The playoffs are looming and fans are eager.
This is the time of year where hard work pays off, or realization kicks in that the work wasn't hard enough.
They say that the best team always wins. Granted that, in order to beat four teams four times each, the best team would have to be better than all the teams it plowed through.
But were the eight seeded Knicks really better than the Heat, Hawks and Pacers?
Due to a shortened season, it could not be held for certain if the Knicks would have held a higher seed. If that's the case, could they have been upset by a weaker team?
Every year is different. Although the two No. One seeds are favored to meet, it doesn't always work out that way.
The lowest seeded team to ever win a championship were the sixth-seed Houston Rockets, led by Hakeem in 94-95.
This year is no different, we cannot discount any, and I mean any, team in the playoffs. Two will remain, and one will fall.
Any excuse can be made as for why a team wins; bad calls, injuries, bad decisions by the opposition, etc. It's usually this and that.
The champ is never given due credit for winning, instead the opposition is blamed rather the champ being praised.
Whatever happens this year, there will be a deserving champ because every win is tough to get, even if it is against a "mediocre" team.
Here are my picks as to who will advance.
First Round Match-ups
Lakers vs Spurs
I know that I am going to hear a whole bunch of hate on this one, but I have the Spurs beating the Lakers in the first round.
Yup, get your torches and pitchforks in protest, but if there is any coach in the league that rivals Phil Jackson, it's Greg Popovich.
The Spurs have played the Lakers well this season, and they know them better than any other team does.
Bynums return is hazy, and if he does come back, it won't be in the first round, leaving only one man for Duncan to school.
TP will have his way with Fisher, and Ginobili will not be stopped. Kobe will go off and do what he does, but Artest and Odom are meek against the Spurs.
It will be hard fought to the end, but the Spurs savvy will overcome the Lakers arrogance.
Utah vs Portland
Too well coached, too much D, and too much Energy Solutions Arena for the Blazers to overcome.
This one should be quick and painless.
The Jazz swept the Blazers in the regular season, and two of those wins were against a healthy Portland team.
See you next season R.I.P. City!
Dallas vs Phoenix
A clash of old friends who still give it their all against each other.
Nash and Nowitzki are at the top of their game when they face off. This will be an exciting series that will go to seven.
I hate to pick a winner in this one because it is really up for grabs, but I have to go with Dallas.
Emotions will flare and desire will burn, but Dallas has home court, more depth, and more experience.
Denver vs OKC
The battle of the scorer.
Melo and Durant always put on a show when they meet, but Melo seems to always get the last laugh.
Being that this is their first playoff appearance, the jitters will be there and the spotlight will melt the young stars.
Durant could very possible be the next Jordan, but he's just 21. It took Jordan seven tries to get his first.
Second Round Match-ups
Spurs vs Nuggets
Denver will finally get its chance to avenge those dreadful first round exits.
Kenyon Martin should be back along with Coach Karl. In all the games these two have played, Martin has been the difference.
With a playoff tested Coach and hand, the Nuggets should match-up well with Pop. The Spurs will most certainly be in a position to win, but with their tank nearly on E after beating the Lakers, the speedy Nuggets will drain them dry.
Dallas vs Utah
This will be a tough test for both teams.
The Jazz can do nothing to stop Dirk, but the Mavs can do nothing to stop the pick-and-roll.
Deron Williams will be a headache for Jason Kidd, but Kidd is smart and will get his team involved.
Booz will be hungry on the boards, but the Mavs are a bigger team. In the playoffs, it's hard to win without size.
The main weakness the Jazz have is their two guard spot. It is hard to win with a role player playing shooting guard down the stretch, and the Mavs are full of them, Marion, Butler, and Terry.
Mavs advance to face Denver.
Western Conference Finals
Dallas vs Denver
With a bitter taste left in their mouth from last season, the Mavs will come out gunnin'.
Expect them to take an early 2-0 lead, but wait for Denver to come back storming.
The Nuggets are one of the better come back teams in the league, and they will most definitely push it to seven.
Kidd is the ideal player for Billups to guard, this was a huge difference maker last season.
Kenyon Martin does the best job of slowing Dirk down that I've ever seen.
Butler will have to step up, but he will not win a scoring battle against Carmelo Anthony.
The edge goes to J.R. Smith against Terry, and the Nuggets have athleticism down low.
The scale is tipped Denver's way defensively, and the Mavs weakness is the inability to make stops down the stretch.
Hate it or take it, the Nuggets go to the NBA Finals.
First Round Match-ups
Cleveland vs Chicago
Chicago wins 4-0. Not a chance.
Rose will punish Mo Williams and show him how a man plays ball, but Lebron's dancing will take Noah out of rhythm.
Chicago is a grenade going up against a Nuke.
I hate to dismiss them so easily, but it won't be a challenge for Cleveland.
Orlando vs Milwaukee
I think the title speaks for itself.
