Saturday, April 30, 2011



Chicago Bulls vs. Atlanta Hawks

ANALYSIS: The Chicago Bulls took care of the Indiana Pacers in five games, but it certainly was not easy. Indiana gave the Bulls a run for their money in every game except the deciding Game 5. If Chicago wants to advance even further in the playoffs, Carlos Boozer needs to improve on his offense from the first round (10.0 PPG on 35.8 percent shooting).

The Atlanta Hawks finally defeated a top-tier team in the Orlando Magic, but there is still cause for concern. The Hawks blew a chance to close out Orlando in Game 5, but lost by 25 before beating the Magic in six games. If Atlanta can play like they did for most of the first round and actually show up, they can give the Bulls some fits.

Bulls won, 2-1

PREDICTION: Bulls in 5

KEY MATCHUP: Joakim Noah vs. Al Horford (The two former championship-winning teammates at Florida square off the rights to reach the NBA’s “Final Four”. It will be interesting to see them both battle it out for rebounds in the paint.)

Game 1 (Are the Bulls ready for the spotlight? Were Chicago’s struggles with Indiana a factor of the Pacers playing hard or the Bulls taking them lightly? Can the Hawks exercise their second round demons? There are so many burning questions here.)

Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics

ANALYSIS: The Miami Heat passed their first test with flying colors and now are “ready for lunch,” according to LeBron James. In its 4-1 first round victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, Miami held their opponent to 86.6 points per game and the Big Three looked well together, with each getting a double-double in Game 5. However, The Heat’s only concern is who takes the last shot. They better figure it out in a hurry, because this series will have a good share of close games.

The Boston Celtics achieved a first in the Big Three era when they swept the New York Knicks in the first round. Manhandling a Knicks squad that had Amar’e Stoudemire dinged up and Chauncey Billups unavailable for the final three games, Boston was business as normal and executed its plan soundly. The concern here is how the Celtics will fare in this series without Kendrick Perkins. Will they dominate like they did in the first three regular season meetings or is the lone loss a sign of how this series will play out?

Celtics won, 3-1

Celtics in 6

James/Wade/Bosh vs. Pierce/Allen/Garnett (This is the marquee matchup that everyone wants to see. Whichever team’s terrific trio stands out more and gets more help from role players has the best chance to win.)

Game 5 (If the series is tied at 2-2, whoever wins this game will likely win this series.)


Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Memphis Grizzlies

ANALYSIS: The Oklahoma City Thunder won their first playoff series since moving away from Seattle after putting away Denver in 5 games. Kevin Durant showed every reason why he is considered to be an elite player in the NBA with his 32.4 points per game in the series and a 41-point Game 5. Durant and Russell Westbrook must learn work together though if the Thunder want to continue to grow and reach their potential.

The Memphis Grizzlies stunned most basketball fans with its six-game upset over the San Antonio Spurs, the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed. Memphis clearly was not affected with the loss of Rudy Gay, as Zach Randolph stepped in and put the team on his back with 21.5 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. The Grizzlies’ high energy and tough defense makes them a force not only just now, but possibly in the years to come.

Grizzlies won, 3-1

Thunder in 7

Serge Ibaka vs. Zach Randolph (Ibaka swatted shots left and right during the series against Denver, while Randolph was a huge scoring and rebounding presence against San Antonio. Does Ibaka continue with his blocks or will Randolph continue to dominate inside?)

Game 7 (This series will be high in energy and excitement. It will be a joy to watch.)

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Dallas Mavericks

ANALYSIS: The Los Angeles Lakers were able to hold off a tough and determined New Orleans Hornets team in six games during the first round. Los Angeles may have looked sluggish in Games 1 and 4 against but they showed the determination of a champion with double-digit wins in the final two games. The Lakers need Pau Gasol to bounce back from a so-so first round which he averaged 13.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.

The Dallas Mavericks survived their first round matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers thanks to their determination and Jason Kidd turning back the clock and draining down three-pointers. However, the Mavericks must close out games and not let a 23-point fourth quarter collapse happen again like it did in Game 4 against Portland. Dallas has the ability to match up well with the Lakers, so players like Tyson Chandler must establish the paint early and well.

Lakers won, 2-1

Mavericks in 6

both teams’ front lines (Many teams have not matched the Lakers’ lengthy front line of Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, but the Mavericks have their own to counter it. Tyson Chandler, Brendan Haywood and Dirk Nowitzki must be effective here.)

