Monday, April 19, 2010

2010 NBA Playoffs begin!

Playoff seedings are set! Here are my thoughts on the 1st round matchups:

Cleveland Cavs vs Chicago Bulls
This will be a blowout. The Bulls might be able to steal one game because James and Shaq may need some time to shake off the rust for sitting so long.
Game 1: Wow, seems like there's no rust after all
Game 2: The Bulls gave their best effort and still lost. If there's such a thing as a TKO in basketball, this would be it.
Game 3: They pulled away early and won the game. Chicago should be happy about that part. But they allowed the Cavs to storm back and the final difference was just 2pts. They have much to be worried about.
Game 4: Lebron toys with the Bulls by registering a monster triple double with 37pts-12reb-11ast with 2stl, a block, just 2to and shooting a ridiculous percentage from the field, 3pt, and from the line. I look for them to finish them off by the 3rd quarter in Cleveland in Game 5.
Game 5: Bulls came pretty close to extending this series. But alas, it was not to be. I wonder if anyone from the media will ask Joakim Noah about his comment about shocking the world?

Orlando Magic vs Charlotte Bobcats
This could be closer than people think. It's clear that the Magic is the better team. But it'll be interesting to see how Larry Brown defends Dwight Howard and his kick-outs to the 3pt shooters.
Game 1: Things look even worse for Bobcats now because of Jax's knee injury.
Game 2: Jax looks fine; he's a warrior. How did the Bobcats lose? Magic were just more aggressive with their offensive attack. Look at the free throws disparity. Magic shot 24 of 35 while the Bobcats only had 13 of 18.
Game 3: The Bobcats are just simply not good enough. Sure, Jameer Nelson torched them for 32pts but no one else on the Magic squad had it going offensively and the Cats still couldn't find a way to win.
Game 4: Don't fault the coaching in this sweep. Larry Brown's strategy to defend Dwight Howard worked out better than he could have possibly imagined. Howard average 5.5 fouls per game in this series. The Bobcats just don't have enough offensive firepower to match the Magic.

Boston Celtics vs Miami Heat
I smell an upset here. The Celtics finished with the better record but I wouldn't doubt any team led by a healthy Dwayne Wade. He's proven that he can win a championship just with his own individual brilliance. The Celtics on the other hand seems to be sputtering and age has caught up to their Big 3 faster than anticipated.
Game 1: Miami had the lead but the C's turned up the D at the end. KG's absence in game 2 may be the best chance for Miami to steal homecourt advantage.
Game 2: This game was 1 against 5. Wade was brilliant again (29pts shooting 11 of 18 with 5ast, 2blk, with just 1TO in 37min) but the rest of the team was a no-show (making a combined 18 shots out of 58 attempts). They've recovered from an 0-2 playoff deficit before; we'll see if they can do it again.
Game 3: Well, I guess I was wrong about the possible upset in this series. Here we go with that statement that we hear all the time when this happens. Nobody has ever rallied to win a 7gm series when down 0-3. I don't doubt Wade's ability to pull it off. Afterall, he's willed his team to win 4 straight games when down 0-2 to the Mavs to win the title in 2006. But his teammates really need to show up.
Game 4: There's still life in Heat. Wade decided from the start that he was going to win this game and nobody was going to stop him. Now, we just need 3 more of these superhuman performances from him. By the way, Jermaine O'neal combined for 6 of 34 from the field this series. I'd say his career is pretty much done.
Game 5: Disappointing playoffs for the Heat. They wasted yet another brilliant performance by Wade (31pts-8reb-10ast-2blk). That entire roster needs to be gutted. Not sure if the Celtics should be happy to advance. Their prize is a matchup with the Cavs.

