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NBA

Fan-Tastic 2009.

These are actually a weekend late now, and my knowledge of the league now that I’ve left New York (and thus haven’t been watching Knicks games) is at an all-time ebb. Then again, broadcasting uninformed opinions is pretty what much the Internet was created for, so, without further ado and as per tradition, some quick NBA playoff picks…

[2000|2001|2002|2003|2004|2005|2006|2007|2008]

The East

Cleveland Cavaliers (1) v. Detroit Pistons (8): As per the last few years, I still don’t think King James’ supporting cast quite matches up to the moment. (I like Mo Williams, but he’s no Scottie Pippen, and “Big Z” — Zyldrunas Ilgauskas — is definitely no Dennis Rodman.) That being said, Lebron is pretty much playing to his amazing potential and then some, and it’s clear that — while he may still be Jordan circa ’89-90 at the moment — his dynasty is right around the corner. Conversely, the Pistons look old, tired, and broken. Particularly without Allan Iverson on hand, they would seem to be in the shoes of the mid-00’s Kings: a former title contender now obviously in eclipse. Cavaliers in Five.

Boston Celtics (2) v. Chicago Bulls (7): The Game 1 upset was a certifiable coming-out party for all-around player and Rookie of the Year PG Derrick Rose. (The facet of his game that most needs work: post-game interviewing.) But, let’s remember: The Bulls won Game 1 because Paul Pierce uncharacteristically missed a clutch free throw. With Kevin Garnett reportedly out for the playoffs, I think Boston is dead in the water this year — it’s just a matter of time (And, to be honest, that’s fine with me. They deserve some horrible mojo after swooping up Stephon Marbury as they did.) But they’re still a better team than Chicago and, remember, they had trouble with Atlanta early on last year too. Boston in Seven.

(By the way, was anyone else annoyed with the dubious and oft-repeated stat that Chicago hadn’t beaten Boston in a playoff game since 1948? Uh, well that may partly be because the Celtics were atrocious from the time Larry Bird’s back gave out until Michael Jordan retired. It’s not like the Bulls are the Bobcats, Wizards, or some other legitimately underdog franchise.)

Orlando Magic (3) v. Philadelphia 76ers (6): I’m fond of Superman (Dwight Howard), but, for all the hype surrounding Orlando mid-season, blowing an 18-point lead at home against the lowly Sixers is not something a real title contender would do. And, in the one (nationally-televised) Knicks game I have caught recently, the Magic looked terrible. But I’m not a particularly big fan of this Sixers crew either, so I’ll give ’em the benefit of the doubt and say Orlando in Seven.

Atlanta Hawks (4) v. Miami Heat (5): To be honest, I don’t know the first thing about this iteration of the Hawks: I hadn’t seen ’em play until yesterday, and the last news I heard about their franchise was when Josh Childress went to Europe. But they looked pretty dominant yesterday, and they’ve got a proven clutch performer, Mike Bibby, running the point. So, even though the refs love them some D-Wade, I’ll go with Atlanta in Six.

The West

Los Angeles Lakers (1) v. Utah Jazz (8): Always a tough call, for, as longtime readers well know, neither Kobe Bryant nor the Mormon church tend to be in my Fave 5. (And Carlos Boozer is his own case of bad mojo.) Still, the Lakers are deep, Kobe is an undeniable talent, and he’s got arguably the most underappreciated No. 2 in the league right now in Pau Gasol. I think, barring injury, this could very well be the Lakers’ year. In any case — sorry, Jerry Sloan — Deron Williams, Andre Kirilenko, & co. won’t stop ’em. Los Angeles in Four.

Denver Nuggets (2) v. New Orleans Hornets (7): This is one of those series where all my old intel isn’t of much use. Chris Paul and the Hornets looked deadly last post-season — exactly the type of team you didn’t want to run into early on. But I haven’t seen them play this year and don’t know if they’ve lost a step or if they’ve found a way to score when Chris Paul gets triple-teamed. Meanwhile, on paper Chauncey Billups running the Nuggets seems like a huge boon for them — he’s had experience managing hotheads (Kenyon Martin, meet Rasheed Wallace) and can successfully distribute shots among a bunch of players who all need the ball. But is he really enough to stop a George Karl team from choking early on? Given that they’re already one up, I’ll say Denver in Six.

San Antonio Spurs (3) v. Dallas Mavericks (6): With Ginobli out, the aging, injured Spurs got a spot of luck when they matched up against another fading West Coast giant, the Mavericks. I doubt the Spurs are good and/or healthy enough to get to the Conference Finals this year, but I don’t have much confidence in Dallas either. San Antonio in Seven.

Portland Trailblazers (4) v. Houston Rockets (5): I’ve gotten the impression from various sources that Portland is a much better team than they displayed in Game 1. And they’ve certainly got an impressive core of young talent in Roy, Aldridge, Oden, etc. (I kinda wish Channing Frye had continued to develop, but oh well.) Still, just by the law of averages, I think Yao et al are due to break out of the first round. (And there’s a certain irony that they’d finally get to do it after perennial loser T-Mac sorta checked out on them.) Houston in Seven.

[Hmm. With one exception, I picked the top seed every time again. Way to go out on a limb.]

The Rest

Cleveland Cavaliers (1) v. Atlanta Hawks (4): LeBron and the Cavs have pretty much been playing a higher-level of basketball than the rest of the East this year, particularly at home. And I think King James is too focused this year to screw things up in the second round. Cleveland in Five.

Boston Celtics (2) v. Orlando Magic (3): Like the Spurs-Mavs, I don’t have a lot of faith in either of these teams at the moment. But, while I had Boston winning this at first, I think I’m going to switch to the Magic. Perhaps the first round will work out the hiccups for Stan Van Gundy’s team, and — without Garnett on Boston — I’ll go with youth and energy over age and guile. Orlando in Seven.

Los Angeles Lakers (1) v. Houston Rockets (5): I’m going to be rooting quite hard for Yao Ming and the Rockets here. But, as with the Cavs in the East, the Lakers are just operating at a different level right now. Los Angeles in Six.

Denver Nuggets (2) v. San Antonio Spurs (3): Unless they psychologically implode, and there’s always a chance of it with this combustible squad, I have to think Denver has enough weapons to take care of injury-ridden San Antonio. Denver in Five.

EAST FINALS: Cleveland Cavaliers (1) v. Orlando Magic (3): Third verse, same as the second and first. The Cavs are playing better ball that most everyone in the East at the moment, and James will not be denied. Cleveland in Five.

WEST FINALS: Los Angeles Lakers (1) v. Denver Nuggets (2): With Phoenix, Dallas, and San Antonio on the way down, Denver now looks to be one of the premier contenders in the West. But, unless Carmelo has the type of break-out, monster playoff performance that many think he’s capable of but that we’ve yet to see, I don’t see this being all that close. Los Angeles in Five.

FINALS: Los Angeles Lakers (1) v. Cleveland Cavaliers (1): If you read what’s come before, you may have noticed that I deemed this the Lakers year a few paragraphs ago. And that’s probably true — they’re hungry, they’re experienced, and I don’t see how Cleveland’s going to manage once Phil Jackson uncorks his own version of the Jordan rules on LeBron. But, I’ve gotten pretty far in life rooting against the Lake Show…so, no reason to stop now. Cleveland in Seven.

So, there you have it — Cleveland rocks. And, if they’re this good now, just wait until James get some legitimate help…I just hope it all happens on the Knickerbockers’ watch.

Omsbudsdog Emeritus

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