I was right about the Grizz. Or was I more right about the Spurs? I was so wrong about the Magic and the Blazers. I overestimated the Lakers and the Bulls had a tougher go than I expected. That about sums it up.
Maybe I’ll think longer and harder before round 2. Wait, it starts in a couple of hours!?
And dig it.
Eastern Conference Semifinals
#5 Atlanta Hawks vs. #1 Chicago Bulls
No doubt the Hawks exacted their revenge on a Magic team that blasted them for the highest average margin in NBA playoff history a year ago. I watched stretches of the series with my pal Corey who is from the A and it was clear with how hard the Hawks played, they were driven to erase the embarrassment from a year ago by what is essentially a one man team in Orlando.
They’ll find the going much harder against the Bulls who got all their jitters out the way (at least in theory) in what was a much tougher 4-1 series victory over the Pacers than it looks on paper. They trailed in late in games, lost one and all in all did not dominate the upstart, up tempo pacers.
Kirk Hinrich’s loss is going to hurt the Hawks. Having the ex-Bull and his excellent jumpshot is a bit boost for them as they’ll undoubtedly find that the Bulls spread the ball around much more than the Magic do and have quite a few more viable weapons and who also play considerably better defense.
The Bulls will shake off their 1st round struggles and smash through to the next round to the tune of another five game series.
Bulls in 5
#3 Boston Celtics vs. #2 Miami Heat
Where to begin and how will it end? For one, both of these teams relatively cruised through their 1st rounds. The match up was slow cooked all year and it was only fitting that the titans would meet. Most would have preferred it be the Conference finals but nobody really saw the Bulls’ second half coming, either. Garnett, Pierce, Allen and Rondo. James, Wade, Bosh and … Chalmers?
The key to this series will be what contributions the teams are going to be able to get from the 4th option on and if Chalmers can really step up the play at the point allowing D Wade and Lebron to play off the ball and excel as finishers. The Celtics, even with the trade of Kendrick Perkins, still have superior depth and still have Rajon Rondo who, if he dominates Chalmers, will force somebody else to run the point.
The C’s may have a Big Four but in the end, the Big Four don’t, individually, score as prolifically as either Lebron or Wade meaning that really, the Big Three and Big Four sorta even out in terms of points. It’s really the play of the point guard that makes the difference here and the edge is decidedly with Boston because of Rondo’s arrival as an elite point guard.
As close and chippy as this match up is and has been all year, the one thing that has yet to factor into their head to head battles is the playoff experience and mojo factor… of which the C’s have abundance and, outside of Wade, the Heat only have experience as losers. All the major pieces of the Celtic attack/defense have won a championship and been in last year’s loss to the Lakers. When the dial gets turned up, the Celtics are going to be even better than they were during the regular season. It stands to be seen whether the Heat are ready to hit the switch, too.
My guess is not. It’ll be an epic series, no doubt. We’re going to see some exciting basketball. DVR every game if you have to. Block your friends’ texts who run their mouths with scores and updates. This one is going the distance but
Celtics in 7
Western Conference Semifinals
#8 Memphis Grizzlies vs. #4 Oklahoma City Thunder
I love being right. Most people do. I’m just glad I trusted my instinct that the Spurs were over the hill and done, that there was a changing of the guard and that it began with the Grizz getting this monumental monkey off. Now that Zeebo and co. are everybody’s darlings and in completely uncharted territories for their franchise, it’s time to come back down to earth against a team that is a bit tougher than the Spurs.
The Thunder didn’t play as well as they could have in their first round tilt with the Nuggets. For one, there was the issue of shot distribution with Westbrook jacking up shots outside of his repertoire and not only in the single loss to the Nuggets when he put up 30 on 30 shots. That was the most obvious and awful display of it but it really was a lingering issue throughout the round. Additionally, the Thunder really didn’t shoot very well at all and it was against a team that doesn’t necessarily play good defense but were playing as tough defensively as they could.
The Grizz, on the other hand, have been playing emotionally charged basketball since game 1 tipped off. They’ve shot the ball very well in general and played as good defense as any with the likes of Tony Allen, Shane Battier and Mike Conley really showing up for the series. This is a blue collar, hard working team in Memphis and the Thunder are going to have to be much better offensively to outscore them if big guys Randolph, Gasol and Arthur get it going (they’re bigger and more talented than the bigs in Denver and have range to go with their strength).
That said, I think the Thunder will get it together. They’re too talented and too balanced to lose this series unless they play terribly and shoot themselves in the foot. Durant has to have the ball in his hands when it matters most for this team to move forward and cement itself as one of the elites in the league. I expect them to do it.
Thunder in 6
#3 Dallas Mavericks vs. #2 Los Angeles Lakers
They knew they’d end up facing each other. The basketball gods hardly ever lie and the heated confrontations a little over a month ago between these two were surely a sign of emotions to come. Barnes and Blake will be there. So will the Jet.
Both first round series ended in 6 although it was far more surprising that the Hornets took the Lakers that far. The Lakers are perennially guilty of playing with inconsistent intensity and lost two games because of it. They’ll have to be better than that against a Mavs team that really, really wants to bring it to them. Dirk had a magnificent first round against a passionate but ultimately overwhelmed Blazers team and will have to be as good if not better in round 2. The Mavs have exciting depth, maybe even more so than the Lakers who, after Odom, don’t exactly have reliable options. Of course that hardly matters when Bynum is playing healthy and confidently.
And that’s exactly it. The struggles for the Lakers in round 1 can be chalked up to that CP3 fella in NAWLINS. The bigs dominated the Hornets even with Pau “softskillz” Gasol looking less of himself. Gasol, Bynum and Odom are going to have to be the difference against Nowitzki, Haywood and Chandler to move on.
And that shouldn’t be a problem. The series will run deep and the Mavs will score points but when all is said and done, I still don’t see the monkey leaving Dallas anytime soon. The Lakers own the Mavs psychologically and statistically. Kobe is hobbled by an ankle but real superstars don’t suck because of it. Lakers will draw first blood and get the step. This will be the type of series where the team that survives it is either the team that wins first or the team that is able to win back to back games at some point.
Lakers in 6