The Post Game Show

Friday, April 22, 2005

NBA Playoff Preview

Y'all hear that Piston clap?

With the Lakers and Knicks both out of the playoff picture for the first time since the Bicentennial, this could be one of the more intriguing playoff years in the history of the NBA, or it could be a Pistons Punch-Out towards a repeat of last year's dominating performance, which got the Motor City its first NBA crown in 14 years. You obviously can't discount Shaq and Wade in Miami, along with the Western Conference powerhouses (San Antonio and Phoenix), but there are teams in both conferences that could ruin this whole predicition business for all of us (i.e. Indiana or Dallas), but for the sake of making myself look like a prophet, here is how your 2005 NBA playoffs will go.

NOTE: I am not to be held responsible if you lose a bet based on my predictions.

Eastern Conference
#1 Miami (59-23) vs. #8 New Jersey (42-40)

We should be praising the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets for even getting this far. A 3-11 Start and an unhappy Jason Kidd certainly is a recipe for disaster, and the only way to fix that was to bring in an unhappy Vince Carter. All that has resulted in is going 39-29 the rest of the way, and beating out the fading Cleveland Cavaliers for that final playoff spot in the East, and their reward for such a turn-around? Shaquille O'Neal and the Miami Heat. Happy Happy Happy...Joy, Joy, Joy. While Vince will definitely be a tough cover for Eddie Jones, Dwayne Wade will prove to be an even tougher matchup than Kidd himself anticipated, which is the reason this Jersey Cinderella story will see an early midnight.

Prediction: Heat in 5

#2 Detroit (54-28) vs. #7 Philadelphia (43-39)

Having to be completely unbiased about this matchup hurts me to my heart (Sixers fan in case you can't tell) but facts must be faced. Detroit won the season series 3-1, and the Sixers, even in Allen Iverson's best overall year, still don't have enough to overcome the stifling Pistons defense and clutch shooting. A.I. will win one game alone, but after that, it's anybody's guess how Chris Webber and the rest of the supporting cast will perform. If they can play like they've been playing the last month or so, it'll be a series.

Prediction: Pistons in 6

#3 Boston (45-37) vs. #6 Indiana (44-38)

This seems to be everyone's favorite upset special, so I will gladly join the Pacer bandwagon. To lose three of your top players for about half the season, and still make the playoffs is simply amazing. Rick Carlisle's job should never be in question, the way he got a bunch of jabronies and an out-the-door Reggie Miller to still be among the East contenders. With Jermaine O'Neal getting himself together, and Miller and Stephen Jackson being bombs away from the perimeter, they can surely make this a quick series, but I'll give the Celtics the benefit of the doubt and say they'll keep it competitive.

Prediction: Pacers in 6

#4 Chicago (47-35) vs. #5 Washington (45-37)

Now, this will be the most entertaining series of the first round in either conference, hands down. The Baby Bubbas, making their first playoff appearance since the days of Michael Jefferey Jordan, will being going against the Washington Wiz Kids, a once proud franchise that has been stuck in mediocrity since Jimmy Carter was winding down his run as president of the United States. The Bulls have missing pieces (Eddy Curry and Luol Deng are done for the season), but still have enough weapons to make it a fair fight. The match-up that could settle this series? Tyson Chandler vs. Kwame Brown. High School draftees in arms, two kids who have yet to reach their peak or potential, 7-footer vs. 7-footer. This series will go the distance, but the Bulls are another year away. This Wizards team is stronger than most will give them credit for being, especially with should-be First Teamer Gilbert Arenas leading them.

Prediction: Wizards in 7

Second Round Matchups

Miami vs. Washington

This is where the masquerade ends for the Wizards, as Shaq and Miami shouldn't have too much of a battle on their hands. A sweep in a seven game series is not as common as people make it out to be, and this series will be no different, but the Heat will move on.

Prediction: Miami in 5

Detroit vs. Indiana

David Stern avoided this PR disaster for a first-round matchup, but he can't avoid it in the conference semis. However, both teams will be so tired of being looked at as savages that they'll settle down and play the best series of the entire playoffs. Reggie Miller will do his best, but it'll be Detroit moving on by virtue of Rip Hamilton and Chauncey Billups knocking down key jumper after key jumper.

Prediction: Pistons in 7

Eastern Conference finals

It will come down to the two best teams in the conference, and although I love what Shaq and Wade have done in one year, this Pistons team is just stronger as a unit, and with Larry Brown coaching, it's awfully hard to see anyone beating the Pistons. If there is one team that can do it, it will be Miami, but for now, I have to go with Detroit.

Prediction: Pistons in 7

Western Conference

#1 Phoenix (62-20) vs. #8 Memphis (45-37)

With the whirlwind regular season behind them, the Rising Suns will have to show the world that their 62 win year was not a fluke and will have to do it against a Grizzlies team that gave them fits all year long. The big Memph Grizzle will make things difficult, but they simply will not be able to keep up with Nash, Stoudemire, Marion, and the rest of the Phoenix greyhounds.

Prediction: Suns in 6

#2 San Antonio (59-23) vs. #7 Denver (49-33)

Another in-season success story, the Denver Nuggets are in the playoffs, and will face a Spurs team with a less than 100 percent Tim Duncan. However, I'd have 3/4ths a Tim Duncan over most players in the league, and although 'Melo and company have had a great run, it ends here. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are the two most known unsung heroes in the game right now, and they'll be the difference.

