Sunday, May 31, 2009

The End of the Most Valuable Puppets?

Below are the latest videos from the Lebron and Kobe Muppets ad campaign. It looks like these will be the last spots in the series, as Lebron didn't live up to his end of the agreement. The league's dream match-up of the Lakers vs the Cavaliers has been spoiled by the Magic. It would be hilarious if Nike created one final spot which features either Kobe taunting Lebron, or a visit from Dwight Howard. But I wouldn't count on it. Stayed tuned for me and Zee's Finals preview. That should be forthcoming within the next couple of days.

Friday, May 29, 2009

So Amazing?

Here's a funny take on that terrible Kanye West song the NBA has been playing non stop to promote the playoffs. Funny but true.


Monday, May 25, 2009

(Long Overdue) Western Conf Finals Preview

Hello all, I know this is late, however it is with good reason, my niece was born and I was welcoming her into the world. 9 pounds and 21 inches later, Amelia was born. Uncle Zee loves you! And now back to the hoops:

The Lakers face a Denver team who has had plenty of rest after a couple of cakewalks through a depleted New Orleans and a soft Dallas team. Carmelo Anthony has experienced a rebirth after the Olympics games and along with Chauncey Billups have given this Nuggets team leadership, focus and the belief that they can win it all. This Lakers team is coming out of a lengthy 7 game series with a scrappy Houston Rockets team who lost their center in the second game of the series, and provided the cocky Los Angeles team with a wake up call.

Both teams on paper are very evenly matched, with Denver using their defense to ignite fast breaks and wreak havoc on their opponents. Denver bolsters their solid starting five with a bevvy of options off the bench that compliment their already dangerous offense and defense in the form of swingman J.R. Smith and Chris "Birdman" Andersen. Throughout the playoffs, these two have been invaluable in picking up the slack for the Nuggets when thing have gotten stagnant. Look for George Karl to try and exploit the Lakers glaring weakness at the point guard spot and to try and use forwards Nene and Kenyon Martin to bully Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum in the paint, and to torch the poor soul who has to guard Carmelo Anthony.

On the other side of the floor: The Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers team who now look very pedestrian when compared to the team who beat a Utah team soundly 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs. The Lakers team who distributed the ball, who rebounded well and then ran into a Houston team who could've cared less about all of that. The Lakers will spend lots of time watching film trying to exploit match ups and really seeing what minor things they could exploit to eek out wins against this versatile Nuggets team. Kobe Bryant will be called upon once again to leave his mark on this series on offense and also possibly his defense on PG Chauncey Billups. His negating of Billups could well be the determining factor in this series since Carmelo will get his offense no matter what.

As I mentioned in my Nuggets-Mavericks preview, the one thing that is still a question mark with this Nuggets team is their mental stability. Can JR Smith, K-Mart and company manage their emotions throughout the course of the series? Will they come unglued once Kobe begins to foul out Denver guards one by one? Will the Laker big men learn from the previous series and toughen up? Is Carmelo as good as advertised? And finally is this Nuggets team this good, or the beneficiaries of good playoff match ups?

The answers remain to be seen, but I'm going to go with experience on this one. The Lakers have been tested this year and last year, and while the Nuggets have been on a tear, they quite possibly may be in over their heads once the intensity ramps up in the later stages of the series.

Prediction: Lakers in 6

Friday, May 22, 2009

Most Valuable Puppets Again

Below is the third video from the Kobe & Lebron Muppets ad campaign by Nike. This is brilliant stuff once again. If anyone was wondering, David Alan Grier does the voice for the Kobe muppet, while Keenan Thompson does the voice for the Lebron muppet.