Games 1 and 4 (The Lakers or any Phil Jackson led-team know what a Game 1 or a Game 5 means. Phil Jackson is 48-0 whenever he wins the first game of a series. Another stat that favors the Lakers is that they are 20-0 at home in Game 5 when the series is tied 2-2. In order for Dallas to win, they must jump out ahead early or they will lose this series.)

Thursday, April 21, 2011



Prediction: Derrick Rose (G-Bulls)

As LeBron James left Cleveland for Miami, many expected Chicago to win the Central Division and be a dark horse in the East. However, no one expected that the Bulls would have an NBA-best 62-20 record and be a serious championship contender. Derrick Rose has been the constant for this team as Chicago dealt with injuries to Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, a new coach in Tom Thibodeau, and an inadequate 2 guard. Rose raised his average to 25.0 points per game, while expanding his range on the floor with 128 made 3-pointers (he only ATTEMPED 132 threes in his first two seasons). He, the team, and the city now hope he can lead the Bulls to their first title in the post-Jordan era.

Honorable Mention: Kobe Bryant (LAL), Dwight Howard (ORL), LeBron James (MIA), Dirk Nowitzki (DAL)


Winner: Dwight Howard (C-Magic)

Actually more of a confirmation than a prediction, but choosing Howard for the third year in a row is a no-brainer. According to, Howard had the lowest defensive rating and accounted for more than 7.0 wins on defense alone over the past three years. If you want simpler stats, he had 9.7 defensive rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game this season. Great call for a definite game-changing big.

Actual Runner-ups: Kevin Garnett (BOS), Tyson Chandler (DAL), Tony Allen (MEM), Rajon Rondo (BOS)


Prediction: Blake Griffin (F-Clippers)

This is another no-brainer here as Griffin dominated from start to finish after missing all of last season. Griffin made up for lost time after leading all rookies with 22.5 points and 12.1 rebounds per game. Aside from his nightly highlight-reel dunks, he received a selection to the NBA All-Star Game—the first rookie to be selected by the coaches since 1998.

Honorable Mention: John Wall (WAS), DeMarcus Cousins (SAC), Greg Monroe (DET), Landry Fields (NY)


Prediction: Kevin Love (F-Timberwolves)

In his first two seasons, Love showed great potential in limited time. However, Love made the most out of his increased playing time by working on all aspects of his game. In addition to leading the NBA in rebounds, he made 41.7 percent of his 3-points and increased his scoring to 20.2 points per game. Also, one cannot forget the impressive 53-game double-double streak or the 31-point, 31-rebound performance against the Knicks on Nov. 12.

Honorable Mention: Eric Gordon (LAC), Dorell Wright (GS), LaMarcus Aldridge (POR), Derrick Rose (CHI)


Winner: Lamar Odom (F-Lakers) [confirmed]

Possibly the toughest decision I have to make. Do I go with the “true” bench player in Jason Terry or do I go with the better sub in Lamar Odom. Odom wins out due to his 14.4 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. Part of what makes a great sixth man is filling in when needed and Odom did that in his 35 starts. He increased those averages to 16.3 points and 10.2 rebounds while taking over for Andrew Bynum in the starting line-up. Had Odom started six or seven more games…it would be a different story. (The NBA voters actually declared Odom the winner by a landslide, beating Terry 514-244)

Actual Runner-ups: Jason Terry (DAL), Thaddeus Young (PHI), Glen Davis (BOS), Jamal Crawford (ATL)


Prediction: Tom Thibodeau (Bulls)

As the assistant coach for the 2008 NBA Champion Boston Celtics, Thibodeau had a great defensive gameplan that made him very attractive to Chicago this past offseason. After guiding the team to 62 wins, it is safe to say that he is the coach of the year. The Bulls allowed the second-fewest amount of points per game, while winning 21 more games than the season before.

Honorable Mention: George Karl (DEN), Doug Collins (PHI), Gregg Popovich (SA), Monty Williams (NO)


F- LeBron James (MIA)

F- Kevin Durant (OKC)

C- Dwight Howard (ORL)

G- Derrick Rose (CHI)

G- Kobe Bryant (LAL)


F- Kevin Love (MIN)

F- LeBron James (MIA)

C- Dwight Howard (ORL)

G-Kobe Bryant (LAL)

G- Chris Paul (NO)


F-Blake Griffin (LAC)

F- DeMarcus Cousins (SAC)

C- Greg Monroe (DET)

G- John Wall (WAS)

G- Landry Fields (NY)

Sunday, April 17, 2011


San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies

ANALYSIS: The San Antonio Spurs heard that they were too old and that their window of opportunity was shutting, but they sure did not play like it. San Antonio went 61-21, even though Popovich scaled back Tim Duncan’s minutes in order to save him for the playoffs. The plan worked beautifully as the Spurs have home court throughout the West playoffs, along with a good mix of veterans and young players.

