Posted on: May 30, 2010 10:23 pm
Now that we've sat through, what seems like, a 13 month sabattical to finally get to the NBA Finals, it's here. After series sweeps and poor basketball, the conference finals finally brought some life that had been missing to the NBA Postseason. And, honestly, I don't think any basketball fan can be upset with this matchup. Even though the Lakers and Celtics are matching up for what seems, to us small market teams fans, like the 6,000th time in the NBA Finals, they are genuinely the two best teams at this point and two of the best franchises in the NBA (as evident by their 6,000 matchups). Both teams have faced adversity, have won with defense, have won with offense, have coaches who have been there and have players who have been there. This matchup was physical and contested back in 2008 and we can expect the same here. But how did both teams arrive to this point?
The Boston Celtics entered the 2010 postseason on a really sour note. As has been documented, the Celtics were 23-5 after Christmas but then went 27-27 over the next 54 games to stumble into the postseason as the 4th seed. Everything ranging from Doc River's interest in coaching the team to injuries to age had been used as reasons for the Celtics ailments. But a confrontation between Kevin Garnett and Quentin Richardson in Game 1 of the Heat vs. Celtics series highlighted what was a terrific comeback in Game 1 for Boston and they rode that momentum to a very convincing five game series victory over the Heat. Next up, the Celtics were matched up against the team that finished with the best record in the NBA and the team that had the two time defending MVP in LeBron James. Using the same tenacious defense and physical style of play that swarmed fellow NBA great Dwyane Wade, the Celtics contained LeBron as best as any team could possibly do and saw Rajon Rondo step up as the team advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for a rematch with the team that knocked them out of the postseason last year: the Orlando Magic. Like Wade and LeBron, Orlando had its own superstar in Dwight Howard that posted a huge threat to Boston's quest for a championship. But showing the stuff that champions are made of, Boston won both Games 1 and 2 in Orlando and held on to eventually eleminate the Magic on the Parquet in Game 6. The Celtics now enter this postseason looking for their second championship in three years with the starting lineup that Doc Rivers will tell you has never lost a postseason series.
Coming off two Western Conference Championships and after winning their 15th NBA Championship in Franchise History (second only to Boston's 17), the Lakers entered this season as the resounding favorites to repeat; at the very least in the Western Conference. They seemed to coast through the season on talent alone but still managed to establish home court advantage in the Western Conference. Being one of the most decorated teams in NBA history, the Lakers faced a polar opposite in the upstart Oklahoma City Thunder, who were the youngest team, collectively, in the NBA. The Thunder gave the Lakers fits with their athleticism, youthful energy and fantastic home court. The Lakers faced a challenge many didn't think would come so early, but fought it off and eleminated the Thunder in six games. Up next was a familiar postseason foe: the Utah Jazz. The Jazz and Lakers always seem to face eachother in the postseason, and this season the big bodies and matchup advantages that the Lakers possesed helped history repeat itself, as the Lakers managed to sweep Utah in four games and rest comfortably before a matchup with the rival Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Finals. Even in a tough matchup with a motivated, game Phoenix Suns team, the Lakers looked like champions throughout the series; winning convincingly in Games 1 and 2 and playing a great game of basketball to close out Game 6 in Phoenix. The Lakers look to close the gap between them and Boston in terms of the NBA's greatest franchise (17 championships for Boston to 15 for Los Angeles), and Kobe Bryant looks to add a 5th Championship to his storied career and allow for Phil Jackson to collect his 11th.
How do these teams match up and who has the advantage in what area? That will now be addressed.
Western Conference Champion: (1) Los Angeles Lakers (57-25; 12-4) vs. Eastern Conference Champion: (4) Boston Celtics (50-32; 12-5)
Why The Lakers Will Win: First and foremost, the Lakers enter this series with the Home Court after finishing the season with a better record than Boston. Both teams won on the other's court this season and it's well known how the Celtics were able to take that historic Game 4 at Staples back in 2008, but at the end of the day you'd still rather be the team playing its pivotal games at home as opposed to being on the road. They will still have the best player on the court for the entire series as well in Kobe Bryant. Bryant has shown as the postseason has continued that he's still, arguably, the best player in the Game. In a late game situation, there's no better player to give the ball to. Also, the Lakers have brought in Ron Artest for matchups like this, where they can throw him at Paul Pierce or Ray Allen defensively. Also, this Lakers team is better equipped to match up with a physical Boston team than the 2008 version of the Lakers. Now having won a championship as a team and having been battle tested as a team, there won't be any deer in the headlights looks that the Lakers had in 2008. Also, this is the first series Boston will have where they have to stay in the paint and guard every one of the Lakers big men. Teams like Cleveland and Miami didn't have the front court depth to give Boston's defense fits whereas the Lakers have the size to cause Boston problems.
