Procrastination is not befitting of a serious writer even if it almost always turns out to be the case. In the hands of a good wordsmith, however, the trait becomes analogous to working the final minute of regulation down three in a critical hardwood battle.
And here we are:
Eastern Conference Semifinals
(4) Atlanta Hawks vs. (1) Cleveland Cavaliers
Truth is, the Hawks barely got past a Miami Heat squad that trotted out a handful of immature, untested rookies (e.g. Beasley) and a couple of over-the-hill old men moonlighting in important roles (e.g. O'Neal) with super stud Dwyane Wade.
The Hawks could not shut these guys down and when it mattered, they hardly could do anything to keep it from going the distance despite Wade having little to no help. So don’t be shocked that I’m not convinced that the Hawks can do ANYTHING against the Cavs.
I’m not sure what there is to predict and I apologize to Hawks fans if they find my surety to be disconcerting or offensive. The Cavaliers are simply the class of the East and possibly even the best team in the whole league. LeBron, alone, will be more to handle than Wade was and he actually has a supporting cast.
Cavaliers in four
(3) Orlando Magic vs. (2) Boston Celtics
On first appraisal, the Magic look poised to smash on the Celtics; after all, they’re a tougher team all around than the Bulls, have a handful of go-to top flight scorers including Lewis and Turkoglu and a definite advantage in the paint in Dwight Howard (especially given how banged up the C’s are in the middle with Powe and Garnett out).
However, these Celtics are such a resilient bunch… they stomached and survived an absolutely gruesome and rough series with the young Bulls who, I think, have shown the whole world that they can become a serious force down the line.
Can the Celtics pull off another gutsy escape routine? This time, I don’t think so. If for nothing else, there’s nobody who can and no way that the Celtics can stop Dwight Howard, and that alone can determine this series.
The Magic operate on a very simple principle...they shoot the outside shot and Howard cleans up. If the Celtics could rebound with them, that would be a different story, but they can’t. Howard and his 24 points and nearly 16 boards a game will be the difference.
Magic in six
Western Conference Semifinals
(5) Houston Rockets vs. (1) Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers are far and away the better team here. The only discernible weakness that faces the Lakers is in their ability to deal with Yao Ming.
Conventional thought would tell you that there is no way that an Andrew Bynum, still out of game shape and looking as slow footed and lost as he has in the past few weeks, can readily defend against the versatile Yao or his front court buddy Luis Scola.
The Lakers can outscore the Rockets any day of the week and will need to do so if Bynum turns up lame. At full strength, the Lakers would be nearly untouchable in this series as that would bring Odom off the bench and give them a considerable depth advantage over the Rockets. The Rockets aren’t to be overlooked of course.
Ron Artest seems to have finally quieted his demons and instead redirected them into his game, the plethora of shooters that the Rockets have in Wafer, Brooks and Lowry can go off and of course, the front court duo of Yao and Scola is pretty nice stuff.
Still, who are we kidding? It’s just a matter of how many games it takes.
Lakers in five
(6) Dallas Mavericks vs. (2) Denver Nuggets
I’m guilty of saying it a lot and in many different situations and sports but don’t be surprised if this one is close. I’m convinced that the Nuggets are going to move on to play the Lakers but the Mavs are considerably tougher than the Hornets who were run out of town in a humiliating bush league performance.
Jason Kidd runs the Mavs more efficiently than CP3 was able to run his flightless Hornets, Dirk Nowitzki is one of the best power forwards in the league and will hurt the Nuggets way more than David West ever could and the scoring abilities of Jason Terry and Josh Howard will put up the points the Mavericks need to hang with the Nuggets.
In fact, this series cannot and will not end in less than six in either favor.
The Nuggets will prevail, however, because you can tell that they’re really feeling it. Billups absolutely transformed this team and their mentality. I think he’s convinced them that they can win the whole thing and they’re playing with such bravado and confidence that even guys like Chris “Birdman” Anderson look like super stars right now.
The Mavs are the veteran bunch that can push this puppy to the limit but the Nuggets are moving on.
Nuggets in seven