May 2005 - Posts
With last night's W against Phoenix, the Spurs essentially took the best of seven series, going up 3-0. As I had blogged about earlier, I called this particular series “too close to call.” Never had I imagined that it would be so lop-sided, instead expecting a much closer series. Yes, the Suns weren't necessarily blown out of the water in any of the games (except for last night's, maybe), but neither have they shown any kind of mettle or experience that you'd expect from a team capable of winning the championship. Instead, it has been steady San Antonio exhibiting the calm, focused demeanor of a true champion.
Bah, I was really hoping for a seven game series, how exciting would that have been? Well, at least it's good to see the Spurs playing so well together, as when I was in Vegas in November I bet $5 on them (and the T-Wolves... meh) to win it all.
With the Spurs/Suns series virtually wrapped up, all that we have left to entertain ourselves with currently is the Heat/Pistons series, which is knotted up one game apiece with the pivotal third game nearing tip-off time as I write this. For the Heat to take this series they need either Shaq or Wade to have at least another three very big games, or they need both players to have just big games with the supporting cast stepping up as needed... or they need the Pistons to have some sort of horrific injury that sidelines their starting five. I don't think any one of these things happening are very likely, but maybe some combination of the three can transpire. If it doesn't, I'm afraid it's the Pistons in six.
Personally I'd like to see the Heat advance into the Finals, but I think the Pistons will make it and I think that will treat us to a very well played Finals series. Both the Spurs and Pistons are strong teams with the experience and poise to make this a great Finals.
Speaking of great Finals, I watched the Game 6 from the 1998 Finals a couple nights ago, the game with “Jordan's last shot.” Man, that game still gives me goosebumps, even after all these years.
Seriously, ABC, what is up with your scheduling? You're showing a W
NBA game on Saturday in lieu of Game 3 of the Suns/Spurs series. I cannot express enough my disgust for this move. (And, for the record, I am so bitter because I don't have cable, so I rely on network games for watching the games... bah.)
Looking back at my playoff predictions at the start of the postseason, I'm doing pretty well save for my one (admitedly) risky guess - Nuggets over Spurs in the first round. Save that one miscalculation, I've been spot on, even getting the number of games it would take for a number of the series.
And now we are down to the Conference Finals, both series pitting the top two teams from each conference, and each series promising to be exciting (assuming Shaq's health is better than is being let on). At the start of the postseason I picked Pistons over the Heat and the Suns over the Nuggets. I still think the Pistons will take the ECF, especially considering that Shaq isn't 100%. The X-factors for this series will be:
- Shaq's health - if Shaq isn't at 100% the Heat are not going to make this much of a series. Yes, Wade is an animal and is playing lights out basketball, but I don't see how they can expect him to, (a) keep up defensively with the Piston's fast and able backcourt and, (b) be an effective scorer against a defender like Prince (who, forget not, was able to give fits to Kobe in last year's Finals).
- The Heat's shooting percentage - the Heat have been shooting over 50% from the field as a team throughout these playoffs. For the Heat to win the series they'll need to continue their impressive field goal percentage, which will be a much more formidable task given Detroit's top-notch defenders (Prince, Wallace, and Wallace, in particular).
You know that the Pistons are going to play Pistons basketball throughout - strong D, in control, level-headed offense throughout, regardless of the score, and be coached masterfully.
While I think the Pistons will take the ECF in six, the WCF is too close to call. I think the Spurs have the advantage on the coaching and experience fronts, but the Suns have the energy, youth, and are playing on fire. Should be a great series! I think the X-factors in this series are:
- Duncan's health - he's been riddled with injuries throughout the season and bummed up his ankle in the series against the Sonics. He's playing today in Game 1, as would be expected of a champion and team leader, but we'll have to see just how effective he can be. (At the end of the 1st quarter he's not had much of an impact on the game.)
- Amare's foul trouble - Amare is arguably the most physically talented power forward in the playoffs, and can definitely have a huge impact on a game (just ask Dallas). Problem is, he has a way of getting into foul trouble early. For the Suns to take this series he needs to stay on the floor and contribute.
