Saturday, April 20, 2013

forty games. forty night. suhweet!

"Oh say can you see?
By the dawn's early light?
What so proudly we hailed,
At the twilight's last gleaming?

Whose bright stripes and bright stars,
Through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched,
Were so gallantly streaming?

And the rockets red glare?
The bombs bursting in air?
Gave proof through the night,
That our flag was still there?

Oh say does that Star Spangled
Banner yet wave?
O'er the land of the free,
And the home of the brave?"

-- The National Anthem.  Oh yes it does.  Oh hell yes it does!!! ...



I know this is my NBA playoff picks piece, but if for some reason you’ve been living in a cave over the last five days, and have no idea what happened Monday, or haven’t heard the Anthem from Wednesday night’s Bruins game … uum, take 1:43 and click play on the embedded clip above this paragraph.  I dare you not to cry with pride, and I double dare you to not sing along through the tears. 

(There will be no physical challenges though, if you wish to escalate it to the next level.)

There is no power known to man, that will EVER, defeat our country.  We are ALL Americans.  Liberal, conservative.  Republican, Democrat.  NOTHING can defeat US!  Not then.  Not now.  

Not ever!

And now, without any further delay: my 2013 NBA Postseason Prognostications …

-----------------------------------------------------

My favorite six week stretch of the year is here!  Four magical words:

Forty Games!


Yes, come Saturday, the NBA postseason commences!  And good grief, Charlie Brown, what a lineup just the first round offers!  Here then, is this (never) humble blogger's prediction for how things will unfold.  And before you think I'm nuts, I remind you -- I'm the dude who nailed the Mavericks winning the O'Brien in 2011, and nailed Boston topping the LeBron's in six in 2010 -- both at least a month before they actually occurred.  I may not know much, but I know -- and freaking love -- the National Basketball Association!

Western Conference:

* 1 Oklahoma City Thunder (60-22) vs 8 Houston Rockets (45-37).

Game 1: at OKC, Sunday April 21, 8:30pm CT (TNT).
Game 2: at OKC, Wednesday April 24, 6pm CT (TNT).
Game 3: at HOU, Saturday April 27, 8:30pm CT (ESPN).
Game 4: at HOU, Monday April 29, TBD.
Game 5: at OKC, Wednesday May 1, TBD (if necessary).
Game 6: at HOU, Friday May 3, TBD (if necessary).
Game 7: at OKC, Sunday May 5, TBD (if necessary).

Song that sums up my feelings on this series:

"I gave you love.
I thought that we
Had made it to the top?

I gave you all
I have to give.
Why did it have to stop?

You've blown it all sky high,
By telling me your lies,
Without a reason why.
You've blown it all sky high!"


Thought(s) on this series:

The James Harden Bowl?  Houston's star faces off against his former teammates for the first time in game(s) that truly matter.  I cannot wait to watch this series.  The last time Houston was in the playoffs, they pushed the eventual champion Lakers to seven games in the second round, three years ago.  The last time we saw Oklahoma City in the postseason, they lost last year's finals to the Heat in five.  That's about as many games as I expect them to need this year, to dispose of the pesky Rockets.  This is going to be one of those series, that ends far, far sooner than it should.  I'll say three of the five games, are within a possession inside the final minute ... and the Thunder win all three of those, plus a layup win in game two, to dispatch of the Rockets.

Prediction:

Thunder in five.

* 2 San Antonio Spurs (58-24) vs 7 Los Angeles Lakers (45-37).

Game 1: at SAS, Sunday April 21, 2:30pm CT (ABC).
Game 2: at SAS, Wednesday April 24, 8:30pm CT (TNT).
Game 3: at LAL, Friday April 26, 9:30pm CT (ESPN).
Game 4: at LAL, Sunday April 28, 6pm CT (TNT).
Game 5: at SAS, Tuesday April 30, TBD (if necessary).
Game 6: at LAL, Thursday May 2, TBD (if necessary).
Game 7: at SAS, Saturday May 4, TBD (if necessary).

Song that sums up my feelings on this series:

"They said you ain't got a prayer,
A chance in you know where.
But I just didn't care.
When I looked in your eyes ...

