Sneaking this in just before the first game tips off today.
Cleveland Cavaliers v. Detroit Pistons: If this were 2 years ago, I would be picking Detroit, but this year, Lebron has a supporting cast and the best record in the NBA and homecourt advantage. The Pistons on the other hand have lost Chauncey Billups, haven’t found a way to integrate A.I., and enter the playoffs with a losing record. All this is why I’m calling for a Cleveland sweep. Cleveland in 4.
Boston Celtics v. Chicago Bulls: This one just got more interesting in the last two months. I thought the C’s had a good shot of repeating this year, but with KG out for potentially the entire playoffs, I don’t think they can do it. Chicago on the other hand looked like they were going to miss the playoffs but the last minute trade for John Salmons and Brad Miller, coupled with the stellar play of Derrick Rose really helped this team surge into the playoffs. However, I don’t think Chicago has the low post weapons to make Boston pay for its lack of KG. Pierce and Allen have also been too good to let this young, untested Bulls team upset them. Boston in 6.
Orlando Magic v. Philadelphia 76ers: Ah my two favorite Eastern Conference teams. Why did you have to meet so early? All allegiances aside, I don’t think the Sixers have a chance. The Magic have too many weapons for them to stop and they have too few weapons of their own on offense. Having Dwight in the middle is going to make it difficult for the Andres to score inside. My only concern for the Magic is that Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis are not at full strength. However I don’t think they need to be and as long as one of them plays and the rest of the team plays well I think we could be looking at a sweep. Orlando in 4.
Atlanta Hawks v. Miami Heat: In terms of team talent, Atlanta wins hands down. Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Mike Bibby, and Al Horford make up a solid core. Miami though has the best player in Dwayne Wade. I don’t think its enough. I’m sure Wade will put in some jaw dropping performances and box scores, but in order to win he needs someone else to step up and I’m not sure anyone on his crew can. I like Wade, but he’s overmatched here. Atlanta in 6.
LA Lakers v. Utah Jazz: Interesting first round matchup but I don’t think it’ll be as exciting as it looks on paper. Utah has the depth to test LA, but the Jazz have had problems with injury all year and they can’t win on the road. There’s a reason Utah is the 8th seed. LA in 6.
Denver Nuggets v. New Orleans Hornets: Seriously I don’t know what happened to the Hornets this year. They didn’t lose anyone and added James Posey but it seems like everyone except CP3 has gotten worse. The point guard matchup of Billups-Paul should be fun to watch, but this one is pretty much done already. Denver in 5.
San Antonio Spurs v. Dallas Mavericks: These two Texas powerhouses meet again but San Antonio is without Manu Ginobli this time while Dallas does not have a point guard that can guard Tony Parker. It will be interesting to see whether Dallas can find a way to slow him down or if Roger Mason will hit big shots. In the end I think that will be the key. As banged up as the Spurs are, I think they have the resilience and experience to pull through. San Antonio in 7.
Portland Trailblazers v. Houston Rockets: It’s the Blazers, who are in the playoffs for the first time, versus the Rockets, who are looking to get past the first round for the first time. These two teams match up well. The Blazers have Oden and Pryzbilla to guard Yao while the Rockets have Artest and Battier to stick on Roy. The big questions here are whether the Rockets will miss McGrady to come up with big plays or will the Blazers lack the playoff experience in crunch time. Either way it should be a great series, but I think this is the year Yao will make it out of the first round. Houston in 7.
Enjoy the games and Let’s Go Magic!