Saturday, April 18, 2009
The NBA playoffs are upon us after a season of much anticipation. The Clarion Content can only say you should have been grateful for how wonderful last season's playoffs were. It is a rarity. Hope you were watching, because after much hype this season's playoffs took a dramatic turn towards dullesville with two big injuries in recent weeks. The Clarion Content agrees with the widely held notion that injuries to the Spurs Manu Ginobili and the Celtics Kevin Garnett (both out for the duration of the playoffs) have taken the number of legitimate contenders down from four teams to two. The Spurs and the Celts may win a round or even two, despite the injuries, but the Finals is likely Lakers-Cavs. It would take a monstrously shocking upset to derail the Kobe vs. LeBron match-up that the league and Commissioner Stern so desperately desire.
On to Round 1 in brief...
Boston Celtics vs. Chicago Bulls
Even without Garnett the Celtics should have just enough to win this series. Vinny del Negro is an awful coach. The Bulls however have been hot down the stretch, at one point winning 11 of 14 with the Bobcats nipping at their heels for the final playoff spot. The Celtics were extended to seven by the Hawks in the first round last year, don't be surprised if it happens again.
Detroit Pistons vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
How far the Pistons have fallen? When they dismissed Larry Brown we never anticipated they would fall this far this fast. After the Chauncey Billups trade they barely scratched their way into the playoffs. A.I. left the team on a self-imposed exile. They likely won't even take a game from the Cavs.
Dallas Mavericks vs. San Antonio Spurs
This had to be the match-up the Spurs wanted the least. The Mavs who have lost in the first round each of the last two years and have to be burning to do better. They played the Spurs even 2-2 in the regular season. Will the Spurs again bench contribute enough to get them through this series? Duncan has looked tired down the stretch. Tony Parker should kill J.Kidd on the offensive end, but will it be enough? The Spurs will need seven, weakening them for the next round's opponent. They could even very well lose this series.
New Orleans Hornets vs. Denver Nuggets
The Clarion Content's sports editor is bummed that this series had to happen in the first round. It surely feels like a second round series. We don't want to believe that Melo is going to get knocked out in the first round again, but facing Chris Paul, whew. Is there a better player in the Western Conference not named Kobe? The Hornets are defensive minded and the Nuggets like to run. Mr. Big Shot, Chauncey Billups has turned out to be a tremendous pick up. The Nuggets look organized and lethal. A hard series to call? Denver has the homecourt in game seven, says here Chris Paul finds a way to win anyway.
Houston Rockets vs. Portland Trailblazers
This another series where it is a shame that the teams are meeting in the first round. In the Clarion Content's eyes the Rockets are the team with the best chance to take out the Lakers. (We root heartily against the Lakers.) Other folks think the Trail Blazers because of their superb home record against Phil Jackson's crew have the best chance to beat LA. Against each other it is a clash of match-ups. Brendon Roy and Blazers would prefer to push the ball. The Rockets have the defenders for Roy in Artest and Battier. The Rockets would like to get the ball into Yao in the post. The Blazers have Joel Przybilla and Greg Oden. Advantage Rockets, says here they win it in six. (Yep, they are better without McGrady.)
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Utah Jazz
The Lakers should crush. Despite the fades at the end of the season by the aging Derek Fisher and the youthful Jordan Farmar at point guard, Kobe and Gasol will be too much for the Jazz. Jerry Sloan is a great coach, so it is puzzling that this crew has underachieved. Is it all Carlos Boozer's karma?
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Orlando Magic
The Clarion Content would be very surprised if the 76ers had anything to offer in the way of resistance here. Orlando has too many weapons. Starting with Dwight Howard, their super solid big man, the best player on the court in this series. Orlando also offers a cast of three point shooters, Rashard Lewis, the versatile Hedo Turkoglu, the dynamic rookie Courtney Lee and even J.J. Reddick has been in the mix off the bench down the stretch. It will be more than enough against the Elton Brand-less 76ers. Andre Miller is a good point guard, but Philly just doesn't have enough cats who can put the bisquit in the basket. Orlando's Stan Van Gundy is a huge coaching edge over Philly's relative unknown Tony DiLeo.
Miami Heat vs. Atlanta Hawks
Perhaps the most intriguing first round series in the East. Can D-Wade alone get by the Hawks? Joe Johnson and the gang pushed the champion Celtics to seven games in the first round last year. One has to figure that experience will benefit them this year. Still Wade, has been there and done that, and then some. A tough draw for the emerging Hawks. If they can keep their emerging corps, Josh Smith, Marvin Williams and Al Horford together their 'wait 'til next year' will really mean something.