Thought now was as good a time as any to post predictions/thoughts on the upcoming second round of playoffs and beyond.
Celtics vs. Fightin’ Lebrons– People will make a big ballyhoo about the Celtics team being forced to a Game 7 vs. the Hawks, and I think that most of it is overblown except for this: Doc Rivers is who we thought he was at the beginning of the season. While this could spell problems later on down the line (foreshadowing!), there’s very little doubt that he can outcoach Mike Brown, who would have a tough time against anyone. That said, Cleveland’s fans (and the refs) will help the Cleveland Fightin’ Lebrons take a few, but it’s still Celtics in 6.
Magic vs. Pistons– Man the Pistons are lucky. Not only do they get to flip the switch against a team that was a year off of being able to stamp their throats out in Game 4 (which will provide a valuable lesson for the Sixers pups for the future), but they face a team who they match up insanely well with in Round 2. Essentially, this series comes down to how much of a difference having a vastly superior coach, an improved Dwight, and adding Shard means to a team that got swept by the same team (plus Walter Hermann!) last playoffs. I think they take one of the home games, so Pistons in 5.
Lakers vs. Jazz– Quite possibly my favorite potential series of the playoffs, for one simple reason: the teams match up in such compelling ways without Bynum. The Lakers don’t have a good fit to guard Deron, and the Jazz don’t have a legit SG/SF scorer for Kobe to go after, but instead have an arsenal of guys to send at the Mamba, especially AK47 and Brewer. Furthermore, the Jazz actually have a front-court and a legit coach, so that could cause problems in the early games for a Lakers team that has coasted. That said, I think the superior player and the (slightly) superior coach pull it out in a classic. Lakers in 7.
Hornets vs. Spurs– Another fantastic series. Tony Parker will continue his annual tradition of making one PG look absolutely fantastic each playoffs (they’ll toss Bowen on CP3 for periods of time, but Parker can’t guard any of N’awlins’ swingmen), but the versatility of the Spurs’ frontcourt will end up being the deciding factor. Kurt Thomas will make the difference, as his good D will allow Duncan a little more freedom to handle the rest and Manu will pull a rabbit out of a hat in a series that will be exciting. Spurs in 6.
Eastern Conference Finals
Celtics vs. Pistons– I think this series hinges on two things:
(1) who the Celtics start as their 5th guy (match up with Maxiell w/Powe, use Perkins, or go small and play KG at the 5)
(2) the Rondo/Billups battles.
The other thing to watch is the point differentials between the Rip/Prince combo and the Pierce/Allen combo, and that margin could be closer than people think. Both teams will have had their slip-ups and see the brass ring in front of them, so I see home court as being the decider. Celtics in 7.
NBA Western Conference Finals
Lakers vs. Spurs– The way it was meant to be. In order to get to the top of the mountain, it’s only fair to have to take out the current champ. Los Spurs will give the Lakers all they can handle, but Bowen can’t handle Kobe anymore and my gut says that Pau gives Duncan a tough series and the Lakers pull it out, defending their home court and taking one in The Alamo. Lakers in 5.
Celtics vs. Lakers– Yes, it’s the same finals as originally predicted, but both teams are dramatically different from then, with Bynum being out to Doc Rivers being exposed as a mediocre coach like he always was. Neither Pierce nor Allen (especially not Ray Ray) can even come close to handling Kobe, and one thing to remember with this series is that with Odom playing more of the 4 slot with Andrew hurt, Ariza may end up playing a fair amount, attempting to take one of GPA 3.0 out of the equation. The talent is close, but the coaching match-up is a rollover, so Lakers in 6, thanks to the 2-3-2 format of the Finals.
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