2007-2008 Playoff Predictions
Each year I post my (insanely inaccurate) playoff predictions prior to the start of the postseason. I some rare circumstances my picks are spot on, but most of the time I take a gamble or two and end up blowing the whole postseason (like last year, I picked the Dallas Mavericks to beat the Detroit Pistons in the Finals). This year I didn't have as much time to pontificate on my playoff picks because the Western Conference seedings weren't finalized until the last day of the regular season. The Denver Nuggets - the eight seed - have won 50 games this year. That would have netted them the four seed in the East.
Let's get started with this year's picks! I've put the winning team name from each series in bold.
(1) Boston beats (8) Atlanta - I don't think the Hawks have much of a chance this postseason. They are facing, arguably, the best team in the entire NBA. Moreover, the Hawks have been playing poorly the last part of this season, they have very little playoff experience, and were swept by the Celtics during the regular season. Boston in 4.
(4) Cleveland loses to (5) Washington - The Cavs have had a disappointing year, culminating with a multi-player, mid-season trade that was, at best, a lateral move; at worst it was a step back. The Wizards, on the other hand, have gelled nicely as the season wound down, and Gilbert Arenas is back in the lineup, now giving his team a boost off the bench. The only thing the Cavs have going for them is the fact that LeBron is a beast and he can, single-handedly, win games, as was evinced in last year's Conference Finals. This series should be enticing because this is the third consecutive year these two teams have met in the first round of the playoffs, with the Cavs winning the first two meetings. This time I predict the Wizards will win in 6.
(3) Orlando beats (6) Toronto - Toronto has had a disappointing season, while Orlando has done better than expected, especially with the emergence of Hedo Terkoglu. Along with Detroit and Boston, the Magic are the only 50+ win team in the East. I think this will be Dwight Howard's year to shine in the playoffs. Orlando in 5.
(2) Detroit over (7) Philly - A lot of people knock Detroit for being overconfident. From past years, it seems that Detroit has believed that it can "Turn it on" when it needs to, and win pivotal games. For that reason, and because of Philly's strong play in the latter half of this season (vaulting themselves from the lottery to the #7 spot), they assume Detroit will have trouble with this team. I disagree. I think Detroit will come into this series with a renewed sense of focus and will dispatch of the 76ers in 5.
(1) Boston beats (5) Washington - The Celtics are a much better team than the Wizards, which will be plainly evident by the end of this series. Boston in 5.
(2) Detroit beats (3) Orlando - While the Magic are clearly the third best team in the East, there's a fairly substantial divide between them and the Pistons. Orlando will win a game or two this series, and may be competitive in all of them, but I'm picking the Pistons in 6. Which sets up the Eastern Conference Final everyone's been waiting for...
(1) Boston beats (2) Detroit - These two teams had some memorable regular season matchups, so this ought to be an exciting and hard-fought series. The Pistons clearly have the experience, having been to the ECF for several straight years now, but the Celtics are clearly the best team in the League this year. Granted, Garnett and company lack Finals experience, whereas the Pistons have been there twice in the last four years, and the Pistons enjoy a team chemistry that comes from years of playing together, whereas the nucleus of Garnett, Pierce, and Allen is not even one year old. Still, I like the Celtics and see them winning in 7.
(1) Los Angeles beats (8) Denver - Denver is a team that, on paper, should be better than an eight seed, but this team has chemistry problems and consistency problems. Earlier this year Denver had won game where they scored more than 120 and then, the next night, gave up for than 120 in a loss. And they've exhibited little to no defense all season. This plays into the Laker's strength as they have a fast and furious offense. The Lakers main problem, in my opinion, is their lack of focus on defense. They've had a number of games the second half of this season where they had a large lead only to let it evaporate (like the 30 point lead they held against the Hornets only to end up winning the game by a solitary point. But with the Nuggets playing D-less ball, too, I can't see the Lakers blowing big leads, which I think they will have plenty of. The Lakers superior bench will separate them against most teams this postseason. Lakers in 5.
(4) Utah beats (5) Houston - Poor Tracy MacGrady has never been out of the first round in the playoffs and I can't see him and the Rockets getting past the Jazz this year, especially considering that the Jazz have home court advantage. Jazz in 5.
(3) San Antonio beats (6) Phoenix - This series is, by far, the most exciting first-round series I've ever witnessed. These two teams beat one another up in the Conference Semi-Finals last year; in response to their loss, the Suns waent big this season, trading Marrion for Shaq in February to better match up with the West's big men, like Tim Duncan. It took some time for the Suns and Shaq to mesh, but things are looking up. As long as the Big Fella can stay out of foul trouble, he should be able to dampen Duncan's scoring and rebounds. Additionally, the Spurs aren't getting any younger and aren't at their healthiest as the postseason draws near (with Manu and Barry having some health issues). But they have the experience, having gone deep in the playoffs every year since 1999. Given that, the Suns thin bench, and home court advantage, I have to pick the Spurs over the Suns in this series. But regardless of the final outcome, this series promises to be dramatic and exciting. Spurs in 7.
(2) New Orleans loses to (7) Dallas - The Hornets had a miraculous season, with Chris Paul playing lights out and in serious contention for League MVP. But they are too dependent on Paul. Take him out of the game and they fall apart. I think we'll see the Mavs trapping Paul with the ball, getting the rock out of his hands. What then? Yes, the Mavs have their playoff demons, and the Kidd trade has, so far, been an expensive wash, but I like the Mavs in this one. I think this is the worst matchup for the Hornets. They would have fared better against the Rockets or Nuggets. Mavs in 6.
(1) Los Angeles beats (4) Utah - This should be a great matchup. Two great teams; two great coaches. The Jazz have a strong nucleus that has gotten deep into the playoffs the last two years. However, I think the Lakers have the edge here, assuming everyone stays healthy. Plus, I don't think the Jazz can win reliably on the road, and the Lakers have home court advantage. I see the Lakers winning the first two, the Jazz the next two, then the Lakers the two after that, to close it out in 6 on the road.
(3) San Antonio beats (7) Dallas - This Texas clash should be a great series, just like the Conference Finals two years back. I wouldn't be surprised to see this game go to the limit, with the Spurs winning the pivotal Game 7 in San Antonio.
(1) Los Angeles beat (3) San Antonio - The Lakers are too fast and too deep. I think they'll blow past the Spurs, who will be exhausted from their back-to-back seven games series against the Suns and Mavs. Lakers in 6.
(1) Boston beats (1) Los Angeles - Ah, a Celtics/Lakers Finals series - pure nostalgia! Boston had the best record and was, without doubt, the best team in the League this year. Granted, they played in the Leastern Conference, but they had winning records against elite West teams and Garnett, Allen, and Pierce will outmatch the Lakers. Allen and Pierce are far better than Odom and Gasol. And although the Lakers have a much deeper bench, I see a rested Celtics outplaying the boys in Purple and Gold. Celtics in 6.