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NBA

Fan-Tastic 2007.

Our world has revolved around the sun once more, and just like that, it’s time for the NBA playoffs again. As befitting tradition, here’s the pretty much always patently useless GitM breakdown:

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

The East

Detroit Pistons (1) v. Orlando Magic (8): I had Detroit winning it all last year, and I still think when they firing on all cylinders the Pistons are far and away the best team in the East, particularly now with CWebb joining Antonio McDyess as another quality back-up in the paint. They may not have stars along the lines of Shaq and D-Wade (which, sadly, means less love at the free-throw line), but they’ve got post-up people, they’ve got outside range, they’ve got tenacious defenders and they’ve got savvy veterans. Orlando, meanwhile, has Dwight Howard (young and untested), Grant Hill (aka, sadly, Mr. Glass), and Darko Milicic (who couldn’t even break into the Piston’s rotation back in the day.) Not much of a match-up here. Detroit has had a tendency to coast until fourth quarters this year, so I’ll give Orlando a game. But that’s it. Pistons in Five.

Cleveland Cavaliers (2) v. Washington Wizards (7): Alas, the Wizards — a fun team to watch with a talented and likable superstar in Gilbert Arenas — are Dead Men Walking. With both Arenas and Caron Butler injured at the moment, Washington just doesn’t have the firepower to hang with the Court of King James. As such, this series, which might’ve been a good test to see if LeBron can shake off his regular-season doldrums, will instead be a walk. If the Cavs are too, um, cavalier, DC might take a game. But I seriously doubt it. Cleveland in Four.

Toronto Raptors (3) v. New Jersey Nets (6): Now, this one’s a little tougher. My gut tells me that New Jersey has the veteran experience to win this round against the young, up-and-down, better-ranked Raptors. But, however much I like Jason Kidd, I just can’t bring myself to pick Vince “I phone it in” Carter over Toronto, the team he screwed over back in the day. So here’s hoping Chris Bosh throws a coming-out party. Toronto in Seven

Miami Heat (4) v. Chicago Bulls (5): Until last night, I might’ve picked the Bulls to take this, just because Scott Skiles is a take-no-prisoners-coach and the returning champions have looked suspect this entire season, particularly now that Dwyane Wade has a busted shoulder. If former Piston Ben Wallace could keep an aging Shaq even slightly in check, one would think the young, hungry Bulls — Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich — might light up this series. But then I saw a flat Chicago team lose the second seed in a must-win game last night against New Jersey, and my opinion changed. In short, the Bulls are basically just a jump-shooting team with no real inside game to speak of. Jump-shooting teams can get hot and win a game or two, but they don’t win championships, or even first rounds. (Funny enough, the Bulls could really use Eddy Curry these days, whom they gave to the Knicks for, in essence, several quality draft picks — But Chicago might still get the last laugh if they pick up Greg Oden or Kevin Durant this summer with our pick. Stay tuned.) Miami in Six.

The West

Dallas Mavericks (1) v. Golden State Warriors (8): With all due respect to Sam Cassell, who’s a seriously clutch guy I’ve always rooted for (well, except in the Knicks-Rockets series back in ’94), I’m glad Golden State ended up taking the eight-seed last night over the LA Clippers. With a big, talented backcourt in Baron Davis and Jason Richardson, and with former Mav coach Don Nelson manning the sidelines, the Warriors have a slight chance to make the first round in the West really interesting. Emphasis on slight. From Avery Johnson to Jerry Stackhouse, Dallas is one of my least favorite teams in the league (although, as a digression, I do kinda like Mark Cuban — he’s a good blogger, he’s smart and passionate about the game, and, notwithstanding throwing money into the political process and behind social causes, which I’d like to think I’d do more of, he’s doing what I’d be doing if I were uber-mega-rich.) That being said, Dallas has too many guns, and is too peeved from last year’s loss in the Finals. Dallas in Six.

