Ok. Playoffs are about to start, so time to put my prognostication skills to the test, and tell you who’s going to do what, and to whom.
Easy first – let’s head East.
- (1) Boston vs (8 ) Atlanta
David, meet Goliath. Goliath? Play nice please, and no decapitations. All kidding aside, it’s going to go the way of the big boys in this match-up. Atlanta should consider this an immensely successful series if they don’t lose each game by 20. If they can win one game? Pop those champagne corks boys!
Boston in 4.
- (2) Detroit vs (7) Philadelphia
An interesting series. The 76ers have enough range to be able to beat the Pistons. Once. But take more off Detroit in the first season in many that they find themselves with serious competition in the East? Foggedabowdit. Neither Boston nor Detroit should be bothered until they hit the Conference Finals (and what a series that promises to be!).
But Philly? A lack of a serious inside presence, and a seemingly focused Detroit squad mean curtains for the 76ers.
Detroit in 5.
- (3) Orlando vs (6) Toronto
On paper, it looks interesting. Until you get to that big guy in the middle for the Magic. Howard had 69 double/doubles this year, and whilst Bosh is a damn fine player, Dwight Howard he’s not. I have doubts on Toronto’s half-court set, and Orlando’s ability to just throw it in under the basket and let the young big fella hammer will just be too much. Might get interesting tho’.
Orlando in 6.
- (4) Cleveland vs (5) Washington
The Wiz said this was the match-up they wanted, well… they got it. And it is one they can win. Everyone’s proclaiming LeBron to be the X-Factor in this, and maybe he is. But there’s also a 0-factor… and how well Agent Zero adapts, and how Washington use him will decide this series. LeBron will get his, never fear that, but if the Wiz can utilize Gilbert Arenas in a meaningful way, this is an upset begging to happen.
And I think it will.
Wizards win in 6.
Now, in the West…
- (1) LA Lakers vs (8 ) Denver
Even tho’ the Lakers won the season series against the Nuggs 3-zip, this isn’t as cut ‘n’ dried as some pundits are making it out to be. Denver have a phenomenal ability to throw up points… and ‘Melo has (or should have) something to prove post his off-court indiscretions. But like their ability to score, they have a propensity to be scored on.
Defense? Err… this is DENVER folks. ‘Melo and AI will ensure that the Nuggs win one, but if the Lake-show can play D like they did on San Antonio the other night, even that might be a generous prediction.
Lakers in 5.
- (2) New Orleans vs (7) Dallas
Much like the Wiz did, Dallas proclaimed that they’re far happier facing off against the Hornets than when it looked like they’d get Kobe & the Lakers.
Dirk Nowitzki feels that they match-up well against the New Orleans unit, and I think he’s right. I think it’s going to be tight… if Tyson Chandler can get going, the Mavs have limited their ability to put a big body on him – given what they gave away to get Jason Kidd… and I do feel kinda guilty not giving Chris Paul’s unit the respect they deserve, but I think that the point guard that runs hot this series is wearing a number 1 lower than #3.
I think this is where the trade to get Kidd finally comes up trumps. Kidd to do what he did last season’s playoffs, and take over. A lot people in the rush to praise Paul have forgotten what Kidd is capable of.
Add to that, there is absolutely NO-ONE on the Hornets roster who can guard Nowitzki, who has come back from a high ankle sprain and is playing with a passion and a toughness I’ve pretty much never seen him play with.
Dallas in 7.
- (3) San Antonio vs (6) Phoenix
Hell, I bet David Stern just about wet himself when he saw this match-up. A re-match of last season’s best series in the first round? And this is what the Suns traded for: to match-up better against the San Antonio Spurs. Now’s the time for the Big Shaq-tus to shine.
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San Antonio are still the reigning champions, and Manu Ginobli’s had an amazing season… Tim Duncan’s healthy – as is Tony Parker. The loss of Robert Horry (I don’t think he’ll be back for the first playoff series) will bother them – ok, not hugely so, but at times the Spurs have looked… well, older.
Still, not like the Suns are spring-chickens.
Anyway, without a doubt this is the marquis series of the 1st round, perhaps of the West’s side of the entire playoffs.
I see hard games, I see nasty fouls, I see the odd suspension (hopefully Bruce Bowen)… and I see the Suns winning in 6.
- Utah (4) vs Houston (5).
Everyone’s talking about this as a major coup for Utah scoring the Rockets in the first round. I dunno, I think that Houston has to be pretty pleased about getting Utah.
Yes, Utah are one of the best in the NBA at home… but conversely, they are the worst team in the Western half of the playoffs away (along with Denver) from home.
Due to the vagaries of NBA Playoff rankings, although the Jazz are the 4th seed, Houston have home court advantage. So all the Rockets have to do is hold serve to win this, and perhaps Utah are their best chance to do so, and finally break Tracy McGrady’s run of never winning a playoff series.
Sorry Kobe Lite T-Mac, not this year.
Jazz in 6.
That’s me done. Here’s a wrap up of what they thought at ESPN as far as match-up info…
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