Sunday, May 3

NBA Playoffs Quasi-Analysis: Conference Semifinals

The NBA: Where starting the second round before the first round is over happens.

I frequently criticize sportswriters and pundits for the lack of accountability they're subjected to for the various "expert" predictions that they make (Paul Hoynes - I'm looking at you and your 2008 preseason pick of Torii Hunter for MVP), so it's only fair that I subject myself to analysis of how well I did in the first round. It's the responsible thing to do, and maybe we can learn something. If anything, I'd say I put too much stock in home court advantage. And too little stock in the Dallas Mavericks.

Eastern Conference First Round

(1)CaVs vs. (8)Pistons

My prediction: CaVs in 5
Actual result: CaVs in 4

Hey, Jalen Rose thought it'd go 6.

(2)Celtics vs (7)Bulls
My prediction: Celtics in 6
Actual result: Celtics in 7

Wow, what a series.

(3)Magic vs. (6)76ers
My prediction: Magic in 5
Actual result: Magic in 6

Philly played with a lot of heart in this series - I'm impressed by the team effort they gave and by Andre Iguodala's play. Still, give Orlando credit for closing on the road without Dewey.

4)Hawks vs. (5)Heat
My prediction: Hawks in 7
Actual result: Hawks in 7

The teams didn't hold home-court early on like I expected, but they did over the final three contests and the end result was as I predicted.

Western Conference First Round

1)Lakers vs (8)Jazz

My prediction: Lakers in 5
Actual result: Lakers in 5

Nailed this one - even had the flow of the series correct. Apparently, everyone got this one right, so I can't take too much credit.

2)Nuggets vs (7)Hornets
My prediction: Nuggets in 7
Actual result: Nuggets in 5

Seriously, how do you lose a home playoff game by 58 points?

(3)Spurs vs (6)Mavericks
My prediction: Spurs in 6
Actual result: Mavericks in 5

Wow, that's embarrassing for me. No matter what I pick the Spurs to do, they do the opposite. Guess I should have taken them in the 2007 Finals.

4)Trail Blazers vs (5)Rockets
My prediction: Rockets in 6
Actual result: Rockets in 6

Everything has transpired as I have foreseen it.

Exactly right: 3
Right team, off a game: 3
Right team, off two games: 1
Totally and utterly wrong: 1

I'll take it. Now, on to the next round of predictions.

Eastern Conference Semifinals

1)CaVs vs. (4)Hawks

Congratulations on your opening-round series win, Atlanta Hawks! Now it's time to get ready for your off-season.
CaVs in 5

(2)Celtics vs (3)Magic

I just think the Celtics are too tired, too beat up, and too Kevin Garnett-less to win another war like the one they just survived with the never-say-die Bulls. That series was a monstrous epic, and it's hard for me to imagine the Celtics climbing up that mountain again. I give them a lot of credit for winning that series, but the Magic's inside-outside attack will prove to be too much for the defending champs.
Magic in 6

Western Conference Semifinals

(1)Lakers vs (5)Rockets

I know, the Rockets' logo got cut off in my graphic, but "Houston Rock" sounds cool and it would have taken me longer to correct than I deemed appropriate.

Before the playoffs started, a lot of analysts thought that the young Trail Blazers were the team in the West that could give LA the most trouble. After the first round, Portland is out of the tournament, and Denver is clearly now that team anyway. For their second-round matchup, the Lakers draw the Houston Rockets.

I think this is a really favorable matchup for the Lakers, and I think they'll continue their march to the Finals without too much trouble. Yao Ming won't be able to dominate inside with the Lakers' dynamic big man trio of Bynum, Gasol, and Odom, and Kobe Bryant will provide enough perimeter scoring to keep Houston's defense honest. The Rockets might have been able to make noise elsewhere, but not here.
Lakers in 5

(2)Nuggets vs (6)Mavericks

Do people realize how badly the Nuggets stuck it to the hapless Hornets in the first round? I mean, that was a smackdown. Yes, New Orleans claimed a narrow victory in Game 3, but the rest of the series was less competitive than Cavs-Pistons. Everyone knows about the epic 58-point rout in Louisiana, but the Nuggets' other three wins were by an average of 22 points as well. With Chauncey Billups at the helm, Carmelo Anthony enjoying his first playoff success, and Kenyon Martin healthy and interested, these Nuggets are a force.

The Mavericks surprised me in the first round, and I'd hate to underestimate them here. They got good scoring from Jason Terry, Josh Howard, and Dirk Nowitzki, and kept an admittely short-handed Spurs team from the basket despite some excellent performances by Tony Parker. Still, I like the Nuggets' vibe right now and I like their home-court advantage, and I see them reaching the West semis.
Nuggets in 7

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