Saturday, April 16, 2011

NBA First Round Preview - Part 1A

Chizzy’s First Round NBA Preview

This has been a pretty exciting season. For the first time in a long time, the regular season actually had some relevance. Derrick Rose’s emergence as a superstar. Kevin Love piling on double-double after double-double. Kobe’s discriminatory remarks. The Big 3, and their tears in the clubhouse. Cleveland’s record breaking losing streak, and questioning whether they would ever win again. This means it should make for an even better playoff season. I can’t wait. Let’s dive in. The series that start this afternoon are included here, and I'll post the rest of the series that start today this afternoon. I’ll include the rest tomorrow with my playoff picks.

Eastern Conference

Chicago Bulls v. (8) Indiana Pacers: On I-65 between these two cities, there’s about a billion wind turbines, and every time I drive that strip of land I find myself not paying attention to the road. I’m mesmerized by the turbines, and I know the road’s going to keep going straight. I think that’s going to happen in this series. I’m going to be paying attention to other series, because I know what’s going to happen. The Pacers give up more points than they score. If they couldn’t score against the rest of the league, how are they going to score against the NBA’s second ranked defense? That’s all I need to see. This is a lopsided matchup that I probably won’t pay attention to. I’ll watch more of the Bulls in the next round.

Series Stud: Derrick Rose. The best player in the NBA this year, Derrick Rose has come into his own. The 23 year old is making Chicago his team, but he has to win a title to step out of MJ’s shadow. I’ve talked with a few of my Chicago friends, and they all feel like he’s the “savior” to bring the franchise back to where it was in the 90’s. His 25 PPG and 7.7 APG tend to make me agree with this statement. His 3-point shooting has drastically improved this year, and since players have to respect his shot, it’s opened up his ability to drive to the hoop and create. But folks, MJ didn’t win his first title until he was 30. While I truly believe DRose may be the game’s next great, he needs a little more time. I’m excited for what’s to come.

Da Bulls: It’s good to see the Bulls on top again. I grew up an MJ fan, and loved those 90’s Bulls teams. This team has been almost as fun to watch, and they’re finally healthy. At the beginning of the season, they were without banger Carlos Boozer for 20 games. In the middle of the season, they lost banger Joakim Noah for a month. DRose distributes the ball like a champion. Boozer gets his points, Luol Deng gets his 15-18 foot jumpers, and Kyle Korver gets his 3’s. But Rose knows when to take over. And his supporting cast knows that it’s his team, so when he takes charge, there’s no questions asked. This is a hard nosed team that prides itself on defense. Noah and Boozer crash the boards, Luol Deng, Rose and Ronnie Brewer hawk the perimeter, and they grit out wins when their offense lets them down. This team is built for playoff basketball, and they will have no problems with the Pacers.

The Pacers: Nice. It’s the word I use describe the entire state of Indiana, and the word that can be used to describe this team. And I’ve always said that if all you have to say about a person, place of thing is that they’re “nice,” then there’s not really anything special at all about it. Unlike Reggie Miller’s chirpy mid-90’s Pacers, there’s no one thing that’s this team can call a defining characteristic. Chicago is DRose’s team. Whose team is this? Danny Granger? Darren Collison? Roy Hibbert? Mike Dunleavy? Tyler Hansbrough? I don’t know. Every team needs a star to have playoff success, and the Pacers don’t have it. All they have are a bunch of college stars. That doesn’t work in the playoffs. Not against the Bulls.

Prediction: Bulls in 5. Only because I hate picking sweeps. I think maybe Indiana steals Game 3 at home. But Chicago steamrolls through the overmatched in every way Pacers.

(2) Miami Heat v. (7) Philadelphia 76ers: A matchup of two very similar teams. The superstars versus the up and comers. Much fanfare has been made of Miami all season, ever since LeBron's decision to take his talents to South Beach. Little fanfare has been made of the Sixers all season. In fact, I'm betting many people can't name more than three people on their team. So what do we take away from all this? That El Heat is going to destroy the 76ers, and Elton Brand and Co. can take solace in some delicious Pat's cheesesteaks (That's right, I said Pat's. Not Geno's).

Series Stud: Dwayne Wade. I’m going to get a lot of crap for this, but the stud of this series is going to be DWade. LBJ is fantastic, and will probably have a few triple-doubles, but this is Wade’s team. It’s his city. LeBron came to Wade's team, not vice versa. I understand Cleveland is not Miami, but it tells me something that LeBron felt he needed to go somewhere to pair up with Wade to win. Plus, LeBron is notorious for his atrocious clutch play (see the playoffs the last few years), but DWade gets better as the pressure starts mounting is a killer in the final moments of a game. Anyone remember his play in the 2006 Playoffs? Let me remind you. 28.8 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 5.7 APG. 2.2 SPG. What was the end result? Championship. Until LeBron proves otherwise, this is Wade's team.

The Heat: We all know what the Heat can do. LeBron, DWade, and Bosh are going to carry this team. They’re going to run you all over the floor, push the pace, and shut down the other team with their perimeter defense. Without an inside presence for much of the season, the addition of Erick Dampier has shored up the post defense. They’ve fought through the early season struggles, the tears in the clubhouse, and the horrible coaching of Erik Spoelstra. But the question is this: When it comes to crunch time, can the Heat play nice with each other? I think so. When Mike Bibby came to the team in early March, the Heat lost their first four games with him in the lineup. But since that time, the Heat have won 15 of their last 18 games. Bibby has had experience handling stars on early 2000’s Kings (Chris Webber) and the late 2000’s Hawks (Josh Smith and Joe Johnson). He knows how to keep everyone happy, and the Big 3 need that.

The 76ers: Another nice team. Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala are going to have to make their presence known on the inside in order to make this team go anywhere. Brand is going to get his points, and he’s going to get his rebounds against the Heat’s biggest weakness, the inside post. But they’re going to need perfect performances from Jrue Holiday and sixth man Thaddeus Young, and if you’re relying on perfect performances from Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young you know you’re in trouble. But if the Sixers take this series deep, you have to give props to coach Doug Collins. In my mind, he’s the Coach of the Year. When you take a roster of rag tag players picked to finish at the bottom of the conference and get them into the playoffs, you deserve some credit.

Prediction: Heat in 5. The Heat shut down the 76ers in this series as Philly just doesn’t have the talent to contend. They had a great season, but the Heat is going overwhelm Philly by running on offense, shutting them down on defense, and coasting on to the next round.

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