Saturday, April 19, 2014

my 2014 nba playoff picks

“I see you and me,
Riding like Bonnie and Clyde,
Going 95 burning down 129,
Yeah,

Looking for the law,
While I push my luck …

She’s riding shotgun,
Like it ain’t no thing;
Turn the radio up,
So the girl can sing, right?

Pull into the party
Like “y’all?  Wassup!” …

Tonight?  It’s bottoms up!  Up!
Throw it on down!
Rock this quiet, little country town!
Get up!

Drop a tailgate on your truck!
Find a keg and fill your cup!  Up!

Kick it on back!
Pretty little mama,
Looking at you like that!
Make ya wanna slide in,

Like girl?  What’s up?
‘Cause tonight it’s bottoms up!

(Up!  Up!  Up!  Get ‘em up!)

Tonight is bottoms up!

(Up!  Up!  Up!  Get ‘em up!) …”

-- “Bottoms Up” by Brantley Gilbert, one of only two songs currently in my work play list rotation, on my iPhone.  (The other being the beyond unreal and excellent cover of “Downtown Train” by Everything But the Girl that dominated my favorite scene in television history, the penultimate scene of “How I Met Your Mother” …)

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Spring has officially, uuh, sprung!  Because the best five words – one of them repeated – in order, in the English language?  Officially begins in a couple hours.

Forty.  Games.  In.  Forty.  Nights.

The NBA Playoffs!

You can see my preseason predictions by clicking on this handy dandy link, and please, feel free to mock some of my selections.  Hell, I’ll do it for you:

Worth mocking in the Eastern Conference?  The Raptors as the seventh seed (they won the Atlantic, and are the three).  The Knicks as the five seed (they did not reach the postseason).  The Pistons (six) and Cavs (eight) as playoff teams; neither finished within five games of a postseason slot.  The Bullets, Bobcats, and Hawks all missing the playoffs (all made it, as your five, seven, and eight seeds, respectively).

Worth respecting in the Eastern Conference?  I got the Pacers and Heat as division champs right; I got the 76ers and Bucks as doormats of the league right, and while many of you will mock my preseason prediction for champion (your Brooklyn Nets) … uuh, if they get by Toronto in the opening round, the dirty little secret of this postseason?  Is that the Nets didn’t lose to Miami all season long. 

Worth mocking in the Western Conference?  Honestly?  Look at those predictions.  The ONLY thing I whiffed on, was the Lakers making the playoffs (instead of the Mavericks).  We’re nit picking who the eight seed is.  Good God, I nailed these picks!

Worth respecting in the Western Conference?  I nailed all three division champs (Clips, Thunder, Spurs), I nailed 7 of 8 playoff teams (only whiffing on the Lakers / Mavs), and even got the order of division champs right, in addition to actually correctly predicting a series (2 Thunder vs 7 Grizzlies).  You’re welcome.

Having noted that … I’m not changing my preseason pick on who wins the O’Brien.  I am changing my pick for the bridesmaid award, as the runner up.  And I am most definitely changing … how we get there.

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Eastern Conference:

1 Indiana Pacers vs 8 Atlanta Hawks.

Game 1: at Pacers, Saturday April 19, 6pm CT (ESPN).
Game 2: at Pacers, Tuesday, April 22, 6pm CT (TNT).
Game 3: at Hawks, Thursday April 24, 6pm CT (NBA).
Game 4: at Hawks: Saturday, April 26, 1pm CT (TNT).

Thoughts / Commentary: only one game slated for the NBA TV channel?  David Stern would have relegated at least two of this series to his league’s channel!  (Pause).  What?  (Pause).  Really?  They’re in the playoffs?  And they’re the seven seed?  OK, fine – even the great David Stern, would have only dumped one of these nearly unwatchable contests, onto those of us who pay for the privilege of enjoying this Association.