Atlanta Hawks vs Milwaukee Bucks
Due to the unforunate injury suffered by Andrew Bogut, this series was over before it began. After Bogut's injury, I just get the feeling that the Bucks are just running on fumes and playing off of adrenaline.
Game 1: Jennings was playing a bit out of his mind and the Hawks relaxed after they jumped out to a large lead. The Hawks still won. I expect the Hawks to win the next few games in easier fashion.
Game 2: Can we just skip all this and just start the Magic-Hawks series already?
Game 3: Huge win by the Bucks to keep the series alive. I'll start believing in them if they can tie the series. Otherwise, they're just delaying the inevitable.
Game 4: Okay, this Bucks team has more heart than I gave them credit for. They're certainly not as talented as the Hawks. But there's no questioning their aggressiveness and fearlessness in this game. They outscored the Hawks 44 to 26 in the paint and shot 28 of 32 from the line compared to 18 of 21 for the Hawks. I'm a believer now.
Game 5: The Bucks went on a 14-0 run over a span of about 3 and half minutes towards the end of the game. They went from down 9 pts to up 5 with 30 seconds to go. Horford knocked down 2 shots (one of them a 3-pointer) to keep within striking distance. But Jennings drilled 4 clutch free throws to put the game away by making it a two-possession game with 9 secs to go. Hawks now have to win on the road to force a game 7. If I remember correctly, the Hawks haven't won on the road in the playoffs in a long long time...
Game 6: Hawks finally came up with road playoff win to force game 7 at home. This was the Bucks' best chance at the upset. Will need to see if they can somehow replicate their amazing game 5 performance one more time.
Game 7: Good to see the Hawks didn't choke. Magical run for the Bucks finally came to an end. To their credit, they lasted much longer than anyone could have predicted. They showed everyone else that come next season, they need to Fear the Deer!

Los Angeles Lakers vs Oklahoma City Thunder
One surprise of the season was that the Lakers season was not as strong as predicted. But I wouldn't doubt them in the playoffs. I predict their focus will return and they'll steamroll the young Thunder team as they keep their eyes on the prize.
Game 1: Lakers zeroed in on Durant to limit his offense. I look for them to keep it up and see if anyone else on the Thunder squad can beat them.
Game 2: Phil Jackson told Kobe to limit his shots because of his broken finger. Kobe then went off for 39pts and carried the team in the 4th to avoid the upset.
Game 3: Kobe needs to relax a bit with his shot selection in Game 4 to avoid the Thunder knotting the series. As Jackson said, 30% volume shooting just won't do it.
Game 4: We've seen this before. Kobe stops shooting just to let people know what happens when he does that. The Thunder is getting more dangerous with each win. Lakers need to concerned if they can't put them away in 6.
Game 5: When you have two guys capable of putting up 20-10 each game in Gasol and Bynum, the game becomes easy. Westbrook and Durant were both pretty much shut down. Easy win for the Lakers. Better close them out in 6. Otherwise, Laker fans will get even more uneasy.
Game 6: Contrary to recent beliefs, Kobe's career is not done. He made huge shots down the stretch. With the Lakers down 1, the shot clock turned off, and Kobe bringing the ball up the court, there was no doubt in anyone's mind that the Lakers had the advantage. The Thunder lost the game before Kobe's shot was launched. You can see that the Thunder team and crowd all gasped as the shot when up. The shot missed but since the Thunder seemingly already conceded the game, Gasol was able to get the putback.

Dallas Mavericks vs San Antonio Spurs
A matchup of the Texas rivals. This will be fun. Dirk vs Duncan. Butler vs Ginoboli. Kidd vs Parker. I see this one going to the 7th game.
Game 1: The Spurs had good games from Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili. But they chose to use single-coverage on Dirk and he just took advantage.
Game 2: The story of the game was Jefferson's resurgence after getting bashed by Popovich. But Duncan is just amazing. He averaged 18-10 for the season and then improves to 26-12 for the first 2 games of these playoffs.
Game 3: Duncan continues to tap into the fountain of youth with 25pts and Parker backs him up with 23. But the main story is Ginobili who hits for 11pts in the 4th after breaking his nose.
Game 4: Timmy only had 4pts, Parker had 10pts, and Ginobili managed 17pts on 25% shooting. Amazingly, Spurs still won, thanks to George Hill's 29pts. This series could be over sooner than expected.
Game 5: Mavs asserted themselves and defended their homecourt to extend the series. Timmy and Ginobili struggled for the 2nd straight game while Butler took advantage with a huge night (35pts, 11reb, 3stl)
Game 6: It's becoming almost repetitive. Mavs are done in the 1st round, again. They've been eliminated in the opening round 3 times in the last 4 seasons. Two of those losses came against teams with inferior regular season records (the Warriors in 2007 and now the Spurs in 2010).

