2010 Playoffs: Round 1

Well it’s time for the NBA playoffs again and that means its time for me to predict each series round by round. As with this year’s college tournament, I’m going to put up a disclaimer that I haven’t watched many games at all, save for a dreadful stretch of Magic games when I was home over Christmas break. That means don’t expect me to go 13-2 like in years past, but since NBA teams have more continuity than college basketball, I also don’t expect to completely blow it like with March Madness. So without further ado, here are my picks for the first round:

Eastern Conference

Cleveland Cavaliers v. Chicago Bulls: The Bulls barely eked into the playoffs. While I’ve seen some great Derrick Rose highlights and I think he will torch the Cavs, there’s no chance of an upset here. Cleveland in 4.

Orlando Magic v. Charlotte Bobcats: I’m not sure why a lot of people are saying Charlotte’s going to cause trouble for the Magic (looking at you Tim Legler). I simply don’t see Tyson Chandler and Gerald Wallace slowing down the best team from the second half of the season. Orlando in 5.

Atlanta Hawks v. Milwaukee Bucks: This series would be a lot more interesting with Andrew Bogut, but without him, there’s nothing to Fear about the Deer. Atlanta’s way too deep and athletic. Atlanta in 5.

Boston Celtics v. Miami Heat: While I think the “death of the Celtics” talk is a little premature, it is telling that they fell to 4th in the East. That said, I think the Big 3 (Pierce + Rondo + what’s left of Ray and KG) is enough to beat Team Wade (because let’s be honest without him they’re a D-League team). Boston in 6.

Western Conference (this is where it gets more interesting)

LA Lakers v. Oklahoma City Thunder: I have to say I really like the Thunder! A good young team that rebuilt the right way with a freakish star in Kevin Durant that has a legit chance of being better than Lebron in my opinion. However, they’re not ready for the Lakers yet, not without some size in the post. Still, it will be closer than people think because I think the Lakers will come out sluggish. LA in 6.

Dallas Mavericks v. San Antonio Spurs: Yes, the Spurs are old and yes, the Mavs have Haywood to guard Duncan and Marion to guard Ginobili, but I can’t help but like the Spurs here. They’re not as weak as last year and given the past track records of the Spurs (never count them out) and the Mavs (never take them for granted) I’m inclined to go for the upset (although in this year’s Western conference, can anything really be an upset?) San Antonio in 7.

Phoenix Suns v. Portland Trailblazers: I’ve never liked the Suns since the D’Antoni days (even though Jared Dudley is making BC proud) but this is a no brainer. Without Roy, the Trailblazers may make some inspiring runs, but in the end they’re outgunned. Phoenix in 5.

Utah Jazz v. Denver Nuggets: For a while I thought Denver was the second best team in the West, but apparently they’ve slipped a bit. The big question is which team can stay healthy and right now it looks like Utah is coming up with the short end since Boozer is questionable. However, the Jazz are deeper in my opinion and they have more momentum and fewer distractions headed into the postseason. Utah in 6.

Enjoy the games! I’ll try to catch a few myself. Go Magic!

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Ignorance is Bliss

Well the NCAA Basketball tournament sort of passed me by this year. Not only did I miss most of the games because a lot of the later games started at awkward hours for me, I was in Spain for much of the Sweet 16/Elite 8 rounds. Perhaps it was best because it wasn’t as painful for me to see my bracket disintegrate and I at least have an excuse for getting so many picks wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I have been following some of the story lines and it would’ve been a great story if Butler had won (sorry, rooting for Duke in the championship game is like supporting the beating of puppies and baby seals). However one out of the Final Four is just pathetic. At least I didn’t end up like President Obama, who got all his picks wrong.

As a BC basketball fan, the one story I have been following more closely is the firing of Al Skinner and the subsequent coaching search. It looks like Cornell coach Steve Donahue is going to be our man. Personally I always thought we should’ve played more up tempo with the players we have, and most of our guys didn’t really fit into Skinner’s flex offense. Let ‘s hope this guy can connect with the players especially emerging star Reggie Jackson, who ESPN hinted at in the last line of this article, was a transfer possibility. I don’t know too much about Donahue, but if he can effectively pick up the pace of our offense, draw up a reliable inbounds play, and not kill our future recruiting prospects (wait, what recruiting prospects), I’m a fan. And oh yeah, since you’re coming from the Ivy League I expect you finally have a plan to beat Harvard next season.

Bittersweet 16

Wow what a tournament. So many close games. So many upsets already. And we’re just in the Sweet 16. My bracket has definitely taken a beating due to all this craziness. One of my Final Four, Georgetown is out. Three more Elite 8 teams (Kansas, Pittsburgh and Villanova) are also out, not to mention countless earlier round teams. A couple of story lines I’ve noticed: the failure of the higher seeded Catholic schools (Georgetown, Villanova, Notre Dame, and Marquette) shows that God clearly isn’t on their side this year. The Big East has been disappointing and I think that could mean trouble for me because I picked Syracuse to win it all (stupid move in retrospect). And the Ivy League may finally be known for something other than academics as Cornell continues its run. At this point, I’m rooting for them to go to the Final Four.

The only bright side to all this is that no one else saw any of these story lines coming, so I’m actually doing relatively well especially since I’ve watched very little college basketball this year. Here’s what I picked the rest of the way:

March Madness ’10: Brits Can’t Ball

Well I may be an ocean away, but this time of year still means one thing: March Madness! I haven’t kept up with college basketball very well this year since basketball isn’t big here at all. Try naming one good British basketball player (and no, Ben Gordon doesn’t count even though he’s playing for the English National Team). Yeah, didn’t think so. As a result, I don’t know too much about what’s been going on other than BC’s disappointing finish, John Wall being the next great point guard, and the Big East dominating with its depth. However, I still have to fill out a bracket and go with what I remember from the ESPN.com front page over the past 3 months. So here is my 2010 March Madness bracket, aptly named “Brits Can’t Ball”

WE’RE GOING TO THE ‘SHIP!

