Hoop and the harm: NBA playoff preview
As basketball’s elite officially tip-off the 2009 NBA playoffs today we take a look at the first round matchups and make our preliminary picks on who will cut down the nets come mid-June.
(1) LA Lakers vs. (8) Utah Jazz- Kobe’s dope no question, but don’t think he alone can end this mighty squad from Utah who likely would have pushed for a Top 4 finish if not for a rash of injuries this season. Jazz point guard Deron Williams needs to get hot, which he very well could. Nevertheless, the Lakeshow has a deep bench and this should be the difference should the series run long.
Prediction: Lakers in 6.
(2) Denver Nuggets vs. (2) New Orleans Hornets- Chauncey Billups versus Chris Paul is enough to make anyone drool but this series will likely fail to live up to its billing. The Nugs are likely riding a huge momentum burst after securing second in the highly-talented West and boast a highly athletic starting five that should run circles around the Hornets.
Prediction: Nuggets in 5.
(3) San Antonio Spurs vs. (6) Dallas Mavericks- Here we find two teams whose better years are behind them. Sure, the Spurs always seem built for playoff basketball but with human highlight reel Manu Ginobili watching from the sidelines due to injury and a bench full of nobodies San Antonio seems susceptible to an upset. The Mavs are hot after moving out of the West basement in the final few weeks of the regular season and should squeak by in this battle of Southwest snoozers.
Prediction: Mavs in 7.
(4) Portland Trailblazers vs. (5) Houston Rockets- The only sad thing about this series is that one team’s fantastic season will come to an early end. No T-Mac means Houston may have an actual shot at getting out of the first round, however, overcoming the youthful intensity of Portland will be no easy task. Portland’s deep bench is scary and could be enough to get them past any team in the East but it feels like this team is one or two seasons away from being a true title contender.
Prediction: Houston in 6.
To see a video preview of the playoffs click here.
(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (8) Detroit Pistons- After sitting atop the Eastern elite for year the Pistons find themselves in unfamiliar territory against a team that had a truly remarkable season. King James will dominate and the Cavs could sweep. If Detroit has any chance they must call upon veteran leaders Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton to lead the way.
Prediction: Cavaliers in 5.
(2) Boston Celtic vs. (2) Chicago Bulls- With Celts superstar Kevin Garnett out of the lineup this series becomes a lot more interesting. Chicago, dealing with an injury of their own to Luol Deng, needs Derrick Rose to realize his full potential in his rookie playoff debut and must look to shooters Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich to get hot from behind the arc if they are going to keep pace with the firepower of Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. This one should run deep but it remains hard to believe that the defending champs from Boston will roll over in the opening round.
Prediction: Celts in 6.
(3) Orlando Magic vs. (6) Philadelphia 76ers- Are the Magic still a legitimate contender without Jameer Nelson running the point? Well with offensive weapons Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu returning to the lineup the answer seems to be yes. It is hard to see anyone on Philly with the size to keep Dwight Howard from having his way in the paint in this series. Look for the Magic to dazzle and the 76ers to dwindle.
Prediction: Magic in 5.
(4) Atlanta Hawks vs. (5) Miami Heat- This series should be another humdinger but the x-factor may be Heats manbeast Michael Beasley. The rookie sensation from Kansas St. seems to be finding his stride at just the right time. Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson will obviously provide loads of firepower at both ends but Beasley provides a prowess in the middle that is lacking on the Hawks roster. Atlanta’s run this year was quite inspiring but like the Trailblazers their better years are likely still to come.
Prediction: Heat in 6.
Conference final predictions
LA Lakers over Denver Nuggets in 5.
Miami Heat over Orlando Magic in 7.
Lakers over Heat in 6.