Here it is: time for the NBA Tournament to begin. A time when the cities of Boston and Los Angeles throw insults and vulgarities at each other over e-mail’s and phone calls. A time when backward Patrick Ewing and David Robinson jerseys invoke memories of playoffs past. A time when the entire country can, once again, watch LeBron James choke when it really matters.
Fuck Christmas. This is the most wonderful time of the year.
The Eastern and Western Conference’s are seeded today as they will be at season’s end. So, I’ll save myself the trouble of calculating wins/losses, tiebreakers, and such. I just have a feeling that the season is pretty much over now.
In the Eastern Conference…
1 Chicago Bulls
8 Indiana Pacers
Bulls win 4-0
Why in the hell are the Pacers even in the playoffs?! I move to make the Eastern Conference only eight teams. That will at least keep the conference competitive.
I would typically place a “Match-Up To Watch” section in here, but in all honesty, basketball fans across the country are going to be watching the Bulls sweep, unless 2011 continues to be sports’ bitchiest year…
2 Boston Celtics
7 Philadelphia 76ers
Celtics win 4-1
Boston is kind of hurting since the trading of Kendrick Perkins and the chronic ouchies of Shaquille O’Neal, which I expected anyway, but I still can’t seem to picture Philadelphia winning this one.
The Sixers are 6th in the NBA in assists per game (22.7), and 11th and 12th in rebounds (42) and points allowed (97.5). Compared to Boston, who average 23.6 assists per game and have the hardest defense to score on in the NBA (90.8 points allowed per game). The wily veterans in Beantown are a defensive team, and Rajon Rondo is poised to carry on his prowess if and when the Big 3 retire.
Rondo’s season averages look like this:
10.7 ppg – 11.3 apg – 2.3 stlpg
Rajon Rondo is a beast, no doubt about it. Philadelphia’s starting point guard Jrue Holiday is coming into his own as an NBA player, I will admit, but I think he still has some time to go before he really comes into his own.
6 New York
Miami wins 4-2
The Most Hated Men in Basketball will square off on the Biggest Stage in America, at least twice. Of course, LeBron James has had a history of ending up on the bitch end of the stick in the playoffs.
With an overall playoff record of 41-29, LeBron James is 10-20 in series that his team is eliminated, compared to 31-9 in series in which his team advances.
Chris Bosh is 3-8 in the NBA playoffs, never escaping the first round.
Dwayne Wade has a career playoff record of 37-30, 26-10 in series where the Heat advance and a LeBron-like 9-20 in series where the Heat were eliminated.
The difference between James and Wade is that Wade has a championship. Wade, however, is 4-12 since the win over Dallas, with three first-round exits in 2007, 2008, and 2010, and a failure to reach the playoffs in 2009.
The Knicks aren’t necessarily the most stable team. Since the ‘Melo trade, the Knicks are 13-11, riding a six-game winning streak, matching a six-game losing streak before it.
4 Orlando Magic
5 Atlanta Hawks
Orlando wins 4-3
Magic-Hawks. I think this will be the series everyone will forget about. Between Boston’s time running out to win one more, the Bulls either embarrassing or getting embarrassed by the Pacers (which, is possible), and the LeBron-Bosh-Wade Fiasco against ‘Melo-Amare and the Knicks, Dwight Howard and the Magic will basically square off in a balanced and drama-free series against Atlanta.
Orlando hasn’t quite been the road team they once were in 2011, going 22-18. Atlanta is in a similar pickle, splitting road games down the middle. The home-courts will be where this series is won, which makes it a full series and an Orlando win.
In the Western Conference…
1 San Antonio Spurs
8 Memphis Grizzlies
Spurs win 4-1
Another no-brainer. San Antonio owns Memphis. Don’t be surprised, though, if the Grizzlies push one game of the series to the brink, maybe even grabbing a home win. The Grizzlies are a good team, not a great one, and will have a lot of trouble contending with the seasoned playoff winners that are the Spurs. Spurs center Tim Duncan, despite being 38, has made 2011 his golden year, while the bench play of DeJuan Blair and Matt Bonner have amplified the Spurs to one more elite season. Blair gets better and better with each game and is my pick for Duncan’s replacement when the legend retires.
Like Boston, San Antonio maybe only has one more elite year left for a while. Hopefully, they make it count.
2 Los Angeles Lakers
7 New Orleans Hornets
Lakers win 4-0
As much as I hate to admit it, New Orleans doesn’t have a chance to even get one win over the defending NBA Champs. That is, unless the iNcident doesn’t repeat itself.
3 Dallas Mavericks
6 Portland Trail Blazers
Dallas wins 4-3
Mavericks = playoff woes.
Blazers = I don’t know.
The Blazers haven’t really been playoff contenders until this year, but their 18-22 road record in the regular season won’t really help them being the sixth seed. Portland has pulled off some very convincing wins this year, but Dallas still has some life left in them.
Pretty much split on home and away games, Dallas has been a somewhat different team this year. Their bench, still led by Jason Terry, includes a slew of former starters: Brenden Haywood and Caron Butler(Washington), Peja Stojakovic (New Orleans), DeShawn Stevenson (Orlando/Washington), and Corey Brewer (Minnesota). Dirk Nowitzki still leads the team, taking awkward looking fade-aways and making them entries on ESPN SportsCenter’s Top Plays. Jason Kidd still happens to be the best passer since… well… maybe ever.
Dallas doesn’t explode out of the gate like Portland is capable of doing, and I think the difference between three wins or a sweep will be made in that regard.
4 Oklahoma City
Oklahoma City wins 4-2
For the second straight season, Durant and the Boys enter the Western Conference playoffs. This year, they take on a ‘Melo-less Denver Nuggets, 16-6 since trading him away just after the All-Star Break. Denver has the second-best home record in the Western Conference (31-8), but on the road, they struggle (17-23). The Thunder live up to their name at home (30-10), and have performed better in road games than Denver (23-16).
I can honestly say that it’s about time a team as talented as the Thunder have been make a playoff run.
Based on my predictions, the second round of the NBA playoffs will look like this.
EASTERN CONFERENCE WESTERN CONFERENCE
1 Chicago Bulls 1 San Antonio Spurs
4 Orlando Magic 4 Oklahoma City Thunder
2 Boston Celtics 2 Los Angeles Lakers
3 Miami 3 Dallas Mavericks
Hmm… this could prove interesting…