With the trading of enormous talent both before and during the season, the tremendous level of competition in the Western Conference and the intrigue of watching a powerhouse Celtics team wade through the lowly yet possibly potent East, there are more storylines than a Harry Potter novel.
Today I’ll jump headfirst into this melting pot of mystique, talent and surprising possibilities, ending my travels with the top two seeds duking it out in a remix of Legend’s Celtics versus Magic’s Lakers. David Stern’s prayers have been answered. You won’t be disappointed.
- #1. Boston Celtics VS #8. Atlanta Hawks
Preview: The C’s have owned the Hawks this year, going 3-0 and winning by an average of 15. The Celtics are better everywhere except the point, where Rajon Rondo should be able to slow an experienced Mike Bibby.
Prediction: Josh Smith says the Hawks will “shock the world”. If they won two games, that would shock me. Celtics win 4-0.
- #2. Detroit Pistons VS #7. Philadelphia 76ers
Preview: The 2-2 season series is misleading, as the Sixers somehow stole a game in Motown before winning against the Piston’s reserves in April.
Prediction: Detroit is more talented, more experienced, more rested and has home-court advantage. Although the Sixers have played well lately, I don’t see Chauncey Billups and Co. getting bumped in the first round. 4-1 Pistons.
- #3 Orlando Magic VS # 6. Toronto Raptors
Preview: Orlando stole the season opener in this series at the Air Canada Centre and won easily in Orlando as well. Home-court advantage will definitely be a factor, as will the Magic’s front-court depth. The Raptors don’t have enough big bodies to chase and defend Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis.
Prediction: Led by a barrage of buckets from beyond the arc, the Magic take a relatively unsurprising series, 4-2.
- #4 Cleveland Cavaliers VS #5. Wasington Wizards
Preview: Knocked out by the Cavs the previous two seasons, the Wizards are confident they can get some redemption. Although they finished 2-2 against Cleveland, the Wizards won their late game against a Cavs team that was adjusting after the huge trade.
Prediction: The Wizards have only played this new (and I think improved) Cavs team once. I think after having playing together for couple months Cleveland will bounce the Wizards again, even with Agent Zero coming off the bench. Wizards out in 6.
- #1 Boston Celtics VS #4 Cleveland Cavaliers
Preview: These two teams played each other very close this season, tying the series 2-2 (although one Cavs win was a one-point squeaker with KG out). They’ve only played once since the Cavs acquired Ben Wallace and Co.
Prediction: I don’t think this will be a series where the home-team wins every game. The Celtics are too hungry and their defense has been amazing. Even if James averages 40, Delonte West, Joe Smith and Wally Szczerbiak won’t support him enough. Boston in 6.
- #2 Detroit Pistons VS #3 Orlando Magic
Preview: Detroit has been resting its starters for over a month for a reason. They will be fresh after breezing by Philly. The season series was even at 2, with both teams annihilating each other in the opposing team’s arena.
Prediction: Detroit is experienced, rested and more balanced. Orlando is still rather green, and lacks the backcourt to keep up with Billups, Rip Hamilton and Rodney Stuckey. Pistons in 6.
- #1 Boston Celtics VS # 2 Pistons
Preview: Here’s the only relevant showdown in the East. Boston won the series 2-1 after a heart-breaking loss to begin the season. Both teams should be at full-strength for an intense battle.
Prediction: The Celtics lost in mid-December by two. They now have played together for a full-season and have actually gotten better by adding Sam Cassell and PJ Brown. This won’t be as close as people think. Celtics in 6.
- #1 LA Lakers VS #8 Denver Nuggets
Preview: The Lakers swept the series 3-0. Very similar to Boston in the East. Not much hope for an upset here.
Prediction: The Nuggets have been playing semi-inspired but the Lakers are too good. Denver might steal win, so we’ll call it 4-1 Lakers.
- # 2 New Orleans Hornets VS # 7 Dallas Mavericks
Preview: They split four games this season but what pops out to me is the ass-kicking the Mavs laid down with Jason Kidd at the helm last weekend. The Hornets come in having lost 6 of 10.
