Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Painting the Playoff Picture


The Grown Men Version of the Sweet 16
Pete Certo

The NBA Playoffs are right around the corner and there are two entirely different realities between East and West.  Before delving into each conference, some conventional wisdom shall be offered up:  In a seven game series, the better team will take the series most of the time.  This concept is reinforced by how the regular season plays out.  The more you play, the clearer it is who the better teams are as evidenced by the disparity in the records between the good and bad teams.  By contrast, the NCAA Tournament is a one and done scenario where anything can happen as each team has one shot to get the win.  Any team can lose on any given night.  If Harvard and New Mexico played a seven game series, Mr. Lin's Alma Mater wouldn't be dancing so happily.  In the NBA, the best team generally advances.

With that being said, not to ruin the Eastern Conference for everyone but Miami is coming out of the East guns a-blazin'.  The East breaks out with Miami as the Dottie Henson of the bunch because they are in A League of Their Own.  After that you have that unpredictable group from Manhattan who everyone thinks are named after a pair of pantaloons (Do your homework people because that is not the case), and those Indiana Pace Cars who are coached by a guy who appeared on David Letterman's Stupid Human tricks as a child.  Everyone else in the East should just be happy to be there.

Miami is sitting reeeeal pretty with a clear path to the Finals.  They are just far superior to any other team in the conference.  They will probably lose a game here and there, but any series going seven seems quite unlikely. 

Brooklyn, Atlanta, and Milwaukee stand no chance and will get swept.  There is really nothing else to say.  Chicago and Boston pose interesting matchups and will make life difficult for Miami.  They play tough and gritty and there is history there which makes for sloppy, but compelling basketball.  Some teams just matchup well with other teams due to specific player personnel or style of play, but those same teams can easily lose to a team like Charlotte for the same reasons.

Indiana’s back it louder than its bite.  Their collapse in last season's Playoff series hurt their psyche more than people realize, and when they are playing Miami they seem to be trying too hard to be tough rather than a good basketball team.  I look forward to David West making his David West face a lot, Paul George possibly trying a little too hard to be The Man, and Lance to do something crazy.  Oh, and their offense is TURBULL.

The only other team is those Knicks who are playing hot right now.  If the Knicks are firing on all cylinders they can beat anyone.  However, in a seven game series against Miami it just isn’t going to happen.  Miami's D in the Playoffs gets ratcheted up a few levels and their team rotations will close out on the Knicks’ spot-up shooters much quicker.  Let ‘Melo get his, and the rest is history.  I could totally see it going six games if NYK play like they are on their current, late-season streak, but Miami will not be denied.

The Western Conference has much more intrigue heading into the Postseason.  Interesting matchups, back stories, and bad feelings are running amok between the West's best.  First things first - let's get the Lakers out the way.  Is it worse that they miss the Playoffs with that heralded and hyped team of over-the-hill HOFers, or grab the 8th seed and promptly get blown out, most likely in a sweep.  It's one of those two scenarios, so pick your poison.  Moving on...

The West is wide open and is going to be fun as all heck-fire.  This could very well be San Antonio’s last chance (even thought that has been the case for the past six years).  Duncan went counter-clockwise on the time-telling machine and is playing at a level no one saw happening coming into the year.  If Parker and Ginobili are healthy – watch out everyone because that is a beautiful, sophisticated team basketball that is tough to beat when it is a well-oiled machine firing on all cylinders.

OKC is still a very scary team.  Durant and Westbrook can run up the score while running you out of the building.  They will miss Harden’s playmaking when the pace slows down to half-court offense because that’s what happens in the playoffs.  KD and Russ’ isolation games will not be enough if they aren’t clowning defenders on every possession.

That rag-tag bunch up high in Denver is probably the team no one wants to face.  They can run you into the ground and just keep waves of players coming at you.  The injury to (insert C-Webb voice here) “Gallinarrrri!” isn’t going to hamper them too much.  So if Lawson is good to go, watch out.  If Denver plays Houston, it will be the most insane, frenetic, and high-scoring games the league has seen since the 80’s.  Don’t miss a minute.

Looks like Grind House and Lob City have a good chance at squaring up once again, and it will be a phenomenal series.  Any basketball fan worth his salt knows the history there and is salivating for this rematch.  People mocked the Gay trade, but Memphis has been playing better since then.  Let’s not forget former ESPN Analytics Guru John Hollinger was the architect behind that deal, so it isn’t much of a surprise that things are working out well.  Memphis takes it in a slugfest.

If Houston plays OKC in the opening round, the storyline of Pizza Rolls returning home is something straight out of Hollywood – the caliber of Blue Chips.  The prodigal son has returned and seeketh revenge in a starring pizza role. 

Who know what to expect with Golden State.  They could cause issues for a lot of teams, or just not show up and get rolled.  Very curious about what they are going to do…

If Utah makes it in over the LA HOFers - Whatever.  Thanks for playing.

The West Finals just feels like it will be San Antonio and Denver with Denver making a series of it, but San Antonio pulls it out in their swan song of a season.  That leaves it to San Antonio vs. Miami.  As a true basketball fan and anointed “NBA Guy”, one can’t ask for a better Finals Matchup.  For the basketball purists, San Antonio is a beautiful team to watch.  Everyone already knows watching the Heat play basketball is also a thing of beauty.  In the end, Miami takes it in six close games while riveting us for every minute of an amazing Finals battle.

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