The jockeying is finally over.
The NBA season ended yesterday, leaving 16 teams playing for the ultimate goal: an NBA championship. Who will come out on top in June? McMullen’s Musings gives you its predictions for the 2009 NBA Playoffs.
No. 1 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. No. 8 Detroit Pistons (Cleveland won season series 3-1) The Pistons won the first game by seven, but King James and his court won the last three games by no less than six. The Cavs are 39-2 at home, which will make it very tough for Detroit to pull off an amazing upset, even if Allen Iverson were there. Cavaliers in four.
No. 2 Boston Celtics vs. No. 7 Chicago Bulls (Boston won season series 2-1) The Celtics got some distressing news when Doc Rivers announced that Kevin Garnett could be out for the entire playoffs with a strained knee. This would be distressing for other teams, but not the Celtics.
They have a good supporting cast in the other two parts of the Big Three, Leon Powe, and Glen “Big Baby” Davis. The Bulls will have an extremely hard time defending all of these parts of the Boston juggernaut, leading to an early departure. Celtics in four.
No. 3 Orlando Magic vs. No. 6 Philadelphia 76ers (Magic swept season series 3-0) The 76ers played in the extremely weak Atlantic Division, in which they trailed division champion Boston by 21 games, only managed a .500 season, and still made the playoffs.
On the other hand, the Magic have had a playoff spot well in hand for quite a while, winning the Southeast by 12 games over the resurgent Hawks. I’ve said it before: one man cannot carry a team, but Dwight Howard will certainly make one of the best attempts at it. Magic in five.
No. 4 Atlanta Hawks vs. No. 5 Miami Heat (Hawks won season series 3-1) The Heat should get one of their team leaders in Udonis Haslem back from a severe cut on his thumb a day before the tip-off of this series. That will give the Heat a significant number of rebounds back.
The Hawks surged into the playoffs, winning four of their last five, including one against the Heat. However, Dwayne Wade wasn’t playing in that game. It’s easy to pick the Heat upset here, but I think it could be a dogfight. Hawks in seven.
No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. No 8 Utah Jazz (Lakers won season series 2-1) This is a rematch of last year’s Western Conference semifinal between the two. However, this is a stronger Lakers team than last year; they clinched the West’s best record in late March.
The Jazz limp into the playoffs having lost seven of their last nine and losing their last game against...that’s right, the Lakers. Give some credit to the Jazz; they do play very hard. However, the superpower that is the Lakers are just too strong. Lakers in four.
No. 2 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 7 New Orleans Hornets (Season series tied 2-2) What a difference a year makes. Last year, Carmelo Anthony was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, and the Nuggets were crushed by the Lakers in four games. This year, there are no such distractions.
Denver is playing their best ball at the right time.
Fortunately for them, the Hornets aren’t, losing four of their last five. Also, as the season wore on, the winning margin in games between the two teams seemed to grow. It will grow even larger in this series. Nuggets in four.
No. 3 San Antonio Spurs vs. No. 6 Dallas Mavericks (Season series tied 2-2) Both teams come into the series, the fourth meeting in the playoffs since 2001, winning four of their last five. Dallas needs to avoid losing their third consecutive first-round series to keep their core players around for another season.
Unfortunately, with the powerful Spurs looming, it’s looking highly unlikely the Mavericks will see the second week of the playoffs. Spurs in six.
No. 4 Portland Trail Blazers vs. No. 5 Houston Rockets (Rockets won season series 2-1) The Blazers have won their last six games and nine of their last ten. The Rockets have won four of their last five, and are the result of hard luck, when their loss to the Mavericks dropped them to this seed.
However, this is probably better for Houston, with the alternative being that they probably would have had to face the mighty Lakers in the second round. This will probably be one of the most exciting series in the playoffs. Rockets in seven.
The run for the Larry O’Brien trophy begins on Saturday, and I can’t wait to see how it will turn out. Who will be hoisting the trophy come June? You’ll just have to watch to find out!