Why The Celtics Will Win: Every bit of experience that the Lakers bring to the table, the Celtics bring as well. It could be argued that the only reason these teams aren't matching up for a third consecutive Finals is because of the injury to Kevin Garnett last season. The Celtics have shown the last two rounds that home court can be taken with just one victory on the road and they've shown the ability to do that. Even though Kobe Bryant is the best closer in the game, the Celtics have a player in Paul Pierce who is very adept in those late game situations as well: as highlighted in his Game 6 performance against Orlando. Furthermore, this Celtics team is still relatively healthy. They have problems with Rasheed Wallace's back, but everyone else has managed to stay hungry, motivated and on the court for the entire postseason whereas the Lakers have issues with Andrew Bynum that could hinder one of their on court advantages. Also, this Celtics team looks motivated and after knocking out three legitimate superstars in Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Dwight Howard, there's nothing that Kobe Bryant can do that would intimidate the Boston Celtics team.
Key Player for the Lakers: Derek Fisher has managed to step it up offensively when the Lakers have needed him to this postseason, and opposing point guards haven't trashed the Lakers as they did last postseason and all of this season. However, Rajon Rondo is the most difficult matchup in the series. Fisher will either have to guard Rondo or Ray Allen (if Phil decides to put Kobe on Rondo), which are both disadvantages for the Lakers. However, Fisher brings championship intangibles that most teams just can't find and, even just last postseason, Fisher showed that when needed he can still nail the crucial three pointer that can change a series. If his defense is going to be a problem this series, which looks likely, his offense will be needed to offset whatever disadvantage his guarding Rondo or Ray Allen may create.
Key Player for the Celtics: Rasheed Wallace's back should be better by June 3rd and hopefully that shows in his play. He looked really bad in Game 6 against Orlando, but if he's able to go for Boston then he makes all the difference in this Finals matchup. Lamar Odom is one of the toughest matchups in the NBA, but Rasheed Wallace is a player that can keep up with him and guard Odom. Criticized for his play all year long, Wallace has emerged into an absolutely terrific bench contributor this postseason for Boston and has been extremely important to Boston's ultimate success. If Bynum, Pau Gasol or Odom have to guard Wallace out on the perimeter, it opens up the door for players like Pierce and Rondo to get to the basket. If Wallace consistently hits that jump shot, it makes even more of a difference. All in all, Wallace brings the offensive and defensive intangibles off the bench that can offset whatever bench production the Lakers may or may not get on a nightly basis.
Prediction: Celtics in six
Key As To Why They Will Win: Honestly, I'm just a believer. I've picked against Boston all postseason long and, for that reason, Crotch and other Celtics fans probably don't want me to pick them here. But they've really emerged as the best team in the postseason so far. They've faced off against the best players in the league and knocked out two terrific, game Cleveland and Orlando teams. And they did so without home court advantage. Even though I think the subraction of James Posey this postseason from the 2008 NBA Finals matchup is something that some fans may forget, I truly believe Wallace is going to be a huge difference maker off the bench to combat Lamar Odom and, when it comes down to it, the Celtics have shown that they can win pivotal games in hostile territory. And they only need to win one in this series.
Conclusion: This series is a toss up and could really go either way. The two most storied franchises in the league meeting up once again creates for financial interest and also interest from a basketball perspective. There aren't two teams playing better ball at the moment and that's why they're here. After seeing Boston guard Dwyane Wade and LeBron James the way they did, you have to imagine there's going to be plans in place as to how to guard Kobe Bryant. Also, they were able to do it in 2008 and that put a lot of onus on his teammates who just weren't ready for that moment. They may be ready now, but I'm not sure that they're capable of overcomign what Boston does. Paul Pierce, in that 2008 matchup, was the first player I've seen in a long time take it at Kobe and dominate him as easily as Kobe can do to other players. That speaks volumes to his importance in this matchup. It should be a fun series and I wouldn't be surprised if I'm wrong, but I'm a believer. Your 2010 NBA Champions will be the Boston Celtics.