You were a long shot from the start --
An easy way to break my heart.
But as perfect as you are?
You gotta risk it all sometimes.

I believe in the underdog!
Who chases dreams, and breaks down walls!
The shy kid who gets the prom queen;
Who's never been the star of anything.

And those two lovers hitched at City Hall?
They've got each other, so they've got it all!
Call me a dreamer, say I'm a little naive --
But I believe in the underdog ..."


Thought(s) on this series:

Sweet.  Merciful.  Jesus.

Yes!  Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!  Holy God above, what a series!  These two teams have given us so many great ones over the years.  The '99 Spurs breaking through -- finally* -- with a second round sweep of the Lakers ... and the Lakers repaying the favor a year later, to launch their run of three straight O'Brien's, and four Finals appearances in five years.  Do you realize that one of these two teams has represented the West in the finals for all but three of the last fourteen postseasons?  No, really, they have -- all but 2006 and 2011 (Mavericks), and last year (Thunder).  And even then, the Mavs had to beat the Spurs to get there in 2006, beat both the Lakers and Spurs to get there in 2011, and the Thunder had to get through both of them last year.  Throw in Steve Nash and Mike D'Antoni's utter inability to get by the Spurs for half a dozen years in Phoenix, coupled with this possibly being the last gasp for both the Spurs and Lakers before a rebuild / retool gets underway, and this has the makings of a classic.

And yes, I am fully aware Kobe Bryant is not available for this series, and Steve Nash is at best playing hurt.  I don't care.  Besides, the Lakers just beat the Spurs six days ago without Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash.  They can do it four more times in the next two weeks.  One series every year in the first round defies all sense of logic and reason, and I think this one is it. 

Prediction:

Lakers in six.

(*: the Spurs moved to San Antonio for the 1973-1974 ABA season from Dallas**, and made the playoffs all three seasons in San Antonio, but lost in game seven in the first round all three years.  They then promptly made the NBA playoffs their first seven seasons, winning the division five times ... and never advanced beyond the second round.  They bottomed out, drafted David Robinson, promptly made the playoffs nine straight years ... and never reached the Finals.  They then drafted Tim Duncan, and finally -- finally -- broke through.)

(**: the team's name in Dallas?  The Chaparelles.  Yes, they were named after a hotel conference room.  The ABA!  God bless it, I wish I'd been alive for it!)

* 3 Denver Nuggets (57-25) vs 6 Golden State Warriors (47-35).

Game 1: at DEN, Saturday April 20, 4:30pm CT (ESPN).
Game 2: at DEN, Tuesday April 23, 9:30pm CT (TNT).
Game 3: at GSW, Friday April 26, 9:30pm CT (ESPN2).
Game 4: at GSW, Sunday April  28, 8:30pm CT (TNT).
Game 5: at DEN, Tuesday April 30, TBD (if necessary).
Game 6: at GSW, Thursday May 2, TBD (if necessary).
Game 7: at DEN, Saturday May 4, TBD (if necessary).

Song that sums up my feelings on this series:

"The ocean is on fire!
The sky turned dark again,
As the boats came in.

And the beaches?
Stretched out with soldiers.
With their arms and guns,
It has just begun.

Believe!  Do you want this?
Believe!  I want this too!

Why won't you tell me that
It's almost over?
Why must this tear my head
Inside and out?"


Thought(s) on this series:

A war.  That's what this is gonna be.  And not just a war -- this is gonna be fun!  George Karl taking on the team that initially fired him (george harrison voice) all those years ago.  Mark Jackson making his postseason debut as a coach.  Two teams that don't give two sh*ts about defense, it's all about scoring as much, and as fast, as possible.  (Pause).  What?  (Pause).  Yes, I know "scoring as much, and as fast, as possible" is the exact opposite of how I'd describe my sex life!  What's your point?

These are games you're gonna wanna stay up and crack open that second bottle of wine, to avoid missing.  Especially games three, four, and six at Oracle.  (Pause).  What?  (Pause).  Well no sh*t, Sherlock, I know I'll be cracking open bottle number five on the night!  But my typical reader isn't addicted to the bottle and the box like I am!  (keyshawn johnson voice) Come on man!

