NBA Playoffs - First Round Previews
by Joel Caris
Okay, after my first column's random musings, it's now time to talk actual NBA playoff match ups. The regular season is over and the bracket is set. The games start today. Let's get to it.
San Antonio (3) vs. Denver (6)
This should be a very good series. San Antonio comes in playing awesome basketball since the All-Star break and Denver comes in having finally had Iverson and Anthony gel. They're playing fun, uptempo basketball and have pulled everything together at the end of the season, which is exactly when you want your team to start clicking. I'm expected Iverson and Anthony to both be spectacular during this series.
However, San Antonio is good. Incredibly good. They're so good that I half want to move away from my ultimate pick of Dallas to win it all and hand it to them. They're going to take out Denver, and it probably won't be too hard for them. The best hope is that they play Denver's game more than their game while they're doing it. They'll still win, but it will be a much more fun series to watch.
To really make it a fun series, though, I need better resolution to the Duncan-Crawford spat. This indefinite suspension was far too anti-climactic. Sure, it's appropriate, but I really need a showdown of some kind. I'm thinking game three, halftime, Crawford taking on Duncan. I mean, this is going to garner some serious ratings. But since it's not a fair match, we'll throw in Dick Bavetta on Crawford's side, the two of them against Duncan. And if Bavetta, for whatever reason, should happen to turn against Crawford in a shocking twist and then proceed to team up with Duncan to devour his flesh, well . . . that's NBA basketball, baby. It's the playoffs--you either come to play, or you go home. Or get digested.
Spurs in six.
Miami (4) vs. Chicago (5)
Yeah, yeah, I've heard all about how Miami is going to turn it on in the playoffs like last year. But guess what? Not happening. Sure, they may turn it on, but it's not going to be enough. Chicago is going to take this series, and I'll be a happy man when it happens. It's not that I hate Miami along the lines of how I hate the Lakers, but I'm no great fan. Probably because they took out the Mavericks last year.
But listen, Dwayne Wade isn't going to be able to do what he did last year. Chicago is going to be intent on murdering him and his shoulder, and there's only so much he's going to be able to do in that situation. Sure, he's going to throw himself fully into the game--and possibly lose his left arm in the process--but at the end of the day, I see Chicago walking away from this series. Plus, they have home court advantage, which I think could be key because I'm predicting this goes seven.
In the end, Wade may not be able to pull the Heat through, but he's probably going to put on a hell of a show trying.
Chicago in seven.
Phoenix (2) vs. Los Angeles (7)
Can I just start cackling now? Please? As I may have mentioned in my last column, I hate the Lakers. I hate Kobe Bryant, I hate Phil Jackson, and there's little I enjoy more than watching them fail. And make no mistake, they're going to fail. Hell, this isn't even going to be a redo of last year's series, when the Lakers nearly took out the Suns. No, I think Phoenix is going to take this series easily. Therefore, the key part of this series isn't who is going to win, but just how many points Bryant is going to score. He's been insane lately and I don't see that coming to an end for this series. If anything, the desire to win this series is just going to exasperate his need to score heavily.
So here's my call. I'm saying Kobe has a 62 point game. Futhermore, I'm calling it in game three, after the Lakers go down 0-2. Unfortunately, this scenario presents the very real possibility of having to be subjected to Jack Nicholson having an orgasm on the sideline, which really would be a disturbing event. Let's hope he keeps control of himself.
By the way, if I end up being right about game three, I better get some kind of prize. Outside of the gloating rights.
Phoenix in five.
Toronto (3) vs. New Jersey (6)
Sorry, but my interest in this series isn't getting past about 18%, mostly because of New Jersey's involvement. They're a team I've never had an interest in. As such, I'm calling this for Toronto (and not just because of my lack of interest in New Jersey, but also because they seem to be pretty good.) Once they win the series and move on to face Cleveland, then I'll show some interest.
Toronto in six.
