The second round of the NBA Playoffs just started over the weekend. I didn't think they would start until this week since Atlanta and Milwaukee's first round series just ended yesterday, but I was mistaken. Before the playoffs advance any further, I reckon now would be as agood a time as any to get those out of the way. Predictions as follows:
NBA Playoffs, 2nd Round
1.) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 4.) Boston Celtics
Cleveland advanced by beating the Chicago Bulls in five games, which took one game longer than my first round prediction. Boston advanced by beating the Miami Heat in five games, a series I predicted them losing in six games. Boston showed much more life against Miami than they showed all season, with Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo carrying the load. Paul Pierce's offense was on, Kevin Garnett wasn't limping, and Rasheed Wallace didn't play too much. Cleveland beat Chicago, but didn't look all that impressive throughout the series. LeBron played out of this world (surprise surprise) and pretty much beat the scrappy but crappy Bulls by himself. I expect Cleveland to play better as a team against the Celtics and I expect Boston won't be as successful against a team that is more talented and deeper than they are. Boston should be a game opponent and make it a tough series, but Cleveland is going to go to the Eastern Conference Finals again. Based on the score to game 1, it would appear I'm right. CAVS in 6.
2.) Orlando Magic vs 3.) Atlanta Hawks
Orlando beat the Charlotte Bobcats in four games in a series I thought would take them seven. The Hawks dispatched the Milwaukee Bucks in seven, one game longer than I thought. Despite the foul trouble Dwight Howard was in during the Bobcats series, Orlando took care of business pretty easily. Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter played well and the Magic's depth, defense, and long range shooting overwhelmed Charlotte. The Hawks played like they always do: inconsistently. Joe Johnson played terrible, especially terrible for someone who wants to receive a huge contract this summer. They scraped by a Milwaukee squad playing without their best player in Andrew Bogut. If the Bucks hadn't choked hard in game 6 on their own homecourt, this series would be Milwaukee vs. Orlando. Anyways, everyone on Atlanta is like 6'8" and will be no match for Dwight Howard and Orlando has too much depth and talent to fall to a team as inconsistent and poorly coached as Atlanta. MAGIC in 5.
1.) Los Angeles Lakers vs. 5.) Utah Jazz
The Lakers eliminated the upstart Oklahoma City Thunder in six, as I predicted. The Jazz beat the disgruntled Denver Nuggets in six, also as I predicted. People made a bigger deal of the Lakers' first round struggles than necessary. As long as Kobe isn't shooting more than about 20 times a game, the Lakers should win most nights. If he is jacking up shots left and right, that means Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum aren't getting enough touches and the Lakers will lose. The Jazz are playing pretty gritty right now with like half their team injured. I would really like to see Utah win, as I think Deron Williams is the bee's knees and Carlos Boozer is playing for a contract right now. While the Lakers haven't been too impressive this season, they have health and size working for in their favor. If Utah wasn't so shitty on the road this year (below .500 on the season) and had big men taller than 6'8", I would think they could eek out a series win. Instead, the Jazz should make it a tough and competitive series that should have some very close games. It certainly was close in game 1, but I think Utah missed on their best chance to steal one on the road. LAKERS in 6.
3.) Phoenix Suns vs 7.) San Antonio Spurs
Phoenix sent the FrailBlazers packing in 6, one more than my prediction. The Spurs upset the 2nd seed Dallas Mavericks in 6, which I said could happen even though I picked Dallas in seven games. Phoenix is playing pretty well right now, especially Jason Richardson. San Antonio has come alive after a fairly blah season. Manu Ginobili is running neck and neck Deron Williams for best player in the West this playoffs. San Antonio exists to beat the Suns in the playoffs, much to my brother's dismay. I feel like the Suns could win this series, but that the Spurs would be more likely to beat the Lakers and make it to the NBA Finals. Amar'e Stoudemire should light up the Spurs, but Manu and George Hill will run train on the PHX backcourt. I'm really having a hard time picking this one, as my brain says the Spurs and my heart says the Suns. I should just pull a name out of a hat. Let's go with SUNS in 7.
On another note, UFC 113 is this weekend, featuring a huge rematch between lightheavyweight champ Lyoto Machida and challenger Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. I've never really done fight predictions before, but now seems as good a time as any to start.
