 10th beat down of this Boston team 100-77. Yes, Boston had their way with Miami in the beginning of the season, but as we all know it takes time for a team to gel (especially a team with an entirely new roster like Miami). As much as the media has been criticizing Danny Ainge for trading Perkins for Jeff Green, this series is the reason. Ainge desperately needed a swingman to relieve Ray Allen and Paul Pierce from logging big minutes in a playoff series, and also adding another body to throw on Lebron or Wade (not like it would matter). This will be the first true test for the Super-team Miami Heat. If they pass it, LOOK OUT! It’s going to be close, but I love my chances with the two best players in the Eastern Conference on the SAME TEAM. At least this time, Lebron will finish the series (see 2010 Cavs-Celtics playoff series for more).
Stick’s Pick: Heat in seven
San Antonio vs. OKC- The cliché matchup of the young vs. the old. The Spurs shocked the world, nearly dominating the regular season. And, the young Thunder were many expert’s dark horse pick to represent the West in the NBA finals. So something’s gotta give. As I mentioned earlier, the Spurs and Poppovich have a knack for shutting down what their opponent does best. And simply put, if the Spurs shut down/contain Kevin Durant, the Thunder have no hope in this series. As surprising as it sounds, I think the Thunder matchup better vs. the Lakers than the Spurs. It is no coincidence that the Spurs swept the season series between these two teams. The Thunder are getting there, but I like the Spurs to make another run. Call me crazy, but until the Thunder can win a road playoff game, I’ll take 4-time champion Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs.
Stick’s Pick: Spurs in six
Dallas vs. Los Angeles- Interesting stat I heard on Bill Simmons BS Report the other day: never has there been a playoff series between Dirk’s Mavs and Kobe’s Lakers. No time better than the present. I would love to see the Lakers get knocked out here, but I see no possible scenario for this to happen. No disrespect to my Mavs, but the Lakers have four of the best five players in this series (including the best player). In their most recent March 31st matchup, the Lakers manhandled the Mavs 110-82 despite Dirk notching one of his best all-around games of the season. That’s the 2010-11 Mavs in a nutshell: excellent effort by Dirk only resulting in a loss. I made the mistake by picking Dallas to beat LA last year, and this year I’m not nearly as confident. Ask me a few months ago and I would have Dallas in the NBA Finals. Now? Not so much.
Stick’s Pick: Lakers in six
Not many upsets up to this point. Actually no upsets! In the NBA, picking chalk (all favorites) is always a safe bet. Two great matchups highlight the NBA Conference Finals.
Chicago vs. Miami- Great matchup on paper! Miami’s big three (Lebron, Wade, Bosh) vs. Chicago’s big four (Rose, Boozer, Noah, Deng). Chicago has won all season meetings, but I like Miami in this series. I know Derrick Rose is having a fantastic season, but by the numbers, Lebron is more valuable to his team. Whenever Lebron can silently put up numbers like 27 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 7 APG, and 51% shooting, something’s wrong. Are these the stats we have come to expect from the great King James? Quite frankly, yes! So why all the hoopla about Derrick Rose being a near consensus MVP pick? I guess the media is tired of Lebron after spending all summer analyzing and breaking down “The Decision.” Don’t think for one second, Lebron wasn’t playing for another MVP trophy, and he is going to take out his frustrations on this inexperienced Bulls team. Can you sense my Lebron bias yet?
Stick’s Pick: Heat in seven
San Antonio vs. Los Angeles- This matchup never seems to get old. Let me put this into perspective, nine of the past twelve seasons, one of these teams has won the NBA Finals. That’s absolutely remarkable! These teams split the season series, and this matchup is as close as they come. This Lakers team has become rejuvenated since the All Star Break, notching a 19-6 record. And five of those losses came in a recent losing streak, where Phil was resting his team for the playoffs. It’s not going to be easy for either team, but the way the Spurs have been coasting down the stretch, I have my doubts they can beat the two-time defending champion Lakers. I had the fortunate opportunity to speak with Tony Parker Sr. (Tony Parker’s dad) in my Sports Law class, and I asked him one question: Who do you have? Spurs or Lakers in the Finals? Of course he was for Tony and the Spurs but I think there is merit in Kobe Bryant (and the refs) being too much to overcome.
Stick’s Pick: Lakers in six
Miami vs. Los Angeles- Finally! The matchup we have all been waiting for! In one corner, the two-time defending champion Lakers, and in the other corner, the NBA’s villains…the Miami Heat. In order for the Lakers to continue their quest for a three-peat, they must get past Miami’s big three. Both of these teams are heavy Vegas favorites to reach the NBA finals (Miami at 8 to 5, and Los Angeles as 1 to 1). Here’s a stat nugget for you: the Lakers fourth straight trip to the NBA finals would put them in elite company. Only Russell’s Celtics and Magic’s Lakers are the only two teams to accomplish the feat (something not even Jordan’s Bulls or Shaq’s Lakers accomplished). As I mentioned earlier, Lakers came out of the All Star break winning 16 of their next 17 games. And that one loss was to… that’s right, you guessed it, the Miami Heat. In fact, Miami has emerged victorious in both of these team meetings this year. David Stern and the NBA would absolutely love this Finals matchup .This is a tough one so lets break down the matchups:
Point Guard: Bibby vs. Fisher Edge: even
Shooting Guard: Kobe vs.Wade Edge: even (YES, I said it!)
Small forward: Lebron vs. Artest Edge: Heat
Power Forward: Bosh vs. Gasol Edge: slightly Lakers
Center: Bynum vs. some Heat center Edge: Lakers
I believe the Heat’s time is now, and honestly nobody wants to see the Lakers win again.
Stick’s Picks: Heat in seven
If my instincts are correct, then this could be one of the best NBA postseasons ever. Until then!
Let me hear your feedback and/or comments.