Posted on: May 27, 2010 3:55 pm
Thanks to an error message, this is the second time I'll be typing this up. I officially hate CBSsportsline. Make my resubmission worth it, people.
Tags: 76ers, Amir Johnson, Andray Blatche, Andrew Bogut, Andrew Bynum, Antoine Wright, Bobcats, Brandon Bass, Bucks, C.J. Miles, Carl Landry, Celtics, Channing Frye, Charlie Villanueva, Chris Bosh, Chris Paul, Chuck Hayes, Clippers, Danny Granger, David Lee, Deron Williams, Dwight Howard, Ersan Ilyasova, Fabricio Oberto, Francisco Garcia, Grizzlies, Hakim Warrick, Hawks, Heat, Hornets, Ian Mahinmi, Ike Diogu, Jarrett Jack, Jason Maxiell, Jazz, Joe Smith, Joey Graham, Johan Petro, Jose Calderon, Josh Powell, Kelenna Azubuike, Kings, Knicks, Lakers, Lou Williams, Luther Head, Magic, Marcin Gortat, Martell Webster, Marvin Williams, Mavericks, Monta Ellis, Nate Robinson, Nets, Nuggets, Pacers, Pistons, Raptors, Raymond Felton, Rockets, Ronnie Price, Ronny Turiaf, Ryan Gomes, Sean May, Shaquille O'Neal, Spurs, Suns, Timberwolves, Trail Blazers, Warriors, Will Bynum, Wizards
Posted on: April 16, 2010 2:05 pm
It's playoff time! At this point, the stakes are high and offseason paychecks and inseason acquisitions are expected to be rewarded with postseason success and jobs will be secured and won with big playoff appearances. There are a ton of great matchups and the NBA really got it right with the sixteen teams that made it. There's not one matchup, maybe outside of Cleveland, that looks like it won't be a fantastic matchup. But here we go, this is GoHornets21's 2010 First Round Playoff Preview.
(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (8) Chicago Bulls - A really intriquing matchup here. The Cavs ended this season with the most wins in the league for the second consecutive season. The Bulls looked dead a few weeks ago, only to experience a resurgence and have straked their way into the postseason. The Cavs have coasted for awhile now and LeBron James hasn't even played in a couple of weeks. Likewise, the team will be integrating Shaquille O'Neal back into the lineup after missing two months with a right thumb injury. The Bulls, though, are experiencing their own bit of inner turmoil after a reported confrontation between head coach Vinny Del Negro and VP of Basketball John Paxson dominated the headlines in Chicago. The Bulls are playing great basketball, but they don't have the horses to keep up with Cleveland. The fact that they have a head coach that, in all likelihood, won't be there next season doesn't do much to help the team's psychi. Derrick Rose will make things interesting, this won't be a sweep, but Cleveland has time to get their players back, figure out their rotation and still win this series.
(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (8) Oklahoma City Thunder - A classic matchup of youth vs. experience here. The Thunder are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2005 (when the team was still in Seattle) and are in the playoffs as the youngest team in the NBA. Facing them are the defending NBA Champions; who struggled in the last month of the regular season. The Lakers are banged up across the board and look vulnerable here in the postseason and the Thunder are young, fearless and dynamic across the board. But what is the Lakers biggest strength, size, is the Thunder's biggest weakness. Unfortunately, the Thunder are a bit overmatched in their first playoff series going up against the champs.
(4) Denver Nuggets vs. (5) Utah Jazz - Two really tough teams to figure out go to battle in this series. The Nuggets have really struggled ever since George Karl's unfortunate cancer diagnosis back in February and have gone through moments where they looked like the same, immature, selfish Nuggets of years past. The Jazz have gone through stretches this season where they look great, stretches where they look bad, and stretches where they just look lost. Add Carlos Boozer to the team's indecisiveness, as he's a game time decision for the playoff opener. However, I think the Nuggets longer spell of mediocrity is a sign of things to come with Dantley at the helm, and unfortunately they really miss their general.
