NBA Playoffs – JV ConferencePosted by rtmsf on April 19th, 2007
We at Rush the Court don’t really get why so many college hoops fans do not appreciate the NBA playoffs, which features unquestionably the highest level of basketball played in the world. Sure, the school spirit and passion of the fans isn’t the same, and the endless regular season often renders some players joyless and methodical. But the playoffs are a different story. The players defend better, fight through screens harder, and the very best of the bunch – Bird, Magic, Isiah, Jordan, Hakeem, Duncan, Shaq – rise to the occasion time and time again. With the young guard of Wade, Lebron, Melo, Bosh and D. Howard ready to take the game to a higher plane for its generation, we find it compelling drama again this spring.
The JV (Eastern, in common parlance) Conference has been so mediocre for so many years that it took us a while to remember when it was truly competitive with the West. The last time you could say that the East was marginally on par with the West was 1999, immediately prior to the ascent of the Lakers (Phil Jackson arrived on the scene in 2000) and commensurate with the slow and steady descent of the mid-late 90s stalwarts Knicks, Heat, Pacers and Bulls (not so slowly or steadily). In that lockout-shortened year, the West had five thirty-win teams, while the East had four – although their Finals representative was the 8th seeded and 27-win Knicks, perhaps already belying the weakness among the top eastern teams. The very next season, in 2000, the West had six fifty-win teams, while the East only managed three. Over the course of the next five years, arguably only one eastern team (Philadelphia in 2001; New Jersey in 2002-03; and Detroit in 2004-05) would have broken into the top six of the West. Since Shaq came to Miami in 2005, the Heat along with the Pistons can be considered elite. No other team in the East deserves that consideration.
So here are the picks for the JV Conference:
(1) Detroit vs. (8) Orlando
Darko’s chance at redemption. Only twice in NBA history has an 8 seed defeated a 1 seed, and both of those (1994 – Nuggets over Sonics; 1999 – Knicks over Heat) were reasonably foreseeable at the time. The Pistons swept the Magic 4-0 this season, and they’ve been to four straight JV Conference Finals. Too much experience, too many big shot makers, too few weapons for Orlando. Although we do expect to see a big series (coming-out party?) for the C-Webb of today (Dwight Howard) vs. the guy who took over C-Webb’s body five years ago.
The Pick – We’ll give Orlando one game when Detroit inevitably falls asleep. Pistons in five.
(2) Cleveland vs. (7) Washington
Can we watch last year’s matchup instead? A month ago this matchup had the makings of a sweet second round shootout between Lebron and Arenas. Now we think reading Agent Zero’s blog would be more interesting. There’s always been something about Lebron’s game in general that we have never liked, but you must be joking with this lineup from the injury-ravaged Wiz – Antonio Daniels, Deshawn Stevenson, Jarvis Hayes, Etan Thomas and Antawn Jamison?!? Seriously?!? The NBDL playoffs finish this weekend, fellas, maybe you could beat the Sioux Falls Skyforce in a one-game scenario.
The Pick – We don’t think much of the Cavs, but these are not your daddy’s Bullets. Cavs in four.
(3) Toronto vs. (6) New Jersey
Which Raptor will put the hit out on VC? Hopefully it will be one of their likeable goons – a clothesline from Kris Humphries? An undercut from Anthony Parker? A little Sicilian vendetta from Andrea Bargnani? Who can forget Vinsanity’s admission of goldbricking during his last season with Toronto – probably not Raptor fans. As for this series, and unfortunately for the rest of us, the Nets probably have too much experience and perimeter talent to counter the surprising Raptors. Bosh is the wildcard. If he can dominate the Net frontline (as he should), then Toronto may be able to neutralize New Jersey’s guard play enough to get this to a deciding Game 7 at home. This is his first playoff experience, however, and it says here that he won’t be able to do so. Still, Go Raptors, eh! Is anyone else as tired of watching the Nets as us?
The Pick – The Nets do just enough to win these types of series. Nets in six.
(4) Miami vs. (5) Chicago
How healthy is D-Wade’s shoulder? Assuming everyone is healthy for this one, this is the only first round series in the JV worth watching. According to the talking heads, Chicago is a team that the Heatians should fear, but we’re not buying it. Everyone just watched an incredibly focused Florida Gator team suffer through some regular season mishaps on its way to a repeat championship. Miami has that same kind of turn-it-on resilience in the playoffs (see Game 3’s 4th quarter vs. Dallas last year for evidence). There’s no way that a team with Shaq and D-Wade will lose a first round series. Nevertheless, Chicago has just enough firepower, defense and Ben Wallace (to battle Shaq) to make this series interesting, from a viewer standpoint.
The Pick – Da Bulls are in trouble, Mahv. Heat in six.
Coming tomorrow: the Varsity picks.