With this post I thought I'd have a little fun—why not make some bracket predictions? I can't do any worse than I did with March Madness, in fact, I'd put money on the fact that, percentage-wise, I'll do better.
I'm going to use my first-round predictions to select my first round of the bracket, then continue from there. If you want to read my reasoning as to why teams will advance from the first round, just click the link two lines above.
Eastern Conference Semifinals
No. 1 Chicago Bulls vs. No. 4 Orlando Magic
With the way the Hawks played Orlando in the first game of the series, I'm not entirely sure that Orlando will have a chance to make this matchup possible, but that's besides the point. Either way, Orlando or Atlanta, I would take Chicago to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. I think the team defense that Tom Thibodeau has instilled in this team will be enough to carry them to this point.
Plus, when the game is on the line, the Bulls have Derrick Rose, a guy who has already had to close out two games in the first round. When that point comes for the Magic, they can't dump the ball inside to Dwight, because teams will just foul him (unless the game is tied). Chicago in six.
No. 2 Miami Heat vs. No. 3 Boston Celtics
The Celtics had a rough time with the Knicks in Game 1, but execution down the stretch ended up being enough for them to come out on top. That continues to be a factor as to why they are the team I have pegged to matchup against the Lakers in the finals this year. That and their defense.
There is no doubt that the absence of Perk has messed with the team's chemistry, but Jermaine O'Neal is trying to be healthy, and if Shaq can play any sort of minutes, they don't have to worry about clogging the paint. I just think their teamwork and execution will be enough to handle the Heat in a seven-game series. Boston in seven.
Western Conference Semifinals
No. 1 San Antonio Spurs vs. No. 4 Oklahoma City Thunder
This one comes down to whether or not the Spurs have a healthy Ginobili. If they do, I think they can win this series rather handily. The Spurs aren't the same defensive powerhouse team we have been used to since the turn of the century, but I expect Coach Pop to switch some things up, and really get them dialed in on the defensive end of the court. After Memphis shot over 50 percent on them on their home court, I expect to see their defense turned up a notch.
I think the Thunder are a great team, they are outgrowing the "great young team" mantra. Of course, they're young, but they aren't playing like a young team anymore. Westbrook and Durant are a very tough one-two punch to stop, and the addition of Perkins down low finally gave them the toughness inside they have been seeking. Like I said though, if the Spurs are healthy, I take them in six. If not, then the Thunder move on in six. San Antonio in six.
No. 2 Los Angeles Lakers vs. No. 3 Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks are going to have a very tough time with the Blazers in the first round, and I think that series is going to go seven games. I originally predicted the Lakers to go to five, but after losing Game 1 on their home court, it could go six. The point I'm trying to make here, is that both of these teams rely heavily on older players, players who have a lot of miles on their legs. The more games they have to play before this point, the worse off they are.
It will come as no surprise to everyone that I'm taking the Lakers in this series. I think their length and presence inside will eventually be too much for the Mavericks. Lamar and Pau can guard Dirk as well as anyone can expect an opposing four to guard him, and with the baggage that will be coming along from their last regular season matchup, you won't have to tell the Lakers to get up for this game. Los Angeles in six.
Eastern Conference Finals
No. 1 Chicago Bulls vs. No. 3 Boston Celtics
This series would be awesome. Rondo against Rose. Garnett against Boozer. I would love to watch this, and I think it would go all the way to seven. Both teams play great defense, but at the same time know how to score the ball.
We also can't forget about the Rose/Rondo storyline, Rondo was cut from the U.S. National team this past summer for Rose. I'm sure Rondo would love to show Rose up on the biggest stage possible, and since they can't face off in the finals, why not the Eastern Conference Finals? Ultimately, I like the Celtics' experience. Boston in seven.
Western Conference Finals
No. 1 San Antonio Spurs vs. No. 2 Los Angeles Lakers
WHO WOULDN'T WANT TO SEE THIS SERIES?!? Seriously though, one last Spurs/Lakers showdown before Tim Duncan rides off into the sunset, both teams at their peak. All the bad blood between the two teams, the two coaches, I would love to see this series.
Remember when the two teams met up, and the Lakers man-handled them? That's what I'm holding onto for this series. I know that wouldn't happen on this stage, but it gives me the confidence that the Lakers could pull off the series. I think it goes six or seven. Los Angeles in six.
Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers
It all comes down to this. This series would absolutely go seven games. I'm not going to break anything down. I'm just going to give you my pick.
If you disagree, think I'm out of my mind, or just want to say hey, don't be afraid to leave a comment!
Be sure to be on the lookout for my recap of the Lakers Game 1 defeat. If you have any comments, questions or concerns, please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, please follow me on twitter (@rcbinyon), I interact with all my fans!