Best Long-Shot Bets for the Rest of the 2012 NBA Playoffs
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Who would have thought that the Chicago Bulls would be on the brink of elimination to the eighth seeded Philadelphia 76ers?
Then again, who'd have thought that Derrick Rose's postseason would end 46 minutes into his first 2012 playoff game?
Now that the first round is nearing it's end, are there any other shocks to be absorbed by NBA Fans?
I'm not sure if any of these things will happen but I can safely say that if you were to bet on them happening you'd get a decent return if you turned out to be right. Each of these slides should be taken as happening within a bubble. In other words, none of these are predictions on the final outcome of the playoffs. They're merely predictions of various results if these match-ups do indeed take place.
Memphis Grizzlies Beat the San Antonio Spurs (Again)
Could Rudy Gay and the Grizzlies end the Spurs' season again?
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Yes San Antonio beat the Grizzlies in four regular-season meetings.
There's also no chance that the Spurs would be caught off guard against the same Memphis team that upset them in the opening round of last year's playoffs.
In order to believe that Memphis has a chance to beat San Antonio in a possible second-round matchup, you'd have to think that Memphis just flat-out has a better team.
Maybe not better, but a look at Memphis' roster and depth does reveal a set of players who could possibly be among the very toughest of matchups for this Spurs team.
San Antonio has a major depth advantage over most of their opponents. But not Memphis. The Spurs are deeper than Memphis, but not as deep in comparison to many of the other potential opponents they could face in the postseason.
Memphis also has depth in the frontcourt. No one has the decorated resume of Tim Duncan, but Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Marreese Speights are all talented big men who can bang with the Spurs. Hamed Haddadi is another big body that the Grizzlies can turn to in a pinch.
Then there's Rudy Gay. Gay is only 25 and he seems like a player who might just be on the verge of exploding. Gay has averaged 17.9 points per game over his young NBA career and he's got the physical ability to put up even more points. He's not Durant or Bryant, but he could be a more dangerous scorer than what he's shown to be at this point in his career.
Don't forget about two other guys wearing Memphis uniforms who can put the ball in the basket—O.J. Mayo and Gilbert Arenas. What if Arenas were to find his lost range while Mayo finally learned when and where to be aggressive on the court?
It would probably take a perfect storm for the Grizzlies to beat San Antonio again, but the sky isn't devoid of clouds, and momentum and confidence can easily be built up or broken down over the course of just a few plays.
Boston Celtics Beat the Miami Heat
Could Paul Pierce and the Celtics beat the Heat?
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In order for this matchup to take place, a number of "long shots" would have to not beat the odds.
New York isn't coming back against Miami, Indiana will beat Orlando and will lose to Miami, and the Celtics will finish off the Hawks and then dispatch of either the eighth seed 76ers or the injury-riddled Chicago Bulls.
If all of those fairly-likely things transpire, then the Eastern Conference finals would be a Celtics-Heat matchup.
Will Miami be favored? Yes. Will they have home-court advantage? Yes. Will they win the series? Maybe.
Look, home court is great, but if you don't have home-court advantage, then you may as well have a crew of "been there, done that" veterans who have been playing in tough road games for over 10 years each.
The trio of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce aren't going to be impressed or intimidated by a bunch of South Florida residents all wearing white T-shirts.
Last season when Miami had home-court advantage against the Celtics, they won. However, when they had that same home-court advantage against the Dallas Mavericks, the Mavs veterans like Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd weren't phased by the crowd in Miami. In fact, the comeback in Game 2 was arguably the pivotal turning point in the series with regards to overall momentum.
A Heat-Celtics series will be very tough on both teams. Miami should and will be favored, but that doesn't mean they'll win.
Los Angeles Lakers over the Oklahoma City Thunder
Steve Blake's outside shooting and Craig Sager's suit could spell trouble for OKC.
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The above caption is wrong. Yes, Steve Blake's outside shooting could play a major role in the outcome of an eventual Thunder-Lakers series.
Craig Sager's suit could cause irreparable damage to anyone who looks at it for more than an instant. The suit may cause seizures and it definitely can cause nausea.
Picking the Lakers over the Thunder isn't exactly picking Buster Douglas over Mike Tyson in 1990, but the Thunder are going to be favorites in this series.
They won two of three against the Lakers during the regular season. Additionally, the Lakers had a 15-18 road record in the regular season. The Thunder can't rely on just winning out at home, though, so Thunder fans can be comforted by the team's 21-12 road record.
How do the Lakers beat the Thunder? The same way they'll have to rely on beating every team they face this postseason—by winning the rebounding battles and getting plenty of scoring from Bynum, Gasol and Bryant while also getting solid contributions from guys like Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, and eventually Metta World Peace.
For the Thunder, their path is fairly obvious as well—run the Lakers into rushed shots, fouls and fatigue, while two of the league's most exciting and talented players in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook put up big numbers.
This series will be a war and a seven-game marathon is not out of the question. In a Game 7, it's tough to bet against guys like Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol even on the road against one of the league's very best teams.
The Los Angeles Lakers Win the NBA Title
Could Andrew Bynum lead the Lakers to a championship?
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This isn't wishful thinking (unless you happen to be a Lakers fan); it's merely something that could happen, but is not (at this point in time) expected to happen.
There's a reason for all those pesky seedings. The Lakers aren't seventh or eighth, but they're not first or second either.
The No. 3 seed in the West will have to go through the No. 2 seed Oklahoma City, and it won't be a shock if they have to beat the No. 1 seed Spurs as well. To suggest that the Lakers would also have to tackle the Miami Heat, yet another team with a better regular-season record, wouldn't be a stretch.
Can Los Angeles win the NBA Finals this year?
Absolutely. The Lakers have size and rebounding. That combination has led to plenty of championships over the course of NBA history.
However, there are plenty of reasons why this might not happen; the Lakers aren't very deep and a decent interior defense could take away some of the offensive impact of Bynum and Gasol. If that happens, then Kobe can drop 40 points in each game and it might not be enough.
The trick to beating L.A. is to force their role players to expand their scoring roles on offense. Nearly the entire team, with the exceptions of Bryant, Gasol and Bynum, are limited in their offensive capacity.
The Lakers don't have James Harden, Manu Ginobili, Stephen Jackson or O.J. Mayo coming off the bench. These are all players who have the ability to put bunches of points on the board in a small period of time.
While that may be the case, it's not as if an assignment of limiting the effectiveness of Bryant, Gasol and Bynum is an easy task. It's not, and the Thunder are young. The Heat are very weak at center and power forward and the Spurs and Celtics are both teams that are old, and in Boston's case, lack depth.
At this point, the Lakers are the best non-top-two seed with a legitimate shot at a championship.