About an hour and a half away from the tip-off of the 2009 NBA Playoffs, which I will be totally engulfed by the entire time. I love this time of year.
Wondering if Warriors fans know basketball, or just Warriors. Here are my predictions for the opening rounds. Dare to put yours out there?
1. Cavaliers over 8. Pistons in 5 - Detroit is a shell of its former self. Believe it or not, its best shot was with Allen Iverson, as he was probably the only one on the team who could give Cleveland’s defense some real problems. Cleveland is too strong on both ends, and LeBron James now has some help in Mo Williams.
2. Celtics over 7. Bulls in 6 - Boston doesn’t need Kevin Garnett to beat Chicago. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are enough. The Derrick Rose-Rajon Rondo match-up should be interesting. Rondo has the experience, but Rose has more ability. Expect a big series from Ben Gordon, who is a free agent. It’s his last chance to get big money.
3. Magic over 6. 76ers in 5 - My sleeper in the East. Orlando has the best chance of keeping Cleveland out of the Finals. They have enough fire power to overcome an athletic Philadelphia squad, who have no answer for Dwight Howard.
5. Heat over 4. Hawks in 7 - Technically an upset, but not really. This was the one team Miami wanted to see. All D-Wade needs is for Mario Chalmers to hold his own against Mike Bibby and Jermaine O’Neal to be OK. Atlanta doesn’t have as big of an athletic advantage against the Heat as it did against Boston last year.
1. Lakers over 8. Jazz in 5 - Utah has Lakers fans a little nervous. But Boozer is down this year, Andrei Kirilenko is done and Mehmet Okur has no chance at guarding Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum. Deron Williams can average 50 and the Lakers will win.
7. Hornets over 2. Nuggets in 6 - I can’t trust any team relying on Chris Andersen. Kenyon Martin, Dahntay Jones, and Nene in the starting lineup – New Orleans isn’t intimidated. Say the Chris Paul/David West tandem cancels out the Chauncy Billups/Carmelo Anthony tandem. The Hornets have the better supporting cast, even though not as deep, if Tyson Chandler and Peja Stojakavich are healthy. James Posey is a gamer.
6. Mavericks over 3. Spurs in 6 - The end of the San Antonio era begins now. No Manu Ginobili hurts bad. If Roger Mason has a big series, the Spurs could prove me wrong. But Dallas has so many weapons. And this is Dirk Nowitzki’s (last?) chance to get some respect back. Josh Howard is back to being a baller, and figures to cause the Spurs defense problems. Bruce Bowen may have to play a lot to guard either Dirk or Howard. That wouldn’t be good.
4. Blazers over 5. Rockets in 7 - Tracy McGrady will be somewhere secretly cheering for Portland, because if Houston makes it out of the first round without him, he’ll never hear the end of it. Fortunately for him, Portland’s pretty tough to beat. The Blazers are deep and athletic and well-coached. They have enough big men to run at Yao, and enough firepower to make scoring an issue for Houston. Every time I see the Blazers, I can’t help but think how good they would be if they drafted Kevin Durant instead of Greg Oden. Scary.