April 2005 - Posts
Each playoff series has completed one game, aside from Indiana just tying Boston 1-1 in their series tonight; Dallas and Houston are in the 3rd quarter as I write (close game). Here is a brief analysis of each game so far.Miami started this year's playoffs very well, beating New Jersey to lead the series 1-0. Shaq didn't have a great game, for his standards, but Dywane Wade and Damon Jones made sure they didn't need a full effort from Shaq. Jones was light's out for the Heat and seemed to squash any Nets run with a key 3-pointer. I don't see this series changing much, Miami should continue to dominate.Boston and Indiana have now played 2 games - after the 1st, Boston thought they were “gold”, w/ Ricky Davis even talking a sweep... A little too quick (duh!). I picked Indiana to win this series and I stick by it - Boston does not have enough depth to contain Jermaine O'Neal, Stephen Jackson and Reggie Miller (28 pts. tonight). Boston may win 1-2 games, but Indiana should make it to the next round without too many problems.Chicago and Washington - what an exciting game this one was... When both teams weren't diving on the floor & scrapping for loose balls, they were shooting the lights out; except for Gilbert Arenas and Jamison who couldn't hit a barn if it was 10 ft. in front of them. I like the Wizards to take game 2, but still expect the Bulls to take the series. Andres Nocioni played 'Kevin Garnett like' in the 1st game, nearly getting 20 pt & 20 rbs - nice effort.Philadelphia at Detroit... the game started out so well for the 76ers but they just couldn't hold on. The team seemed to be flowing pretty well in the first 15 minutes or so, but then the air got let out and the Pistons rolled 'em. No one from Detroit had a particularly memorable game, except for Antonio McDyess maybe, but as a unit, they got the job done & then some.Houston and Dallas are playing their 2nd game right now, with Yao Ming leading the way for the Rockets, who have a 4 point lead at halftime. Yao is playing out of his mind right now and with T-Mac's support, Houston could take the first two games from Dallas and go to Houston with home court advantage (they already have it, but with 2 victories, they will likely take the series). Dallas hasn't played particularly bad; the Rockets have just played better.Phoenix and Memphis put on a show for about 3 quarters before the Suns finally pulled away with the victory in the 4th. Shawn Marion provided a scary moment for Suns fans when he was knocked off-balance in the air and landed awkwardly on his wrist. Despite the fall, Marion finished and helped lead the Suns to the win, despite an off night for Amare Stoudemire. Stephen Hunter played great in Amare's absence.Sacramento and Seattle played a good 1st game, despite the horrendous shooting performance by Mike Bibby. I've seen Bibby practice in the gym before and he could knock down jumper after jumper all day long - something wasn't right with him. Hopefully he rebounds and leads the Kings to victory in the 2nd game.In the shocker of the week (I picked Denver to win this series 2 weeks ago btw), Denver out muscled (literally) the San Antonio Spurs in game 1 and emerged victorious. The Spurs tried on several occasions to take control of the game, on one occasion leading by 9 just before halftime, but Denver quickly scored and they went into the half tied. The hero of the game for the Nuggets was Andre Miller who single-handedly kept Denver in the ballgame early on.Here's to more great games!
Before I get to my picks, I have to voice my complete disappointment that Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers will not be in the playoffs, thanks to New Jersey's late surge, led by Jason Kidd and Vince Carter. These last few weeks, Lebron has carried the team and it seems the rest of the players woke up too late to make a difference. I think they won their last 3 games to make it close, but if they would've won 4 games, they'd be in... maybe next year. Now to my picks.
1 - Miami Heat vs. 8 - New Jersey Nets
If you asked me 2 weeks ago who would win this series, I would've said Miami in 4 games, but New Jersey has really improved since that time. Coupled with the injury to Shaquille O'Neal, the Heat find themselves in a tough series - much more difficult than they likely expected. The late push of the Nets, led by Jason Kidd and Vince Carter has them looking pretty good. Their supporting is cast is average at best, but is complimenting both players well right now. New Jersey may get Richard Jefferson back for the playoffs also, so they could be even better - they could be worse too - no one knows how RJ and VC will get along yet. I think the difference maker in this series is going to Dywane Wade - if he's able to control the game and score at will, I think Miami will make it to the next round. If the Nets can control Wade like the Pistions did a few weeks ago, the Heat are in big trouble. As long as Shaq plays, I have to take the Heat - 6 games.
2 - Detroit Pistons vs. 7 - Philadelphia 76ers
I'm not going to delve into this one too deep... Detroit is a very deep team and has started playing like the champions from last year. The 76ers are banged up and Iverson is carrying too much of the load right now - what happened to C-Webb? Unless the entire Philadelphia team steps up, and Iverson plays at MVP-levels, Detroit is going to the 2nd round without any serious problems. Pistons in 5 games.
3 - Boston Celtics vs. 6 - Indiana Pacers
Boston has been struggling lately and Indiana is finally getting healthy, so I see the Pacers coming out of this one on top, but it won't be easy. Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker will keep the Celtics in the series for a few games and they do have homecourt, so there's a chance they could suprise and beat Indiana, but I doubt it. Boston is too inconsistent - one night they look like a Top 5 team, and another they look like a Bottom 5. Jermaine O'Neal and Stephen Jackson are key for Indiana - each will need to play at the top of their game. I think Indiana will have the advantage in the post and rebounding, so they should control the series. Reggie Miller will also play an important role in what could be his last NBA playoff series (we'll miss him). Overall, I just think the Celtics are a little too weak to compete with the Pacers, Indiana in 6 games.