(3) Phoenix Suns vs. (6) Portland Trail Blazers - Probably the NBA's hottest team, the Phoenix Suns finally look like a formidable team again for the first time in a few seasons. Now with an added attitude on defense, the Suns look as complete as they ever have since the seven seconds or less days. Still lethal on offense, the Suns will follow Steve Nash's lead in hopes of taking advantage of a Bradon Roy-less Trail Blazers squad. Without Roy, the Blazers will look to other players to step up; as they have all season long battling the injuries the team has. However, they look to be too overmatched against Phoenix at this point in time.
Tags: Al Horford, Amar'e Stoudemire, Andrew Bogut, Andrew Bynum, Bobcats, Brandon Jennings, Brendan Haywood, Bucks, Bulls, Carlos Boozer, Caron Butler, Cavaliers, Celtics, Dan Gadzuric, Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, George Hill, Gerald Wallace, Hawks, Heat, James Harden, Jason Terry, Jazz, Jerryd Bayless, Joe Johnson, John Salmons, Jose Juan Barea, Kenyon Martin, Kevin Garnett, Kirk Hinrich, Kurt Thomas, Lakers, Lamar Odom, LaMarcus Aldridge, LeBron James, Louis Amundson, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Magic, Manu Ginobili, Matt Bonner, Mavericks, Mehmet Okur, Michael Beasley, Mo Williams, Nate Robinson, Nuggets, Paul Millsap, Paul Pierce, Rashard Lewis, Ray Allen, Robin Lopez, Shaquille O'Neal, Spurs, Steve Nash, Suns, Thunder, Trail Blazers, Tyson Chandler
Posted on: February 10, 2010 1:46 am
We're approaching the all star weekend in the NBA; the unofficial midseason point for NBA teams. At this point, we all have a pretty good understanding and grip on what certain teams are going to be able to do and what a lot of teams are unable to do. Lots of trades are being rumored to go down even though nothing looks concrete as of yet. But why are teams in this situation? A lot of them are where they are because of the moves they made this offseason. Last year, I wrote a report on how the NBA's biggest offseason additions worked by the all star break. Some, like the Mo Williams acquisition for the Cavaliers, worked. Some, like the Jermaine O'Neal experiment in Toronto, flopped. So we're going to give it a shot again. Here's a look back at the biggest player movements during the offseason and how they've worked thus far in the 2009-2010 NBA Season.
Cleveland Cavaliers trade Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic to the Phoenix Suns to acquire Shaquille O'Neal
San Antonio Spurs trade Bruce Bowen, Kurt Thomas and Fabricio Oberto to the Milwaukee Bucks to acquire Richard Jefferson
Boston Celtics sign Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels
Los Angeles Lakers sign Ron Artest
Orlando Magic trade Rafer Alston, Courtney Lee and Tony Battie to the New Jersey Nets for Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson
Atlanta Hawks trade Acie Law and Speedy Claxton to the Golden State Warriors for Jamal Crawford
Tags: Acie Law, Allen Iverson, Andrew Bynum, Ben Gordon, Ben Wallace, Bobcats, Bucks, Cavaliers, Celtics, Charlie Villanueva, Chauncey Billups, Courtney Lee, Delonte West, Dwight Howard, Emeka Okafor, Fabricio Oberto, Glen Davis, Hawks, Hedo Turkoglu, Hornets, Jamal Crawford, Jermaine O'Neal, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett, Kurt Thomas, Lakers, Magic, Marquis Daniels, Mo Williams, Nets, Paul Pierce, Piston, Rafer Alston, Raptors, Rasheed Wallace, Richard Jefferson, Rockets, Ron Artest, Ryan Anderson, Sasha Pavlovic, Shaquille O'Neal, Spurs, Suns, Tony Battie, Trail Blazers, Trevor Ariza, Tyson Chandler, Vince Carter, Warriors
Posted on: January 5, 2010 5:00 pm
It all started with us running to wal mart to buy tuna fish and bottled water. It ended with us cursing the Lakers and Cavaliers and those darn puppets. The years 2000 to 2010 were full of exciting basketball, break through players and broken hearts. Scandal erupted when it was discovered that an NBA official was found gambling on games that he was officiating. Fans were dazzled for Michael Jordan's return to the NBA when he donned the Washington Wizards jersey. A city was revived in 2008 when the Boston Celtics landed Kevin Garnett and returned to the NBA's elite. With so much happening, it was pretty difficult to narrow down what awards I was going to give and who or what I would give them to. But all in all, I'm pleased with it so here goes: GoHornets21's NBA End of the Decade Awards.