With Bogut gone, Dwight can have a nice little dunk session to get warmed up for the next round.
Jennings and Salmons will be the bread and butter, but Dwight and the gang will be the knife and fork.
Atlanta vs Charlotte
Here we go, now were talking. G-dubb and Captain Jack pit themselves against J-Smoove and Joe cool.
The advantage woud have to go to Atlanta because of Jamal Crawford's incredible off-the-bench play. Charlotte doesn't have much depth or useful size.
This would be a good series, but I'll give it to Atlanta in six.
Boston vs Miami
I hate to break it to Boston fans, but that four leaf clover is about to catch fire.
Miami's defense has been stifling as of late, and the Celtics offense has been stifled.
The Celtics will pour their hearts out, the problem is their legs have nothing to pour out. I hate to disqualify such a good team, but their time has come to hang their jerseys up and watch from home.
Wade will show Paul Pierce what the truth really is, the Heat will blaze and an ember will spark in the garden and bring it down.
Second Round Match-ups
Atlanta vs Orlando
This series would include a bunch of ups and downs. At times Joe Johnson would shine, and at times he would fall under the Magic's spell.
The guard play is evenly matched, but what kills Atlanta the most, are teams with size. They'll have their hands full with Gortat, Bass, Andersen, and what was that other guys name?
Orlando in six.
Cleveland vs Miami
This series would perhaps be the most watched in the East.
Wade has a bone to pick as he always gets humbled by Lebron's great play.
Without a doubt, Wade would drop 40 in maybe all the contests. Whenever these two meet up, one always tries to outdo the other.
Miami, however, has a bad habit of watching their star go to work.
Jamison is too much for Haslem, Shaq is too much for Jermaine, Lebron is just enough for Wade (that's respect.)
Cleveland wins in five.
Eastern Conference Finals
Cleveland vs Orlando
The rematch of the century will indeed go down.
Maybe you don't agree on my upsets, but we can all agree that the end result will be this.
Shaq just seems to have it in for Dwight, maybe because he doesn't want the youngster to topple his career, but whatever the case, Shaq brings his A game against the Usurper Superman.
Cleveland does not have the same match-up problems it did last year. Now Jamison can guard Lewis, and VC, well he takes a lot of shots. This means more possessions for the Cavs.
Lebron will prove to be unstoppable once again. Cleveland can match-up with Orlando position by position, but Orlando has no answer for the King.
We'll see if Dwight goes over to congratulate Lebron this year.
Yup, I suppose you guessed from the picture, but my pick for the NBA finals is Melo versus Bron
Cleveland vs Denver
Two guys drafted the same year, both hoping to one day reach the pinnacle of success, saw their other draft buddy Wade get his ring while they stayed home, hoping to equalize and surpass him.
Now they face off on the biggest stage, both with a golden opportunity to cement their status as the real MVP.
Pound for pound:
Nene and Shaq— Shaq has hunger, experience and wisdom.
Nene has athleticism and can always be found for an easy deuce.
K-Mart and Antawn— A good, high flying all around defender against a well established perimeter power forward.
They both do a good job at slashing and getting to the rim. Antawn however is a secondary scoring option while K-mart is a designated defender.
Varejao and Birdman— A great help defender who excels in shot blocking going up against the best slasher in the game.
Chris Andersen is not a good on ball defender and he will become frustrated by Varejao's craftiness.
Chauncey and Mo— Billups is far more clutch and has more guts than Mo Williams.
They are both good three-point shooters, but Billups is the better defender, while Chauncey is a playoff veteran who has played the Cavs many times in Detroit.
Ty Lawson and Daniel Gibson— Gibson is a good backup point guard, but he falls in love with the jump-shot.
Lawson is great at pushing the ball and getting to the rack.
J.R. Smith and Delonte West— They are both good sixth men.
West is more of a spot up shooter, but he gets to the rack more.
Smith can create for himself, but often makes bad decisions and looks for his shot before he drives.
West does more of the intangibles while Smith is all stats.
Other match-ups— Of course, there are guys like Z and Afflalo that I left out, and these guys wont always be matched up, but it's just a preview to get a gist of it.
Lebron and Carmelo— A scoring machine against a freight train.
Both of these guys are really strong. Melo has a deadlier triple-threat game, but Lebron has better court vision.
Melo can shoot, Lebron can drive.
James is the better defender, and Anthony the better offensive player.
Lebron does have more intangibles than Melo, as well as a higher drive for success.
The Edge goes to Cleveland, and I feel that they will win the championship.
I know that many of you disagree with me.
Some feel Lakers win over Cavs, others Lakers over Magic, or Cavs over Lakers.
Some seem to think Boston over Lakers, some Lakers over Boston, and others, Portland over Milwaukee.
I feel that Denver will indeed make the finals if they are healthy, but ultimately Lebron will get his ring this year.