Tuesday, May 19

NBA Playoffs Quasi-Analysis: Conference Finals

8 up, 8 down.

Like we did with the opening round, let's go through the Conference Semis and see how (in)accurate I was.

Eastern Conference Semifinals

(1)CaVs vs. (4)Hawks

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

I didn't even have to retype this section from the 1st round! Seriously, though, if I keep picking the Cavaliers in 5, will they keep winning in 4? Because I'm willing to be off a game for two more rounds.

(2)Celtics vs (3)Magic
My prediction: Magic in 6
Actual result: Magic in 7

The Magic should have taken this in 6, had they not tanked games 4 and 5, so I feel like this was a pretty good pick.

Western Conference Semifinals

(1)Lakers vs (4)Rockets

My prediction: Lakers in 5
Actual result: Lakers in 7

Frankly, this was one of the worst playoff basketball series in recent memory. I can't think of one thing I enjoyed from this series.
It's amazing to me how frequently the presumptive Western Conference nominee came out completely flat against the Rockets. They're taking nights off in the Conference Semis, just another reason why they won't beat the Cavs in a potential Finals matchup.

(2)Nuggets vs (6)Mavericks
My prediction: Nuggets in 7
Actual result: Nuggets in 5

That's two rounds now I've gone with Denver and seen them exceed my expectations. These guys are playing some very good ball.

Right team, off a game: 2 (East)
Right team, off two games: 2 (West)

OK - at least I picked all four winners. The overall numbers:
Exactly right: 3
Right team, off a game: 5
Right team, off two games: 3
Totally and utterly wrong: 1

I know it's generally easy to pick NBA winners, but I have gotten 11 of 12 correct, 8 of those within a game, which I think is good. Now, on to the next round of predictions.

Eastern Conference Finals

(1)CaVs vs. (3)Magic

Come on, like there's any chance in hell I'm not going to pick the Cavaliers to win this series! Compared to last year, though, I am more confident that Cleveland is going to advance. Too bad I spent that time the other day writing a preview of the now-nonexistent Celtics-Cavs rematch. It was both a better story and a better matchup for Los Caballeros.

It's no secret that Orlando presents matchup problems for the Cavaliers, starting with big Dwight Howard in the middle. Before the series starts, let me say I'm not a huge Dwight Howard fan. Between the contrived Superman schtick and all the god-loving, he's not a guy I'm really excited to watch play. Around Howard, the Magic have an array of three-point shooters in Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, and Mickael Pietrus that seems designed to beat Cleveland. People are definitely worried about the Magic, seeing them as one team who might be able to derail the Cavaliers.

Of course, those people forget Cleveland's league-leading team defense and the fact that they present a matchup problem or two of their own thanks to this guy named LeBron James. I know he hasn't taken the court in a while, but let's not forget that he's led the Cavs to a 74-16 record thus far. Some have pointed out that the Magic are 2-1 against the Cavs this season; the Cavs were 2-0 against the Spurs in 2007 and we all know how that turned out.

No, I'm tired of underestimating the 2008-2009 Cleveland Cavaliers. As much as what I read about the series provides me with doubt, the Cavs have responded in a big way every time I've questioned them this year. They will win this series to claim their second Eastern Conference title in three years.

On that note, remember how happy they were to win that trophy in '07? I can see LeBron and company shunning this year's hardware like it's covered in H1N1 virus. They've got bigger fish to fry.
CaVs in 5

Western Conference Finals

(1)Lakers vs (2)Nuggets

This one's hard to pick because: which Laker team is going to show up? The one that drubbed the Rockets by 40 points in Game 5, or the one who fell behind 17-1 in the subsequent game? They still have talent, but they don't have the look of a champion by any stretch. Furthermore, they're surprisingly weak at guard, other than Kobe Bryant. (By the way, if I never see Kobe Doin' Work as long as I live, it'll be too soon.) Anyway, in Fisher, Farmar, Brown, and Ariza, this is not a good backcourt. With good team defensive help, I can very much see Mo and Delonte owning the Lakers on the perimeter. Even down low they don't look great; Gasol and Odom are tough, but they lack the depth of Ben Wallace and Joe Smith. The frontcourt matchup may depend on what Tracy Morgan contributes.

I'm sorry, I'm getting ahead of myself; they're playing the Nuggets, not the Cavs. But it's not so different - the Lakers will find it hard to match up with Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups, and the Nuggets are playing a fast, loose style that's making them hard to beat at home. It's very, very tempting to pick the Nuggets here. But for whatever reason - Kobe, Phil Jackson, home court - I'm not.
Lakers in 7

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