In search of a first round upset in the NBA Playoffs...
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Upsets? Upsets? Anyone find a good upset?
It’s what you look for, hopefully, in the first round of the NBA playoffs, which opens Saturday with the Cavs hosting the Bulls. That’s what makes it fun, like in the NCAA tournament. See if you can find one, and then brag to your buddies you knew it all along.
However, there aren’t really any in the West with all the playoff teams winning at least 50 games for the first time. But, if the Lakers were to lose to the baby Thunder, yes, that would be a big upset. I don’t see it.
The games in the Western Conference looked like they were going to be classic until injuries hit again with Brandon Roy out, along with Andrei Kirilenko, and who knows about Carlos Boozer. If he wasn’t on his contract season, he’d probably be in traction.
It’s looking like the Cavs in the East, back to the Finals with a conference finals win over the Magic. I don’t think the Lakers are going to make it in the West with Kobe’s injuries having him trying to figure out if he can grip the ball with his toes. I know it won’t be the Thunder, but it could be anyone else, especially if Andrew Bynum doesn’t make it back as he’s been out once again.
So here we go for the next two months.
Cavaliers (61-21) vs. Bulls (41-41). Season series: 2-2.
The management/coach fracas won’t bother the Bulls as much as LeBron. The players have had plenty of fun with the media’s preoccupation with the off the court stuff, but on the court is where it’s problematic. The Bulls came in a rush to grab the last spot from the Raptors with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah playing great. But the Bulls probably are spent some from that push. The Cavs are rested and anxious, and while the Bulls will mostly play them well, they don’t have enough to endure.
Pick: Cavaliers in 5.
Magic (59-23) vs. Bobcats (44-38). Series: 3-1 Magic.
It’s the first playoff appearance for the Bobcats, now owned by Michael Jordan. The underdogs use the “giving us no chance card,” but this time it’s the Magic with few picking them over the Cavs after they beat the Cavs last year. The key for Orlando will be keeping Vince Carter from shooting those fadeaway threes and whether Dwight Howard can make some free throws. The Bobcats are spunky, whatever that means, but just cannot score enough to keep up with this Magic attack.
Pick: Magic in 5.
Hawks (53-29) vs. Bucks (46-36). Season Series: Hawks 2-1.
This was going to be the upset until Andrew Bogut went down for the season. The Bucks have played at a tremendous level all season, and one problem with Scott Skiles teams in the playoffs is they play so hard all season it’s tough to play harder when the playoffs come like most teams do. The Hawks tend to go through lulls because of their switching defense, which is often unaggressive. If Josh Smith is engaged on defense every game they’ll be tough. But he rarely is. Good for Jamal Crawford in his first ever playoff series, and they’re best when he’s at point late with Joe Johnson shooting. If someone could wake up Marvin Williams, watch out.
Pick: Hawks in 6.
Celtics (50-32) vs. Heat (47-35). Season series: Boston 3-0.
The Heat came in a rush to end the season with 18 of 22 and led the league in field goal defense against. This would be where you’d go for the upset as the Heat have the playoff elements of a star and a good defense. But the Celtics just have too much, if it is badly aging and slowing. They’re not very athletic with Kevin Garnett no longer the same and don’t rebound well. But figure Jermaine O’Neal to go down somewhere and you know Garnett is never going to stop taunting the fragile Beasley.
Pick: Celtics in 7
Lakers (57-25) vs. Thunder (50-32) Season series: Lakers 3-1.
That Thunder win was the last game and a blowout in Oklahoma City. This one seems fun already with Phil Jackson starting with Kevin Durant about getting favored ref treatment. Kobe’s been quiet trying to heal from a variety of injuries and who knows if Andrew Bogut will play and how much. If he does and gets back to a high level, the Lakers return as big favorites in the West. The Lakers bench has been awful and their three point shooting weak. They can be had, but not likely by this team, which is happy to be here. Their offense bogs down late and they stand around and watch Durant. But they’ll give the Lakers something to think about.
Pick: Lakers in 6.
Mavericks (55-27) vs. Spurs (50-32). Season series: Mavs 3-1.
You wonder about this one as the Spurs could have moved up but elected to sit Duncan and Ginobili in the last game and got Dallas instead of the Suns. It’s maybe the best rivalry in the league now with the teams meeting in the playoffs the of the last five seasons. The Mavs loaded up at the trading deadline, but while bigger don’t score well up front. Ginobili has been playing well and Richard Jefferson is making a bit of a comeback. Plus, they’ve rested Duncan well all season for just this.
Pick: Spurs in 6
Suns (54-28) vs. Trail Blazers (50-32). Season series: Portland 2-1.
This one was another big if until Brandon Roy joined the ridiculous list of injured Blazers and is out for the series. The Suns have come on strong with Amar’e Stoudemire playing at career best levels. They hope to have Robin Lopez after back issues while Steve Nash continues to amaze. Can Rudy Fernandez give them that missing offense, and they did make a huge pickup in Marcus Camby at the trade deadline. So they’ll compete and at home they’re tough.
Pick: Suns in 7.
Nuggets (53-29) vs. Jazz (53-29). Season series: Denver 3-1.
The Nuggets have been hurt by the illness absence of coach George Karl with cancer treatments and Kenyon Martin having some knee problems again. But the Jazz suffered a blow with Andrei Kirilenko out of the series after he’d played well late in the season and Carlos Boozer also hurt, though possibly playing. Chauncey Billups tires as series go long, but is good in the opening rounds and can offset Deron Williams’ strength. And the Jazz have no answer for Carmelo Anthony. The Jazz lost home court advantage on the tiebreaker, and it will be costly.
Denver in 7.