Denver Nuggets vs Utah Jazz
The Nuggets have the homecourt advantage. But they've struggled to close the season while the Jazz have really picked it up as the year went on. I see the Jazz taking this series in 6.
Game 1: Injury to Okur coupled with the lost may have swung the series in the Nuggets favor. Going to have to go with Nuggets in 6 now.
Game 2: Impressive effort by the undermanned Jazz to even the series heading back to Utah. When you have Deron Williams, best PG in the league, and a solid 20-10 PF in Boozer on your team, you always have a chance.
Game 3: Nuggets appeared to be in control early in 1st quarter. But then it became the Paul Millsap show as he went for 22pts-19reb. The Jazz swarmed Carmelo Anthony. Deron Williams had his usual solid performance with 24pts -10ast. Boozer overcame a slow start to finish strong. It's amazing to watch how Coach Sloane keeps this team so disciplined in breaking down the opponent.
Game 4: Seems I underestimated the Jazz after they dropped their first game. They now look to be clearly the more aggressive and composed team. The Nuggets have to regroup and hope that their homecourt will help them extend the series.
Game 5: It's amazing what happens when you're backs are against the wall. We first saw it this year with the Mavs and now the Nuggets. They withstood a historical performance by Williams (first player ever to record at least 20pts and 10ast in history). But the pressure is still on the Nuggets. The Utah crowd is going to be loud...
Game 6: Composure. That is what is lacking with the Nuggets. Another thing lacking is a playmaker. They have so many offensive firepower in Anthony, Billups, Nene, Martin, and Smith. But they don't have an assist man to set them up. The disciplined play of the Jazz completely dismantled the Nuggets defense for easy scores. Scoring the ball forced the Nuggets all series long to run half-court sets which they just can't do it seems.

Phoenix Suns vs Portland Trailblazers
The Blazers just can't catch a break. Brandon Roy may or may not play and even if he does play, he probably won't be very effective. The high-octane Suns will just destroy this injury-ravaged team.
Game 1: Impressive win by the Blazers to steal homecourt. They kept the pace down and had huge games from the verterans Miller (31pts-8ast-5reb-3stl) and Camby (17reb and 3blk).
Game 2: Suns finally quickened the game's pace, scoring 119pts to the Blazers 90. In fact, the Suns could've not scored a single point in the 4th quarter, and they would still win by 4pts.
Game 3: Some interesting stats about a couple of Suns starters over the past 2 games. Nash has 26 assists. Grant Hill shot a combined 14 of 16 from the field. Jason Richardson averaged 35.5 pts while shooting 12 of 17 from 3pt land. In Game 3, they once again surpassed the opponents final score with 3 quarters worth of points (1st, 2nd, and 4th this time). Look for them to continue to blow out the Blazers if they continue to push the pace.
Game 4: The return of Brandon Roy was almost Willis Reed-like. Except, for Roy, he actually played more than a couple of possessions. He didn't have a spectacular game, but his presence alone provided so much energy for his teammates to feed off of. With the series tied, this could get interesting again.
Game 5: This series should have been over by now. Instead of a couple days of rest, the Suns now have to fly back to Portland to try to finish things off. If Portland pulls out the upset by somehow winning the next 2 games, the Suns really need to take a cold hard look at itself. They have so much talent over the last couple of season and but just seem to lack the mental discipline.
Game 6: Order is restored as the Sun go on and win on the road behind the hot shooting of Jason Richardson, 10 of 16 from the field, 5 of 8 from deep for 28pts. Hope they're not too proud of themselves as they really should have swept this series due to sheer talent.

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