Light Heavyweight Championship
Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida (16-0, champ) vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua (18-4)
These two faced off in October of 2009 in a fight that everyone expected Machida to dominate. Instead, Shogun seemed to have solved the puzzle of Machida's karate and counterstriking style and in the eyes of nearly everyone, looked to have won the title via decision. I say nearly everyone, as the judges scored the fight unanimously for Machida. One of the big stories going into this rematch is if Machida can figure out how to adapt and change his gameplan after Shogun took him out of his element by utilizing leg kicks. Prior to this fight, Machida had never even lost a round before, so it will be interesting to see if he is able to come up with a new strategy. The other story of importance is whether or not Shogun can come up with another way to beat Machida. In the first fight, it appeared that he came up with the perfect plan and he still lost the decision. What can he do this time to win the fight? I think this will be a close fight again and I don't see either man knocking out or submitting the other. I think that Machida will be able to adapt more than I think Shogun will be able to implement a new strategy. Machida by Unanimous Decision.
The Rest of the Card:
Josh "Kos" Koscheck (16-4) vs. Paul "Semtex" Daley (23-8-2)
This welterweight fight has title implications, as the winner is going to get pummeled by champion Georges St. Pierre. Koscheck would be less likely to get annihilated as badly as Daley, as Daley has absolutely no ground game whatsoever and Koscheck is a very good wrestler and has decent standup. His standup doesn't compare to St. Pierre's and it isn't even close to Daley's, since he was a professional kickboxer. If Kos tries to stand up for more than a minute or two, Daley is going to light him up and knock his ass out. If he takes it to the ground, Daley is done. I think Koscheck is a major douchebag and I would love to see him get wrecked, but I don't want another boring title defense for Georges, as he won't stand up with someone like Daley anymore. It pains me to say it, but Kos is a pretty good all around fighter and unless he gets silly and decides he's a standup master, he should win. Koscheck by Round 2 Submission.
Sam "Hands of Stone" Stout (16-5-1) vs. Jeremy "Lil Heathen" Stephens (17-5)
This is a lightweight bout featuring one guy (Stout) who I've only seen fight Spencer Fisher in two awesome fights, and a guy (Stephens) who I've never seen before. Stout seems to have more momentum right now and has faced stiffer competition. I don't know either guy well enough to make a prediction with any real certainty, but I'll say Stout by Decision.
Kimbo Slice (4-1) vs. Matt Mitrione (1-0)
This is a battle of two contestants from the last season of The Ultimate Fighter. Kimbo comes in with a reputation as some kind of bad ass street brawler, but in terms of mixed martial arts he has decent standup with no proven knockout power, a rudimentary ground game, and an iffy chin. Matt Mitrione is a former football player with very good punching power, less than rudimentary ground game, and appears to have a pretty good chin. Kimbo will be giving up around forty pounds to Mitrione and I doubt that he is skilled enough to overcome that size disadvantage, even if it is to someone with even less experience than him. The only way Kimbo wins is if he takes it to the ground. He may be able to work some ground and pound and possibly a submission attempt. If he keeps it standing, Mitrione knocks him out. I think this is going to happen. Mitrione by Round 1 knockout.
Patrick "The Predator" Cote (14-5) vs. Alan "The Talent" Belcher (14-5)
This is Cote's first fight since he blew out his knee in a loss to middleweight champ Anderson Silva back in the fall of 2008. Belcher comes in having won three out of his last four fights and his one loss was the fight of the night back at UFC 100 last July. Cote is supposed to be a pretty heavy hitter, but he hasn't really knocked out anyone of note. Belcher is a pretty scrappy dude and his fights are usually pretty exciting. It makes up for his shitty Johnny Cash tattoo and horrible nickname. I think he wins this fight due to the fact he has been faring very well lately and Cote is going to have quite a bit of rust. Belcher by Decision.
The prelims, which I am not going to do since there are seven and they might not be televised, feature my boy "Filthy" Tom Lawlor. Hopefully he wins.
That's it for this one. Feel free to leave me a comment if you think my predictions suck or are awesome or whatever.