Team of the Decade - Los Angeles Lakers - Let's face facts, the first champions of this decade were the 2000 Los Angeles Lakers. The last champions of the decade? The 2009 Los Angeles Lakers. A lot happened in Lakerland this decade, from the initial three peat, to Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant's continued spats, to O'Neal being traded to Miami, to Phil Jackson retiring, to the tough losing season, to Phil returning, to the two consecutive first round exits, to Kobe pubicly demanding to be traded, to Pau Gasol winding up in their laps and culminating in last year's title. It was a fantastic voyage for Los Angeles, who won four championships this decade in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2009, and the made the finals two other seasons in 2004 and 2008. They routinely defeated the closest challenger for team of the decade, the San Antonio Spurs, when the team's would square off in the postseason, with Duncan and company only beating the Lakers in the 2003 semifinals. Through it all, Kobe Bryant was celebrated, jeered, villifed and eventually dignified when he won a championship in 2009. Through it all, the Lakers were always either the team you loved to hate, or the team that everybody was hitchin' their bandwagon to. And that's why they win the team of the decade.
Team of the Decade (in a season) - the 2007-2008 Boston Celtics - Entering the 2007 offseason, the Celtics were a team with a very storied past but with a rocky recent few seasons. Coming off a ridiculously bad 2006-2007 season, Paul Pierce openly accepted the possibility of being traded from the only team he's ever played for, and Doc Rivers was viewed across the board as someone who just couldn't coach. Looking at it now, those would stand as blasphemous statements now. But that's was widely accepted percepetion then. Then the team tried to pry Kevin Garnett from the Minnesota Timberwolves, who were looking to trade their superstar to begin their rebuilding process. Garnett initiall refused to go to Boston and the deal looked dead. But when the Celtics pulled off a draft day trade to land Ray Allen in a Boston uniform, Garnett changed his mind, and Boston still had enough pieces to convince Minnesota to trade Garnett and the Big Three became the hysteria of the league. Coming into the season with all kinds of expectations, the Celtics would fill their roster with unwanted veterans like James Posey, P.J. Brown, Sam Cassell and Eddie House and would start young, unproven players such as Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins at point guard and center to stand alongside the Big Three. What happened was some of the best basketball of the decade. The Celtics accepted all expectations and soon exceeded them. They would start off the season hot and never look back. With Garnett winning the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year award, the Celtics would be transformed into a defensive juggernaut, almost impossible to score against and extremely efficient on the offensive end. They would survive a scare from the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the postseason and then survive an equally scary Cleveland Cavaliers team in the semifinals, before convincingly defeating their arch rivals all season long, the Detroit Pistons in the Conference finals and then the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.
Rivalry of the Decade - Los Angeles Lakers vs. Sacramento Kings - If you were alive during and thriving in basketball during the early portion of this decade, you were enthralled by the Lakers and Kings rivalry. They had an Southern California vs. Northern California hatred for one another. They were both finesse teams that could really play some exciting basketball. They both had terrific coaches in Phil Jackson and Rick Adelman, and one team always beat the other. The early Sacramento Kings, espcially the 2002 Sacramento Kings, are easily the best teams I've ever seen that didn't win a championship. Led by Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic and Mike Bibby, there would be on court fights, off court ridicule and constant playoff matchups with the Lakers for the Kings that would eventually force Sacramento's hand in dismantling the team. Whether it be the classic seven game 2002 Western Conference Semifinals, the classic slugfest between Doug Christie and Rick Fox or Shaq's classic boast that "Los Angeles is the new capital of California", this rivalry had everything you could ever want. Not only was it two teams that detested eachother, it was two wonderfully talented teams that hated eachother and would routinely put on some of the best basketball of the decade.
Fans of the Deace - the Portland Trail Blazers - The Rose Garden has always been an exciting place to watch an NBA Basketball game. The fans in Portland truly embrace and love their franchise and have for a very long time. When the Trail Blazers suffered early success in the beginning part of this decade, they truly were a fantastic group of fans who supported their team. When things got rough with off court problems, the fans let their frustrations be known, and the Trail Blazers were eventually forced to follow public desire and shed the "Jail Blazers" monicker. Through it all, the Rose Garden was routinely sold out and finally became the place to watch basketball again in 2007, when the new Brandon Roy led Blazers burst onto the scene.
