I do believe the title of this post basically sums up the purpose of this post, so I'll make the introduction brief. The 2010 NBA Playoffs start today, April 17. For each round of the playoffs, I am going to post my predictions and thoughts on each series that is being played. So without further ado, here we go.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers (61-21) vs. 8. Chicago Bulls (41-41)
Much like last year, this season is supposed to be the one in which LeBron James is crowned champion. Last year, the Cavs were derailed by Orlando in the Eastern Conference Finals. This year, they added Shaquille O'Neal and Antawn Jamison to their starting rotation and picked up solid role players like Jamario Moon and Anthony Parker. They finished this season with the best record in the NBA and are heavily favored to win it all. Chicago scraped into the playoff with a win on the last day of the regular season and finished at .500 for the second straight year. LeBron is talking a ton of shit about how ready the Cavs are and how they are super serial about winning the title. That won't stop him from celebrating each blowout over the vastly inferior Bulls like it's the greatest thing in the history of the sport. LeBron is kind of an egomaniac considering he hasn't won shit yet, but that is for another post. The Bulls need to put on a good showing in this series so they can vastly overpay someone like Joe Johnson or Amar'e Stoudemire to be Derrick "my favorite player in the universe" Rose's wingman. A couple of close games, or even two wins would be nice for my Bulls, but I don't think it is going to happen. Cleveland has too much depth and frontcourt might. Cavs in 4.
2. Orlando Magic (59-23) vs. 7. Charlotte Bobcats (44-38)
Orlando surprised a lot of people by beating Cleveland and making it to the Finals last year. I called that shit before it happened, but I guess that's of no real importance besides tooting my own horn. In the offseason, they decided to not overpay for Hedo Turkoglu and added Vince Carter to the mix and despite struggling early in the season, finished with the league's second best record. Charlotte finished above .500 for the first time ever and received their first ever playoff berth. I'm not a big fan of Larry Brown, but he has done a great coaching job and built a scrappy defense-oriented team that has beaten a lot of the league's top teams this year. I see them doing pretty well against Orlando, especially if Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis play poorly for Orlando. Dwight Howard should be able to boss around Charlotte's post players, but there is never any guarantee that he'll get enough touches to make an impact offensively. Seriously, the dude only averages 10 shots a game when he should be getting at least 15. While I said Charlotte would do well against Orlando, the Magic are too good to lose this series. Magic in 7.
3. Atlanta Hawks (53-29) vs. 6. Milwaukee Bucks (46-36)
Atlanta started this season on a tear and has come down to Earth a bit now. Milwaukee was projected to be lottery bound this season, but the drafting of Brandon Jennings, career year for Andrew Bogut, and the midseason acquistion of John Salmons (fuck you Salmons, why didn't you play this way in Chicago the first half of the season!?), teamed with Scott Skiles' coaching turned the Bucks into a surprise this season. Skiles, as he is wont to do, turned the Bucks into (much like Charlotte) into a very scrappy defense oriented team. If Bogut hadn't gotten crippled a few weeks ago, I would say the Bucks would steal this, as I think Atlanta is highly overrated. However, Bogut's injury changes everything and I think the Hawks advance in a tough, tough series. Hawks in 6.
4.) Boston Celtics (50-32) vs. 5.) Miami Heat (47-35)
Before this season started, Rasheed Wallace said the Celtics would win 72 games, at least. He managed to help them finish 22 games off that prediction by putting together one of the most awful seasons in the NBA this year. That, combined with nagging injuries to Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and infighting and complacency amongst the team, has Boston stumbling into the playoffs. A lot of the veterans on the team have been saying that the team has been saving up for the postseason, but I honestly don't see Boston doing much of anything with Garnett limping up and down the court, Ray Allen's defense crumbling, Rasheed Wallace's existence, and Rondo's abyssmal jump shot. Miami overachieved for the most part this season and have a healthy Dwyane Wade. Unless Dan Aykroyd and Daniel Stern kidnap him, a healthy D Wade and his supporting cast put Miami in the second round, where they can get smoked by Cleveland. Miami in 6.
And now, the Western Conference...
1.) Los Angeles Lakers (57-25) vs 8.) Oklahoma City Thunder (50-32)
The Lakers come into this playoffs as the defending NBA champs and then replaced role player Trevor Ariza with Ron "Crazy Pills" Artest. Kobe has battled injury this year and comes in pretty beat up. The team themselves stumbled into the postseason and have a lot of people questioning their cohesiveness and toughness. Oklahoma City is a surprise playoff team, winning 27 more games and Kevin Durant has blossomed into a superstar. The team is full of up and comers and will be contenders in the future. Key word here is the future, as the Thunder are not really there yet. They should make it a tough series for L.A. however. Lakers in 6.
2.) Dallas Mavericks (55-27) vs. 7.) San Antonio Spurs (50-32)
This should be the best series of the first round. Dallas and San Antonio have been rivals for years, and either team is a serious threat for the finals. Dallas is fielding a nasty team of Nowitzki, Kidd, Caron Butler, and Shawn Marion. The Spurs have mainstay Tim Duncan, Richard Jefferson, Tony Parker and a resurgent Manu Ginobili. Parker is playing hurt, but Ginobili is on fire as of late. Dallas has been on a tear since the all-star break, but most of their wins are close and they played some shitty teams down the last few months. If Parker was healthy and George Hill wasn't hurt, I say the Spurs take it in 6, but right now I'm not too sure. I'm gonna go with Mavs in 7.
3.) Phoenix Suns (54-28) vs 6.) Portland TrailBlazers (50-32)
Phoenix is another surprise team, as no one expected them to even make the playoffs. Steve Nash has had another career year, Grant Hill is still healthy, and Amar'e Stoudemire is playing his ass off for his new contract. Portland was supposed to be a contender, but everyone on their team has been hurt. Their best player, Brandon Roy, is out for the playoffs with a torn meniscus. Phoenix is playing so well right now and I don't think a crippled Portland will do much of anything. Phoenix in 5.
4.) Denver Nuggets (53-29) vs. 5.) Utah Jazz (53-29)
Denver was a clear cut number 2 seed for most of the season, but injuries, lack of low post scoring and a decline in energy has dropped them to the 4th seed. Utah has played through a ton of injuries and are playing pretty well right now. Both teams are terrible on the road this season, so that is working in Denver's favor, but I think between Coach Karl missing time with cancer and the team's deficiencies that Utah will eek out a win in this series. Utah in 6.
That wraps up the first round playoff preview and predictions here at Price Vincent. When this round ends sometimes in the next month, I'll post round 2 predictions. Be on the lookout for another blog sometime soon.