Bracketology: The 2011 NBA Playoffs (in full)

I was challenged to do an NBA playoffs bracket like people would do NCAA March Madness brackets. Since more research is being done here, my margins are probably, once again, being changed. I apologize for this.

Here is the 100% official “Robbie’s NBA Bracket of Pure Awesomeness”. You know how on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, that annoying rat-bastard Regis always asked “final answer?” Well, here you go, my final answers.

Here goes nothing.

Eastern Conference Playoffs:

First Round –

(1) Chicago Bulls vs. (8) Indiana Pacers
Bulls 4-3

I really don’t know of any other way to defend Indiana winning three games in this series, except that 2011 is a cursed sports year. Anything can happen, and there isn’t any team in the NBA Playoffs right now, in either conference, as dangerous as the Pacers for one definitive reason – they have nothing to fucking lose. The Pacers entered the playoffs at 37-45, just like the damn Seahawks, who entered the NFL Playoffs at 7-9, and won a game, against the defending Super Bowl Champions nonetheless. So, a sub-.500 team in the playoffs against another team who is dominant. In 2011, this spells disaster. I don’t have the Pacers winning the series, but they should keep it interesting.

(2) Miami Heat vs. (7) Philadelphia 76ers
Heat 4-1

LeBron, Wade, and Bosh are talented, yes, but the Heat haven’t been the most consistent villains this year. Between stories of LeBron trying to steal the show, the team being jeered by their own fans, and Erik Spoelstra’s questionable-at-best coaching ability, this team is well set to implode sometime within the next few weeks. They get a pretty easy opponent in the first round, but when the challenges start, I have a feeling we’re going to see more scowling from Pat Riley.

(3) Boston Celtics vs. (6) New York Knicks
Celtics 4-2

Boston has not been the same since Kendrick Perkins was traded, and their hope really lies in the O’Neal’s to stay healthy and efficient. The Knicks, despite ‘Melo and Amare, are too off-base to really make a playoff push, and Rajon Rondo is going to eat them alive with his passing and mid-range scoring. I expect a triple-double or two out of him.

(4) Orlando Magic vs. (5) Atlanta Hawks
Magic 4-3

This will be the Eastern Conference series nobody gives a shit about. I have Orlando winning four with power in the post, and Atlanta winning three, pretty much on their home court. Wow, I really don’t even care about this series…

Semi’s –

(1) Chicago Bulls vs. (4) Orlando Magic
Magic 4-3

Orlando wins again with post-dominance, and as much as I love Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah is going to be the X-Factor for this series. I don’t think he can play against Dwight Howard and I honestly think, Rose may get outplayed by Jameer Nelson. It’ll take seven grueling games, but I see Orlando moving on to the Eastern Conference Finals.

(2) Miami Heat vs. (3) Boston Celtics
Celtics 4-3

LeBron keeps history alive and chokes again. Chris Bosh hasn’t really even been much of a force this year, and Dwayne Wade’s last few playoff years have been less than stellar. Boston, despite not having Perk, will get it done with the Big Three. This is, in all honesty, their last legitimate shot at title. The Big Ticket, The Truth, and Ray-Ray are geared up for this, and Rondo, the future of the Celtics franchise, will be coming into the glory we all know he possesses. This is probably the biggest series of the NBA playoffs (well, you could argue second). It will be nasty, gory, and spiteful, but Boston wins it in front of all the people in Miami who, for one reason or another, have grown to hate their own team.