Updated May 25, 2009. Here is the 4th video in the series:

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Playoff Predictions: Eastern Conference Finals

Cleveland continues to surprise me with their dominance in the playoff this year, as they knocked out the Atlanta Hawks in 4 games. They've been undefeated through 2 series in the playoffs. That's an impressive feat, even considering the weak opposition they've been against. You could argue that they haven't been tested yet in the playoffs. But they have dominated teams that they were supposed to dominate; which is more than I can say for the Los Angeles Lakers. Even in games when they played poorly, they were able to will themselves to a win in a tight game. Cleveland looks like a team on a championship mission. On the flip side, the Orlando Magic were able to get it together for the last 2 games and pull off an impressive win against Boston, who were 32-0 in series that they led 3-2. I'll give them props for winning game 7 on the road in dominating fashion and being able to persevere through all of the off-court drama. Dwight Howard stepped up big and backed up his guarantee. I thought that Orlando could have won the series in 5 games, but Boston gave them all that they could handle. Heart and effort can only take you so far; and with the injury to KG, Boston didn't have the talent to match Orlando. It's a shame. Of note, Turkoglu had a monster game 7, and may finally be out of his slump.

Cleveland Cavaliers (1) Vs. Orlando Magic (3)

The key to this series will be the match-up between Dwight Howard and Lebron James. Shocker. Both teams rely heavily on their superstar. And the star that shines the brightest will be able to propel his team to victory. Dwight Howard has been dominant in the middle, averaging 19.6 points, 16.6 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game. He's the anchor for this team on both the offensive and defensive end. On defense, he needs to keep Lebron out of the paint. If they can turn Lebron into a jump shooter, they will stand a great shot at winning this series. They need to keep the ball out of Lebron's hands and force his teammates to beat them. On offense, he needs to be aggressive and set the tone early. He's not a polished scorer, but his inside presence frees up their shooters in the outside. This is a team heavily dependent on the 3pt shot. Another key for Orlando will be the play of Turkoglu and Lewis. Turkoglu is the barometer for this team. When he plays well, this team plays well. And he's been inconsistent so far in the playoffs. Lewis, once again, will be a tough cover. He's an undersized PF, with nice quickness and a sweet outside shot. None of the teams that they've faced have had a dominant PF who can take advantage of this mismatch.

On the flip side, everything runs through Lebron James. In the playoffs, he leads this team in points (32.9), rebounds (9.8), assists (6.8), steals (2.0) per game. He has been getting to the free throw line a ridiculous 13 times per game. He's also been hitting 2 3's per game, and overall is shooting 53% from the field. Orlando does not have anyone who can defend Lebron James. He needs to put this team on his back and carry them to the Finals. He needs to set the defensive tone and get open shots for his teammates. Big Z and Mo Williams have been pretty quiet so far in the playoffs; I expect them to step up their game against Orlando. This is a well-balanced team that can hurt you in many ways. Everyone knows their role and they can execute brilliantly on both ends of the floor. I should note that Cleveland has been dominant on defense so far, holding teams to under 40% shooting and 78 points per game. Orlando smashed Cleveland in their last match-up (being ahead by as many as 40 points), and holds the season edge at 2 games to 1. But I still think this is Cleveland's series to lose. They have been playing on a whole another level the past few weeks, and like everyone says, the playoffs are a different beast from the regular season. The better team will win in the end, which I think is Cleveland. They have homecourt advantage, where they are nearly unbeatable.

Let's do a breakdown of the positional match-ups. The backcourts are similar, but I give the edge to Cleveland. They are better shooters. Delonte West and Mo Williams have been lights out thus far. And I like their depth with Boobie and Pavlovic off of the bench. They are going to get a lot of open shots with Lebron dominating the paint. Alston is not a championship calibur PG. He is prone to jacking up bad shots and making boneheaded plays in the clutch. Lee has been solid so far with his shooting and defending. He was an excellent draft pick by the Orlando Magic. Pietrus could be big off of the bench. He has a great 3pt shot and he gives the team another guy to throw at Lebron. Hopefully Anthony Johnson won't have to play too many minutes. That's all I have to say about that. Reddick matches up well with some of Cleveland's role players, so don't be surprised to see him get some burn in this series, assuming his shot is falling. It's interesting to note that none of the above players are really true PG. Both teams depend on their SF to do much of the ball handling and decision-making.

