Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Playoff Predictions: Second Round

Commentary on First Round action: So I got 6 out of 8 right; maybe 7 if you consider that I wrote Washington's win will be dependent on Arenas' health. And as we all know, Agent Zero played gimpy for a couple games before shutting it down. That's not too shabby. I correctly predicted that Detriot would take the 76ers too lightly, and lose a couple games to them. But I did not know that Boston would struggle so much against Atlanta. They clearly outplayed the Hawks in Boston, but really struggled on the road. You don't expect contenders to squeak out of the first round in 7 games against the #8 seed. But I think this will serve as motivation for them in bouncing their way to the Finals. Dwight Howard was a beast in a competitive first round series. His poor FT shooting could become a problem in latter rounds however. It's eerie how similar some of his stat lines are to Early Shaq, though. And they both played for the Orlando Magic.

On the West side, the Lakers trounced on the Nuggets in the only sweep in the first round. Melo put up some mediocre stat lines and is starting to look like the second coming of T-Mac. Is that 5 straight first round outs now? Mean while the Hornets are the feel good story of the playoffs. They surprise everyone by knocking out the Mavs. This young Hornets team is legit. Chris Paul was the MVP of the first round of the playoffs. And David West is showing everyone that his all star election was not a fluke. Josh Howard, who I thought would have a monster series, was garbage. I guess you can blame the marijuana for that. The Rockets showed heart in a lose to the Jazz. They just could not overcome the injury bug. Who knows what would have happened if Alston was healthy for the entire series. Props to the Spurs, who showed everyone why they are defending champions and why the regular season means nothing. They struggled against the Suns earlier in the year, but knock them out in 5 games. Game 1 was a classic. It looks like the Mavs and Suns are in a for a long summer.

Predictions for the Second Round:

LA Lakers (1)

Utah Jazz(4)

This could be the year that the Lakers finally break through and make it to the Finals. Kobe is playing at a high level and is coming off of his first MVP win. Gasol has given Kobe the side kick that he's been looking for since Shaq left town. The Lakers got plenty of rest after their first round sweep. And look to be fresh to start the series. Utah is horrible on the road, so I would not be surprised to see them drop both of the first games. After that, I don't think they'll be able to come back to win this series. The key for the Lakers will be stopping Deron Williams. On the flip side, Utah has no one that can guard Kobe. Gasol vs Okur will be an interesting match-up with their different playing styles. For me, Utah is one of those teams that falls just short of being an elite team. I don't expect them to challenge for a title unless they shake up their roster. It's disappointing to hear that Bynum will not return for the playoffs, but he probably wouldn't help the Lakers much anyways. Rarely will a player return from an injury at top form and be ready to contribute immediately. --- Lakers in 6

New Orleans Hornets (2)

San Antonio Spurs (3)

This is the most intriguing second round match-up. Will the young guns prevail over the old guards? I've learned from the first round to not underestimate the Hornets, but I'm still hesitant to write off the Spurs. Even though they've never won back-to-back titles, they just have a knack for winning. Chris Paul vs Parker will be an amazing match-up. San Antonio has a tendency to struggle offensively at times, so they will have to rely on their defense to win this series. They have to find a way to slow down Paul, who is the motor for this team. They can't expect their big 3 to carry them to win after win; they will need contributions from their bench. Who will provide them with that lift? Chandler and West will have their hands full guarding Duncan. If Duncan can get either of them into foul trouble, the Hornets lack of depth will be exposed. Ginobilli has an edge over either Peja over Peterson. But has struggled in the past against Bonzi Wells. It's a coin toss, but I'll pick the Spurs. But this might be the second time the Hornets prove me wrong. --- San Antonio in 7

Boston Celtics (1)

Cleveland Cavaliers (4)

I know that it's a bit of stretch to say that Boston will win this series in 5 games, but I'm really not impressed by this Cleveland team. They aren't getting any consistent effort from anyone not named Lebron or Zydrunas. And Boston is motivated to win this series after a poor showing in the first round. Cleveland cannot match the offensive firepower of Boston; and I think they'll have trouble stopping all 3 of Boston's stars. Rondo is super quick and could be a difference maker in this series. It'll be interesting to see how Boston handles Lebron, after they got torched by Joe Johnson last series. Tony Allen and James Posey might get extra minutes because of this. Cleveland could steal a couple games in this series if they can hit the outside shot consistently. Their shooters should get a ton of open looks with the Boston team collapsing on Lebron every time that he touches the ball. Gibson and Wally will need to step up. But I think Cleveland's Finals run last year was a fluke. --- Boston in 5

Detriot Pistons (2)

Orlando Magic (3)

Detriot matches up well against Orlando. Rasheed Wallace and Prince are their best defenders and they are matched up against Dwight Howard and Turkoglu. If they can slow down the two Orlando stars, this series could be over quickly. Rasheed is always a headcase, though, so it'll be interesting to see how he plays. Can he stop Dwight Howard, who has been a beast all playoffs long? Hamilton and Billups should have a huge edge in the backcourt. Nelson has played better than expected; but I'm not sure that he can keep it up. And SG continues to be a weakness for Orlando. An intriguing match-up will be Rashard Lewis vs Mickie-D/Maxiell. You have two completely different styles of play. We'll see which team will be able to exploit the match-up more efficiently. Orlando was able to hit a crapload of 3's in the Toronto series, but I don't think Detriot will have any of that. Defense wins titles, and Detriot has the edge there. Boston versus Detriot is destined for the next round. --- Detriot in 6

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