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Friday, April 15, 2011

2010-2011 NBA Playoff Preview and Predictions

After a rambunctious and topsy-turvy season, it’s finally time for some NBA playoff basketball. This has to go down as one of the most exciting and unpredictable season’s in history. We knew coming into this year that things would be different as evident by Lebron taking his talents to south beach with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh joining them for the party. Even after that shocking development things got even wilder in the league. Let’s take a quick rundown of everything that has transpired in the last six months:

1. The New York Knicks changed the face of its franchise adding Carmelo Anthony. The “Melo-drama” was the worst kept secret in NBA history and also the longest most overly dramatic trade that I can remember. Melo, the Knicks and the Nuggets held the league hostage for most of the first half of the season.

2. Somehow GM Danny Ainge of the Boston Celtics came up with the idea of trading Kendrick Perkins (effectively ripping out the heart and dominating physical presence from Boston) for Jeff Green and scraps. Now the Celtics are in a rut offensively and everyone points at the Perkins trade as the beginning of their downfall. As one of my friends (Codename_Rufus) and Boston fan put it, KG was depressed and would love to fight ol’ Danny boy if he could.

3. The Lakers have flipped the switch, turned it off again for a minute and look to turn it back on in time for the playoffs. Kobe is getting older and grumpier. He seems to go after teammates more than ever just like old men go after their children more as they age. And have you ever seen a team ever go 17-1 and then promptly lose five in a row? The Lakers have been bored by the regular season but now with the playoffs, they should be at full attention which is scary for most teams.

4. The trading deadline frenzy that saw two superstars (Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams) change teams and a number key role players as well. I would have paid cash money to see Deron Williams face when he realized he was going to New Jersey. The big Russian Prokhorov got his man but at what cost? The Nets gave up lottery pick Derek Favors and more draft picks, and Williams doesn’t even guarantee he will re-sign with the Nets. As I stated above, The Perkins trade was huge for two contending teams as it put OKC over the top and brought Boston back down to the Eastern conference pack. It allowed OKC to beef up their front-line and they also added Nazr Mohammed who is contributing as well. Denver should write a report on how to trade a superstar. After gutting the Knicks roster, they are getting the most out of the players they received in the Carmelo trade and have played even better since he left town. Who saw that coming? The one player who got the short end of the stick had to be Baron ‘B-diddy” Davis. He went from throwing alley-oops to superstar in the making Blake Griffin on the shores of sunny California to throwing tantrums in partly cloudy always a chance of snow Cleveland.

5. The Chicago Bulls are looking like those dynasty Bulls teams of the late 90’s. Derrick Rose has taken his game to the next level and carried Chicago in the process. Coach Tom Thibodeau also deserves a lot of credit for having his team believe in his defensive mentality. They are the feel good story of the year. I can’t remember anyone in the pre-season saying the Bulls would win anything much less the number one seed in the East, but yet I’m never able to forget they are as the bandwagon fans have inundated me with e-mail, texts, and trash-talk. The Bulls have a chance to go all the way because they have two key elements to championship teams: Great defense and a transcendent star player. Don’t be surprised if they are playing in June.

We have really witnessed it all this year and the playoffs will be a culmination of it all it. From deteriorating dynasties in L.A and Boston to ascending powers in Miami and Oklahoma City, the league is as competitive as it has ever been. Starting Saturday, the leagues top teams will be each others throats. Can L.A. flip that switch and stay healthy (namely Andrew ‘Bad Knees” Bynum) one more time? And when will we see the infamous jaw of Kobe jutting out?
Can Lebron, D-wade and Miami live up to the hype and that cute little pep rally , in their first year together? How about OKC now with the front-line to battle L.A, can they overcome their youth and reach the finals? Boston has looked terrible since trading Perkins but it’s their offense that has really fallen apart. Can Rondo find his game and get their motion offense in gear for the grind of the playoffs? What about the guys from Windy City? Are they a regular season behemoth destined to flame out in the playoffs against veteran tested teams? New York has two of the elite scores in all of basketball but hasn’t had enough time to bring it all together. Can Melo and Stoudemire deliver a playoff series victory for the basketball starved Big Apple? The beauty of this whole debate is that it all will be answered in the most anticipated playoffs in NBA history. Every team is stacked with talent and will bring there A-game to the court. As much as I have enjoyed the regular season, I have to admit that I am just salivating at the thought of some of the potential match-ups and what’s going to happen in the post-season.

Here are my humble predictions, starting with the Eastern side of the bracket first:

Eastern Conference first round:

(1) Chicago over (8) Indiana 4-1

(2) Miami over (7) Philadelphia 4-0

(6) New York over (3)Boston 4-2

(4) Orlando over (5) Atlanta 4-1

Western Conference first round:

(1) San Antonio over (8) Memphis 4-2

(2) L.A Lakers over (7) New Orleans 4-0

(6) Portland over (3) Dallas 4-3

(4) Oklahoma City over (5) Denver 4-3

Eastern Conference Semi-Finals:

(1) Chicago over (4) Orlando 4-2

(2) Miami over (6) New York 4-2

Western Conference Semi-Finals:

(4) Oklahoma City over (1) San Antonio 4-3

(3) L.A. Lakers over (6) Portland 4-2

Eastern Conference Finals:

(2) Miami over (1) Chicago 4-3

Western Conference Finals:

(2) L.A. Lakers over (4) Oklahoma City 4-3

NBA Finals:

L.A. Lakers over Miami Heat 4-2

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