Upset of the Decade - the Detroit Pistons over the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2004 NBA Finals - Coming into the 2003-2004 season, the Lakers were a team that already had won three championships and had Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal manning down the roster. In the offseason, the team added veterans Karl Malone and Gary Payton, both eager to win a championship and both future hall of famers as well. A lot was made of the Lakers four eventual Hall of Famers on one roster, and the team overcame injuries and Kobe's sexual assault allegations to peak in the postseason and take their rightful spot in the NBA Finals. Over in the Eastern Conference, a solid team with a coach who never could win the big one played solid basketball all season long, acquired Rasheed Wallace at midseason and looked poised to make a nice run in the postseason as well. When they eventually made the NBA Finals, not a snowball's chance in the Devil's residence was given to Detroit to beat the Los Angeles Lakers. What followed was one of the most convincing five game victories in NBA postseason history. After taking game 1 in convincing fashion, the Lakers would need late game heroics by Kobe Bryant to steal game 2 away from the Pistons. But when the series shifted to Detroit for the next three games, the fantastic Detroit fans and the cohesive Pistons unit routinely thumped the Lakers and would win all three games in Detroit to take the NBA Finals in five games.
Playoff Series of the Decade - Los Angeles Lakers vs. Sacramento Kings in the 2002 Western Conference Finals - As documented earlier, the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings hated eachother. Largely, the Kings were viewed as a soft team incapable of beating Los Angeles. But they acquired Mike Bibby in the 2001 offseason and won home court advantage throughout the postseason and looked as poised as ever to finally defeat their arch nemisis. After the Lakers shocked the Kings in game 1 at Arco Arena, all of the ghosts and skeltons came out of Sacramento's closets and things looked bad for the Kings. But then the Kings would take back game 2 and then win game 3 at Staples Center in convincing fashion. With a 2-1 lead, the Kings entered the pivotal game 4 focused and ready to take full advantage of the series. With the lead late, the Lakers through up a myriad of attempts to take the lead but were unable to, when the ball was tipped out to Robert Horry who hit one of the biggest shots in NBA history at the buzzer to give the Lakers the win and to tie the series at 2-2. Even with their spirits hurting, the Kings were resilient in winning game 5. Game 6 will be forever covered in mystery over whether or not the referees intentionally gave the Lakers the victory as was hinted by Tim Donaghy, but the Lakers used those free throws to their advantage and took game 6 at home. This set up the fantastic game 7 in Arco Arena, where the Kings had every opportunity to win the game but uncharacteristically missed free throw after free throw, allowing the game to go into overtime where the Lakers eventually won. The Kings never reached the conference finals again that decade and eventually jettisoned Chris Webber, then Peja Stojakovic, then Mike Bibby before entering the rebuilding stage that they're in now.
Tags: Al Jefferson, Allen Iverson, Andrew Bynum, Ben Wallace, Brandon Roy, Bulls, Cavaliers, Celtics, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, Eddie House, Grizzlies, Hawks, Heat, James Posey, Jason Kidd, Javaris Crittenton, Jazz, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett, Kings, Knicks, Kobe Bryant, Kwame Brown, Lakers, LaMarcus Aldridge, LeBron James, Marc Gasol, Mavericks, Mike Bibby, Pacers, Pau Gasol, Paul Pierce, Peja Stojakovic, Pistons, Rajon Rondo, Randy Foye, Rasheed Wallace, Ray Allen, Ron Artest, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Shaqille O'Neal, Spurs, Steve Nash, Suns, Theo Ratliff, Tim Duncan, Timberwolves, Tracy McGrady, Trail Blazers, Tyrus Thomas, Warriors, Wizards, Yao Ming
Posted on: June 1, 2009 1:13 pm
Edited on: May 3, 2010 2:43 am
After correctly predicting the NBA finals in my review of the conference finals, I find it important that I hurry aboard to try and keep up my good name by predicting the NBA Finals. In all honesty, I couldn't be happier with this matchup. Not only did I pick it, these, in my opinion, are the two best teams that the NBA could offer at this point. Both of these teams have faced adversity. Both have taken shots in the media and Stan Van Gundy and Pau Gasol have been the most critiqued figures in the media since the postseason started. But how did they get here?
