2010 NBA Playoff preview
The 2009-2010 NBA regular season has come to a close and now its time for the big boys to mix it up for the Larry O’Brien trophy. We’ll preview all first round matchups and conclude with our Conference finals and NBA finals predictions. In the words of Steve Mazzagatti, “Let’s get it on, come on”.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs Chicago Bulls
The Cavaliers steamrolled through the East to get the #1 seed fairly easily. After an initial rocky introduction into the Cavs mix for Shaquille O’Neal, the Cavs have looked like a cohesive team and with LeBron James leading the way the work is always 75% done. As long as the Cavs can continue getting solid play from Anderson Varejao, great defense from Anthony Parker and some decent guard play from Mo Williams and Delonte West, they’ll cruise into the Eastern Conference Finals. The Bulls have dealt with their fair share of injuries all season and just when important cogs like forwards LUOL DENG and Joakim Noah recovered from various niggling injuries, the coach(Vinny Del Negro) and Executive VP(John Paxson) got involved in a confrontation similar to what we expect to see at the “Sugar” Shane Mosley and Floyd Mayweather fight weigh-in. The Bulls will have a fighting(no pun intended) chance as long as Derek Rose is on the court but the Cavs are focused on the finals and a first round loss is not in the cards for Cleveland.
Orlando Magic vs Charlotte Bobcats
The team formerly known as the BETcats(due to their previous owner being BET founder Bob Johnson) are one of the surprise teams of the season. Charlotte won 44 games despite being hampered by Michael Jordan in the front office as well as the prolonged sale of the team(to his Airness eventually) and two reasons for this are Stephen Jackson aka Captain Jack and Gerald Wallace whose all-star season did not hurt Charlotte’s playoff chances at all. The Magic finished 59-23 and are aiming for a repeat finals appearance with a better result this time around. The addition of Vince Carter still gets an incomplete grade until their season officially ends. Dwight Howard is still a monster on the block and a healthy Jameer Nelson makes all the difference on this team. A sweep can be expected in this series.
Atlanta Hawks vs Milwaukee Bucks
Atlanta are a team that have been building and moving progressively towards the ECF over the past three seasons and this year could be the year they get there but the Orlando Magic will stand in their way. First up though, are the Milwaukee Bucks. With All-star guard Joe Johnson and likely sixth man of the year Jamal Crawford leading the Hawks, Milwaukee will have their work cut out for them. The Bucks have to overcome the loss of one of the best big men in the league, center Andrew Bogut, due to the gruesome elbow injury he suffered earlier in the month and try to push the Hawks to seven games. The Bucks will be accustomed to such a challenge as they’ve played without franchise player Michael Redd for the majority of the past two seasons. Look for point guard Brandon Jennings to run roughshod over the Hawks Mike Bibby while Cameroonian forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will be counted on to provide lock down defense on Josh Smith. An X factor for the Bucks could be Bulls castoff John Salmons who’s been very productive since his trade to Milwaukee earlier this year. The Hawks will be expected to prevail in this series and should close it out in five games.
Boston Celtics vs Miami Heat
The Celtics are a team on the decline. All sorts of problems have cropped up this season for Boston. From Kevin Garnett’s knees to Doc Rivers game management and coaching decisions. From the fractious locker room with the veterans on one side and the young players on the other side to the horrible personnel decisions (Marquis Daniels, Nate Robinson and the cherry on top of the Danny Ainge blunder cake-Rasheed Wallace for three years $18.9 million). This is a team on its last legs that plays with no heart. Miami on the other hand is not much different from the team that lost to Atlanta in the 1st round last season. Joel Anthony, Jermaine O’Neal and the underwhelming Michael Beasley make up the front court but this team is still all about Dwyane Wade. Expect Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo to continue maturing in this series as he takes on a greater role but D.Wade will prove too much for the Celtics in the end.
Los Angeles Lakers vs Oklahoma City Thunder
The Los Angeles Lakers enter the playoffs on the heels of six losses in their last ten games. LA expect to have Andrew Bynum back for this series after being out for thirteen games with a left Achilles tendon injury but if not, look for DJ MBENGA to get some time backing up Pau Gasol in the middle. The Lakers will hope the start of the playoffs and comments about the decline in his game as well as his status as the best player in the league will spur Kobe on and get him in the Jordan mode. Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar will be counted on heavily to stop OKC’s point guard Russell Westbrook from destroying Derek Fisher while Ron Artest will do his best to stop “The Durantula” Kevin Durant, who just became the youngest player in league history to lead the league in scoring at 30.1 ppg.
