Here are my predictions, and the support for those predictions. I will use some stats, but I believe that in the playoffs, stats can sometimes be misleading for the following two reasons. First, regular season stats mean so little in the playoffs. Pace is different, quality of opponents is different, and the team is playing differently. Second, to use stats from the first two rounds is misleading because of the small sample size of only playing against two teams. So I will use stats as an explanation, but I think in the playoffs, you have to use the eye test. And here we are with predictions:
Monday, May 16, 2011
I called it. Sure, some of my teams had early bumps in the road, and one (OKC) was bumped to the edge, but all hung on and made it through to the Conference finals. How did it happen, and what will come next?
Friday, May 6, 2011
How is the West? I think the Thunder are holding up. Marc Gasol had an unbelievable game one, and I feel he was the real difference in that game. I can't believe that he will continue to be the hero. Zach Randolph has been on a tear, but cooled in game two and I don't know if he'll be as consistently dominant as he was in the Spurs series, not if Ibaka is healthy (though Zach Randolph has proven a lot of people wrong). Durant has been his usual terrific self. I think the key for the Thunder is Russell Westbrook's play. Lots has been said about his decision making, especially how he often makes up his mind before a play instead of letting it come to him. I don't blame him; he's young and unlike Paul or Rose, he's not the unquestioned star on his team.
How are my predictions holding up? Pretty good, even though some of my teams have started unevenly. However, I feel Chicago and Oklahoma City have figured things out internally and will finish their respective series strong. Why do I think so? Read on.
Sunday, May 1, 2011
Onto the Western Conference. Let's start with the aforementioned Memphis Grizzlies. They beat San Antonio off the singular merits of Zach Randolph. McDyess, Duncan, Bonner, and Splitter were totally unable to stop Z-Bo. And that's why I think the Thunder beat them. Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison, and Kendrick Perkins are younger, tougher, and can bully the Grizzlies more. This is where getting Perkins at the trade deadline turned into a genius move by Sam Presti (on the flip side, does O'Neal, O'Neal, Davis, Green for Boston really scare you behind KG? I mean, at least Perk could play some defense. I know Big Baby has quietly gotten loads better, and the stats say that Perk didn't affect this year's team, and Rondo has gotten out of his funk, but still, the dude's a bruiser, someone LeBron and Wade and Rose are glad they aren't going to get funneled into by the help D). I think that the Thunder guards are going to outplay the Grizz guards. And finally, I think Durantula is going to play well against Battier. I know, I know, Shane Battier is one of my favorite players, a guy that does everything right and can make any shooter's night a long one. But Durantula has historically shot well against Houston (though he goes to the line less), proving that Battier can't bother him that much. I think it's because Battier's game is pushing shooters to places where they're less effective and making them shoot over him while not fouling. Against a guy like Kobe who loves to play Battier's game but isn't great shooting over people, that works. But I feel Durantula has fewer weak spots on the floor, and his length makes it easier for him to shoot over the top. The only way you're going to make things hard on him is to body him like Ron Artest, constantly annoying him physically and throwing off his rhythm (even then, the Thunder last year, who were nowhere near this year's edition, pushed LA to within one short Westbrook jumper of a game 7). I'm pretty confident the Thunder wrap this up in six, and even in seven, I have faith in them at home.
It was a good first round with few real upsets. I know that Memphis over San Antonio was a history-making series, but a few things made it more anti-climatic than it could have been: 1) Memphis wanted to play San Antonio, and ensured that they would get the eighth seed to play the Spurs in the first round. 2) Memphis played San Antonio well this year, and the playoffs are dominated by matchups. 3) Memphis was on fire down the stretch. Ever since Rudy Gay went down and OJ Mayo was regulated to the bench, the Grizzlies have been on fire. Gay was playing inspired this year (another guy whose career has been changed forever by Coach K and the summer team), but somehow, the team just scraps more without him. 4) San Antonio faded down the stretch and looked ultra vulnerable. The Spurs had amazing injury luck early in the season, but lost all of that in the last month of the regular season. Tim Duncan's decline has been huge: he is just a jump shooting shell of his former self, and even saving him throughout the season didn't give him any extra juice come playoff time. Not that I can blame him: KG is old-looking and hasn't played all the playoff games (ie: extra mileage), and Kevin looks bad sometimes. It's just Father Time catching the Spurs at the worst possible moment.