In keeping with a tradition I have maintained over nearly the past decade—it has taken various forms but I have just recently brought it to Bleacher Report—I’m going to break down this year’s NBA Playoffs by round.
Also, in keeping with tradition, I’ve waited until the last possible second to do so.
Without much ado—only because it is my daughter’s birthday and I’ve got to keep this succinct—let’s hit the court for the conference quarterfinals.
(8) Detroit Pistons vs. (1) Cleveland Cavaliers
Boy have the mighty fallen. You could almost say it is a passing of the torch but the Pistons—after dominating the East for near a decade—have slipped considerably to a sub-.500 record, for what seems like the first time in forever, while this Cavs team can potentially contend for long time together if they can somehow keep the roster intact.
You can argue that trading Chauncey Billups was ultimately what started the swan dive for this Pistons team. Allen Iverson is just not the point guard that Billups was for this team.
Regardless, this Cavs team is the best team in the East and won’t take too much time in sending the Pistons packing back to Detroit. They have the tough defense and now they've fleshed out supporting cast for the real difference maker here: Lebron James.
Cavaliers in five
(7) Chicago Bulls vs. (2) Boston Celtics
The Bulls are back and it’s exciting to see where their future is headed. They finished the regular season with a .500 record, still have a lot of youth, and are following a rookie head coach into the postseason.
However, they’ll be gone in about a week. The C’s are missing KG which hurts them a great deal but won’t probably have any significant effect against the Bulls. If he cannot come back in time for the tougher matchups in later rounds, then the Celtics are in genuine trouble.
For now, they have the experience, the scoring—Pierce and Allen can still go off—and the defense.
For fun, keep an eye on the Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo match up… should be an entertaining subplot to what should be a quick series.
Celtics in six
(6) Philadelphia 76er’s vs. (3) Orlando Magic
The Sixers also finished at .500 with a 41-41 record and draw the Magic who, at least for a spell, looked like the best team in the East.
There are some injury question marks for Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis, two extremely important cogs in the Magic machine, but neither injury should make much of an impact on the outcome of this series.
Dwight Howard is a beast inside and with Rafer Alston now in the mix, the Orlando Magic have one of the best starting fives in all of basketball. The Sixers are young and rely on Andre Miller and Andre Igoudala too much to make a strong case to move on.
Magic in six
(5) Miami Heat vs. (4) Atlanta Hawks
Once again, we have a 5 vs. 4 match up that does not draw a clear prognosis. The Heat and the Hawks match up like Lego blocks. While the Heat are terrifying in the backcourt because of Dwayne Wade, the Hawks are much scarier in the frontcourt with both Al Horford and Josh Smith.
The Heat also have super-stud Michael Beasley who is developing into a serious threat to complement Wade. In the end, though, the Hawks don’t have an answer for Wade. Although Joe Johnson is a great scorer, the Heat will likely get out-of-this-world performances from D-Wade and pull out a tough seven game win.
Heat in seven
(8) Utah Jazz vs. (1) Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers, simply, are the best team in the West. The Jazz are a tough team that could surprise for a game or a quarter or two, but to take a series from the Lakers would stretch the imagination here.
The Jazz have Deron Williams who is tough to handle but after him, the game drops a great deal. This is especially true with Carlos Boozer still not quite in top form. This will not suffice against a fullly healthy Lakers team.
Bynum is back so Pau Gasol moves over to his natural power forward spot and Lamar Odom returns to being one of the scariest sixth men around. And of course, there’s no stopping Kobe.
Lakers in five
(7) New Orleans Hornets vs. (2) Denver Nuggets
I was tempted to call the upset here on account of Chris Paul—arguably the best PG in the game—and David West, but boy do things drop dramatically after that.
Peja Stojakovic has been inconsistent and beat up all year, Tyson Chandler has gone MIA, and the rest of the squad is good but strictly as role players.
The Nuggets shored up the areas of weakness of seasons past and, with Chauncey Billups running the point, are now one of the tougher teams in the West. Look for JR Smith to abuse the Hornets from the perimeter while Carmelo Anthony shines down low.
Nuggets in six
(6) Dallas Mavericks vs. (3) San Antonio Spurs
Well, if I couldn’t call the upset between the Hornets and the Nuggets, then I can certainly do so now for this match up. The Spurs looked, at least a month or so ago, like a legitimate two seed and a threat to the Lakers.
However, losing Manu Ginobili is particularly significant and now the Mavericks simply have too much firepower for the Spurs to keep up in a slugfest. The Spurs will hope for Duncan and Parker to do their thing but with Terry coming off the bench to help Nowitzki, Howard, and Kidd, the Mavs are probably going to win this Texas battle handily.
Mavericks in six
(5) Houston Rockets vs. (4) Portland Trailblazers
Every time I look at this matchup, I want to pick the Blazers. It seems like a lifetime since I last saw them in the playoffs and, were it not for the awful nightmare that was the jailblazers years back, they were easily one of my favorite teams in the league.
They’re still a couple of years from contention as Greg Oden has not developed into the force they anticipated him to be just yet. They have the pieces though. The combination of Brandon Roy and Steve Blake in the backcourt is a surprisingly effective combination, and Travis Outlaw and Sergio Fernandez are awesome coming off the bench.
However, they don’t have what they’d need against Yao Ming and Houston’s balanced and experienced attack. If the Rockets had a go to scorer (like, say, Tracy McGrady) this would be a quick series. Instead, I think this sucker is going the distance.
Rockets in seven
Dig it, friends. I’ll see you in round two.