That song was made for the NBA playoffs (just ignore all the Christmas references). Happiness, excitement, tears, bruises, buzzer beaters, players buckling under the pressure, the scrutiny that the athletes go through is unparalleled. This years playoffs are expected to be one of the best ever, with about 8 stacked teams at the top, and a couple others hanging around hoping they can sneak through by catching one of those top teams off guard. With 2 days left in the regular season, the East bracket is set, and here are my picks.
1. Chicago Bulls vs. 8. Indiana Pacers
Rivalry renewed. Well, sort of. The last time the Bulls met the Pacers in the playoffs, some guys named Michael and Reggie were still playing. The teams would need 7 games to decide who got a spot in the Finals then (’98), but this year they will be playing for a spot in the second round.
The Pacers are a solid team who like to push teams around when given the chance (I hate Jeff Foster almost as much as Udonis Haslem). They were the team responsible for handing the Bulls their only regular season, central division loss, and the other 3 games were hotly contested until about the 3rd quarter, where the Bulls ended up pulling away by 19, 13, and 11, respectively.
I can see the Pacers giving the Bulls some trouble down low, with the ability to rotate scorers in and out. Psycho T (Tyler Hansbrough) emerging as a legit NBA scorer is very confusing to me, but I guess it actually happened, and he will be someone the Bulls will have to worry about (given that Carlos Boozer would have trouble guarding even Earl Boykins posting up). The Granger-Deng matchup should be exciting, with both being virtually the same size, and key parts to their teams (Granger is the Pacers offense, and Deng has been called the Bulls “glue” guy). Canseco Fieldhouse is one of the best basketball environments in the whole country, so the Indiana fans will give their Pacers a little jump in their step come games 3 and 4.
Other than that, we have Derrick Rose. The Pacers do not. Darren Collison might be as quick as Rose, but at 6’0″ Rose will have a huge advantage in both size and strength. Our bench is also tops in the league (or second to Denver’s, just a matter of how you look at it). Ronnie Brewer will be ready for the playoffs after spraining his thumb, and Asik/Gibson would start on many NBA teams (granted it would be the bad ones, but they would still be starting). Josh McRoberts from Indiana has given the Bulls trouble in the past, but coach Frank Vogel never plays him. He’ll be nothing to worry about because of that. Thibs gets his first playoff series victory, and it should be nice momentum for the rest of the playoffs.
Bulls in 5.
4. Orlando Magic vs. 5. Atlanta Hawks
The money man Joe Johnson couldn’t stop the Hawks from going 10-16 after the All Star Break. Night after night now, it seems like Atlanta has forgotten they are in the playoffs, and spend halves asleep, just chillin’, or bored out of their minds. Granted even if they were trying, they still would not be that great of a team, but they would at least beat teams like Washington (who clobbered them by 32 Saturday).
The Magic on the other hand, have been riding Superman all season long. Going toe to toe with Adidas partner Derrick Rose all season long for MVP, Dwight Howard has had a fantastic year. Averaging 23 points and 14 boards a game, he is a beast. Just imagine what he could do if he tried to get better in the off season! The Magic are back to doing what they love (and what got them to the ’09 Finals), shooting 3’s. They live and die by that.
With all that said, this will still be a tight series. The Hawks are 1-3 against the Magic this season, and seem to get up just for these guys.
Tough guy Zaza Pachulia pisses everyone off, and has gotten to Howard throughout the season. If Howard gets in foul trouble and Josh Smith can get going, the Hawks have a chance to shock the world (not really the world, since this is the series nobody cares about…)
Orlando in 6.
3. Boston Celtics vs. 6. New York Knicks
The Knicks are a really scary team. Whenever you can say you have 2 players that are top 10 in the ENTIRE league, you have something going for you. Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony lead the way for Knicks, which a bunch of either old, bad, or ugly players backing them up. They give up 105.7 points per game, and score 106.6, the kind of run and gun style that Mike D’Antoni loves.
While the Knicks made a deadline deal that seemed to revive their fans and players, the Celtics made one that killed their players and fans. Kendrick Perkins was Rajon Rondo’s BFFL, and he was the anchor to the defense that gave them the advantage over everyone. Danny Ainge decided having an advantage wasn’t really important, UNLESS you’re a conspiracy theorist like I am. Ainge ships Perkins West, to give the Oklahoma City Thunder the final piece they need to take out the Lakers. Deciding his team has one run left in them and having the faith that they can still make it through the inexperienced East, Ainge is hoping to meet the Thunder in the Finals. Perkins would be too heart broken to play hard, and the Celtics win another one. He gives Perkins a ring like the Red Sox gave to Nomar Garciaparra in ’05, and everyone is happy. JUST A THOUGHT.
Back to the series, the Celtics will have an advantage. Ray Allen and Paul Pierce should light up the Knicks perimeter defenders, especially with Rajon Rondo running circles around the often injured Chauncey Billups. Carmelo will score, but that awful defense of theirs will kill them. This isn’t the year for the Knicks, but they will be terrifying in the future.
Celtics in 5.
2. Miami Heat vs. Philadelphia 76ers
The Three Amigos? Three King Circus? LeBroshade? Lebron James and the Heat decided on The Heatles. Cool I guess. After a season of ups and downs, tears and more tears, coaching change rumors, and more tears, the Heat ended up with the East’s second best record, and seem to be hitting their stride at the right time. Everyone knows this team is extremely top heavy, but they have 2 players that are in the top 5 league wide. 3 in the top 20. The rest of the roster may be trash, but when you have Lebron and DWade on the court, ON THE SAME TEAM, you have a chance.
The 76ers have overachieved all year. Jrue Holiday has been a pleasant surprise, and at 20, he should defiantly be an All Star in the future. Andre Iguodala has locked up the spot for best perimeter defender league wide, and has finally stopped forcing shots. Elton Brand had his best year in a 76ers uniform this season, consistent on both ends, averaging 15.1 points per page, and 8.4 rebounds. It’s sad to think he’s only 31 and many have his career on the verge of ending after such a solid season.
Can the Heat finally prove to everyone that you only need 3 superstars to win in the NBA? They go against everything old school fans believe in (the TEAM matters more than everything), but in this series, they will make the rest of the league sweat. This is probably the worst match up for the upstart 76ers, who like to go small and run. Well, Miami likes to run as well, they just have the 2 best fast break players in the league on their side. Watch out NBA.
Heat in 4.