The Basketblog

Celebrating the love of the Game.

NBA Playoffs: Western Conference Preview

Ok, so I had computer problems and wasn’t able to post this last night, ending my run for 40 blogs in 40 nights at 0. I also realized that there will be a time during the conference semis and conference finals that I won’t be able to post anything or even watch games. I guess I’ll have to make 40 posts in the next four weeks to make sure I get there.

I’ll be adding pictures and links and such to both of these previews eventually (“tonight”), but for now I just need to make more predictions before I see a second western game.

1 Dallas vs. 8 Golden State
Winner: Dallas in 7.

Why they will win:

  • They are the best team. They won 82% of their games all year and only need to win 57% of the games in the series. Ten of the eleven teams that have won 65 games in a season have won the championship.
  • Experience. They made the championship series last year and have been deep in the playoffs several other times recently.
  • Dirk Nowitski. He’s taken criticism and blame for letting the Mavericks lose last year. You can bet he won’t let that happen again.
  • Home court. The Mavericks have the best home record in the league (36-5); the Warriors have the worst road record of any playoff team (12-29).

Why Golden State might win:

  • You all know the stat: Golden State is 3-0 against Dallas this year and has won, what? 7 out of 8 against them? Part of that is Don Nelson’s knowing his old team and protege and part is Golden State just being a tough match-up for Dallas. Whatever the reason, you know they are capable of defeating Dallas.
  • They’re hot. They’ve gone 8-1 in April and have won 9 out of 10 overall, including wins over Dallas, Phoenix, Utah, and Houston.

Key Player: Baron Davis. Golden State was 6-13 without him this year, 36-27 with him. If he stays healthy for the entire series, they certainly have a shot. When he’s in the game, Dallas will have trouble matching Jason Terry up against anyone on the Warriors.

Match-up to Watch: Golden State’s style of play vs. Dallas’s style. Golden State wants to push the ball and score 120 points; they have five guys averaging at least 16 points per game. Many of the Dallas players were brought in to play the high-tempo, high-scoring style under Don Nelson. If the Warriors can get Dallas to start playing that style again and move away from the more controlled, defensive-oriented style Avery Johnson wants them to play, they can steal some games.

2 Phoenix vs. 7 LA Lakers
Winner: Phoenix in 6

Why they will win:

  • They are the best team in the league. They got off to a slow start because they were working Amare Stoudemire back into season-form. They play a style in which everyone has to know his role well. When a key player goes out, it takes a few games for everyone else to adjust. This year they were 2-5 without Nash, 1-1 without Marion, 2-2 without Bell, and 1-3 with Stoudemire coming off the bench. Subtract their two losses at the end of the season when they were resting guys, and they only lost 8 games with their four key players healthy. If they all stay healthy for most of the playoffs, they should win the championship.

Why Los Angeles might win:

  • Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson. Really, they have no business winning any games. I’m just giving these two the credit they deserve. I can’t imagine a team with Kobe Bryant getting swept.
  • Steve Nash might get injured.

Key Player: Shawn Marion. I know, I could list a dozen guys in this series, so I’ll just give you my favorite. Just watch the way he plays away from the ball for an entire game. He is one of the best at moving without the ball on offense and at playing help defense. I would wager a lot of money that he puts up the best stats per minute with the ball in the league. And if you think that he puts up great numbers just because he has Nash feeding him the ball, check his stats with Stephon Marbury: from 01-04 his numbers were just as good or better than they are now.

Match-up to Watch: Kobe Bryant vs. Raja Bell. Kobe is the best player in the league, Bell guards him pretty well, and they have bad blood going back several years. Do I need to say anything more?