In all seriousness, there have been five eight seeds, to ever win a playoff series – the 1994 Denver Nuggets (who beat the Seattle SuperSonics), the 1999 New York Knicks (who took advantage of a lockout-shortened season to not just beat the Miami Heat, but knock off the Atlanta Hawks in 4, and Indiana Pacers in 6, to reach the Finals), the 2007 Golden State Warriors (who sprung THE biggest upset in NBA history, knocking off the Dallas Mavericks), the 2011 Memphis Grizzlies (who, if being honest, didn’t really “upset” the San Antonio Spurs), and the 2012 Philadelphia 76ers (who wouldn’t have won a game in the series, if Derrick Rose doesn’t blow out his knee, late in game one for the Chicago Bulls).

The Pacers are reeling … but let’s be honest here.  The Hawks are not winning this series.  I’ll be stunned if they win more than a game.  Not meant as a knock on the Hawks – they’re doing this the right way.  Tear it down, and build it up from the ground floor.  Sneaking into the postseason was a bonus.  Especially considering the added pick(s) coming their way the next few years, via the Joe Johnson trade.

Prediction: Pacers in five.

2 Miami Heat vs 7 Charlotte Bobcats.

Game 1: at Heat, Sunday, April 20, 2:30pm CT (ABC).
Game 2: at Heat, Wednesday, April 23, 6pm CT (TNT).
Game 3: at Bobcats, Saturday, April 26, 6pm CT (ESPN).
Game 4: at Bobcats, Monday, April 28, 6pm CT (TNT).

Thoughts / Commentary:  Really?  Not a single game of this utterly unwatchable trainwreck, has been dumped onto the NBA Network?  Really? 

Also, what’s more dated, less classy, and more worthless – me cracking a “not even Nathan Scott can save the Charlotte Bobcats” joke … or ESPN SportsCenter leading with “hey, remember that time, when Jimmy Buffett was forcibly evicted from a Heat playoff game for spouting obscenities at the officials” reference?  I lean Buffett, if only because … sorry, I have to do it …

“If we weren’t all crazy?  We would go insane!”

Prediction: Heat in five.  Nathan Scott finds a way to hit the game winner in game four, to prevent the sweep. 

3 Toronto Raptors vs 6 Brooklyn Nets.

Game 1: at Raptors, Saturday, April 19, 6:30pm CT (NBA).
Game 2: at Raptors, Tuesday, April 22, 7pm CT (NBA).
Game 3: at Nets, Friday, April 25, 6pm CT (ESPN2).
Game 4: at Nets, Sunday, April 27, 6pm CT (TNT).

Thoughts / Commentary: THIS … is the best first round series on paper.  I know – every other NBA fan is drooling over the West’s 3/6 matchup (and to be fair, I am too), but THIS?  Is THE best first round series on paper.

Because I would argue, the ENTIRE postseason, relies on this series.

If my predicted winner emerges victorious?  The Eastern Conference gets thrown into potential chaos.  If Drake’s homeboys emerge victorious?  The Heat can lock in the cruise control dial, all the way to the Finals.

Prediction: Nets in six.  And the Eastern Conference playoffs get thrown wide, wide open, as a result.

4 Chicago Bulls vs 5 Washington Wizards.

Game 1: at Bulls, Sunday, April 20, 6pm CT (TNT).
Game 2: at Bulls, Tuesday, April 22, 8:30pm CT (TNT).
Game 3: at Wizards, Friday, April 25, 7pm CT (ESPN).
Game 4: at Wizards, Sunday, April 27, noon CT (ABC).

Thoughts / Commentary: Care to guess who had the Association’s best record after the All-Star break?  Yup, your Chicago Bulls (because they will NEVER, be my, Chicago Bulls). 

Having said that … the franchise still affectionately referred to as the Bullets by any true fan of this Association, is more than capable of winning this series.  If you are just a casual fan of this league, please – block off three hours of time next Sunday, to catch game four.  You not only won’t regret it, you’ll find yourself saying things like “holy crap, Bradley Beal!  John Wall!  This is one fun team to watch!”