East Finals –

(3) Boston Celtics vs. (4) Orlando Magic
Celtics 4-2

Orlando has been hurting since losing Hedo Turkoglu (sp?) before last season, but this series will be in the post. Rebound battles galore, I tells you. But, if Shaq and Jermaine O’Neal can aid Kevin Garnett and Nenad Kristic in the game of baords, Boston will escape relatively unscathed. My only concern is the team’s age. Orlando is quicker, but have kind of waddled this year. It’s been Dwight Howard’s show, and his supporting cast is pretty much Jameer Nelson. Rajon Rondo will outplay Nelson every step of the way, en route to Boston’s third NBA Finals appearance in four years.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1 Chicago    4
8 Indiana      3         1 Chicago 3

4 Orlando     4        4 Orlando  4
5 Atlanta      3                                     3 Boston    4
4 Orlando  2
3 Boston          4
6 New York    2     3 Boston  4

2 Miami           4     2 Miami   3
7 Philadelphia   1

Western Conference Playoffs:

First Round –

(1) San Antonio Spurs vs. (8) Memphis Gizzlies
Spurs 4-0

This really goes without saying, I think. San Antonio outplays Memphis at every position. The only player who could make this potentially troublesome for the Spurs is center Marc Gasol, but he’s dealing not only with Tim Duncan, but also DeJuan Blair and Matt Bonner, who doubles up as the Irish-version of Reggie Miller. Weird, huh?

(2) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (7) New Orleans Hornets
Lakers 4-1

I think I’m giving the Hornets some credit by allowing them one win. Probably at home… with Kobe in foul trouble. Bynum may be back, but a hamstring injury plagues you for a few weeks afterward. Bynum is a non-factor. I think Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant will kind of win this thing on their own.

(3) Dallas Mavericks vs. (6) Portland Trail Blazers
Mavericks 4-3

Close series. Literally. Neither team really has anything beyond their opponent, but I think the Mavericks playoff experience comes into play more here than anything else. I trust Rick Carlisle’s playoff judgement over Nate McMillan’s any day. Roddy Beaubois can still make a contribution, despite nagging injury, and J.J. Barea, the fearless little bastard he is, will create lanes and make shots. A battle, but Mavericks advance. Portland just isn’t ready quite yet.

(4) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (5) Denver Nuggets
Thunder 4-2

Kevin Durant finally gets his chance to shine. He, along with his merry starting line-up of quick and talented associates will get things done with Denver. Despite seemingly playing better without ‘Melo, I think the playoff atmosphere will weigh them down. The Thunder are too fast, too steady, and Kevin Durant will be reaffirming everyone’s suspicions that he may very well be Kobe’s replacement. The predicted line for Durant: 28 points, 10 boards, per game.

Semi’s –

(1) San Antonio Spurs vs. (4) Oklahoma City Thunder
Spurs 4-2

What makes San Antonio dangerous? Age. The Time Duncan Era will end soon, and with that man comes playoff experience galore. One last run. Same position as the Celtics. This will stand in Oklahoma City’s way. I expect the series to be closer than the line says. Close games. Slug-fest. Despite the loss, the Thunder will have made the league aware that they are the next “team-to-beat”.

(2) Los Angles Lakers vs. (3) Dallas Mavericks
Mavericks 4-3

Now, Bynum’s hamstring becomes an issue. Dirk and Gasol will score on the plethora of awkward-looking shots game in and game out. Kobe may be a problem for the Mavs, but both Kidd and Terry have proven they still have the capability to shut him down. My X-Factor for this series is Shannon Brown. If he plays well, the Lakers may very well win, but since I think he’s still a little streaky, the Mavs win a nail-biter of a series, setting the stage for…

West Finals –

(1) San Antonio Spurs vs. (3) Dallas Mavericks
Spurs 4-2

As much as I want Dirk to get a championship, the ever-so-deserving German Force will keep waiting. This series’ theme is a “sense of urgency”. While Tim Duncan really doesn’t need another one, all the geriatric athletes on the San Antonio roster realize this is probably the last shot to win it all. Dirk, with a bit of youth left in him, isn’t really in that position yet. These games will be high-scoring, to say the least, and I-35 will be the single worst road to drive on for about two weeks. Both teams are matched well for each other, but San Antonio has the edge. Series X-Factor is DeJuan Blair. If he comes in and plays well, San Antonio takes the series.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

