It's May Day and "The Stack" is here with our late NBA playoff preview. Yes it may be skewed a bit with the playoffs already getting underway, but the picks were presented yesterday for the first round. Now it's time to see who's going to make some noise in the playoffs this year in "the stack" for today, Tuesday, April 1:
Eastern Conference preview
#8 Philadelphia 76ers vs. #1 Chicago Bulls (Bulls lead series 1-0)
Before the series began, I was going to say that the Bulls would be tested by the 76ers but that the Bulls should get by in no more than six games. But with Derrick Rose's injury, that seems far more uncertain. Rose is out for the playoffs with a torn ACL, but the Bulls are used to playing without him this season. They've done it twenty-seven times. The Sixers will still make it difficult and it would not shock me if they won this series, but Chicago is the one seed for a reason. They played without Rose for part of the regular season and had success. No reason to think that won't happen in this series either.
Prediction: Bulls in Six
#7 New York Knicks vs. #2 Miami Heat (Heat lead series 2-0)
The Heat are on a mission. LeBron James is on a mission. They have the much better team than New York. The chemistry between Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire just doesn't seem to be there yet and with no Jeremy Lin, that puts the Knicks in a hole. Heat win this series easily.
Prediction: Heat in Five
#6 Orlando Magic vs. #3 Indiana Pacers (series tied 1-1)
Bet you can't find too many who can name more than two players on Indiana's roster without looking oline or in a program. They have two good players in Paul George and Roy Hibbert. David West was a good free agent find in the offseason. The Pacers should be able to beat the Dwight Howardless Magic, yet the series is tied 1-1 in part to Indiana's inability to make a bucket or a free throw down the stretch. Sorry Magic. You just don't have enough against the Pacers
Prediction: Pacers in Six
#5 Boston Celtics vs. #4 Atlanta Hawks (Hawks lead series 1-0)
The Celtics were prepared to make one final playoff run...until Rajon Rondo lost his composure (or balance for those of you who believe that) and bumped an official causing him to be suspended for game two. It was a very bad no-call. No one can deny it. But Rondo has now put his team in a precarious situation for game two already in a 1-0 hole. The Celtics are the more veteran team. But the Hawks have developed a rivalry with the Celtics dating back the past several years and they will not back down. While I still like the Celtics to pull out the series win, it's going to take a lot longer than initially thought.
Prediction: Celtics in Seven
With the injury to Derrick Rose and the now the suspension of Rondo and the increasingly diificult odds the Celtics face in winning their series, the east is Miami's to lose. Don't think they will and quite frankly, no one is going to be able to challenge them all that much. I like Miami to represesnt the eastern conference in the NBA Finals.
#8 Utah Jazz vs. #1 San Antonio Spurs (Spurs lead series 1-0)
Get the sense that very few people are looking forward to watching the Spurs in the NBA Finals. A lot of people are putting them there, but they aren't too excited about it. Given that the Spurs don't draw great ratings, it's understandable. Love it or hate it, you know it's true. But this is a veteran team back for more. They have the best record in the west for a reason. Manu Ginobli is playing great and Tim Duncan is showing consistent flashes of his old self. The Jazz are just happy to be in the playoffs. San Antonio rolls in this series.
Prediction: Spurs in Five
#7 Dallas Mavericks vs. #2 Oklahoma City Thunder (Thunder lead series 2-0)
The Thunder have not looked very impressive in the first two games of this series, but perhaps we should have seen this coming. After all, they didn't finish the regular season very hot and the Mavericks will fight and claw in the playoffs, not willing to give up their reign on the throne. The Thunder are the more talented team though, but they must show more focus and cut down on the silly turnovers. It may be enough to get them by in this series, but it won't in subsequent series.
Prediction: Thunder in Seven
#6 Denver Nuggets vs. #3 Los Angeles Lakers (Lakers lead series 1-0)
If the Lakers can get play from Andrew Bynum close to what he put up in game one (ten points, thirteen rebounds and ten blocks) the Lakers will be very difficult to beat in the playoffs. That and if Kobe Bryant goes off like he's known to do come playoff time. Denver just doesn't have the talent to keep up with the Lakers.
Prediction: Lakers in Five
#5 Los Angeles Clippers vs. #4 Memphis Grizzlies (Clippers lead series 1-0)
Whoa! Who saw the 26-1 run by the Clippers coming in the fourth quarter of game one, especially when they were trailing by 21 points entering the fourth quarter and looking lifeless for the first three? I certainly didn't. Yes the Clippers have Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, but they just haven't looked as great as we all thought they would this regular season. They need an entire offseason to gel together. Next year is their year. The Grizzlies have a really dangerous team. They are balanced and have two big time players in Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay. In fact, they are a sleeper team to win the western conference in my opinion. But losing a huge lead in game one does not help. Having said all that, I think Memphis will rebound and make statement the rest of the series.
Prediction: Grizzlies in Seven
So in the west, half of the field all have great shots: San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Memphis and the Los Angeles Lakers. If any of these teams made it out of the west, it wouldn't be shocking. I'll go with the team that hasn't looked great so far in the playoffs and didn't look great at the end of the regular season. Yes, I'll take Kevin Durant and the Thunder to represent the west, though this is said with no certainty whatsoever.
So in the NBA Finals, it's between Miami and Oklahoma City. And with Miami on a mission and OKC perhaps a year away from truly being title contenders, I'll take LeBron James winning his first title and the Miami Heat winning the NBA Finals.
Coming up Wednesday: NBA and NHL playoff talk
Comments and suggestions on what to write about are always welcomed and appreciated.