Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Crystal Ball of the NBA Playoffs

Last night the Lady Bears of Baylor beat up and out-played the ladies from Michigan State. Now that the college basketball season is over it’s time to focus on the NBA playoffs and what is sure to happen over the next couple of months.

A lot of signs are pointing to an entertaining post season with several match ups that are sure to go the full 7 games. I’m not in the business of reading palms or telling fortunes but I know how the first round of the playoffs this season will shape out…come along for the ride and you’ll be amazed to find out what happens.

Eastern Conference First Round:

#1 Miami Heat vs. #8 New Jersey Nets
That’s right, you heard it here first the N.J. Nets are going to squeak past the Philadelphia 76ers for the 8th and final playoff spot in the East. After the last game of the season Allen Iverson is going to get into a fight with one of his teammates in the locker room – not sure who it is just yet, but I’m thinking a fellow starter. Back to the Nets. Jason Kidd and Vince Carter will take the Nets back to the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season but this time it’ll be nice and painless. They’ll be butting heads with Shaq, D-Wade and the Heat in the first round that will only go 4 games. 4-0 as Shaq dominates the interior and Dwayne Wade dazzles the Nets with his awesome all-around play.

#2 Detroit Pistons vs. #7 Cleveland Cavaliers
The defending NBA Champion Detroit Pistons are going to wish they never got the #2 seed this year. Talk about walking into a great series. The Cavs sputtered into the playoffs but will catch their second wind after going down 2-0 to the Pistons. The series turns into a slugfest in Cleveland with the Cavs winning both games 3 & 4. After four very physical games these two teams won’t like each other very much heading into a very important Game 5. As much as LeBron James tries to carry his team the Pistons will win this game and go into the sixth game trying to finish off the younger Cleveland team. Not so fast – LeBron goes for 48 points and leads the way to a rout. In the fourth quarter you’ll see some more pushing and shoving and the techs will be flying around. The final game will be an exciting game but in the fourth quarter Rip Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace will both make several clutch jumpers and lead the way to a Piston victory. The excitement and bad blood from this series is sure to be something to watch in coming years.

#3 Boston Celtics vs. #6 Indiana Pacers
The Celtics earned the third spot for one reason – the Atlantic Division stinks. The Pacers got the sixth seed for one reason – David Stern. This series is sure to have some great energy and some wonderful trash talking (Antoine Walker and Reggie Miller are two of the best ever) and will go seven games. Games 1-4 will be split right down the middle, Boston going 1-1 at home and Indiana going 1-1 at home. To the pivotal final three games we go. Boston will win Game 5 in convincing fashion and look as if they’ve locked the series up but their confidence will lead to their doom. In the sixth game point guard Jamaal Tinsley and forward Stephen Jackson will both go off – combining for 65 of the Pacers 95 points leading them to a nice win. Game 7 will be a two-man shoot off between Boston’s Paul Pierce and Indian’s Hall of Famer Reggie Miller. With the score knotted at 87 and less than ten seconds remaining Miller will put the dagger in the Celtics. A three-pointer from the corner will put them ahead before a last second 3-pointer from Ricky Davis falls clangs off the rim to send the Pacers on to the next round. Boston can’t have everything go their way this year can they? The BoSox, Patriots and Boston College even had a good year.#4 Washington Wizards vs.

#5 Chicago BullsLet’s just call this the ‘Rookie Round’. This 4-5 match up will have everything you want to see and everything you wished you’ve never saw on a basketball court. At times these two young teams will be dazzling and at other times you’ll be tuning into re-runs of ‘Who’s the Boss’. The bottom line is simple – the Wizards Gilbert Arenas and Larry Hughes will be the difference. The Bulls will try to stop Arenas with Chris Duhon, Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon but none of them will have much success. The Wizards will have a 3-1 lead in the series only to play sloppy and watch their lead evaporate. A seventh and deciding game in the Nation’s Capital will spark the Wiz and lead them to the biggest win in almost 30 years. Arenas will score 33 and get plenty of support from Antawn Jamison, Brendon Haywood and Hughes. Wiz to the next round.

Western Conference First Round:

#1 Phoenix Suns vs. #8 Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets fell into the eighth spot on the last day of the season and run into the buzz saw know as the Phoenix Suns. Surprising to many the Nuggets win game one in Phoenix behind a great shooting effort from Carmelo Anthony. ‘Melo scores a game-high 37 points and gets good backing from Marcus Camby and Andre Miller. This game will be a quick wake up for the Suns and they will roll to three straight victories over Denver led by Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion – needing just one more to finish them off. After two straight dreadful scoring games Carmelo gets it going in the second quarter and drops 33 points and gets plenty of help from Miller and Nene Hilario as they both score 25 apiece. The Suns will take Game 6 a little more serious and will beat the Nuggets 119-87 to walk into the second round.

#2 San Antonio Spurs vs. #7 Memphis Grizzlies
Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker will be the difference in the series as the Spurs will win the series 4-1. The only game that Memphis wins is the third game at home in front of their fans. Bonzi Wells gives the Grizz much needed life in this game as he goes for a game-high 26 points leading the way to a victory. In games 4 & 5 the two big men for the Spurs will dominate. Tim Duncan and Rasho Nesterovic act as if the Memphis big men didn’t even show up for the final two games and Tony Parker puts the nail in the coffin from the free throw line in Game 7.

#3 Seattle SuperSonics vs. #6 Houston Rockets
The best series of the Western Conference First Round by far. Head Coaches Nate McMillan and Jeff VanGundy will match wits in this series while these two teams go blow for blow and go the entire seven games. As was the case in the East’s 3-6 series the first four games will be split down the center with both teams winning and losing at home. But once the ball starts bouncing in the fifth game it is clear to everybody who’s going to win the game. Tracy McGrady scores 44 points and Juwon Howard cores 26 points leading the way for the Rockets and giving them a 3-2 lead in the series. Game 6 is all about two guys: Luke Ridnour’s shooting and passing and Jerome James’ defense on Yao Ming. Ridnour scores 28 points and dishes 12 assists and J-James limits Yao to his lowest point total of the series at just 7 points. McGrady and Bob Sura combine for 59 points but the lack of scoring from Yao leads the Sonics to a series tie.Game 7 starts off great and than fizzles. Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis give the Sonics a 2 point lead at the half and then the bottom drops out of their season. With Jerome James, Danny Fortson and Vitaly Potapenko all in foul trouble in the 4th quarter the Rockets ride Juwon Howard and Yao to victory. Yao scores 12 of his 26 points in the final quarter and Juwon chips in with 17 points overall. 4-3 Rockets.

#4 Dallas Mavericks vs. #5 Sacramento Kings
This series will have a whole bunch of scoring and no defense. Every game will feature one team (and in several both) scoring in triple digits. Dallas’ hold of the home court will be crucial. The ebb and flow of this series will be incredible with the home team winning the first six games…several by ridiculous blowouts. The final game is one for the ages. The defense is putrid and the Mavs beat the Kings in OT 142-137. Dirk Nowitski (36), Josh Howard (31), Jerry Stackhouse (29) and Michael Finley (24) all go scoring crazy and outscore Peja Stojakovic (33), Mike Bibby (29), Cat Mobley (25) and Brad Miller (23). After the series Mavs head coach Avery Johnson says that he thought about inserting himself in the final quarter to play defense. Mavs survive 4-3 and send the Webber-less Kings home.

Second Round …coming soon to theatres everywhere


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