Key Player for the Magic: Rafer Alston has been really hit or miss this entire postseason, as well, but when he's been on, the Magic have won. Point guards have given the Lakers trouble all postseason and Alston isn't the most talented player at his position, but is a quick and smart player at the point guard position. His shot has been really streaky and sometimes he takes ill advised chances on the offensive side of the basketball, but if can keep his head in the game and knock down open jump shots then he can be a huge difference maker for the Magic. Derek Fisher has had a hard time on defense this postseason and has struggled with his jump shot, so this is a prime opportunity for Alston to take advantage of that and thoroughly outplay Fisher. If he does that, then the Magic will have the advantage to the championship.
Tags: Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bynum, Cavaliers, Celtics, Courtney Lee, Derek Fisher, Dwight Howard, Glen Davis, Hedo Turkoglu, Jazz, Jordan Farmar, Kobe Bryant, Lakers, Lamar Odom, LeBron James, Luke Walton, Magic, Mickael Pietrus, Nuggets, Pau Gasol, Rafer Alston, Rashard Lewis, Rockets, Sasha Vujacic, Shannon Brown, Shaquille O'Neal, Thaddeus Young, Trevor Ariza, Yao Ming
Posted on: May 18, 2009 12:36 pm
After a passable second round, the playoffs look to get exceptionally exciting with two very tough matchups. I will start off by saying that I really went back and forth on both series and can't get a good feel on either one, which speaks to how competitive these should be. Let's get to it.
Eastern Conference Finals
(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (3) Orlando Magic
Why The Cavaliers Will Win: The Cavaliers enter this series on a roll that is out of this world. After winning their first eight games of the postseason, they've run an incredible wave of momentum right into this series. Everyone across the board is contributing and they've gotten an absolutely magnificent showing from LeBron James so far this postseason. I imagine they'll continue to get great production from LeBron but the defense will be key. And if you're going to rely on defense, being the number one defensive squad in the league helps in that department.
Why The Magic Will Win: The Magic look like a confident bunch. No team has been scrutinized more, outside of Los Angeles, than this Orlando squad. However, the coaching squad and players have responded to criticism and have shown the ability to win crucial games on the road (winning games 1 and 7 in Boston, and winning critical games 4 and 6 in Philadelphia). Dwight Howard is a matchup problem for anybody in this league, but with the Cavaliers he should look to have his way around the basket. Anderson Vareajo can't sporadically give him fits with his ability to draw chargers, but Ben Wallace hasn't received any playing time and I can't imagine him being fresh enough to check Howard. Even if he is, the offensive holes with him in the game will be glaring. When that happens, the Cavs become too one dimensional (go to LeBron and spot up).
Key Player for the Cavaliers: Mo Williams hit some big shots in game 4 against the Hawks but he's struggled with his shot this postseason. If he plays at the level he did during the first two series then Rafer Alston will be able to match him. Williams needs to convincingly take Alston to the limit at that position in order for the Cavaliers to win this series.
Key Player for the Magic: Courtney Lee will go unsung, but his defense on Eddie House against the Celtics was huge. He was big in the 76ers series and although he's lost his starting spot, he stopped a critical role player and I imagine he'll be asked to do the same against Delonte West. West has had a very good postseason thus far and if he continues to excel it's a huge feather in the cap for the Cavaliers. However, if Lee can have West struggle with his jump shot, it can further discourage this squad and have them defer to LeBron too often.
Prediction: Magic in seven
Key As To Why They Will Win: Dwight Howard will be the critical factor in this series and I imagine he's going to have a field day in the paint. This was not a problem for the Cavs in earlier series, but a severely injured Al Horford and a three point friendly Rasheed Wallace aren't necessarily intimidating presences.
Conclusion: I had these two teams in the conference finals before the playoffs started, and I picked the Cavs to win it. I have no reason to back away from that precition now. However, I'm riding the Magic bandwagon and really feel as if this team plays great ball together. I could really fall on my face with this pick as I've rode the Cavs bandwagon all year, but I'm jumping off for this series. It's not a matter of what the Cavs can't do, they've proven they can play with anybody in the league. This is all about what the Magic are doing. They've blown teams out, won tough games, faced adversity and overcome obstacles. The Cavs could be riding momentum, but no team should be as confident as the Magic are. That convincing victory in Boston for game 7 should give the Magic the confidence to win a seventh and final game in Cleveland.