- Nash's performance - Nash has logged big minutes throughout the playoffs thus far, putting up impressive numbers, too. The question, though, is how good of shape is Nash in? Can he continue to put forward these high number of minutes night in and night out?
These playoffs are going to rock. We've got two great Conference Finals and, regardless of who advances, the Finals should be just as exciting. (It'll be a pity of there's a work stopage in the NBA this offseason.)
Back on April 22nd I made my NBA playoff predictions. I am notoriously poor when it comes to making predictions, but, if you don't mind me saying, I did a pretty decent job in picking the teams through, at least, the first round.
My pick: Heat (1) beats New Jersey (8) in 6
Results: Heat (1) beat New Jersey (8) in 4. The series wasn't nearly as close as I had suspected, even with Shaq at half strength, still troubled by his leg injuries. However, the Heat did shoot insanely well, Wade and Damon Jones playing extremely well throughout the series, with a better than expected contribution from Mourning. That, coupled with the lackluster and inconsistent play from New Jersey gave the Heat an easy first round shutout, the only game of interest being the double-OT Game 3.
My pick: Detroit (2) beats the 76ers in 6.
Results: Detroit (2) beats the 76ers in 5. This series had a number of closer games than the Heat/Jersey series, but Detroit played pretty much in control throughout, even though they had some concerning deficiets in certain games. Watching this series increased my resolve in my pick as Detroit as the Eastern Conference champs. Even though they faced a number of situations in games where things looked dark, where it would have been easy to just pack it in and take the L, they stayed calm, level-headed, and pulled out the win. The mark of a true gelled, talented, professional team.
My pick: Celtics (3) loose to Pacers (6) in 6.
Results: ??? Game 7 is tonight. Personally, I think the Pacers will win this one. Regardless who wins tonight, though, I think they'll lose to the Pistons in 5 or 6.
My pick: Chicago (4) loses to the Wizards (5) in 6.
Results: Chicago (4) loses to the Wizards (5) in 6. Called this one perfectly. Chicago jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the series, but the Wizards hung tough and came back to win the next four straight, hanging on against a tough Bulls rally in Game 5 and coming from behind at the end of the game in the clinching Game 6. While this first playoff series win for the Wiz in 20-some years is great for the franchise and city, it's unfortunate that they now have to face the Heat, who I anticipate will take this series as convincingly as they did the first, winning in 4 or 5.
My pick: Phoenix (1) beats Memphis (8) in 4.
Results: Phoenix (1) beats Memphis (8) in 4. No surprises here.
My pick: San Antonio (2) loses to Denver (7) in 6.
Results: San Antonio (2) beats Denver (7) in 5. This was, admittedly, my “risky” guess, and I was giddy to see Denver win Game 1. But then the Spurs regrouped and showed their mettle. They are a veteran team used to the playoffs, and I anticipate they'll get past the Sonics without too much difficulty, winning in 5 or 6.
My pick: Seattle (3) beats Sacramento (6) in 6.
Results: Seattle (3) beats Sacramento (6) in 5.
My pick: Dallas (4) beats Houston (5) in 5.
Results: ??? Game 7 is tonight in Dallas. The Rockets played a lot better than I had expected, in large part thanks to McGrady playing off the hook, and a phenomenal Game 2 from Yao. My guess is that the Mavs pull out the W tonight unless McGrady has an insane game or Yao returns to his Game 2 form. This series has been one of the most interesting - exciting games, high scores, and Van Gundgygate, with Houston Coach Van Gundy getting a historic $100,000 fine and further threats from Commish Stern.
Depending on how tonight's two Game 7s turn out, I could be 7/8 for the first round, with my only incorrect pick my most risky.
Looking forward to the next round, I think the most exciting series will be the Suns v. Houston/Dallas, while the other series won't be too exciting. However, both Conference Finals ought to be amazing, assuming it's the Suns/Spurs and Heat/Pistons as it appears it will be. If those four teams make it to the Conference Finals, the NBA Finals are going to be great, no matter who makes it.