Prediction:

Nuggets in seven.

* 4 Los Angeles Clippers (56-26) vs 5 Memphis Grizzlies (56-26).

Game 1: at LAC, Saturday April 20, 9:30pm CT (ESPN).
Game 2: at LAC, Monday April 22, 9:30pm CT (TNT).
Game 3: at MEM, Thursday April 25, 8:30pm CT (TNT).
Game 4: at MEM, Saturday April 27, 3:30pm CT (TNT).
Game 5: at LAC, Tuesday April 30, TBD (if necessary).
Game 6: at MEM, Friday May 3, TBD (if necessary).
Game 7: at LAC, Sunday May 5, TBD (if necessary).

Song that sums up my feelings on this series:

"All you gotta do?  Is smile that smile,
And there go all my defenses!
Just leave it up to you,
And in a little while,
You're messing up my mind,
And filling up my senses!

Here you come again,
Looking better than a body has a right to.
And shaking me up so,
That all I really know,
Is here you come again ...
And here I go!"


Thought(s) on this series:

Well, they went seven classic rounds last April; why not stage seven more this April?  This is one incredible series just on its own merits.  Your random "King of Useless Trivia" question for you -- the 2012-2013 Memphis Grizzlies are the 127th team in NBA history to win 56 or more games.  And they are only the 2nd, of those 127, to not have home court advantage, in the first round.  Can you name the only other team, in this "we done be screwed over, y'all!" category?  Your answer below.

You can make a legitimate, credible argument that the only real threat standing between the Thunder and a return to the Finals, is the winner of this series.  (Especially if my hu-yuge first round upset prediction in the West, occurs.)  These are two really, really fun teams to watch.  Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Lob City.  Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and a much improved Mike Conley.  I'm making this prediction for one reason, and one reason only.  (Pause).  OK, fine.  Two reasons.

Vinny Del Negro.

And Lionel Hollins.

Prediction:

Grizzlies in six.

Western Conference Semi Finals:

1 Thunder over 5 Grizzlies in seven.
3 Nuggets over 7 Lakers in five.

Western Conference Finals:

3 Nuggets over 1 Thunder in six.

Western Conference Champion: Denver Nuggets.

(The trivia question answer?  The 1997-1998 San Antonio Spurs, who went 56-26, and like the Grizzlies, finished 5th in the Western Conference, in Tim Duncan's rookie season.  They won the O'Brien the following spring.)

Eastern Conference:

* 1 Miami Heat (66-16) vs 8 Milwaukee Bucks (38-44).

Game 1: at MIA, Sunday April 21, 6pm CT (TNT).
Game 2: at MIA, Tuesday April 23, 6:30pm CT (NBA).
Game 3: at MIL, Thursday April 25, 6pm CT (TNT).
Game 4: at MIL, Sunday April 28, 2:30pm CT (ABC).
Game 5: at MIA, Tuesday April 30, TBD (if necessary).
Game 6: at MIL, Thursday May 2, TBD (if necessary).
Game 7: at MIA, Saturday May 4, TBD (if necessary).

Song that sums up my feelings on this series:

"As the midnight moon was drifting through
The lazy sway of the trees,
I saw the look in your eyes,
Looking into the night,
Not seeing what you wanted to see.

Darlin'?  Don't say a word!
I've already heard
What your body's saying to mine!

You tried a fast move,
You've got a slow groove
On your mind ...

You want a man with a slow hand!
You want a lover with an easy touch!
You want somebody who will spend some time,
Not come and go in a heated rush!
Baby believe me, I understand --
When it comes to love?  You want a slow hand!"

-- "Slow Hand" by Conway Twitty*.  Bucks fans?  We're gonna need a distraction the next week and a half ...

Thought(s) on this series:

First off, the Bucks are not the worst team record wise, to qualify for the NBA playoffs.  That distinction belongs to your 1987-1988 San Antonio Spurs, who somehow got in at 31-51.  31-51!  How?  How in the hell can a team twenty freaking games below .500, reach the playoffs**?  (john davidson voice) That's incredible!