The Thunder’s THABO SEFOLOSHA will have to be the Kobe stopper in this game while SERGE IBAKA will introduce himself to Basketball fans across the world that haven’t kept up with the Thunder all season. It’ll be a tough series for the Lakers but seeing as recent comments by Phil Jackson about Kevin Durant and his trips to the free-throw line already seem to be having their intended effect on the 21 year old star, it’s difficult not to see the Lakers prevailing in five or six games at most over the inexperienced Oklahoma team.
Dallas Mavericks vs San Antonio Spurs
These two Texas foes do battle in the first round for the 2nd year in a row but the end result will most likely be the same. The Mavericks were a team without much of an identity for most of the season as they left fans constantly wondering which Mavs team would show up to play on any given night-the team that whipped the Knicks by 50 or the team that lost to the Knicks by 34. The midseason trade for Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson and Brendan Haywood has rejuvenated this team while providing an additional defensive wing in Stevenson to pair with Shawn Marion. The trade also provided the Mavs with a swingman in Butler that is actually capable of driving to the basket and understands the need to get to the line as well as giving the franchise it's first quality center in Haywood since James Donaldson in the late 80s.
The Spurs have had a rougher season than the Mavs, with Tim Duncan showing his age, new addition Richard Jefferson failing to fit in and contribute as well as expected and then the various injuries to talismanic guard Manu Ginobili and point guard Tony Parker. The Spurs managed to end the season on a relatively strong note as rookie Dejuan Blair and my Most Improved Player of the season George Hill, led the way for them with excellent seasons. The return of Ginobili in the second half of the season also helped immensely but the ankle injury to Hill is not what the doctor ordered for the Spurs and they’ll find it difficult to take the Mavericks to seven games.
Phoenix Suns vs Portland TrailBlazers
The Bulls, Celtics, Bucks and San Antonio have all suffered their fair share of season impacting injuries but no team has endured cruel injuries like the Portland Trail Blazers. As we speak, star shooting guard Brandon Roy is out for the 1st round of the playoffs with a meniscus injury. First Greg Oden went down with another knee injury, then Joel Pryzbilla with a similar knee injury and to compound matters, coach Nate McMillan suffered his own injury during the season.
The Suns have been the hottest team in the league since the all-star break. Coach Alvin Gentry has quietly led this team back from the various setbacks they’ve had over the past few years in their bid to get to the NBA Finals. Leading the way as usual is point guard Steve Nash who is still playing at an MVP level. Perennial trade bait Amare Stoudemire is showing the Suns why they need him and Robin Lopez is proving to NBA fans that the Lopez twins are on a different level than the other set of Stanford twins-Jarron and Jason Collins. The Blazers will compete but expect the Suns to win in five.
Denver Nuggets vs Utah Jazz
The Nuggets were flying high in the first part of the season as Coach George Karl led his squad to the second best record in the west at the all-star break. Then Karl was diagnosed with Neck and throat Cancer and things started to slip understandably, for the Nuggets. Without Karl on the bench to rile, cajole and motivate his team, the Nuggets have faltered, as despite assistant coach Adrian Dantley’s best efforts , this team is geared to respond to Karl. Carmelo Anthony has been playing at the stellar level he’s been at over the past four seasons and rookie Ty Lawson has been a more than capable deputy to Chauncey Billups.
Utah has been Utah. Off almost everyone’s radar until the 2nd half of the season, the Jazz have been up there among the best in the league since the all-Star break. With Deron Williams at the helm, the Jazz are never out of a game despite the cost-cutting measures of the front office. CJ Miles has developed greatly this season but the Jazz will be playing this series without Andrei Kirilenko, out with a calf injury, and power forward Carlos Boozer will be a game time decision.
If Boozer returns for this series, the Jazz might be able to take it in six, if he doesn’t and George Karl returns to the Nuggets then Denver will make it a series.( Karl’s doctor recently declared him more likely to return for the second round).
Conf.Finals— Cleveland vs Atlanta
Los Angeles vs Dallas
NBA Finals- Cleveland vs Dallas
NBA Champions- Cleveland
Conf. Finals- Orlando Magic vs Cleveland Cavs
L.A Lakers vs Phoenix Suns
NBA Finals- Orlando Magic vs L.A Lakers
NBA Champions- Orlando Magic
Conf. Finals- Orlando Magic vs Cleveland Cavs
Denver Nuggets vs Dallas Mavericks
NBA Finals- Orlando Magic vs Dallas Mavericks
NBA Champions- Orlando Magic