Prediction: Spurs in 5

#3 Seattle (52-30) vs. #6 Sacramento (50-32)

Sacramento has the experience and the better point guard, so why am I picking Seattle? The Kings' window of opportunity is long closed, and Seattle is a team that just doesn't get tired of shooting threes, although their lack of defense could leave the door open for an upset.

Prediction: Sonics in 7

#4 Dallas (58-24) vs. #5 Houston (51-31)

Now, this is one that could really be one for the ages. With two proven gunslingers in Dirk Nowitzki and Tracy McGrady duking it out, the difference in this series could be the play of Yao Ming and if he is ready for the challenge of leading the Rockets to the next level. The Mavs' defense is much improved under new coach Avery Johnson, and this is the perfect test to see if they can indeed do what it takes to get to the NBA finals.

Prediction: Mavericks in 5

Second Round

Phoenix vs. Dallas

This is where the Mavericks rise to the challenge. They invented this run-and-gun thing that the Suns have done to perfection this year, but again that Mavericks D will be the key, and Dirk will be hard to stop.

Prediction: Mavericks in 6

San Antonio vs. Seattle

Not hard to predict this one. The Spurs will choke off whatever inside game the Sonics attempt to have, and Parker will penetrate Seattle's D whenever he sees fit, leaving the first ever Northwest Division champions helpless.

Prediction: Spurs in 5

Conference Finals

This would be a rematch of the spirited 2003 Western Conference finals, in which the Spurs prevailed in six tough games on their way to their second NBA championship. The difference this year is that Dallas has gotten tougher inside, and if it was possible, have more weapons than the 2003 team had. The Spurs will of course try to slow things down and stall the Mavericks' high powered offense, but the halfcourt game could be in the Mavs' favor. The Spurs, however have one thing all others don't have; that would be Tim Duncan, and that will be enough. Barely.

Prediction: Spurs in 7

NBA Finals

Detroit vs. San Antonio

If you don't like 86-78 games, this ain't the series for you, but the heart, the determination, the desire, and the will to win will be on display all series long, and it will be entertaining and you will like it. Why? Because I said so! Seriously though, this series will be won on clutch shooting because defense will be the obvious in the series, and Richard Hamilton could take his turn winning series MVP, running the Spurs defenders to death off the screens and nailing his 17-19 footer with amazing regularity. That may be too much for the Spurs to overcome unless Duncan can put this team his on his back for all 7 games, which is possible. In an non-MVP year, Duncan will still be at the top of the heap when all is said and done this year.

Prediction. Spurs in 7

So there you go, my predictions of how this playoff season will go, and while the finals matchup may or may not be desireable, some great basketball will still be played, so enjoy it and have fun.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Playoffs?! Don't you talk about...yes, you can talk about it, Chicago.

NBA basketball is gearing up for the second season, and for the first time since 1998 the second city will be part of it. The Baby Bubbas of Chicago (Rappers Delight reference for the new nickname by the way) have battled back from a ghastly 0-9 start to lock up a playoff spot (, possibly having home-court advantage at least for the first round of the playoffs. Looking for Air Jordan and Scottie Pippen? Sorry, wrong team. Jerry Sloan, Norm Van Lier, Chet Walker, and Bob "Butterbean" Love? Sorry, not those guys either. These aren't your father's Bulls, hell, they aren't even our generation's Bulls. With two yet-to-reach full potential towers in Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry (currently sidelined with a heart ailment), backcourt whiz kids in Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon, and experience galore between Antonio Davis, Othella Harrington and Eric Piatkowski, the Bulls have to be recognized as a contender (yes, they can be a con-ten-dah!) in the Eastern Conference, still possessing a bottom-heavy feel despite how well Detroit and Miami are playing. Luol Deng's season ending wrist injury could hamper their chances, but basketball has finally decided to return to the Windy City. Just in time for the Cubs and White Sox to stink again.

Welcome Back, Welcome Back, Welcome Back

With cats presumably off the juice now, baseball returned this week, hopefully primed and ready to at least lighten the stain of the offseason steroids debate, triggered by everyone's favorite publicity jump-off, Jose Canseco and his tell-all book. One team that is flying under the radar is the Philadelphia Phillies, the paper NL East champs of the previous two years looking to finally put a new flag up at Citizens Bank Ballpark, even though the bullpen leaves a whole lot to be desired the first week.

For example, Saturday's game with the Cardinals proved to be troubling, even though the Phils won 10-4. Rookie hurler Gavin Floyd dropped 20 straight Cardinals like they were hot, shutting down the best offense west of the Bronx Zoo (
Floyd, Phillies Topple Cards). However, the Bullpen gave up three runs in the ninth inning, prolonging a game that was in the bag after Pat Burrell slammed a three-run homer in the eighth. That type of stuff can't happen, especially against a high-powered offense featuring Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen. At least the Phils aren't alone in not finding any relief, with the Mets and Nationals blowing leads like they're going out of style.

I'm still not ready to give it to the Yankees, only because the Red Sox now have the mo (mojo, momentum, mo' money, etc.) in their favor nowadays. I believe that playing as the hunted instead of the hunter can give this team a certain kind of swagger, a term that wasn't even invented for sports when the Sox were a dynasty back in the WW I era.