The Memphis Grizzlies enter the playoffs looking to do something that they have never done—win a playoff game (0-12 in three appearances). However, Memphis boasts a hungry and young team, led by Zach Randolph. Since Rudy Gay’s injury, Randolph continues to show why he was snubbed from the All-Star game, nearly averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds after the break.
SEASON SERIES: both teams tied, 2-2 (home team won each time)
PREDICTION: Spurs in 5
KEY MATCHUP: Tony Parker vs. Mike Conley (this match-up embodies what this series is all about—experience vs. youth)
PIVOTAL GAME: Game 1 (Manu Ginobili is a bit dinged up after hyper-extending his elbow, so this might be the best chance for Memphis to steal a game)

Los Angeles Lakers vs. New Orleans Hornets

ANALYSIS: The Los Angeles Lakers may have backed into the playoffs, but if any team knows how to flip the switch whenever it counts, it is them. The defending two-time NBA champions still have arguably the best closer and best player in the game in Kobe Bryant and he is not slowing down any time soon.

Despite the trade demands that Chris Paul gave before the season began, New Orleans made the playoffs and sported one of the league’s best defenses. Aside from Paul, Emeka Okafor, and Trevor Ariza, the Hornets have a team of hard-working players that may not be household names. However, these players will have to step up since David West suffered a season ending injury.
SEASON SERIES: Lakers won, 4-0
PREDICTION: Lakers in 5
KEY MATCHUP: Ron Artest vs. Trevor Ariza (Likely they will not guard each other, so this is about the defensive assignments. Ariza may draw Kobe, while Artest’s job might be to shut down CP3.)
PIVOTAL GAME: Game 1 (Bynum’s knee is still banged up, so if the Hornets could win one here. However, the Lakers still have the length advantage with Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom.)

Dallas Mavericks vs. Portland Trail Blazers

ANALYSIS: The Dallas Mavericks always keep winning, winning 50 games for the 11th year in a row. Dirk Nowitzki continues to show why he is one of the NBA’s top players after averaging 23.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per game once again.

No matter what they go through, the Portland Trail Blazers are a dangerous team. LaMarcus Aldridge nearly made the West All-Star team and can arguably be considered as a top 20 player in the league.
SEASON SERIES: both teams tied, 2-2 (home team won each time)
PREDICTION: Mavericks in 7
KEY MATCHUP: Dirk Nowitzki vs. LaMarcus Aldridge (Two of the best power forwards in the game will do battle here. Expect a lot of points between these two)
PIVOTAL GAME: Game 7 (This series was dead even in games won and points, and the home team won each time. It is only fitting that seven games will determine this.)

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Denver Nuggets

ANALYSIS: The Oklahoma City Thunder certainly are the team of the future and they have realized their potential. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are both budding stars for the Thunder and it showed as the franchise won its first division title since leaving Seattle.

No Melo? No problem! The Denver Nuggets have stayed on the winning track since trading their once franchise player and Chauncey Billups. The Nuggets finished the season 18-7 without Carmelo and actually looked more like a refreshed team, especially on the defensive end.
SEASON SERIES: Thunder won, 3-1
PREDICTION: Thunder in 7
KEY MATCHUP: Kendrick Perkins vs. Nene (This is one of the main reasons why Oklahoma City traded for Perkins—to match up better against good centers. Nene has really stepped up his rebounding game since the Carmelo Anthony trade, but Perkins gives the Thunder a better defensive presence in the post.)
PIVOTAL GAME: Game 6 (Any game in Denver has the potential to be pivotal, thanks to the high altitude of the city. The same can be said here. Both teams love to score a lot and we will see many tired legs. Who can win the series here or force a seventh game? We will see.)


Chicago Bulls vs. Indiana Pacers

ANALYSIS: Everyone predicted the Chicago Bulls to be good in the Eastern Conference for the future, but no one predicted that they would be this good, this soon. First-year head coach Tom Thibodeau instilled a defensive mindset on this team and it has made Derrick Rose the frontrunner for Most Valuable Player.