If the Bucks take more than one, it'll be a miracle.  If they manage to take one, it'll be nothing short of unbelievable.  (Yet not as unbelievable, or miraculous, as David Stern not immediately demanding Brandon Jennings be drug-tested for guaranteeing the Bucks win in six.  BJ?  We ain't seeing a game six, let alone winning in six.)

This is gonna be ugly folks!  This is gonna be ... (Pause).  What?  (Pause).  Oh, God love me!  What am I talking about?  My profound apologies, peoples and peepettes.  Mr. Vice President?



Prediction:

Heat in five.  Bucks take one at The Fortress on Fourth, then (wisely) blow this crappy team apart.

(*: I mention this every time I reference this song, but a (at the time) mid 50s aged dude singing about how he wants to use his hands to get a chick off, is just absolutely hysterical.  This song is as sleazy as it gets ... and Conway throws every ounce of sleaze he can muster into it.  Job well done sir!)

(**: incredibly enough, that Spurs team isn't even the worst postseason team in American hoops history.  Your 1974-1975 Memphis Sounds of the ABA went 27-57, and got in.  An incredible 30 freaking games under .500, and they qualified for the playoffs!  In a development that is surprising to absolutely noone, the Sounds did not survive to play the ABA's final season; they folded before the next season began after an attempted move to Baltimore that saw exactly twelve season tickets sold.  If you like a good read, you have to check out "Loose Balls" by Terry Pluto; it's the Bible of the ABA's history.  Start with the chapter devoted to the Spirts of St. Louis.  You won't regret it.)

(***: proof that I truly do love our Vice President.  That ... and I freaking LOVE "Parks and Rec".  #renewitnbc!)

* 2 New York Knicks (54-28) vs 7 Boston Celtics (41-40).

Game 1: at NYK, Saturday April 20, 2pm CT (ABC).
Game 2: at NYK, Tuesday April 23, 7pm CT (TNT).
Game 3: at BOS, Friday April 26, 7pm CT (ESPN).
Game 4: at BOS, Sunday April 28, noon CT (ABC).
Game 5: at NYK, Wednesday May 1, TBD (if necessary).
Game 6: at BOS, Friday May 3, TBD (if necessary).
Game 7: at NYK, Sunday May 5, TBD (if necessary).

Song that sums up my feelings on this series:

"You used to be the best.
You made life feel real to me.
And I hope that you're still out there,
And you're like you used to be.

We'll have ourselves a time,
And we'll dance until the morning sun!
Let the good times come --
We won't stop until we're done!

And we'll be back in the high life again!
All the doors I closed one time,
Will open up again!
We'll be back in the high life again!
All the eyes that watched us once,
Will smile and take us in!

And we'll drink and dance with one hand free,
And have the world so easily!
Oh won't we be a sight to see --
Back in the high life again!"

-- "Back in the High Life Again", originally by Steve Winwood, but I prefer the Warren Zevon version

Thought(s) on this series:

There is no series I am looking forward to, more than this one.  Not just because, as someone who spent his childhood watching Michael Jordan torment my favorite team every May, the Knicks are finally relevant again, and are in great shape to win their first series since the 2000 Eastern semi-finals against the Heat, but because it's two of the league's signature franchises, squaring off in round one for the second time in three seasons ... and only the third time, in the last twenty four years.  It's Paul Pierce on Carmelo.  It's Tyson Chandler on Kevin Garnett.  It's potentially (and probably) Jason Kidd's last hurrah.  It's the drama of seeing which injured superstar's absence will hurt worse: Amare Stoudamire or Rajon Rondo.  It's about two of the three best crowds in the league.  It's about the majesty of the Gahden.  It's about two coaches who could not be more different, who could not coach any more polar opposite, who have been extremely successful, yet if anything, they're doubted more than they're trusted.

It's Knicks.  It's Celtics.  It opens the postseason Saturday afternoon.  And it's gonna be epic.

The Gahden hasn't hosted a truly meaningful Knicks game since the Raptors ended the Van Gundy years, and twelve years of misery began.  This is gonna be fun.

Prediction:

Knicks in seven.

* 3 Indiana Pacers (49-32) vs 6 Atlanta Hawks (44-38).