3 San Antonio vs. 6 Denver
Winner: Denver in 7

Why they will win:

  • The ‘Melo/AI thing is finally starting to work. They went 10-1 in April, including wins over San Antonio, Utah, the Lakers twice, and Dallas. Iverson has taken a team to the championship series with far less talent than this, and Carmelo won a championship in his only year in college, so you know they can both win.
  • The entire team is here. Anthony isn’t suspended, Iverson isn’t benched or hurt, JR Smith is healthy, Marcus Camby is healthy, Nene is healthy, they have a point guard who doesn’t need to score, and they don’t have any major distractions. I’ve thought they underachieved each of the last two years, so they ought to do better this year.
  • I’d love to see them play live. Ok, fine. I’ll be in Denver in May, so I’d like to see them advance far enough that I can see them play. They’re also one of my favorite teams, and I’m tired of San Antonio. So sue me.

Why San Antonio might win:

  • Experience, experience, experience. For as many teams as I’ve listed this as a reason, it applies to none of them as well as it does to the Spurs. They have been championship contenders for every year since Tim Duncan’s rookie year (97-98).
  • Tim Duncan is healthy. The last time I can remember him looking as good as he has the times I’ve seen him this year was a couple years ago when he was the finals MVP.
  • They’re better. They have the best average margin of victory in the league. I do think they are the better team; I’m just picking an upset.

Key Player: Carmelo Anthony. He’s frankly been bad in his first three playoffs series. However, in each of those years, Denver did not have a legitimate three-point threat or another star to take some of the attention and double teams away. This year he has Smith to shoot threes and Iverson to draw attention. If Anthony’s ever going to establish himself as a superstar, he’ll need to do it in this year’s playoffs.

Match-up to Watch: Tim Duncan vs. Marcus Camby. Duncan is the greatest power forward in history; Camby is the most underrated defensive player in the league. Camby has averaged at least 2 blocks per game 8 times in his career, 1 steal per game 7 times, and 8 defensive rebounds per game 5 of the last 7 years but has never made an all-defensive team. He has never played more than 72 games in a year, which is why he has never been recognized. Camby and Duncan are different players on offense, but both are great defenders.

4 Utah vs. 5 Houston
Winner: Houston in 7

Why they will win:

  • Tracy McGrady has essentially guaranteed a win. He has a much better supporting cast than he’s ever had before, and he’ll be playing his best for at least this round.
  • Inexperience. I can’t really give Houston credit for having more experience because they don’t have much of it. However, very few players on Utah have any playoff experience. They’ll be good next year but probably won’t advance this year.
  • Shane Battier. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Houston took a big step forward and Memphis took a huge step back when Battier switched teams. He is the ultimate role player.

Why Utah might win:

  • McGrady has guaranteed first-round wins before: In 2002, In 2003; he’s suffered playoffs collapses before, and as mentioned here, players that didn’t go to college tend to fail in the playoffs.
  • They won the season series. The Jazz were the fourth best team in the league for most of the season but somewhat collapsed down the stretch. Again, that’s why I think they’ll advance further next year. But if they can get that back now, they could make the conference finals.

Key Player: Andrei Kirilenko. If he starts playing aggressively again, they have one of the best starting line ups in the league. Williams, Okur, Boozer, and Kirilenko are all legitimate all stars when they’re at their best. Kirilenko looked aggressive in the few minutes he played in game 1; if he gets more minutes and plays well in all of them, he’s good enough to be a series changer.

Match-up(s) to Watch: Deron Williams vs. Luther Head and Carlos Boozer vs. Shane Battier. I swear I came up with this before Bill Walton and Mike Tirico talked about it. Not only were these pairs college teammates, they play the same positions now and should guard each other at times. While this doesn’t mean a whole lot, it’s kind of interesting, especially for Illini or Duke fans.

Notice that I picked the same seed to win as I did for the east in each series. That’s not because I copied and pasted the whole thing over and just got too lazy to change things…not entirely. Also notice that so far the team I picked to win each series has won game 1. I’m that good.

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April 22, 2007 - Posted by | ACC, Big Ten, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, LA Lakers, NBA, Phoenix Suns, San Antonio Spurs, Utah Jazz | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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