NBA Playoffs – Varsity ConferencePosted by rtmsf on April 20th, 2007
(1) Dallas vs. (8) Golden State
Nellie’s baaaack. This is probably the most interesting 1 vs. 8 matchup in many years. Why? For one, the Warriors have simply owned the Mavs over the last two seasons, winning five in a row between the clubs – and no other team beat Dallas twice this year. Secondly, they’re hot, winning nine of their last ten, and finishing the season on a 16-5 run, no doubt sparked by the midseason trades of the Bonehead Brother and Troy Murphy, allowing the Warriors to play Nellie’s preferred smallball style. Still, the Mavs have great players up and down their lineup, and didn’t win 67 games as a fluke. Due to both teams looking to push the ball, this should be a tremendously entertaining series, but the Mavs’ experience will be the ultimate difference. Make no mistake, though, they will get a scare here.
The Pick – Dallas rides Nowitzki to a closeout win at home in Game 7. Mavs in seven.
(2) Phoenix vs. (7) LA Lakers
Over/Under on Kobe 50s? 1.5. See, this is why we love the Varsity. Another juicy matchup. Since Kobe has decided that the only way LA has a chance to win games is by going medieval on his opponents, watching just to see the Mamba pursue Jordan’s record 63 vs. the Celtics is worth the time. We also love the subplot of Raja Bell firmly implanting himself in Kobe’s head (and shorts) – perhaps this will be the year that Kobe remembers “that kid.” Even so, despite last year’s close series until Kobe decided to “set up his teammates,” the two teams are further apart this time around. Phoenix has Stoudemire back patrolling the middle, and the Lakers have regressed at key non-Kobe positions (particularly Smush Parker and Lamar Odom). Phil Jackson will have to find a new Zen mantra in order to inspire enough confidence into those guys to beat the Suns this year. Not gonna happen.
The Pick – Kobe as The Man? Zero playoff series wins in two seasons – make it three this time around. Suns in five.
(3) San Antonio vs. (6) Denver
Duncan, Iverson, Melo, Ginobili, Parker… Try to find a more star-studded series than this one. Two MVPs, the rest all-stars and champions (counting Melo at Syracuse). With the Spurs, you can count on one thing in the first round – they end up slugging out some closer-than-it-should-be series with an inspired team playing with nothing to lose. San Antone does this every year, even the seasons they win championships. In the end, the result is always the same. Duncan gets his double-doubles, Ginobili hits several ridiculous twisting runners, and Bob Horry shakes off his frostburn to get hot for one key game. We’d like to believe that Iverson and Melo are building something substantial in Denver, but drawing SA in the first round isn’t the way to do it. Maybe next year.
The Pick – The Spurs will end up dropping a couple in this series for no other reason than boredom, but they’ll never be seriously challenged here. Spurs in six.
(4) Utah vs. (5) Houston
Yao and T-Mac winning a playoff series? As strange as it sounds, T-Mac (0-5) and Yao (0-2) are actually the favorites to win the first playoff series in their careers. Both the Rockets and the Jazz are solid teams, each winning over 50 games this year. Both clubs like to play half-court, fundamental basketball, and the number of “glue guys” on these teams – Shane Battier, Chuck Hayes, Derek Fisher – are the kinds of players who never get you in trouble. Nobody likes playing these teams, and with good reason. The Rockets are playing very good basketball, and the Jazz have slumped a little as the season ended, partially due to AK-47’s ailments. This is still a very close series to call, as both teams are evenly matched. Home court advantage (to the lower seed?) will probably make the difference.
The Pick – The Rockets have the best playmaker on the court in T-Mac. Rockets in seven.