Game 1: at IND, Sunday April 21, noon CT (TNT).
Game 2: at IND, Wednesday April 24, 6:30pm CT (NBA).
Game 3: at ATL, Saturday April 27, 6pm CT (ESPN).
Game 4: at ATL, Monday April 29, TBD.
Game 5: at IND, Wednesday May 1, TBD (if necessary).
Game 6: at ATL, Friday May 3, TBD (if necessary).
Game 7: at IND, Sunday May 5, TBD (if necessary).

Song that sums up my feelings on this series:

"I'm the little boy with glasses,
The one they call the geek.
A little girl who never smiles,
'Cause I've got braces on my teeth.
And I know how it feels,
To cry myself to sleep.

I'm that kid on every playground,
Who's always chosen last.
A single teenage mother,
Trying to overcome my past.
You don't have to be my friend,
But is it too much to ask ...

Don't laugh at me.
Don't call me names.
Don't get your pleasure from my pain.
In God's eyes? 
We're all the same.
Someday we'll all have perfect wings.

Don't laugh at me ..."


Thought(s) on this series:

This might be the most uncompetitive series of all the first rounders.  And without question -- (allard baird voice) without question! -- it is the least appealing of the eight series, and I don't envision myself making any game in this series prior to game seven "appointment viewing".  But Indiana is scary good.  Don't forget -- the Pacers put the fear of God into the Heat last spring, actually winning game two in Miami, and making it a best of three series after game four.  The Hawks should be commended for going into full-on rebuild mode, yet still making the playoffs with an above .500 record.  Josh Smith, Al Horford, all entertaining as hell to watch.  But come on.  There is no freaking way Atlanta is winning more than one game.  And I'm not going to pick them to do even that.

Prediction:

Pacers in four.

* 4 Brooklyn Nets (49-33) vs 5 Chicago Bulls (45-37).

Game 1: at BKY, Saturday April 20, 7pm CT (ESPN).
Game 2: at BKY, Monday April 22, 7pm CT (TNT).
Game 3: at CHI, Thursday April 25, 7:30pm CT (NBA).
Game 4: at CHI, Saturday April 27, 1pm CT (TNT).
Game 5: at BKY, Monday April 29, TBD (if necessary).
Game 6: at CHI, Thursday May 2, TBD (if necessary).
Game 7: at BKY, Saturday May 4, TBD (if necessary).

Song that sums up my feelings on this series:

"Black top road.  A learner permit.
Thought I was Earnhardt, driving fast --
But I didn't see the ditch.

Took out a mailbox.  Then a fence.
And then a barn.
The police came and called my father --
But I met the farmer's daughter.

And when the judge asked me
Why I did it?
He threw the book at me when I told him
Cause the chicks dig it.

Scars heal!  Glory fades!
And all we're left with are the memories made.
Pain hurts, but only for a minute!
Life is short, so go on and live it --
Cause the chicks dig it!"


Thought(s) on this series:

Ooh.  This one might wind up being the most tightly contested series.  I can make an argument for either team winning in four, or losing in seven, or any other outcome in between.   The Bulls beat the Nets by 1 (in Chicago) in their first meeting.  The Nets beat the Bulls by 4 (in Brooklyn) in their second meeting.  (The Bulls won the rubber match by 11.)  This won't be an up-tempo, high-flying, "we don't play no stinking defense!" match up.  The only coach in this league who values defense more than PJ Carlesimo, is Tom Thibodeau.  Neither team topped 100 in any of their meetings this season, and in fact neither team came within a possession of scoring 100.  If you enjoyed the old-school Bulls / Knicks showdowns from the 1990s?  Get ready for something similar to it, albeit with a different New York based team this time.

Prediction:

Nets in seven.

Eastern Conference Semi Finals:

1 Heat over 4 Nets in seven.  
2 Knicks over 3 Pacers in seven.  

Eastern Conference Finals:

2 Knicks over 1 Heat in six.  

Eastern Conference Champion: New York Knicks.

The Finals:

3 Nuggets over 2 Knicks in six.

NBA Champions: Denver Nuggets.

Enjoy the games!

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