April 18, 2008

The playoffs are here!

by Dan Bilicki In: Basketball

Now that the whole mess of teams near 50 wins has been sorted out in the West, we finally know what the match-ups are for the only conference that really matters in the NBA. You could argue that the Celtics and the Pistons have a chance to come out of the East and bring some noise, but who are we kidding here? The only chance they really have is the eventual Western champion getting banged up on the way to the finals.

First, let’s just bang out some unimportant East predictions so they’re out of the way.

Celtics vs. Hawks: Boston sweeps Atlanta with little resistance.
Pistons vs. 76ers: Philly is better than you think but won’t hold up Detroit’s march onwards. Detroit in 5.
Magic vs. Raptors: Matchup-wise, Toronto may have an advantage, but I really can’t see them winning this series. Orlando in 7.
Cavaliers vs. Wizards: Is actually the Wizards vs. LeBron and i’d still take that one man over the whole Washington team (Do you think the league would let King James get bounced early?). LeBron in 6.

Heading out West, where some of the best basketball in many years will be played:

Lakers vs. Nuggets
The Nuggets look so good on paper because of their big names but facing the Lakers in the playoffs when Kobe Bryant is around is a tough task. The Nuggets are not nearly mentally focused enough to take down the West’s top dog. And seriously, do you really expect an 8-over-1 upset two years in a row? Lakers in 4 although Denver could steal a game.

Hornets vs. Mavericks
The upset that everyone is going to pick. Does that really make it that much of an upset any more? Dirk and the Mavs have looked great recently and are rolling heading into the post-season. I see a lack of playoff experience ultimately killing the Hornets. Dallas in 7.

Spurs vs. Suns
Any NBA fan’s dream. The Suns traded for Shaq simply so they could beat the Spurs playoff time. Now they have to prove that move paid off. The Spurs also are out to prove they still have since doubters have been riding them all season. Amare Stoudemire has been an absolute force since the Shaq trade and will cause problems. But you also have to count in that the Suns have no one capable of guarding Manu Ginobili. In the end, whichever team can turn the “it” more will take the series. I think it’s the Spurs in 7.

Jazz vs. Rockets
The least appealing matchup in the first round and whoever takes this series is going to just be fodder for the Lakers — who may have Andrew Bynum back at that time. Utah is a great team at home and will ride the Rockets there while taking at least one on the road. Jazz in 5.

I’ll call the second round matchups when I see them, simply because the Spurs-Suns series will impact the entire playoffs. But if I was calling it now, I would have the Lakers beating the Pistons in 5 games.

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