Well, the games are underway and our first round picks are locked in for posterity & scrutiny. So before things get too far along, here are how we see things playing out in the later rounds. Not much to get into, as the picks speak for themselves. Needless to say, when we came to the fork in the road: some went right, some went straight, some went left and some went to have themselves checked in.
#1 Cleveland Cavaliers Vs. #4 Atlanta Hawks
MZ — Cavs In 5 | Patrick M. — Cavs In 6: What is it going to take to beat the Cavs? You need a go-to-scorer who can create his own shot (Joe Johnson,) a bevy of athletic guys you can used to double-team LeBron (no homo, with Josh Smith, Horford and Johnson) and some bigs to match up on the boards (Smith, Horford.) So basically what we’re saying is, this series is going to be closer than people think.
#1 Cleveland Cavaliers Vs. #5 Miami Heat
Jesse H. — Cavs In 6 | S. Cadet — Cavs In 6: The Wade show stops here. He’ll ball all over Mo Williams and Delonte West but LeBron will be too much for Jamario and the bench. Add in Sideshow Bob (Varejo) flopping everytime O’Neal thinks to go back to the basket and the Cavs will move on to the Conference Finals. In a battle of the MVP frontrunners, expect Bron-Bron to show the world why he’s the correct choice.
#2 Orlando Magic Vs. #3 Boston Celtics
Jesse H. — Magic In 7 | MZ — Magic In 7 | S. Cadet — Magic In 6: Orlando’s peculiar, yet efficient, front court in Howard and Lewis will create all kinds of matchup issues for Boston. KG’s presence will be sorely missed as they take out Boston from the inside out.
Patrick M — Celtics In 7: Missing KG will hurt a ton, as the Perk/Garnett combo neutralized Howard perfectly—the Celtics consistently destroyed Orlando over the last year and a half. The last two (KG-less) games though, the Magic got the better of the Celtics, although both games could have gone either way. Anticipate a hard-fought series with both teams struggling to impose their style of play on the other, but with Boston’s home court making the difference.
Eastern Conference Finals
#1 Cleveland Cavaliers Vs. #2 Orlando Magic
Jesse H. — Cavs In 5 | MZ — Cavs In 6 | S. Cadet — Cavs In 6: LeBron has his ticket stamped for the Finals. This should be a highly contested series between two teams which are pretty evenly matched. The Magic probably have a better supporting cast, but they don’t have LeBron.
#1 Cleveland Cavaliers Vs. #3 Boston Celtics
Patrick M. — Celtics In 6: “Never underestimate the heart of a champion.” KG limps back onto the court for Game 3 in Boston and guts out the series. Fueled by his inspiration, Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo play the best series of their lives to take some pressure off the legs of the seasoned vets. And we’ll throw some LeBron food poisoning in their too for kicks.
#1 Los Angeles Lakers Vs. #4 Portland Trailblazers
MZ — Lakers In 5: The Lakers should have no problems dispatching the Trailblazers, whose youth and playoff inexperience will be their undoing.
#1 Los Angeles Lakers Vs. #5 Houston Rockets
Jesse H. — Lakers In 4 | Patrick M. — Lakers In 6 | S. Cadet — Lakers In 5: The only major advantage the Rockets have is Yao over Bynum and that’s attributed to Ming being a tough matchup on D. The Rockets are outmatched overall and this “happy to be here” semifinal party will end quickly.
#2 Denver Nuggets Vs. #3 San Antonio Spurs
S. Cadet — Nuggets In 7: Denver plays defense now so it’ll be even harder for San Antonio in the half court. Denver goes to the Conference Finals since Ginobili won’t be there to terrorize their second team. It goes to 7 games because the Nuggets are bound to have some anxious moments that San Antonio will capitalize on.
#2 Denver Nuggets Vs. #6 Dallas Mavericks
MZ — Mavericks In 6: Jason Terry and Josh Howard will be the difference with both teams’ top two players canceling each other out. The Mavericks will also play inspired ball in what could be their last rodeo before a rebuilding project.
Patrick M. — Nuggets In 7: Both of these teams are mentally fragile—the Mavs occasionally get depressed and stop playing together as a team while the Nuggets have a few too many head cases and Carmelo’s ignorant ass. This could be one of those series where everyone waits for the other team to step up and take it away from them, only neither does. In those cases, it’s the safe bet to take the home team.
#3 San Antonio Spurs Vs. #7 New Orleans Hornets
Jesse H. — Hornets In 6: New Orleans will make a run reminiscent of the Warriors a few seasons back under the guidance of the incomparable Chris Paul. This is the round where father time starts tapping the Spurs on the shoulder and pointing at his watch.
Western Conference Finals
#1 Los Angeles Lakers Vs. #2 Denver Nuggets
Patrick M. — Lakers In 5 | S. Cadet — Lakers In 6: Once again, home court advantage will be the deciding factor in this matchup. Chauncey will have his way with LA’s point guards and Carmelo will get his points. It’ll be all for naught as LA’s frontcourt will overwhelm the Nuggets and Kobe will expose whoever guards him in this series. LA will be back in The Finals.
#1 Los Angeles Lakers Vs. #6 Dallas Mavericks
MZ — Lakers In 6: Kobe has The Finals in his sights and will not let his team fall short of making them.
#1 Los Angeles Lakers Vs. #7 New Orleans Hornets
Jesse H. — Lakers In 5: After a few crazy sports writers dumbly make the argument that the Hornets are the team to beat, the Hornets’ magical run will come to an end after their date with reality (who happens to look a lot like Kobe Bryant).
#1 Cleveland Cavaliers Vs. #1 Los Angeles Lakers
Jesse H. — Cavs In 7: Even though the Lakers beat them on their own hardwood before, the home court advantage will be too much for even Kobe and Co. This is the year when LeBron takes the torch from Kobe as the NBA’s best player, winning The Finals and icing his cake with an MVP trophy.
MZ — Lakers In 7: David Stern’s Wet Dream: LeBron Vs. Kobe going against each other for the chip. LeBron & Co. will fall short despite having home court advantage, because the lights will shine a little too bright on his supporting cast. They say you’ll always remember your first time and this Lakers squad doesn’t want a repeat of last year.
S. Cadet — Cavs In 7: Both squads are properly equipped with talented benches. While LA arguably has a better offensive supporting cast, they won’t be able to handle Lebron’s barrage as I expect him to play extended minutes. Kobe will return the favor on Cleveland’s second team but they’ll do a good enough (but not great) job of containing him in comparison to LA. As long as Cleveland sticks to playing the tough defense their known for the chip will be theirs.
#1 Los Angeles Lakers Vs. #3 Boston Celtics
Patrick M. — Celtics In 5: The Celtics meet the Lakers again, only this time with a banged up KG and having lost both regular season clashes to LA. But this Finals will prove that the Lakers are not quite all they’re cracked up to be. People will realize that Andrew Bynum’s fragility and foul-prone play make him an inferior option to Kendrick Perkins in the post. Pau Gasol will be effective, but LA and Kobe won’t feel comfortable focusing their offense around anyone other than number 24. Trevor Ariza won’t be able to contain Paul Pierce’s slithering drives and pull-up jumpers. And Rajon Rondo will absolutely destroy the over-the-hill Derek Fisher.
Stayed tuned for additional coverage & insight…