1 San Antonio  4
8 Memphis       0             1 San Antonio       4

4 Oklahoma City  4         4 Oklahoma City   2
5 Denver              2                                                    1 San Antonio 4
3 Dallas           2
3 Dallas             4
6 Portland         3            2 LA Lakers         3

2 LA Lakers       4          3 Dallas                4
7 New Orleans   1

And now…

THE NBA FINALS

(1) San Antonio Spurs vs. (3) Boston Celtics
Celtics 4-3

A travel series. Gotta love them. Let’s take a quick look at some random stats that you may find a bit interesting.

Combined/average age of the Spurs: 411/27.4
Combined/average age of the Celtics: 434/28.9

The Spurs and Celtics are old teams, battling for one last title. Again, the morality comes in and you gotta say, “hey, KG, Ray Allen, and Pierce need one more championship. They deserve it.” Right? Well, check this out.

Between the two teams, eight players began their careers in the 1990’s, and three of them were playing in the NBA while Celtics head coach Doc Rivers was still an active player. Ray Allen and Jermaine O’Neal were drafted just months after Rivers retired.

The NBA is a nasty game on the knees, so these eight guys are at the end of their roads, at I would assume six of them are future Hall-Of-Famers.

So… best… Finals… ever!

This going to be so reminiscent of the days when I watched Penny Hardaway, Glenn Rice, and Reggie Miller. Stockton to Malone. Olajuwon. Jordan and Pippen vs. the rest of the NBA. This series will be nostalgic for me. This could very well be the last time a lot of these players take the court, and it’s fitting that the Championship will be on the line as the last pages of the 1990’s NBA Elite are finished.

But, why the Celtics?

Garnett’s intensity. Ray Allen’s blind three-pointers. Rondo’s passing prowess. Paul Pierce’s clutch shooting. Fueled by the disappointing loss to the Lakers last year, the Celtics will emerge victorious, undercutting Tim Duncan and the surprising Spurs from Duncan’s fifth title.

It’ll be bittersweet, I think, but there has to be a winner and a loser. But, even then, the Spurs, and Tim Duncan, are not losers. They’re icons.
NBA Finals

1 San Antonio  3
3 Boston          4

Epilogue: I talked a lot about age in this post. I feel age equals experience and is, in a lot of ways, an athlete’s best weapon. But, just like Achille’s with his heel, it turns against you at some point. The 2011 NBA playoffs will be full of aging icons with one more gasp left in them.

This has honestly been the most difficult NBA Playoff analysis I’ve ever done. I’m not really worried about getting all of my predictions right. The theme of this years playoffs isn’t championships, I think. It’s really going to signify the end of an era. Even though the torch has been passed, in a sense, from the Michael Jordan’s to the LeBron James’, there isn’t anyone who can come into the league, at any time, who could replace the memories of players like Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan. These guys are living legends, headed to the Hall-Of-Fame without hesitation. Their blood, sweat, tears, and triumphs litter every NBA court, and their accomplishments could never be undercut, by anyone, even the so-called heroes of today’s game.

After this season, the league officially makes it’s complete transition. Basketball has never, and will never, know anything more powerful than the “Jordan Era” of the 1990’s, and at this years end, the handful of remaining icons still here, in today’s game, will be giving up their reigns to the youth that lay in the wings. It won’t all happen at once, but it will kind of feel like it did. Before the world knows it, Garnett, Allen, Duncan, McDyess, and Shaq will be hanging their Reebok’s and Nike’s up for the last time.

This post is dedicated to the memory of those who are, arguably, the greatest to ever compete with each other. These guys got me into the game in the first place, and when they walk away, they will all still be hitting trey’s and dunking furiously in the hearts of every long-time NBA fan.

Salut. And goodnight.

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About Robert L. Franklin

Ah, the About Me section - social networking's excuse for you sounding like an elitist prick. Hmm... what to say? What to say?
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