4 - Chicago vs. 5 - Washington
This is probably the hardest matchup to pick a winner because both teams are unaccustomed to playoff basketball. I really like seeing Washington playing better ball with their superstar trio of Jamison, Arenas & Hughes, but I think their immaturity will show in the playoffs. They don't know how to play playoff-style basketball - defense & grind-it-out offense. While I like Gilbert Arenas a lot, I think he especially, will keep the Wizards from moving to the next round. The Bulls are full of young talent, just like Washington, but Scott Skiles has them playing great team ball and they have a newfound confidence - they are playing at a level beyond their experience. With Eddy Curry out, they are going to need a strong showing by their big men & bench. Washington can put a lot of points on the board, so Chicago is going to need to play consistant defense and score on the offensive end. Larry Hughes will likely be matched up opposite of Ben Gordon, which should provide some interesting events - steals leader vs. 4th quarter hero. Again, this is a tough one, but I think Chicago will win it in 7 games.
See my Western Conference picks...
I know everyone has their own opinions on what's going to happen in the NBA Playoffs this year, so I'll just add my thoughts to the growing list. My picks for the first round are below (winners in BOLD).
1 - Phoenix Suns vs. 8 - Memphis Grizzlies
I would love to pen the Timberwolves in the 8th seed, but they aren't going to make it. While they are playing good ball lately, Memphis needs only one win in their last 4 to secure their spot. Now to the matchup... Memphis plays the Suns very well (for some reason) and all games this year have been pretty competitive. I think the Suns were hoping to play another team in the opening round, but they're going to get the Grizzlies. The keys to this series will be the Suns rebounding and 2nd chance points - the Grizzlies have a pretty deep team so they should be able to keep up with Phoenix throughout the series. Q' (Quentin Richardson) is hobbled by a bad ankle right now, but the Suns will need him at full-strength in order to win this series. On Memphis' side of things, Pau Gasol is going to need a big series if the Grizzlies expect to make it to the 2nd round. Memphis will need solid contributions from Mike Miller, James Posey and Bonzi Wells as well to keep the Suns in check. I think Phoenix will win the series in 6 games (assuming the league uses the 7 game series in the 1st round).
2 - San Antonio Spurs vs. 7 - Denver Nuggets
This is a hard series to pick, but I don't think Duncan is healthy enough to beat the hot, and I mean HOT, Denver Nuggets. George Karl has this team playing at levels that they didn't even do last year when they were the suprise team in the league. Karl has mandated a new gameplan in Denver and it seems to be working. Carmelo Anthony in particular, has excelled in the new system (back to the old 'Melo from 2003). Denver has enough good players and role players to compete with the Spurs in a playoff series. San Antonio is banged up in the middle and Ginobili hasn't been consistent for a few weeks. I think Denver will win in 7 games.
Ok, ok... I had some teams matched up incorrectly, but the season standings changed pretty quickly the last week.
3 - Seattle Supersonics vs. 6 - Sacramento Kings
Both teams have a few players on the injury list, but I think it's going to affect the Sonics more so than the Kings. Sacramento has a deep enough team to beat up on the Sonics (see their throttling of the Suns on 4/20). Seattle relies too much on their 3-point and outside shooting, and with many of their shooters out of the lineup, they have struggled mightily. If Seattle has any chance of winning this series, or even one game, they will need big contributions from Ray Allen, Luke Ridnour, Rashard Lewis and last year's savior, Ronald 'Flip' Murray. Kings in 5 games or less.
4 - Dallas Mavericks vs. 5 - Houston Rockets
This is probably the best 1st round matchup of the Western Conference playoffs - both teams could win this series. Houston is struggling right now and Tracy McGrady's latest injury is worrying the Rockets, though I'm sure he'll play throughout the series. Houston will need to play the best basketball of the year to beat the Mavs, who have recently become one of the Top 5-6 favorites to make it to the NBA Finals. The Mavericks are pretty healthy right now and are going into the playoffs on a winning streak. As long as Dirk Nowitzki, Eric Dampier and Jerry Stackhouse play in each game and are healthy, I think Dallas has the best shot to win. Dallas' supporting cast, including Finley and Terry will still need to play, but without Dirk they won't score or rebound as well, without Dampier they won't defend as well, and without Stackhouse they lose their primary scoring option off the bench. This looks like a long series, but I'll take the Mavs in 7 games.
I will complete my Eastern Conference picks later...
Comments are welcome.
The Phoenix Suns have been without Amare Stoudemire for that past few games, but he is expected to rejoin the lineup tonight against Minnesota. The Suns have continued their winning ways without Amare, but they desparately needed him in the lineup to contain & offset the production of Kevin Garnett, arguably the league's best player. The Suns bench has been playing a lot better the past few games, but they'll need to keep it up throughout the remaining regular season and the playoffs if Phoenix wants to reach the NBA Finals.
The Timberwolves are on a five game winning streak, with their latest victory coming against the fading Los Angeles Lakers last night. Minnesota has been playing much better “team“ ball the last few games, but the return of Sam Cassell to the lineup doesn't hurt either. They are making a strong push for the 8th and final playoff spot.
Keys to the game for the Suns:
- Keep the Timberwolves shooters under control (Szczerbiak, Cassell, Hoiberg)
- Keep Kevin Garnett off the boards
- Run the fast break
Game prediction: I don't think the Timberwolves have enough able bodies to keep up with the fast-paced Suns; they will likely be in the game for a few quarters but Phoenix should outrun them at the finish. I think the Suns could win this game by 15 points.
Almost forgot... Welcome IFlynn and the new Golden State Warriors blog.