Cleveland (2) vs. Washington (7)
Which brings me to Cleveland. Man, LeBron James must have some seriously good karma. Cleveland, on the last day of the season, managed to land the second seed as opposed to the fifth seed, and as such, they have a pretty sweet path to the Eastern Conference finals. First off, they have to play Washington, which is about as easy as it gets. Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler--you know, the guys who made Washington a decent team--are both injured and out. Which means that James can act as bored as he did for the first half of the season and the Cavs can still walk away from this series without breaking a sweat.
Sadly, this is not going to be an interesting series. And it had potential. Arenas is utterly crazy, which is always good entertainment, and he said earlier this year that LeBron James didn't have the fire in him. Therefore, this could have been an amazing battle between two top players, one of whom just happens to be completely off his rocker. It's entirely possible that, at some point, Arenas would have become confused and disoriented, discarded the basketball, and started shooting hibachis at the basket while yelling "Basketball!" Better yet, he probably would be making the shots. Instead, we're going to get a boring Cleveland romp. Why did this have to be taken away from me?
Cleveland in four.
Can I just stop here for a moment to ask why the hell are there 16 teams in the playoffs? I've been writing this article for like an hour and I'm only five series in. Seriously, something has to be done about this.
Houston (5) vs. Utah (4)
I can't quite decide on this series. Houston's going to win it, but I'm not sure if it's going to be a huge battle or if they're going to get by the Jazz without too much trouble. On the one hand, Houston is very good, and I don't think anyone should underestimate Tracy McGrady. He kept Houston going very well while Yao was out. With both of them healthy and going at it, Houston's not a team anyone wants to face.
On the other hand, the Jazz have had an excellent season, though they let down some in the latter half. Still, I have to think Jerry Sloan is going to have these guys revved up and ready to go once the series gets under way. He's an incredible coach and not someone who I would want to make the mistake of underestimating.
Getting right down to it, I'm thinking this is going to be a battle. Keep an eye on this series--I'm thinking it goes to seven and that last game is going to be a big one.
Houston in seven.
Detroit (1) vs. Orlando (8)
Oh man. This is going to be a harsh series. Detroit is winning this easily.
Okay, I'm going to be honest again. I know Detroit is very good this year and I know Orlando did some decent things. Otherwise, I haven't followed either team much. As such, there's not much to write about this, except that third sentence up there. Detroit is going to win. And I doubt it will be hard.
Maybe we'll see Rasheed Wallace get a technical for sneezing on the bench.
It's 'Sheed. It could happen.
Detroit in four.
Dallas (1) vs. Golden State (8)
Yep. This is probably the series I'm most excited about. I talked about it in my last column. You have Don Nelson, who seems to have departed Dallas under less-than-great circumstances, facing off against his old team and the coach he groomed. He knows these guys, he knows Dirk, he can very possibly get in their head. Golden State and Dallas played three times this season and Golden State won every game. There are some circumstances surrounding that, but it's still an interesting point.
Plus, Golden State is surging coming into the playoffs. You (or at least I) have to think they're going to give Dallas some issues here in this first round. Certainly, they're not going to win, but I think they'll create a fun and interesting series, which is all one can really ask for. At the end of the day, I think Dallas is coming into these playoffs absolutely ravenous and Golden State's going to be the appetizer. But they're going to be filling and they might even give them some gas. Or something.
I should stay away from the metaphors. At least, when they involve gas.
Anyway, make sure you watch this series. Both teams are fun, there are interesting dynamics going on, and frankly, while I have nothing against Nelson, it'll be fun watching Avery Johnson boot him to the curb. Because I like Avery. And he believes in defense. And I don't want him to have a heart attack, which he perpetually looks on the verge of having.
Dallas in five.
So there are your first round previews. I'll be back on Thursday with talk about the first couple games and where I think the various series are headed. Come back for it, or else I'll have Dick Bavetta hunt you down.