NBA Playoffs 2010: LeBron James and the Cavaliers Will Steal the Crown

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NBA Playoffs 2010: LeBron James and the Cavaliers Will Steal the Crown
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Western Conference playoffs look absolutely brutal.

The Eastern Conference NBA Playoffs are loaded at the top, with any of the top seeds having a legitimate chance at a run to the Finals.

The next couple of months are going to be wild in the NBA, so we're here to try and calm everything down.

With the first round out of the way, here's how things are going to go down from the conference semifinals through the NBA Finals.

So, let's start out East, in round two.

Note: All results taken from first round prediction.

 

Eastern Conference

Boston Celtics (4) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (1)

Why Boston wins: Basically, this isn't happening.

The Celtics have struggled mightily throughout the second half of the season, with Kevin Garnett looking like he's 84 and Rasheed Wallace having already mailed it in.

Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, and Ray Allen will continue to battle, but they're going to be completely overwhelmed in this series.

The Celtics are experienced, which is the only reason they have a tiny shot at extending the series a little bit.

Why Cleveland wins: The Cavs win because they have the best player on the planet.

While their coaching is suspect, there's enough talent throughout the roster to get it done on a nightly basis. 

Shaq will be back, and, while he's nothing close to the Shaq of 2001, Shaq is still going to be Shaq.

O'Neal is tough to deal with in any scenario, and the additional firepower alongside James will be enough to push the Cavaliers through the aging Celtics.

Verdict: Cleveland in Six

 

Atlanta Hawks (3) vs. Orlando Magic (2)

Why Atlanta wins: They've got some big bodies up front (Zaza Pachulia, Al Horford) that should be able to get in front of Dwight Howard.

However, being able to stop him will be a different matter.

The Hawks dropped three of four this season to their Southeastern Division rivals, but have comparable offensive firepower on the perimeter.

Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson can score with anybody, and will be tough matchups for the Magic swingmen.

Why Orlando wins: The Magic own one of the deepest rosters in the league, and can run several different versatile lineups out onto the floor at any time.

While Pachulia and Horford are big, they're likely not going to be enough to stop Dwight Howard from doing whatever he wants on the low block.

Whenever Howard is doubled, he can easily kick it out to one of four capable three-point threats surrounding him.

The Magic actually set an NBA record this season for three-pointers made as a team with 838, so, needless to say, they're a threat.

Verdict: Magic in Six

And now, we go to the West for the second round.

 

Utah Jazz (5) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (1)

Why Utah wins: The Jazz will be coming off of a hard-fought, gritty seven-game series win over the Nuggets in round one, but luckily, they have the perfect coach to prepare them for what lies ahead. 

Like Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan has been doing this coaching thing for quite some time now, and knows that defense and ball control are the keys to winning come playoff time. 

Deron Williams, if matched up with Derek Fisher, should be able to eviscerate the L.A.'s aging point guard. 

If Carlos Boozer is playing at 100 percent, he's a bull in the post, and is a very tough matchup for a finesse player like Pau Gasol.

Andrei Kirilenko may or may not be back from injury by then, and his role will be huge should he be able to return to action.

Why Los Angeles wins: The defending champs should be quite well-rested, as they were able to sweep the young Thunder in round one.

Andrew Bynum will likely be back and playing near full strength, which makes the Lakers that much more dangerous inside.

While the Williams-Fisher matchup is a huge swing in Utah's favor, the Kobe-Jazz SG matchup strongly favors the Lakers.

The Jazz will give the Lakers a huge test, but, in the end, they won't have enough.

Verdict: Lakers in Seven

 

Phoenix Suns (3) vs. Dallas Mavericks (2)

Why Phoenix wins: Phoenix was playing as well as any team headed into the playoffs, and they didn't face much adversity in a five-game series win over the shorthanded Blazers in the first round.

However, the Mavericks are a different story.

Obviously, the Suns' defense will be the key.

In order to win, they are going to have to find a way to make players not named Dirk Nowitzki beat them.

The offense should continue to roll behind Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire, but containing Nowitzki will be the key.