(And you'll also find yourself saying "holy crap, Randy Wittman!  How is this man a head coach of a NBA team?")

Prediction: Wizards in six.

Eastern Conference Semi Finals:

5 Wizards over 1 Pacers in six.  The Pacers are spent.  A junior high team with just one potential prospect to go pro six or seven years down the line, would find a way to beat the Hawks.  But the Pacers are spent.  They aren’t surviving the Bulls / Wizards winner … especially if it’s the Wiz.

6 Nets over 2 Heat in six.  And to counter the folks who think this is finally irrefutable proof that I have come completely mentally unhinged … I remind you – I picked the Celtics to end the LeBron era Cavs four years agoI picked the Mavs to come out of nowhere, to win the O’Brien three years ago.  Hell, even my “public service announcement” nailed the 2010 Blue Devils to win whatever the hell the most corrupt institution in America, calls their men’s championship trophy.

Why am I picking the Nets over the Heat?  For four reasons:

1. Friday, November 1st: Nets 101, Heat 100, at Brooklyn.
2. Friday, January 10th: Nets 104, Heat 95, at Brooklyn.
3. Monday, March 10th: Nets 96, Heat 95, at Miami.
4. Tuesday, April 8th: Nets 88, Heat 87, at Miami.

I know, I know – they won three of the four games, by a point.  Which is kind of the point, right?  They WON the damned games!  Miami failed to come through even once against Brooklyn this year.  It’s kind of like Chiefs / raiders from the last twenty years in oakland.  Every year, it’s close.  And every year, the Chiefs win.  Be it on an Andre Rison touchdown (1997), a Pete Stoyanovich field goal (1999), a Greg Wesley goalline tackle (2003), a Tony Gonzalez touchdown (2004), a goalline stand on 4th and goal (2005), a Jarrad Page touchdown (2007) – the directions to the outcome may have varied, but the outcome always remained the same.

Nets in six.  Write it in Sharpie permanent ink.

Eastern Conference Finals:

6 Nets over 5 Wizards in seven.  Look it, the Wiz are probably my favorite team to watch on the League Pass.  I’m pretty sure there’s a permanent drool mark on my carpet, from where the drool watching Bradley Beal play, has collected all year.

But why can’t the Nets do this?  Are you telling me that KG and P-squared’s last gasp, coupled with Joe Johnson’s first gasp, and a healthy side of “pick a Plumlee brother”, can’t get this done?  (Note: I have no damned clue which Plumlee is with Brooklyn, and which is with Phoenix.  And I don’t care enough to figure it out.)

I picked the Nets six months ago.  I’ve seen nothing in the last two months, at least, to dissuade me from that pick, seeing as the Nets have the East’s second best record since the All Star break, and only Chicago and San Antonio have fared better overall.

Eastern Conference Champions: 6 Brooklyn Nets.

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Western Conference:

1 San Antonio Spurs vs 8 Dallas Mavericks.

Game 1: at Spurs, Sunday, April 20, noon CT (TNT).
Game 2: at Spurs, Wednesday, April 23, 7pm CT (NBA).
Game 3: at Mavericks, Saturday, April 26, 3:30pm CT (TNT).
Game 4: at Mavericks, Monday, April 28, 8:30pm CT (TNT).

Thoughts / Commentary: A person can make a credible argument, that the Mavs / Spurs semi-finals showdown in 2006, was the greatest playoff series of the last twenty years.  (The only other candidate in the discussion I’ll consider, is Lakers / Kings Western Finals in 2002.)  This, sadly, isn’t going to match 2006’s greatness (which saw the Mavs win in overtime in Game Seven, at San Antonio, in the game that established Dirk’s greatness once and for all).

Prediction: Spurs in four.  All four will be competitive … but all four will be victories, for the ABA franchise that has called both Dallas and San Antonio home, in its franchise’s existence.

2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs 7 Memphis Grizzlies.

