Early Playoff Predictions

Posted: March 6, 2013 in sports
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Many would agree that the Miami Heat will make it back to the NBA Finals. If you look at the Eastern Conference there are some roadblocks but those blocks may not be sturdy enough to contain the Heat. The Pacers have exploited their weaknesses over the past two seasons and now look like the favorite to beat them out of the East. Now when I say favorite, I’m only saying that they have beaten them in a more convincing manner than the other top teams in the East. With that being said I don’t expect to see LeBron James tweeting from home during the finals.

If Miami makes it to the finals I expect them to win. I know that they’re lacking size and depth up front but looking at the big’s on the top teams the only team that could pose a threat is the San Antonio Spurs with Tim Duncan and likes of “Tiaaago Splitter” like ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith likes to say. But recent trends have shown that the San Antonio Spurs will dominate the regular season and fall short in the playoffs. With that being said it’s hard for me to expect them to make it to the finals this season especially seeing how great western teams are playing this year.

The Oklahoma City Thunder has shown that they miss the presence of James Harden and along with that, missing a post player forces them to play a run-n-gun style constantly. Sure Perkins is a great defender but when he has to guard either Bosh or Shane Battier he’s forced to leave the paint further than he would like to, rendering him to almost being ineffective. Ibaka might have a good scoring output one game but don’t expect that to be a constant variable in a seven game series.

The Clippers are tricky. Sometimes I look at them and try to figure out how they even lose games then other times their weaknesses are too much for them to overcome. They have two strong athletic big men who can pose a threat to Miami but at some point not being able to fully get a post-game going can hurt them. Blake Griffin has an advantage on most power forwards in the NBA because of his speed. If they’re in the finals against Miami whoever is going to be on him, probably Battier and LeBron at some point, will be able to keep up with him. He can back people down but without true post moves he’ll basically be aiming for the backboard hoping that it goes in. True post players are now becoming extinct; either you’re a face-up player or an athletic slasher. But that’s an article for another day.

Memphis and Utah both have good big men that could start for any team in the league but they’re missing too much on the wings. Memphis just doesn’t seem to play with the same energy they had before the Rudy Gay trade and let’s face it; Utah won’t even make it out of the first round. Utah might not even make it to the playoffs with the Lakers right on their tail. Houston is also in that mix but unless they hit a ton of three’s like they did against Golden State for the remainder of the season and into the playoffs they’ll be sitting at home for the second round.

But let’s say the Heat don’t make it and a team like the Pacers can reach the finals or even the Celtics or Knicks can get over their struggles and turn things around. How would they match up against the over powered West in a seven game series? If you check Hollinger’s playoff odds for this this year a lot of the western teams have a shot at winning 60+ games. The odds show that the Pacers would finish second in the Eastern Conference with a record of 52-30, which isn’t bad but if they were in the Western Conference that would only be good enough for 7th place… 7th place. So can an Eastern team that isn’t the Miami Heat really be a challenge to a Western opponent? I know records are just more numbers but sometimes they are hard to argue with. Sure the Pacers can beat the Heat but how do they match up against teams like OKC and the Spurs who they’ve struggled with in the past.

Indiana’s game is inside-out. They attack the high post with David west and Hibbert is there to beat defenders with rare jump hooks and to clean up misses with put backs. Sometimes the wings get too carried away and forget about the clear advantages that they have in the paint. But a team like the Thunder would be more comfortable with that matchup because their big men can stay home a little more. David West is a hard cover for anyone but if you ask Serge Ibaka who he would rather be chasing around between possible finals forwards (David West, LeBron James, Shane Battier, etc.), without a doubt he would say West all day.

The Knicks have shown shades of being great and have shown that if Melo is off you can’t count on the supporting cast to pick up the weight. The main reason for their inconsistencies on the offensive end is because of their high three point attempts. “You live by the three and you die by the three” is a quote that seems to come out of every commentator’s mouth when talking about the Knicks. They don’t exactly have an all-around game on offense. They can get up and down with anyone but when it comes down to the stretch and you need easy baskets it’s hard for them to get.

Carmelo can get a last second shot to win a game but why even be in that situation where you need one. One thing I love about players like LeBron is how he can take over a game before things get too tight. When that clock is running down he’s already done his damage on both ends of the court so that when that clock gets down to just seconds remaining all they have to worry about is playing defense. The Knicks usually don’t have that option when facing a formidable opponent. This is a very dangerous team but their flaws can be dissected easily.

Yes Melo can hit a shot from anywhere on the court but when it’s late in the game you need easy buckets and often we see Melo put into a one-on-one situations with minimum off-ball movement from the other players. When he’s in the game his teammates tend to stand around and watch Melo go to work. In today’s NBA you need more than one guy as your focal point. Even if you have one amazing superstar player it doesn’t matter how much he scores; if no one else is contributing that team will never get close to a championship.

The Chicago Bulls are a team that has shown us a couple things. They’re excellent on defense and will fight you to the end. But with Derrick Rose being out for this long there’s no way they’re in the championship talk. If he comes back they’ll be a better team but it’s a little bit too late to try to piece things together and make an historic run. The Celtics are in that same category. Yes they have played better since Rondo has gone down but to make a serious playoff push without him is a bit farfetched. Barbosa is out as well and without these guys who can really push the ball the Celtics won’t be able to fully gain control of some games.

Early in the season it was even a question if they would make the playoffs or not but now we’re seeing a clear drop off from the 8th seed Milwaukee Bucks and the rest of the conference. Boston will have to really stink it up to miss the playoffs and let the Bucks surpass them and to let a team like Detroit Pistons or Toronto Raptors in. But that just won’t happen. At the bottom of the Eastern Conference it’s not really a horse race. It’s more like three snails trying to keep up with tortoise. In other words it’s not too competitive.

At the end of the day I think we’ll see a repeat of last year’s finals. The Miami Heat will Face off against the Oklahoma City Thunder and they will dismantle them like they have done time and time again. The West will be Hell to get through and OKC will earn more respect throughout the league for doing so, but In the end they will just fall short. Their up tempo game is good enough to get past those western teams but getting in that type of game with Miami is exactly what they want. They will stretch them out on offense, then force turnovers and cause frustration on defense. LeBron James has shown us why he’s the best player in the league and having a shot at winning a consecutive championship will only motivate him even more. KD will have his turn but right now it’s clear that LeBron and company are just too much to handle.

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