The Indiana Pacers are finally in the playoffs for the first time since 2006 amidst a midseason coaching change. Frank Vogel became interim head coach Jan. 30 and Indiana went 20-17 with him at the helm. The Pacers are led by Danny Granger, who continues to be one of the league’s more underrated players.
SEASON SERIES: Bulls won, 3-1
PREDICTION: Bulls in 4
KEY MATCHUP: Joakim Noah vs. Roy Hibbert (While seeing Rose and Granger go off on in a scoring shootout is fun, the real focus will be in the paint between Noah and Hibbert. When healthy, Noah is the Bulls’ best rebounder and averaging a double-double for the second consecutive year. On the other hand, Hibbert is an underrated shot blocker, averaging 1.8 blocks a game.)
PIVOTAL GAME: Game 1 (OK, while this series has a potential sweep written all over it, it will be interesting to see how Indiana comes out of the gate. If they come out firing, they could steal a game. If not, it will be a long four games for the Pacers)

Miami Heat vs. Philadelphia 76ers

ANALYSIS: After an interesting first regular season together, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh now get a chance to prove it when it counts. Miami’s Big Three overcame many rough patches during the season and still managed to notch the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. With Wade, James and Bosh being the only Heat players to score in double-digits this year, someone else needs to step up to help out.

The Philadelphia 76ers started the 2010-11 season 3-11, but steadily turned things around thanks to veteran head coach Doug Collins. Collins left TNT’s broadcasting team during the offseason and he did a remarkable job by guiding this team to a .500 record
SEASON SERIES: Heat won, 3-0
KEY MATCHUP: Wade/James vs. Andre Iguodala (The burning question will be who locks down on Iguodala at all times. If it is based on size, then it is Wade. However if position comes into play, James gets the nod. If the Heat cannot close a particular game, Philadelphia’s other A.I. is more than capable enough to close out a game.)
PIVOTAL GAME: Game 3 (The last two times the Sixers made the playoffs, they surprisingly took a 2-1 lead against an Eastern Conference contender each time. Given that this is Miami’s first playoff appearance with this core, it is possible that Philadelphia could sneak away with a game or two. Do not be surprised if the 76ers stick around in this series.)

Boston Celtics vs. New York Knicks

ANALYSIS: The Boston Celtics are back in the playoffs, but Kendrick Perkins’ midseason departure means that Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal will need to step up. The Celtics may have faltered down the stretch but they are still dangerous with their playoff experience.

After a seven-year absence, there will be playoff basketball in Madison Square Garden. The New York Knicks mirrored the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat by assembling their own Big Three of Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, and Chauncey Billups. Despite growing pains, this terrific trio ended the season on a hot streak, winning seven of their last nine games.
SEASON SERIES: Celtics won, 4-0
PREDICTION: Celtics in 5
KEY MATCHUP: Boston’s defense vs. New York’s high-tempo offense (The Celtics may miss Kendrick Perkins, but they still have a tough defense that can contain New York’s high-scoring offense. If Boston keeps the scoring down in the mid-90s or less, they will win. If it is a track meet, the outcome favors the Knicks much, much more.)
PIVOTAL GAME: Game 3 (In order for the Knicks to have a shot at winning this series, they must have at least one win at this point.)

Orlando Magic vs. Atlanta Hawks

ANALYSIS: The Orlando Magic retooled again this season by getting rid of Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter, while taking in Gilbert Arenas and welcoming back Hedo Turkoglu. However, in spite of all these changes, the Magic still are dangerous thanks to Dwight Howard.

The Atlanta Hawks are an interesting story. In 2008, they took Boston to seven games in the first round, but did not really impress anyone over the last two playoff appearances. The shocking thing is that they resigned Joe Johnson in the offseason, but traded away Mike Bibby during this season. The Hawks must show a little heart if they want to advance.
SEASON SERIES: Hawks won, 3-1
PREDICTION: Magic in 6
KEY MATCHUP: Orlando’s new parts vs. the Hawks willingness to play (An embarrassment was not even the word to describe last year’s Magic/Hawks series in the East semifinals. Crazy thing is that it was the Magic that underwent wholesale changes between then and now. The Hawks won season series, but it depends on them showing up.)
PIVOTAL GAME: Game 3 (This will be the first game in Atlanta, and the Hawks cannot lay an egg here. They may survive here though, because this Magic squad is not as good as the last two years. However if they do not, the Hawks will need to make wholesale changes in the offseason.)