By: Kevin Plaza
No, this year’s NBA playoffs are nothing like the 90’s hard nose, hard hitting, whistle swallowing games that shaped most of our images of basketball. Who can forget the Knick-Reggie Miller saga that almost lead Spike Lee out of his frontcourt seat at Madison Square Garden? How about Jeff Van Gundy hanging onto Alonzo Mourning’s leg while the Heat and Knicks got into one of their many fights?
That was basketball, tough defense, punches to the face and hard (and I mean HARD) fouls. But hey, the game has changed, more points equals more dollars. Basketball has become a sport that more and more people can enjoy, even if they aren’t “real” fans. So with all the 100 point games happening in this year’s playoffs, this isn’t your grandaddy’s NBA anymore. With that in mind, it’s time for me to tell you what will happen in the rest of this year’s playoffs and who will win it all.
EASTERN CONFERENCE – Second Round
Cleveland LeBron’s vs. Boston’s Big Three – So far the series is split at 1 and 1 going back to Boston, which is a huge advantage for the Celtics. Any time you can take a road game and beat your opponent up the way the Celtics did last time out in Cleveland, you have the advantage in the series. But also, when you do that and embarrass your opponent, they are going to have something to say about it during the next time out, which is why I am picking the Cavs in this series. They had one bad night, but this team has Jamison, Williams and Shaq to support LeBron in his effort to win a championship. I just think the Celtics are too old to keep up with the Cavs for the rest of this series. Cavs in 6.
Atlanta Hawks vs. Orlando Magic– Atlanta is unlike any team I have ever seen before- young, athletic and growing together. With guys like Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford, this team can simply outshoot you at all times, and with guys like Al Horford and Josh Smith, they can out defend you any day of the week. But one big thing with this team is consistency; going out every game and giving it everything they can to win, they just don’t do it on a night in, night out basis. You know who does? The Orlando Magic, and with Dwight being the monster that he is, I think Orlando will have a fairly easy time against the Hawks if Jameer Nelson can keep up his play from the first round. If not, the Magic will win it in 7.
WEST – Second Round
LA Lakers vs. Utah Jazz – In my personal opinion, Deron Williams is the best pure point guard to come around for a very long time. I also believe that the Williams to Boozer combo is the next Stockton to Malone- they are that good. But in the NBA, two guys cannot win you a playoff series and, even though I hate saying this, Kobe, Gasol, Artest and Bynum will prove to be too much for the up-and-coming Utah Jazz team. The Lakers will take this series in 5 or 6, depending on whether or not Utah can win both games at home.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Phoenix Suns– Man, why is it every year that I keep seeing the Spurs in the playoffs and actually going pretty far? Well it’s because the have the big fundamental in Tim Duncan, a solid point guard in Tony Parker, and the magician Manu Ginobili. These guys have done it for a long time and will continue to do so, but not past this round of the playoffs this year. Stevie “showtime” Nash will lead this 3-point happy, run, and gun team into the conference finals. It is not going to be Nash who leads the way, but it will be Amare Stoudimire who, if you haven’t heard of him, is a beast, and is damn near impossible to defend under the basket. Suns take this series in 6.
Cleveland Cavs vs. Orlando Magic – This is the same series that knocked LeBron out of the playoffs last year, and with a healthy Jameer Nelson, the same results will happen this year. Nelson, Howard, Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis and Mickael Pietrus will prove to be to much for the Cavs again. Orlando is a better shooting team and, with Howard back there to make up for defensive miscues, a better defensive team as well. Orlando in 6.
LA Lakers vs. Phoenix Suns– The Lakers defense and offense will prove to be too much in this series. The Lakers can do it in so many ways, with Bynum and Gasol down low and Kobe and Artest up top. The Phoenix matador defense will not be enough in this series. Lakers in 6.
LA Lakers vs. Orlando Magic – I think this is Orlando’s year to make people believe in this team, and the only way they are going to do that is to beat the Lakers- the same Lakers that beat them last year in the Finals. Except for one noticeable replacement, Trevor Ariza for Ron Artest (although I thought it was a great signing for the regular season), the postseason is a different story. Ariza was a huge part of the championship team last year by hitting clutch shots and making key plays all over the court. With Artest I think you lose out on the “clutch” factor, and you also miss some of Ariza’s speed and up-tempo styles of play. That, coupled with Orlando having a healthy Jameer Nelson, will propel Orlando to the title. Orlando in 7. Basically stating that Jameer Nelson will be the key to the playoffs for Orlando.