17 April 2008

Playoff fever!

This Saturday ABC/ESPN is broadcasting four straight NBA playoff games from 10:30 a.m. to around 10:30 p.m. Mountain Time.

That's a lot of high-quality basketball. And I'll be on my couch watching every second of it.

The Western Conference brand of the playoffs, especially, is chock full of goodness, as every single one of the eight teams competing to make it to the Finals has 50 wins. Every one.

The East has some great teams, too, including the 66-win Celtics. We'll get at least two or three great series from the Celtics, Magic, Wizards and Cavs.

But the West is where it's at. No series will go less than six games, and if there's a sweep in any of the series, I'll be shocked.

So to help you make sense of the awesomeness that is the NBA playoffs, here are my predictions for each of the first-round series.

Boston (1) vs. Atlanta (8)

Sorry, Atlanta, you're toast. None of the Celtics Big Three has won an NBA championship. They are on a mission to destroy any team on their way to getting that first ring. Josh Smith will get a few SportsCenter Top 10-worthy dunks, Joe Johnson will play well, and maybe if Boston only had Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, the Hawks could pull out a victory.

But with Kevin Garnett around, there's no way on earth Boston even comes close to dropping this series.

Celtics in 4.

Detroit (2) vs. Philadelphia (7)

Detroit is the ultimate "fly beneath the radar" team this year. No one is talking about them, but the Pistons are essentially the same team that won it all in 2004. Yet somehow I haven't even heard the name Rip Hamilton once during the regular season. Sure, Hamilton's scoring average is down three pointers per game, but his shooting percentages are up, as well as his assists.

Chauncey Billups is still dishing out assists and hitting big 3-pointers. Tayshaun Prince still has 17-foot long arms. And Rasheed Wallace is still an elite big man, with the ability to hit from deep and take it inside.

Philly has some nice pieces; I love Andre Iguodala, and if the Jazz could somehow sign Samuel Dalembert, I'd be a happy man. Rookie forward Thaddeus Young has been putting up some pretty impressive numbers since the All-Star break.

But in the end, Detroit's experience is just too much. I'll give the Sixers two wins, no more.

Detroit in 6.

Orlando (3) vs. Toronto (6)

I love Dwight Howard. The kid is 22 and unstoppable down low. He's averaging 20 and 14, while shooting 57% from the field. His combination of power and quickness is almost unfathomable.

So the Magic are fantastic in the paint. Then they add Hedo Turkoglu and his 20 ppg, while shooting 40% from the 3-point line. Rashard Lewis is another 40% 3-point shooter, and while he isn't worth the $15 million a year the Magic are paying him, Lewis is still a 6-10 small forward with range.

That's a dangerous inside-out game, and it carried Orlando to a 16-4 start this season. Since then, they've fallen off the map as the NBA's attention has focused on the Celtics and the entire Western Conference.

Still, I believe the Magic are going to go far. I love the Raptor's Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon, but there's not much beyond that in Toronto.

Orlando in 5.

Cleveland (4) vs. Washington (5)

A rematch from last year's first round, and the most intriguing matchup in the East. The Wizards' Deshawn Stevenson has made a name for himself by calling Cleveland's LeBron James "overrated." The whole thing is weird. No one except for Washington and Jazz fans knew who Stevenson was before his comments. But he set off a firestorm of comments back and forth between the Cavs and Wizards, and even Charles Barkley has gotten involved, calling the Wizards "the dumbest team in the history of civilization."

Washington star Gilbert Arenas even said he wanted the Cavs in the first round.

Looks like he gets the rematch he's been asking for.

In last year's series, LeBron James reportedly psyched out Arenas while Gilbert was at the free-throw line in a potentially series-changing situation.

The Cavs swept the Wizards in four games that time around, though to be fair, Washington wasn't exactly healthy. This time around, they have a (hopefully) healthy Arenas, along with a dangerous Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, who is a valuable third option.

The Cavs? Well, they have King James, which is nice. But I wasn't impressed with Cleveland before their mid-season trade, and I'm even less impressed with them now. The only player I'm even going to mention is Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and he's only effective if he's healthy.

So essentially this matchup is between the King and Washington's three stars.

This is a tough one to call, but I see the Cavs winning in seven. James is a superstar, and superstars get out of the first round in the playoffs. Especially in the East.

Tomorrow: My Western Conference picks.


Seth said...

Anyone know if the wizards are gonna have Gilbert Arenas to full health?
and also do a column on the NBA draft because I said that Miami will take Hansborough with the first pick. But my friend says they'll take Derrick Rose, or Michael Beasley.
Please prove one of us wrong.

Filbert Karo said...

seth, they should take Michael Beasley. Check out my blog and I'll do one, too.

But Brandon, I see the Wizards winning the series in 7

The Village of Randomity said...

Haha I love the comments that Sir Charles gives us. No matter what he says, it's just funny.

Filbert Karo said...

Sometimes Chuck is funny, sometimes he won't shut up. I'm not talking about the Wizards comment.