Why Dallas wins: As stated previously, the Nowitzki matchup is a tremendous advantage. 

While the Mavs can throw guys like Erick Dampier and Brendan Haywood at Amare on the low block, the Suns may still be missing seven-footer Robin Lopez, and may have to depend on Stoudemire, Lou Amundson, and Jarron Collins to try and contain Dirk.

The Mavericks also boast plenty of firepower of their own on offense, with Jason Kidd running the show alongside Caron Butler, Jason Terry, and Shawn Marion.

Watching these two veteran point guards do battle will be a treat, and this will certainly be a phenomenal series. 

Verdict: Mavericks in Seven

 

Eastern Conference Finals

Orlando Magic (2) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (1)

Why Orlando wins: Obviously, the Magic won this same matchup last season in the ECF in surprising fashion, needing six games to take down the league's best regular season team.

The Cavs had no answer for Dwight Howard, and he was able to have his way with Cleveland's bigs.

He'll likely need to elevate his play even more this time around, as defending him was likely the main reason for Cleveland's acquisition of Shaquille O'Neal over the summer.

They won't be able to stop LeBron, but they can win the series if guys like Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter step up.

Why Cleveland wins: The Cavs are stronger this year than they were last year, and have some pieces that complement LeBron very well.

Antawn Jamison spreads the floor with his ability to score from anywhere, and Anthony Parker has proven throughout his career that he's a capable scorer and wing defender.

If Shaq, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and Anderson Varejao can at least help to contain Dwight Howard, the Cavs have a much better shot than they did last year.

The Cavaliers went 1-2 against Orlando during the regular season, but I think they're strong enough and focused enough to return to the Finals.

Verdict: Cavaliers in Seven

 

Western Conference Finals

Dallas Mavericks (2) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (1)

Why Dallas wins: The Mavericks are as deep as any team in the league, and they're a tough matchup for just about everybody.

Dirk Nowitzki can score in every way imaginable, and he's going to need to in order for Dallas to move on.

The Mavericks also have enough bigs to match up decently with Los Angeles on the defensive end, and shouldn't get absolutely killed in the post by Gasol and Bynum.

I think the keys for the Mavericks in this series will be the play of Jason Terry and Caron Butler.

Butler will likely be checked with either Kobe Bryant or Ron Artest, both extremely tough on-ball defenders.

If he and Terry are able to combine for 30 points a night, I think the Mavericks can make this a very tough series for the Lakers.

Why Los Angeles wins: Kobe Bryant is going to have to deal with Shawn Marion for most of the series, a pesky defender with long arms that can give a player like Bryant problems.

However, since nobody is a "Kobe stopper," Bryant is still going to be able to score when he needs to.

Pau Gasol is going to have to work on the low block, because Haywood and Dampier are both strong defenders with good shot-blocking ability.

Like they got from Trevor Ariza last year, the Lakers are going to need someone other than Bryant and Gasol to step up on the offensive end.

Ron Artest? Lamar Odom? Andrew Bynum?

It doesn't matter who it is, but the Lakers do need someone to contribute.

Verdict: Mavericks in Seven

 

NBA Finals

Dallas Mavericks vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

Why Dallas wins: The Cavs match up well with the Mavs, but as mentioned about Kobe, nobody is a true "Dirk stopper."

Varejao can certainly give Nowitzki problems, but the Mavs are going to need Dirk to do his thing if they are going to win.

Jason Kidd's presence and style of play suits Dallas perfectly, and they can run on the Cavaliers if the opportunity presents itself.

The Mavericks are going to have to shoot three-pointers at a high percentage if they want to stay in it.

Why Cleveland wins: I can't imagine 2010 LeBron getting this close and not winning.

He's put the Cavaliers on his shoulders since 2003, and this will finally be their year.

He and the Cavs were swept in their only other Finals appearance together (by San Antonio in 2007), and he's not going to let it happen again.

Cleveland has too much firepower for Dallas to match up with over the course of a seven-game series, and this is why they're going to win the title.

Now, the real question is: will he stay or will he go?

Verdict: Cavaliers in Six

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