Lebron dominates the SF spot. He is just too strong and too quick for Turkoglu to defend. I think they'll play Pietrus against Lebron at times to mix things up. Lebron has struggled in past games against Orlando because of Dwight's defense. It will be interesting to see what kind of adjustments he will make. The great ones always find a way to win. Wally as the backup SF is competent. He is a solid scorer and a wiley veteran. Turkoglu has been inconsistent, but he is one of the key players for this Orlando team. Whenever he plays well, this team plays well. He's 6' 10", can hit the outside shot, and is a great ball handler. He is the primary ball-handler in the clutch, and has already hit a couple of game winners in this playoffs. If Lebron is able to slow down Turkoglu, this series could be over soon than later. This will be a key match-up. With regards to the coaching staff, I think it's a wash. Mike Brown did win coach of the year; but that's mainly because Lebron lead this team to the best record in the league. He makes any coach look better than they are. Stan Van Gundy, on the other hand, screams too much and looks like Ron Jeremy, but is a capable coach.

PF/C has some interesting mismatches. Rashard Lewis is too quick for Varejao to guard. He'll probably be the team's top scorer again. He has a great outside shot which will drawn his defender away from hoop, and he has the quickness to drive to the basket. Joe Smith is the best guard against Lewis. So we might see him get extended minutes. Varejao is a pest, who gets under player's skin and does all of the dirty work. Don't discount his impact on this series. Orlando also has the edge at the C spot with Superman. I expect Dwight to be dominant. Unlike Boston, Cleveland has a lot of bodies that they can throw at Dwight to keep him off-balanced. And they have a lot of fouls to give, which could come into play as Dwight is a horrible FT shooter. Wallace might be the best guard against Dwight, but he's a liability on the offensive end. Big Z's shooting will keep the defense honest. If Dwight doesn't come out to defend Big Z, he could have some big scoring games. Gortat is a solid reserve who can bang with this Cleveland squad. He's proven to be a solid fill-in for Dwight whenever he gets in foul trouble. Overall, I think Cleveland has a better squad. Defense wins championships. And I think Lebron will have a bigger impact than Dwight. Cleveland wins in 6

Friday, May 15, 2009

Most Valuable Puppets

These new Nike Muppet commercials featuring Lebron and Kobe are hilarious. I especially like the second spot which features Kobe taunting Lebron James about his championship rings. Classic. Whoever came up with this idea deserves a raise or something.

Zee's a little behind with his post predicting the winners of the Western Conference second round series. But let's see whether he can get that up before both series are finished. Hah! He's still got a few more days. I'm looking forward to Sunday. Both game 7's should be entertaining. I'll be rooting for Houston and Boston. I think it can go either way in the Boston and Orlando series. But I like Boston's chances because they have homecourt advantage and championship mettle. They'll need to get a better effort out of Big Baby and Ray Allen to advance, however. And they'll need to take better care of the ball.

Who would have thought that the Rockets would force a game 7 against the Lakers with both Yao and T-mac out? Crazy. Houston is playing with heart and passion. You gotta give these guys and their coaching staff a lot of credit. I remember telling Zee that Houston would be a tough out because of their toughness and their depth. The Lakers could learn a lot from them. They've been too Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for my liking in the playoffs so far, and are not giving a consistent effort each game. I'm starting to doubt whether they can contend for a title this season. But let's see if they can prove me wrong.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Bush League Tactics

Absolutely hilarious. If you are going to get suspended for 1 game, you gotta at least get a good hit in like Derek Fisher. Not this weak smack upside the head. What was Rafer Alston thinking? That's what separates the contenders from the pretenders. Haha.

As a bonus, here is a video of Fisher's hard foul:

Monday, May 4, 2009

Playoff Predictions: 2nd Round (Eastern Conference)