Game 1: at Thunder, Saturday, April 19, 8:30pm CT (ESPN).
Game 2: at Thunder, Monday, April 21, 7pm CT (TNT).
Game 3: at Grizzlies, Thursday, April 24, 7pm CT (TNT).
Game 4: at Grizzlies, Saturday, April 26, 8:30pm CT (ESPN).

Thoughts / Commentary: Ooh.  Ooh.  Ooh!

Gotta say, the funniest Tweet of the year may have to be given to John Hollinger, the Memphis GM who used to be ESPN.com’s resident geek squad, who posted the “what moron at ESPN devised a system that gave us a 0.23% chance of reaching the playoffs (as of Christmas Day)?”  That moron, of course, was Mr. Hollinger.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I LOVE people, who can make fun of their own stupidity.

Prediction: Thunder in seven.  But I am not sold on it at all.  I could just as easily be talked into Grizz in six.

3 Los Angeles Clippers vs 6 Golden State Warriors.

Game 1: at Clippers, Saturday, April 19, 2:30pm CT (ABC).
Game 2: at Clippers, Monday, April 21, 9:30pm CT (TNT).
Game 3: at Warriors, Thursday, April 24, 9:30pm CT (TNT).
Game 4: at Warriors, Sunday, April 27, 2:30pm CT (ABC).

Thoughts / Commentary: ABC is giving this series not one, but two locked in national broadcasts.  (Three if it goes seven.)  Like ABC (and obviously the NBA), I agree this is going to be an epic series.

If Andrew Bogut was healthy (and yes, I realize how patently absurd that assumption is), but if Andrew Bogut was healthy, I might pick the upset.  But go figure – he’s not healthy.  So I’m gonna take the chalk … reluctantly.

Prediction: Clippers in seven.  But I can talked into Warriors in six, even five.

4 Houston Rockets vs 5 Portland Trail Blazers.

Game 1: at Rockets, Sunday, April 20, 8:30pm CT (TNT).
Game 2: at Rockets, Wednesday, April 23, 8:30pm CT (TNT).
Game 3: at Trail Blazers, Friday, April 25, 9:30pm CT (ESPN).
Game 4: at Trail Blazers, Sunday, April 27, 8:30pm CT (TNT).

Thoughts / Commentary: The one upset I’m taking in the West.  Do yourself a favor, and catch at least one game of this series.  You’ll start your own drool spot on the carpet, watching Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge, do their thing.

Prediction: Trail Blazers in five.

Western Conference Semi Finals:

1 Spurs over 5 Trail Blazers in five.  They staged an epic semi-finals battle twenty five years ago, when the Blazers beat the Spurs in double overtime of Game Seven of the 1990 Western Semis.  This one, won’t be as memorable.

3 Clippers over 2 Thunder in six.  I picked OKC to win the West in my preseason predictions.  I am changing that half of the Finals prediction, in the playoff picks.  There’s just something off with these guys.  Plus, I trust Doc Rivers a helluva lot more than Scotty Brooks, with a game and/or series on the line.

Western Conference Finals:

1 Spurs over 3 Clippers in seven.  Could be the most epic conference finals matchup since Kings / Lakers in 2002, or Bulls / Pacers in 1998.  I have very, very high hopes, for this series.

Western Conference Champions: 1 San Antonio Spurs.

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The Finals:

6 Brooklyn Nets over 1 San Antonio Spurs in six.  The Finals is, uuh, finally, going to a 2-2-1-1-1 format that every other series uses.

This year’s Finals will be very, very hard pressed to top last year’s – the Heat’s epic game six comeback to force, and ultimately win, game seven is something no fan of this sport, and this Association, will ever forget.

Call me a dreamer, say I’m a little naïve … but I did pick Brooklyn to win it back in October.  I’ve not seen anything I am incapable of blindly ignoring, over the last six months, to make me change my pick.

NBA Champions: Brooklyn Nets.


Enjoy the games folks.  Forty games in forty nights!  Even Chuck Barkley will have a drool spot on the studio floor, by night twenty six …

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