Western Conference Finals
Tags: 76ers, Al Horford, Andrew Bynum, Ben Wallace, Carmelo Anthony, Cavaliers, Celtics, Chauncey Billups, Chris Andersen, Courtney Lee, Dahntay Jones, Delonte West, Derek Fisher, Dwight Howard, Eddie House, hawks, Hornets, J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin, Kobe Bryant, Lakers, LeBron James, Magic, Mavericks, Mo Williams, Nuggets, Pau Gasol, Rafer Alston, Rasheed Wallace, Rockets
Posted on: May 3, 2009 3:34 pm
Edited on: May 10, 2009 7:44 pm
My Postseason Preview - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (8) Detroit Pistons - The Cavs came into the postseason determined and really took it to Detroit in all areas of the game. Defensively the Pistons had no answer for LeBron James and the anemic play of their three stars (Tayshaun Prince, Richard Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace) resulted in just absolute destruction from beginning to end.
My Prediction: Cavaliers in five
Result: Cavaliers in four
Where I Was Right: I mentioned that the opposite ends at which these teams were entering the postseason was going to affect how they could perform. The Pistons frontcourt was small enough to where the Cavs' lack of size wouldn't be such a flaw.
Where I Was Wrong: I mentioned that the Pistons would be competitive in their games in Detroit and that Mo Williams would probably struggle in this series. Williams' shot was inconsistent but for the most part he was solid as the team's second option. The Pistons never really posed much of a threat to Cleveland aside from the first half of game one in Cleveland. It was sad to watch that proud franchise go out the way it did.
(4) Atlanta Hawks vs. (5) Miami Heat - This series has been really bad to watch because it hasn't given us great basketball from either team. For three games the Hawks have played terrific defense, for three games the Heat have taken it to the basket and gotten to the line and have made their three point shots. Neither team has shown any kind of consistency and the fact that it's gone to seven isn't fitting, seeing as how there hasn't been much competition or consistency from either squad.
(2) Boston Celtics vs. (7) Chicago Bulls - If not for this series, the first round would have been full of uninteresting, unmotivated players and performances. However, both teams here played fantastic basketball from start to finish and really brought out the best in eachother. It had theatrics on the bench, the young upstart squad versus the defending champions, fantastic buzzer beaters and tremendous basketball. It's a shame one of these squads had to lose, but the Celtics earned this on the court.
(4) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (5) Houston Rockets - Coming into the series, the Trail Blazers were the popular pick to make a run at the Lakers and give them trouble in the semifinals, and they proceeded to get destroyed in game 1 on their home court. After that loss, they never gained any momentum in this series and it never felt like they'd have a chance to win.
(3) San Antonio Spurs vs. (6) Dallas Mavericks - This series pitting two division rivals against one another seemed to be one that was sure to bring fireworks from start to finish, but the Mavericks really dominated the Spurs on both sides of the court and gave them fits from all angles. The Spurs only had Tony Parker and Tim Duncan show up while the Mavericks had five players every night that gave tremendous production and really just overpowered the Spurs.
Oh no, now onto this next series.
(2) Denver Nuggets vs. (7) New Orleans Hornets - In a matchup of two teams entering the playoffs on two opposite runs (Denver was hot going into the postseason whereas the Hornets stumbled entering the playoffs), the Nuggets thoroughly exposed the Hornets as the least talented team in the entire postseason. A dominating performance by Denver was highlighted by a 58 point game 4 victory in New Orleans
Tags: 76ers, Aaron Brooks, Al Horford, Andre Iguodala, Andre Miller, Andrew Bynum, Brad Miller, Bulls, Carlos Boozer, Cavaliers, Celtics, Chauncey Billups, Chris Paul, David West, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard, Greg Oden, Hawks, Heat, Hornets, Jazz, Joel Przybilla, Jose Juan Barea, Kenyon Martin, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Lakers, Lamar Odom, LeBron James, Luis Scola, Magic, Manu Ginobili, Mavericks, Mo Williams, Nuggets, Pistons, Rajon Rondo, Rasheed Wallace, Richard Hamilton, Rockets, Roger Mason, Ron Artest, Samuel Dalembert, Shane Battier, Spurs, Tayshaun Prince, Theo Ratliff, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Tracy McGrady, Trail Blazers, Tyrus Thomas, Tyson Chandler, Yao Ming