Phoenix Suns (2) v. Los Angeles Lakers (7): A rematch of last year’s 7-game series (where, it should be recalled, Kobe stopped taking shots in the second half of Game 7 as some strange form of protest.) That is, except this year Phoenix, with Amare Stoudamire and former Knick Kurt Thomas back at full health, is better, and Los Angeles, with Lamar Odom ailing, is worse. My inordinate dislike of Kobe is a matter of record around these parts, so I’ll waste no more time presuming to be impartial here. Suffice to say, Phoenix in Five.

San Antonio Spurs (3) v. Denver Nuggets (6): What with the ignominious circumstances surrounding his trade to Denver Allan Iverson has had a rotten year. And, I’d like nothing more than to see he, Melo, Nene, Marcus Camby, and K-Mart take the boring San Antonio Spurs to school this year. (Although, give ’em credit, it was interesting to see Tim Duncan’s inveterate whining finally send Joey Crawford over the border to Crazytown — What, you mean NBA refs carry grudges against certain players? Who knew?) But, it’s not going to happen, particularly with coach George Karl — playoff choker par excellence — still at the helm of the Nugs. I’ll be rooting for Denver, but San Antonio in Five

Utah Jazz (4) v. Houston Rockets (5): Riding Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur, and a recently flailing Andrei Kirilenko, the Utah Jazz have overperformed all year. Struggling with injuries at various times to both Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, the Rockets have underperformed. In this series, I expect Houston to even the score. Van Gundy’s a great coach, T-Mac is hungry, Yao is due, Houston in Six.

The Rest

Detroit Pistons (1) v. Miami Heat (4): With Wade hurt and Shaq still dominant but aging in dog years (as all centers ultimately do), I’d be surprised if Miami has the wherewithal to beat the Pistons two years in a row. One hates to bet against the returning champions, but they’ve been too erratic all year, I think, to get past Detroit, who should be looking to rectify for last season. And, without Riley on the bench, Detroit in Six.

Cleveland Cavaliers (2) v. Toronto Raptors (3): Ideally, Chris Bosh would give LeBron James a run for his money here in the second round, and solidify his burgeoning superstar status for the 2007-08 season. But, even with a slightly suspect supporting cast (Eric Snow?), I expect LeBron will begin to taste the NBA Finals right around now, and show us an upside that’s been AWOL for months. Cleveland in Five.

Dallas Mavericks (1) v. Houston Rockets (5): Dallas has been the best team in the league all year, and Nowitzki is a player who not only can get red-hot, but knows how to get his calls when he doesn’t. I’d love to see Houston take this series, but I gotta say Dallas in Six.

Phoenix Suns (2) v. San Antonio Spurs (3): This will be the first really marquee match-up of the playoffs, and I’d argue the Suns are still rising. Duncan, Ginobli, and Parker will no doubt make it interesting, but Phoenix ultimately puts too many points on the board. Phoenix in Seven.

EAST FINALS: Detroit Pistons (1) v. Cleveland Cavaliers (2): It makes historic sense — LeBron has to get past the Bad Boys of Detroit, just as Jordan did back in 1991, to get to the NBA Finals. It won’t happen this year, though:The Pistons are too deep and too experienced. Detroit in Six.

WEST FINALS: Dallas Mavericks (1) v. Phoenix Suns (2): The two teams that gave us arguably the best game of the season will also end up choosing between themselves the 2007 champion. Dallas is probably a safer pick, since they’ve got a better half-court game than the run-and-gun Suns. But, I’m going Phoenix…I like ’em more as a team, and when they’re in the groove they can’t be stopped.

FINALS: Detroit Pistons (1) v. Phoenix Suns (2): Detroit is a better defensive team, and defense wins championships. But, with Steve Nash, Amare Stoudamire, and Shawn Marion, I’d guess Phoenix has more game-breaking X-factors than do Detroit, and, as noted before, the Pistons have looked sluggish to me this year. So, here’s guessing Nash gets a ring to help quell the naysayers about his two-time MVP status. Phoenix in Seven.

Looks good on paper, but that’s why the play the games. Let’s play ball.

Omsbudsdog Emeritus

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