The cast for the 2nd Round of the 2009 NBA Playoffs is set to begin as the last Game 7 today had the Hawks blow out the Heat. Joe Johnson’s 6 threes proved too much for the one-man-Wade-Heat team as the much-anticipated matchup between Lebron and Wade went down the drain. In any case, the current Cavs-Hawks series would be a lot more competitive than a Cavs-Heat matchup as the Heat would have been pummeled to the ground.
My predictions for the 1st Round went pretty well. In the 8-team matchups, I was 7 of 8, with only my pick on the Heat losing out. On the series W/L predictions, I’m only 3 of 8, hehe. Let’s see how my 2nd Round predictions go…
(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs (4) Atlanta Hawks
The Cavs breezed past the First Round by utterly destroying the list-less Detroit Pistons. This is definitely the last time we are seeing this Pistons team with the line-up that they have as it is definitely time to start rebuilding. The Cavs on the other hand look unstoppable and seem to be able to turn it on anytime they want to. The Hawks needed Game 7 today to dispatch Wade’s Heat but did it easily behind JJ’s hot night. So how do both teams match-up?
The Cavs are 3-1 against the Hawks this season, with 2 of those wins by 6 points or less, with one blowout, while the Hawks took one game. Lebron scored 26 points or less in 3 of their games with one game scoring 33. Do the Hawks stand a chance? My guess is they have a glimmer of hope, but they need all guns on target to be able to do it. Bibby and JJ have to be on-target, J-Smoove needs to play his best and Horford NEEDS to get healthy and play his game. Those are a lot of NEEDS, though…
The Cavs seem to be poised for an Eastern Conference Finals match-up against whoever, and it doesn’t seem like it matters. They are playing unbelievable basketball with Lebron orchestrating and every single player in a Cavs jersey delivering. It will be a good test for them against the feisty young Hawks though, but Lebron seems focused enough to push them through no matter what.
A Hawks upset seems rather hopeful, but I think they can pull one game off at home. I don’t see them winning a game on the road though and the Cavs don’t seem to really care where they play. Still a better 2nd Round match-up compared to Flash coming in and getting destroyed.
PICK: Cavs in 5.
(2) Boston Celtics vs (3) Orlando Magic
This series seems like one heck of a good one, but with both teams riddled with injuries, it seems more like a battle on who can adjust better to injuries. And in this case, I think the Celtics have a better line-up on paper considering the injuries on both teams, but looking at it deeper, the Magic might actually have the edge.
The regular season match-up had both teams even at 2-2 with each team taking a game at home and a game on the road. The interesting thing here is that both teams have bad match-ups on guarding the other team’s stars. Ray Allen and Paul Pierce seem to love playing the Magic as they have scored consistently in all 4 games. The Magic only have their Big 3 to turn to and no one else.
The problem the Celtics have now is who is going to guard Dwight Howard. Superman has torched this team each game he’s played and KG missed one game out of the four. It’s significant to note that Perkins plays decent D on Dwight, but their problem is, there is no more KG and no more Leon Powe. The reason they play great D on Howard is because KG plays great off the ball and on help defense. Now that he’s gone, as well as Powe, what happens when Perkins gets in foul trouble? Big Baby will be forced to guard Dwight and that spells trouble for them.
The problem the Magic have is bigger. They’ve lost Courtney Lee for the first 2 games, as reported, so no one can keep up with Pierce and Allen. And considering Lee has been pestering Allen in all those 4 games and Ray-Ray still ran circles around him, spells big trouble for the Magic. Orlando also relies too heavily on 3 players, and Turkoglu is very prone to fouls especially if he’s going to guard Pierce. If one of those Big 3 go down, this might be a quick series. If they can steal a game off of the Garden, then getting Lee back at home would give them a pretty good chance.
This series all boils down to how smart each team plays off of their best players. And it’s probably not going to be a nice fluid series like the Bulls-Celtics match-up. I picked the Magic as the dark-horse to come out of the East with Jameer still running the ship. But now that he’s gone, they will be hard-pressed to upset the Celtics as Alston is too inconsistent and might be run off the ground by Rondo. My prediction, my head says Celtics in 6, but my heart says Magic in 7!
PICK: Celtics in 6. Mind probably wins
(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs (5) Houston Rockets
The Lakers probably breathed a sigh of relief when the Rockets blew out the Blazers in Game 7 of their series. If there was a team that the Lakers have had a hard time playing, it’s the young Blazers led by Brandon Roy. Since that’s done and over with, Kobe will be up against his nemesis Ron Artest and the defensive-minded Houston Rockets.
It will be exciting to see the match-up between Kobe and Artest as each game has had them both challenging each other, with Bryant pounding Artest to the ground and the Lakers blowing out the Rockets. It’s going to be a really good challenge for the Lakers before they face the Nuggets (yes, the Mavs stand no chance) as it will be a battle of offense vs defense.
Kobe has torched the Rockets almost every game and winning every mind game Artest throws at him. But I’m sure the Rockets will throw a barrage of defenders at Kobe rotating Ron with Shane and even Wafer. On the Laker side though, the presence of Bynum is a huge boost as it will help better deal with Yao and the drive and drop plays of the Rockets. Gasol will be vital as he will be significant in trying to get Yao in foul trouble but the key is who takes over the point guard duties when Fisher sits down. Note that Farmar is out of the series as far as I know. Fish also doesn’t seem like he’ll be able to manage Brooks’ speed but then again, Brooks has played well in one game out of the four. But this post-season, he has upped his game and has full confidence in the playoffs. So that’s something to watch out for.
The Rockets need Scola and Landry to play very well against the Laker bigs. If they don’t, it will be very difficult as the defense will be able to stifle Yao and there will really be no one else. Artest is too streaky on offense and the Rockets rely a lot on teamwork to get points on the board. So it will be interesting to see how this goes in Game 1, but I think the Lakers make a statement right off the bat.
PICK: Lakers in 5.
(2) Denver Nuggets vs (6) Dallas Mavericks
The Nuggets are on-fire and they are my dark-horse to come out out of the West. Melo and JR Smith have been playing unbelievable and the Nuggets D anchored by Nene and Chris “Birdman” Andersen off the bench has been special. They crushed the Hornets in Round 1 even if they lost that one careless game. The Mavs were able to get past the Manu-less Spurs, as expected.
Why am I hyping up the Nuggets and downplaying the Mavs? Denver has a solid first five and a great bench to rest the starters. Melo has played unbelievable against this Mavs team and they don’t seem to have an answer for him. Dirk will have his usual numbers, but who else is there?
Josh Howard is the key to the Mavs winning any game, seriously. There really is no one else except Terry and Dirk that they can count on for points and knowing the stingy D the Nuggets will play on Terry, Howard will really need to do something special for the Mavs to have any chance.
I love the Nuggets this season. They got what they severely lacked in Billups for a true point guard who can control the game and is clutch, and they have 2 game-changing players who come off the bench. JR Smith is an amazing player and if the Mavs have no answer for him, they will be blown off the court. Birdman is also playing the best basketball of his life and I see no reason his blocks numbers decrease. I see him blocking at least 3 shots a game, and that’s huge for a center coming off the bench when K-Mart and Nene sit. Goodluck to the Mavs in the series. As the 1st game showed today, the Nuggets can blow the Mavs out of the building. And sheesh, Chauncey only scored 6 points today and the Mavs lost by 14.
PICK: Nuggets in 5.