I did a decent job at predicting the first round series winners correctly. I was within one game for all of the series except for the Atlanta/Miami series. I underestimated how injured Wade was. I thought he would be able to will his team to victory over a superior Atlanta team. But he got little help from his supporting cast, and Atlanta was able to pull off a game 7 win on their home floor. It was quite a strange series with all of the games being double-digit wins. In any case, I don't think either team stands a shot against Cleveland. The Cleveland/Detriot series was a blow-out as expected. Detriot is not the same team without Billups, and they'll have some big decisions to make in the offseason regarding the direction of this team. 3 of the first 4 games in the Orlando/Philadelphia series were decided by last second shots. But besides that, Orlando took care of business and won the other 3 games pretty easily. The highlight of the first round was the Boston/Chicago series. That was one of the best first round series that I've ever seen. Almost every game went down to the wire, as they set a record for most overtimes played in a series. Rondo vs Rose was an epic PG battle. Pierce, Allen and Gordon all hit big shots for their respective teams. What surprised me was the play of Big Baby Davis, who filled in admirably for KG. The better team won the series; but Boston sure made their job harder than it should have been. If Pierce had hit that FT at the end of the first game, that could have completely changed the dynamic of the series. And they could have potentially swept the Bulls in the first round. But enough about that, let's move onto the second round...

Cleveland Cavaliers (1) vs. Atlanta Hawks (4)

There's no stopping this Cleveland Cavaliers team. They are focused on winning and the Atlanta Hawks will become their second victim. This Cavaliers team is well rested after sweeping the Detriot Pistons, and I expect the league's top rated defense to clamp down on this Atlanta Hawks team. They were 3-1 against the Hawks during the regular season, and I expect much of the same. Lebron James is the most dominant player in the league, and the Hawks don't have anyone on their team who can slow him down. I expect a huge series from him. He'll set the tone on both ends of the floor. On the Hawks side, Joe Johnson has been struggling so far in the playoffs. There's no way Atlanta can be competitive unless he's playing at his best. Varejao is an underrated defender. I expect him to get under Josh Smith's skin. He's the kind of hot-headed, immature player who will be easily rattled. Bibby has been scorching hot from downtown; but Cleveland is the #1 team at defending the 3PT shot. Al Horford and Marvin Williams are slowed by injuries, which doesn't help their cause at all. The Hawks are also horrible FT shooters. The only shot the Hawks have at winning is if they get huge production from their bench: Flip Murray, Evans and Pachulia. On Cleveland's side, they just need to consistently play hard and not take this Atlanta team too lightly. They are the better team on both sides of the floor. And they are nearly unbeatable at home. Mo has played nicely as second fiddle, and the Cavaliers have gotten solid production from their role players. Big Z and Joe Smith have provided nice scoring from the 4 & 5 spots. - Cleveland Wins in 5

Boston Celtics (2) vs. Orlando Magic (4)

This is a difficult series to predict. Both teams struggled to win their first round series. If you compare their rosters position by position, there are a lot of mismatches. In the backcourt, Rondo and Allen have a huge edge over Alston and Redick. I can't imagine Redick or Alston being able to slow down their counterpart one bit. And that could spell disaster; as Rondo was a triple double machine in the first round, and Allen was red hot from the field. His 51 point game with 9 made 3PT was pretty impressive. Orlando desperately needs Courtney Lee to return to health. Neither Pietrus or Johnson have been very effective off of the bench. I also give Boston the edge at the SF position. Pierce is The Answer and last year's Finals MVP. While Turkoglu has been awful so far in the playoffs; excluding his game winning shot. He could be the difference-maker, if he can get his game together though. The PF spot is an interesting matchup. Big Baby has the girth advantage and should be able to dominate the paint. But Lewis is one of the league's best shooters. I don't think Davis will be able to keep up with him. Howard is a beast in the middle. But Perkins is one of the better defending big men in the league. He is the X-Factor for this team. If he can stay out of foul trouble, and do a decent job of containing Howard, Boston has a great shot at winning this series. Otherwise, it's up to Big Baby, Scalabrine and Mikki Moore to defend Howard; and that's not a pretty picture at all. Howard will need to lead his team to the next round. His dominance in the middle opens things up for all of their shooters. And he's the anchor for this team on the defensive end. Both teams are excellent on defense, but Orlando might have more scoring punch. Neither team's bench has been that effective. But anything that Boston gets from House or Marbury is a plus. For Orlando, I like the duo of Battie and Gortat. Both are capable rebounders and defenders and provide some much needed depth at the 4 and 5 spots. Call me crazy, but I think Boston can pull off the win. Never underestimate the heart of a champion. That, and they have homecourt advantage. - Boston wins in 7.