Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Playoff Predictions: Conference Finals

Commentary on Second Round action: Sweet. I got 4 out of 4 right in this round. Not too bad. Though I did get the number of games horribly wrong in the Boston vs Cleveland series. I thought that Boston would have finally been able to overcome their road woes. But how crazy would it be if Boston makes it to the Finals, or even wins an NBA Championship, without winning a road game? If Ray Allen had played better this series would have been over much quicker. Game 7 was a classic. Paul Pierce vs Lebron James has been one of the highlights of this year's playoffs. I don't see Cleveland making the NBA Finals again unless they overhaul their roster; and in a good way. Trading for Ben Wallace and Wally World was not the answer. Lebron James is a one-man wrecking crew. It reminds me earlier Kobe or T-Mac teams. I'm surprised how easily Detriot beat Orlando, given the injury to Chauncey Billups. But that goes to show you the importance of defense and experience. Orlando needs a true PG or PF in order to compete in the East. Prince's block on Turkoglu was reminiscent of his earlier block against Reggie Miller. Clutch!

The Lakers beat the Jazz in 6 games, just like I predicted. Utah could not win one on the road. Speaking of road struggles, how bonkers is it that the home team has a 22-3 record in the semi-finals round. That just shows you the importance of home court advantage and playing well in the regular season. If Boozer had played better in this series, who knows what would have happened. Deron Williams played brilliantly, but has been overshadowed by Paul this year. Utah is a few pieces short of being a contender. But you have to like their chances in the future though because they are a young team and have a great coach. They along with New Orleans are the future of the Western Conference. I'm not quite sold on Portland yet. What can I say about the Spurs. They stepped up their game and won a huge game 7 on the road. It was the first time they've come back from an 0-2 or a 2-3 deficit. It was even more impressive given their margin of defeat in the previous games in New Orleans. Manu and Parker played huge, and while Duncan did not put up huge stats, his passes out of double teams led to a lot of open 3's by their role players. Their window of opportunity has not closed quite yet. Chris Paul and David West will need more help in order to make a run at a championship and join elite company.

Predictions for the Conference Finals:

LA Lakers (1)

San Antonio Spurs (3)

It's a coin toss for me, but I think the defending champions will return to the NBA Finals (the first time that they've accomplished that goal in back-to-back years). These two teams have plenty of experience playing one another, and I think it will come down to defense and the play of their role players. Both teams are excellently coached; but I prefer the Spurs Big 3 over the Lakers, and I like their edge in experience (having played together for longer). If they fall down 0-2 in Los Angeles, they may not be able to recover from the hole however. So these first couple of games are crucial. Their short layover could be disastrous; as this is an old team that plays better with a lot of rest. I expect Duncan to have a huge series, if the Lakers elect to single-cover him. It will be harder to get their role players involved, however. Manu is always an X-factor for this team. On the Lakers side, Odom needs to stay aggressive and exploit the mismatches. No one on the Spurs can defend him. Kobe and Gasol will get theirs; but they will need to get their role players involved early and often to win. I know that everyone wants a Lakers vs Celtics Finals, but I'm going to go against the grain and pick the Spurs. How can you not root for the defending champions? --- Spurs in 7

Boston Celtics (1)

Detriot Pistons (2)

While Boston has struggled on the road throughout the first two series, I still like their chances to make it to the Finals. I predict they will finally win at least 1 road win. I think the difference maker will be Billups' health. If he comes back at full strength, I might have to switch my prediction. I'm not sure that Stuckey is ready to lead a team to the NBA Finals. On the flip side, Rondo is the X-factor in this series. But the key match-up will be KG vs Wallace. They are the heart and soul for their respective teams. Boston needs to get a better effort out of Ray Allen, also. Contrary to what many people are saying, I don't think that Detriot's bench is that much better than Boston's. Boston has Cassell, House, Allen, Posey, House, Davis, Powe. They've been pretty solid throughout the playoffs. Both teams play excellent defense, so I think it will come down to clutch plays by their superstars. And I like the Big 3 in Boston in this case. Pierce (against Prince) and Hamilton (against Allen) will need to play big for their respective teams. It should be an exciting, competitive series between these teams. --- Boston in 7

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