Saturday, April 17, 2010
NBA playoffs preview: Finally, it's LeBron's turn
While living continuously angry is no way to go about this thing we call life, there is something to be said for using the emotion for certain causes. For instance, the Cleveland Cavaliers enter this postseason a bit mad. They've clearly been the best team in the NBA all season, they've got the clear-cut MVP in LeBron James, and yet no one's labeling them a clear-cut favorite to win the NBA title.
They're probably calling it disrespect. In truth, people are hesitant to pick the Cavs to win because, well, they've never done it before.
But LeBron and Co. with a chip on their shoulder should be a scary thought for opposing teams. The Chicago Bulls will get the first taste. And then, three more teams will feel the wrath of the NBA's most motivated team.
And, yep, that's right — the Cleveland Cavaliers will emerge from the Longest Postseason in American Sports the unquestioned winner.
1 Cleveland def. 8 Chicago (4 games)
2 Orlando def. 7 Charlotte (5 games)
3 Atlanta def. 6 Milwaukee (5 games)
4 Boston def. 5 Miami (7 games)
1 Cleveland def. 4 Boston (5 games): Sorry, Celtics fans, but your team simply has no fight left. The Cavaliers will own the fourth quarters, win all the loose balls, and make all of Boston realize that the run of the Big Three is over.
2 Orlando def. 3 Atlanta (7 games): This will be a great, highly exciting, high-octane series. But in the end, the Magic won't lose on its homecourt in a Game 7.
1 Cleveland def. 2 Orlando (6 games): In a rematch of last year's conference finals, the Cavs will ride the wide shoulders of James to victory in six tightly contested games. The Magic will miss the heroics of Hedo Turkoglu, as Vince Carter can't quite fill his shoes.
1 Los Angeles def. 8 Oklahoma City (6 games)
2 Dallas def. 7 San Antonio (7 games)
3 Phoenix def. 6 Portland (5 games)
4 Denver def. 5 Utah (7 games)
1 Los Angeles def. 4 Denver (6 games): In a rematch of last year's Western Conference Finals, which provided plenty of fireworks, the Lakers will benefit from the absence of George Karl on the Nuggets' bench. Denver has been too erratic without him, and while it will win a couple games due to hot shooting, this squad doesn't have enough to take four of seven from L.A.
3 Phoenix def. 2 Dallas (7 games): Have you seen the Suns play lately? Yes, I know they're the Suns. They don't play defense. They don't advance far in the playoffs. But no one has played better of late, and they can match up with the Mavericks. In Game 7, Steve Nash will break the hearts of his former fans in Big D.
1 Los Angeles def. 3 Phoenix (7 games): In yet another long series, the Lakers will finally wear out the Suns — particularly their front line. Pau Gasol will be the key player, scoring down low or feeding teammates for open 3s, which will be knocked down consistently by a to-be-named bench player who will step up.
Cleveland def. Los Angeles (6 games): This series, sadly, won't be as close as people will hope for. The Lakers will enter it beaten and bruised, having played 19 games. Cleveland, meanwhile, will be well-rested having played just 15 games. And the Cavs have the cadre of frontcourt players to wear down Gasol (and Andrew Bynum, if he's back). Oh, and James will outplay Kobe Bryant, who just hasn't had the shooting touch this year we've expected from him. L.A. will stay alive with a couple wins on their home court and talk will start of a possible Lakers comeback — because, remember, people still don't trust the Cavs to win it all. But that banter will be forgotten by the fourth quarter of Game 6, when Cleveland runs away with an easy victory to secure the team's first NBA title and the biggest celebration in the city since, well, I don't know. You tell me.
And how could James leave such an accomplished bunch? This summer, he'll keep the good news coming by re-upping with the Cavaliers. That's my prediction, and I'm sticking to it.