Big playoff post!
Chicago vs. Boston. I don't like Boston. I will root against them in every round unless they're playing the Cavs. It's unrealistic to think, however, that Chicago can beat them, even without Kevin Garnett on the floor for Team Green. Derrick Rose is a wonderful point guard, and Chicago's talent is always intriguing, and this is definitely the most interesting point-guard matchup we're going to see this post-season, but with all that said, if the Celtics take more than five games to dispatch the Bulls, then KG is more important to them than I thought. Boston in five.
Detroit vs. Cleveland. Come on. Are we even going to talk about this? Dumars salary-dumped Billups and punted the season, and the guy he got back is hurt anyway, not that he really fit on a team that has too many shooting guards and not enough point presence. The Cavs should sweep, and I'd be surprised if they won any of the games by less than six. It's disappointing how far the Pistons have fallen, isn't it? Cleveland in four.
Philly vs. Orlando. I guess Orlando has an injury situation, with Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu both on the bubble for the series. Thaddeus Young and the Backcourt Andres can only do so much if Lewis and Turkoglu play. If they can't play or they're hobbled, I think Philly takes this one in six. It's an intriguing series only because of the roster flux, which is annoying. Orlando is a vastly better team, but they caught bad luck by having their injuries timed late. (Contrast the Lakers, who lost Bynum for the mid-late part of the year, or the Jazz, whose injuries came at the beginning of the year, to Detroit or Orlando or the Celtics and you've got yet another reason why the East is boring for yet another year.) Given that the injury situation is still unsettled, it's unfair to ask for a solid pick, isn't it? Ok, fine. Philly in seven.
Atlanta vs. Miami. Now this is an interesting series. Can Wade's one-man show carry the Heat past the better-overall Hawks? I'm taking the Hawks in this one. I don't think Wade will get 2006-like calls that allow him to put a much weaker team on his back, especially against a Hawks team that should be hungry to prove that last year's seven-game series with the Celtics was a sign of things to come, not a fluke. There's sentiment in my pick, I'll admit, because Joe Johnson was a major part of my (co-owned with my buddy Migs) championship fantasy basketball team this year, and because I have soft spots for Josh Smith and Al Horford. It's not everyone who gets a Piru Blood sign flashed at them on an NBA court and shrugs it off. Horford is also set to be Trevor Ariza's teammate on a suddenly-intriguing Dominican basketball team in the FIBA championships, so I've got some sort of second-degree rooting interest there. Still, I think Atlanta is also an objectively reasonable choice, so I'll stick with the pick. Atlanta in six.
Lakers vs. Jazz. This isn't a stellar matchup for the Lakers because the Jazz always play them tough. Furthermore, the Jazz's up-tempo style matches the Lakers', so they won't be able to disconcert them by running more than they like. Deron Williams and crew are perfectly content to sprint up and down the floor all night and get the game into the 110's and 120's. That said, with Andrew Bynum back and apparently playing ok, and with Odom back on the bench where he can bring stability to a very shaky bench unit, I don't think Utah stands much of a chance. I like the Jazz, so it's too bad I don't get to root for them for at least one round, but there it is. Lakers in five.
Nuggets vs. Hornets. How on earth are the Hornets a seven seed? I thought David West was super-awesome or something? (I'm smirking.) Anyway, the Nuggets superior talent, stabilized by Chauncey Billups (who should at least be able to slow Chris Paul a little bit, and who will be a tough cover on the other end) should win out here, although Paul's presence alone means it won't be as easy as it should be. Call it Denver in six, and let me note that I'm not really intrigued at all by this series. Denver? The number two?
Spurs vs. Mavericks. Dallas continued its slide into irrelevance, although they at least didn't completely fall apart a la Phoenix. The Spurs lost Manu, which dooms them later in the playoffs, but they should still have enough to handle Dallas. Tony Parker has shown time and again that he can pick up the offense when other guys go down, and Jason Kidd is long past being able to stop anyone. Dirk will hit some shots, but he's past the point where he can be your superstar on a deep-playoff-run team. Spurs in five.
Blazers vs. Rockets. Hands-down the best series in the first round. The Blazers are absolutely the team that I do not want the Lakers to meet in the playoffs. Eight straight losses in the Rose Garden? That's awful. The Blazers are generally unstoppable at home, but next to the Rockets, they look more like a collection of talent than a truly cohesive team. Houston, by contrast, strikes me as the epitome of matching and interlocking pieces. Maybe that's just my Battier-love talking, or maybe that's because Battier actually does make the pieces fit, or maybe that's because Battier is a symbol of how the Rockets' front office understands how you have to fit pieces together to make a team. That said, the Blazers aren't exactly a fantasy team themselves, and even if they were, they're a really good fantasy team that can lean on a lot of different pieces depending on who's playing well on a given night. Still, I think Rick Adelman comes through for the Rockets here against his old team: Houston in seven.
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