Wow! Magic are going to the NBA Finals! I thought it was possible all along but I wouldn’t admit it until I saw it.  After all these years since Shaq and Penny, the Magic are back in the Finals and playing against the Lakers.  So here it is:

LA Lakers v. Orlando Magic: If the Magic had Jameer Nelson, I would confidently predict Magc in 6.  The Lakers have a lot of trouble defending quick, penetrating point guards (see Aaron Brooks).  And there is a tiny chance that he may be back!  But assuming he doesn’t make a miraculous comeback, the outcome will be harder to predict.  If Alston can play like he did in the Cavs series, he can cause some of the same problems for the Lakers defense.  Howard will probably not be as dominant against LA, but he has easily outplayed Andrew Bynum during the regular season.  I just hope Dwight can knock down free throws because LA has a lot of fouls to give.  Courtney Lee and Mikael Pietrus will also have their hands full with Kobe, but again the Rockets showed you can slow Kobe down and that can cause serious disruptions for the Lakers.  Overall, I am cautiously optimistic about our chances.  I know we won’t get swept again like the last time we were in the Finals.  We have momentum, focus, and the inside presence on our side.  Lakers on the other hand have cruised a lot and their role players lose confidence easily.  Game 1 should be a good barometer of how the series turns out.  I may be going out on a limb here, but I can’t pick against my team in the Finals.  Let’s Go Magic.  Beat LA!  I wish I could watch the games.  Orlando in 7.

Also in French Open news, Rafa Nadal lost in the fourth round to a 23rd seed?  Wow!  And this is the man who’s only lost 7 sets EVER at Roland Garros! Wow!

The Magic are still alive!

Magic Celtics Basketball

It appeared questionable at times but the Magic finally took care of business and looked like the smooth offensive team that everyone expected. Now it’s time to take on Lebron and the Cavs for a shot at our first Finals appearance since Shaq and Penny got swept by the Rockets. Let’s Go Magic!

Cleveland Cavaliers v. Orlando Magic: Once again Cleveland has over a week off while their opponent is coming off a 7 game series. I feel cautoiusly optimistic about our chance to upset Cleveland (yes it would be an upset) because: 1) we looked pretty good offensively in Game 7, 2) we blew out the Cavs late in the season after Jameer went out 3) Dwight will make life hard on Lebron on the defensive end and Cleveland’s big men can’t stop Dwight on offense. Now that being said, this is the Cavs team that hasn’t lost in the post season yet and with Lebron in the lineup anything’s possible. Still, I’m going out on a peronally biased limb here to call the upset. Orlando in 7.

LA Lakers v. Denver Nuggets: Up until Game 7, the Lakers looked very vulnerable struggling against the Yao-less Rockets. Denver on the other hand easily handled Denver. This series though should be different. I think LA got a wake up call in the second round and Kobe and the gang will be more focused against a higher ranked opponent. Look for a series of entertaining and emotional high scoring games. In the end though, Denver has no one to guard Kobe. LA in 6.

Enjoy the games because I probably will not be able to from Paris. Thank goodness for ESPN.com though. Let’s Go Magic!

The Amazingness Continues

So I didn’t do too bad the first round. Basically all the teams I picked advanced except San Antonio. Of course some of the series went longer or shorter, but if I were doing a bracket it would still mostly be intact. Now let’s take a look at the second round, again starting with the East.

Eastern Conference

Cleveland Cavaliers v. Atlanta Hawks: Cleveland continued to look unstoppable as it swept Detroit in the first round and I expect to see Lebron continue their dominance against the Hawks. I am sorely disappointed by the Hawks after what was probably the worst 7 game series ever as each game was a blowout one way or another. I am interested in seeing the Josh Smith/Lebron matchup and how the Cavs handle Joe Johnson, but the Hawks need to find some consistency. The Hawks should give Cleveland more of a challenge than the Pistons did, but I don’t see the results being that different. Cleveland in 6.

Boston Celtics v. Orlando Magic: I’m going to be very unpopular in this town, but I love it. If only we didn’t have finals right now, I would definitely try to go to the games. I am cautiously optimistic about my Magic’s chances. If the C’s struggled with the likes of Joakim Noah and Brad Miller, they will absolutely get destroyed by Dwight Howard. On the other hand, I am worried about our perimeter defense. I’m not too comfortable with JJ Redick defending Ray Allen. Bottom line, if we had a healthy Courtney Lee, I would definitely say Orlando. Now, I have to add the caveat that Boston is fatigued and cannot stop Dwight Howard. Orlando in 7.

Western Conference

LA Lakers v. Houston Rockets: The Rockets have finally gotten out of the first round while the Lakers handled the Jazz almost as easily as the Cavs handled Detroit. Now LA’s offense will collide with Houston’s D. Houston has both Ron Artest and Shane Battier to throw at Kobe, but LA also has Bynum and Gasol to guard Yao Ming. The Rockets were able to win with a collective effort against the young Blazers in the first round, but I think their lack of T-mac (or another crunch time scorer) will really hurt them this round and thus I think LA will prevail. LA in 6.

Denver Nuggets v. Dallas Mavericks: So I underestimated Dallas in the first round. However, I will not overestimate them now and give them any chance against Denver. Denver thumped the Hornets by 58 points in the first round. Although I don’ t think they’ll replicate that against the Mavericks, I don’t see them struggling too much either. Chauncey Billups has really turned this team around, and this Dallas team is done. Denver in 6.

The NBA Playoffs: It’s amazing. Let’s Go Magic!