Lakers-Celtics Finals: Where have we seen this before?

Well look who’s back in the NBA Finals? Since the 80s, we haven’t seen much of the best rivalry in basketball as each team took turns being mediocre, but now it appears there’s a revival as this will be the second time these two teams meet in 3 years. As a Magic fan, it pains me to see the Celtics representing the East instead of Dwight and the gang, but as a basketball fan, I couldn’t ask for a better match-up. So who am I picking?

I’ll get to that in a moment, but first (because this is my blog) a little side note about the Magic. I had my doubts going into their series against the Celtics. As I said in this blog, I thought the Magic had the talent to win, but my worst fear was that they would end up like the Cavs from last year, in that they swept through the first two rounds too easily and were unprepared for a challenging team in the conference finals. I think that’s exactly what happened. The Magic had it too easy and had way too much time off. They just looked out of sync, committing stupid turnovers, and didn’t hit shots they usually make. Individual players had strong games, but overall the whole team never got rolling. On the other hand, the Celtics played a tough series against Cleveland and had much more momentum and rhythm going in. All in all it took the Magic too long (first 3 games) to get going.

As for next year, I have no idea what’s going to happen to the Magic. We don’t have any major free agency departures and no real cap space to go after big free agents. At #29 in the draft, I doubt we’ll get anyone who can immediately have an impact. As for trades, all our players are either untradeable or guys we would have no desire to trade. As I see it, Nelson, Howard and Lewis are the core and untouchable (Lewis is also untradeable). I would like to get rid of Vince because his inconsistent offense doesn’t make up for his lack of defense, but I don’t think we could get anything better for him. The other shooters on the wing are replaceable, but we don’t need more JJ Redicks or Mickael Pietruses, but rather someone who can score and create (in other words what VC should have been). I just don’t see a readily available player we could trade for (although Manu Ginobili, if the Spurs are willing to part with him, is risky but intriguing). Maybe we can find a taker for Gortat. I don’t know what major moves we can make to improve unless we blow the whole team up. This really worries me.

Anyway, on to the Finals prediction. Let me first say that I have no love for the Lakers while Boston is a team I can respect and occasionally like since well (I do spend most of my time up there now). If health was not a factor, I would easily pick the Celtics. Lakers can’t stop quick point guards so Rajon Rondo would have a field day. The Big Three are all doing their thing and if Davis, Tony Allen, and Nate can contribute something off the bench, the Lakers are in trouble. Kobe Bryant can only take you so far and I still think the rest of that roster has a tendency to disappear when it matters without him.

However, seeing as the Magic did inflict some serious physical blows to the Celtics (Davis, Rasheed, Daniels, Rondo) and some…technical troubles (Perkins), all the aforementioned advantages go away, especially Rondo. I still think it will be a competitive series and I don’t want the Lakers to repeat, but I have a feeling the Celtics’ age and health will finally catch up to them. LA in 7.

I hope I’m wrong though. Beat LA!

Dear ESPN, there are still 2 rounds of playoffs left

Well, the unbeaten record through round 1 took a hit in round 2. I’m glad the Magic crushed the Hawks and I got the Lakers-Jazz series right, but missed the other two series. I’m surprised how little resistance the Spurs were able to put up after the emergence of George Hill and all the problems they’ve caused Phoenix. I guess it had to come to an end at some point.

I’m also really happy the Celtics beat the overrated Lebrons, but before I get to the picks I have to say something about the coverage after Game 6. Come on ESPN, the playoffs don’t end with Lebron. In case you haven’t noticed, there are two very good Conference matchups and whoever wins, it will sure to be a competitive Finals. Free agency doesn’t begin until July. Focus on what’s happening now. In fact, after the last few playoff exits, I’m not sure if I want Lebron on my team. He hasn’t just lost, he’s lost badly (sweep by Spurs, fizzling down the stretch against Magic and Celtics). So without giving him any more attention, here are my thoughts on the Conference Finals as I try to improve my 10-2 record.

Orlando Magic v. Boston Celtics: Obviously with any Magic series, you know I’m going to be biased. I’m coming into this one with more apprehension than you’d think. Yes we’ve swept our way through so far but that was against weak competition. The Celtics are also riding the momentum from the Cavs series so they will be sharp and Rajon Rondo looks downright scary. In fact, my worst nightmare is Dwight gets in foul trouble and the series ends up playing out the same way last year’s Cleveland-Orlando series played out, except this time the Magic are the Cavs. However, I have faith in Jameer Nelson. Orlando in 7.

LA Lakers v. Phoenix Suns: I would love to see the Suns upset the Lakers despite the fact I’m not the greatest fan of Amare Stoudemire. The Suns have several players I do like (Nash, Hill, Dudley) and there’s no team I dislike more in the NBA than the Lakers. Plus since the Suns play no interior defense Jameer and Dwight would have a field day in the Finals. However, I just don’t see it happening if Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol play with any effort. Unless Kobe pulls a Lebron, Lakers will return to the Finals. LA in 6.

Enjoy the games, and Let’s Go Magic!

Playoffs Round 2

Well, I’m a little late on this one, but I already had a reasonable idea of who I was going to go with in each series. So far, an 8-0 record in the first round. Here are my picks for the second round (not using knowledge of the Game 1’s that have already been played):

Cleveland Cavaliers v. Boston Celtics: I have nothing against the Boston Celtics. In fact, I went to their championship parade in 2008 and I would love for the Big Three to send Lebron home early again. However, unless Lebron can’t play because of his arm, I don’t think Boston can stop him. Plain and simple. Cleveland in 7.

Orlando Magic v. Atlanta Hawks: I might be a little biased again, but I think this one is pretty clear cut. Orlando blew out the Hawks the first three games of the season before losing the last one at the end of the season. Atlanta has no one that can match up with Howard. They can’t even harass him like Charlotte did because they just don’t have enough big men. Their 7 game series against a Bogut-less didn’t do anything to convince me otherwise. Orlando in 5.

LA Lakers v. Utah Jazz: The Lakers are probably my least favorite team in basketball and much like Cleveland above, I would love to see the Jazz beat them. This match-up is intriguing because of Utah’s Deron Williams. However, Utah’s injuries worry me. Kobe will be much tougher to guard than Carmelo Anthony and unfortunately for the Jazz they traded away Ronnie Brewer and AK-47 is hurt. Utah is also too thin to compete up front against the twin towers of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum with Okur out. While Williams can carry them to a few wins, don’t expect an upset. LA in 6.

Phoenix Suns v. San Antonio Spurs: I’m having deja vus about this series. Although Phoenix has looked pretty good late in the season and in the first round, I can’t look past the history between these two teams. Will the Spurs be able to upset another one of their perennial rivals? Can they stay healthy and get Richard Jefferson to contribute something? I’m going to same the same thing as I said about the Dallas series: Never count the Spurs out and never take the Suns for granted. San Antonio in 7.

Enjoy the games and Let’s Go Magic!

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!

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!