Prediction: The Mavs have finally come together and although I think Chris Paul will vastly outplay JKidd I think the experience the Mavs have, combined with Avery Johnson’s increased desperation, will push them out of the round. Mavericks in 6.
- #3 San Antonio Spurs VS #6 Phoenix Suns
Preview: The Suns took three of four, including one 17-point massacre with Shaq in the lineup. However, the Spurs are still the Spurs.
Prediction: The Suns acquired Shaq JUST to beat the Spurs. He’ll be a beast down low. This series would be huge for them anyway after the gut-wrenching loss they had to endure last season. They’ll come in pissed, and they’re playing well anyway. Shaq carries the Suns to a 4-2 win.
- #4 Utah Jazz VS # 5 Houston Rockets
Preview: Utah took two out of three this season and also have home court. They’re almost unbeatable at “EnergySolutions Arena”.
Prediction: Like I said, the Jazz are nuts at home. They’ve won 26 of 27 there. The Rockets are a great story but Carlos Boozer will expose them in side as will Deron Williams when he penetrates to the paint. T-Mac still doesn’t move on, Jazz win in 6.
- #1 LA Lakers VS # 4 Utah Jazz
Preview: The Jazz’s last home loss? To the Lakers 106-95 on March 20th. The Lakers crushed the Jazz by an average of 12 before the Gasol trade anyway.
Prediction: I really like the Jazz, just not against Kobe. Evidence points to little hope, as the Lakers are truly better both inside and out. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jazz played them well, but not that well. They’ll fall in 6.
- #6 Phoenix Suns VS #7 Dallas Mavericks
Preview: In a tale of two team makeovers, the two perennial powerhouses in the Western Conference will do battle in a playoff series. Dallas won the season series 2-1. Before every game Mark Cuban will be seen crying at the sight of Steve Nash still racing up the court. If he hadn’t let Nash walk the Mavs wouldn’t have had to trade their whole team for an aging Kidd. Good move…
Prediction: This is a tough call. Both have numerous players who could step up and make a difference. After last years collapse against Golden State, I don’t have the cajones to bet on Avery Johnson’s Mavs. Sorry Mark Cuban, Suns in 6.
- #1 LA Lakers VS #6 Phoenix Suns
Preview: If this doesn’t raise ratings, I don’t know what will. Kobe VS Shaq for the Western Conference crown. However, Pau Gasol is also playing, and Amare Stoudemire will have to guard him. The Lakers took three of four from the Suns this year.
Prediction: Amare and Shaq come in averaging a combined 38.1 PPG and 19.7 RPG. But Steve Nash, Raja Bell and Leandro Barbosa have no hope at stopping Kobe. Stoudemire will also get torn to shreds by Gasol, who is almost as hungry as KG, having never won a playoff game until this year. Lakers in 6
*****NBA FINALS 2008*****
- #1 Boston Celtics VS #1 LA Lakers
Preview: In a rematch of the 1980s glory days (I know I wasn’t alive but I can still reference it dammit), the East-West coast rivalry is resumed. The teams are even at PG (Rondo VS Fisher), and PF (Gasol VS Garnett). Kobe is better than Ray Allen on both ends, but Paul Pierce will outplay Lamar Odom. The biggest question marks are the center position and the benches. If Andrew Bynum doesn’t make it back this season than look for the big bodies of Kendrick Perkins, Glen Davis, and PJ Brown to have an advantage on the glass over Ronny Turiaf, Vladimir Radmonovic and Luke Walton. Additionally, the Celtics have superior guards on the bench. Sam Cassell, Eddie House, and Tony Allen are much more experienced and talented than Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar. Coaching could be a factor as well. If I’m Red Auerbach, I’m shaking in my grave at the thought of Phil Jackson obliterating Doc Rivers in a pressure-filled Finals.
Prediction: I like the Celtics in 6. I know LA is better than anybody in the East, but I think the C’s will steal one at the Staples Center and hold court at home. Both teams will have been tested at this point, so bench depth will come into play, and Kobe is only one man. He can’t singlehandedly outplay Cassell, Rondo, Ray Allen AND Tony Allen. It will be an amazing series and Boston fans, Danny Ainge, and Bill Simmons will finally be vindicated.