Let the playoffs begin
April 15, 2010, 6:28 PM
Filed under: NBA

By JERRY COON

Will anyone dethrown the reigning champions?

Now that the 82-game regular season is in the books, the real battles begin.

Unfortunately, I can’t write about how the Rockets are going all the way this time. I will say, however, that I enjoyed watching a scrappy team fight every night. I haven’t watched a Rockets team give it their all like that since 1995. So 42-40 and missing the playoffs isn’t so bad considering your best player was out for the season and your second best player caused more problems than Santonio Holmes.

The Rockets came to play every night. Luis Scola transformed himself into a premiere power forward, averaging 16 points and almost nine rebounds a game. Aaron Brooks proved to be a legitimate starting point guard in this league, pouring in 20 a night. With the addition of Kevin Martin in the McGrady trade, the Rockets sealed their backcourt for years to come. The trade was something we were impressed with at the time, but will be overly grateful for in the future. This season wasn’t about the Rockets of the present, it was setting up the team for the future. With the Astros becoming the butt of every joke right now, you do have something to look forward to, Houston.

Now here is how I see everything panning out:

EASTERN CONFERENCE FIRST ROUND

1. Cleveland Cavaliers (61-21) vs. 8. Chicago Bulls (41-41): Do I see the Bulls recreating the magic they did in last year’s first round against the Celtics? Absolutely not. Lebron James isn’t playing around anymore. The soon-to-be MVP averaged 29.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg and 8.6 apg. That’s Oscar-esque. You really think Chicago, a team that weaseled its way in on the last day of the season, has a chance to beat the Cavs? Me neither. Cavs in 5

2. Orlando Magic (59-23) vs. 7. Charlotte Bobcats (44-38): I never thought I would see the day where Charlotte was a playoff team. Remember back when ‘Zo, Larry Johnson and Muggsy lead them to the promise land? Now, we see Gerald Wallace, Ste….who am I kidding. Orlando might sweep. I will give the Bobcats one game to be fair. Magic in 5

3. Atlanta Hawks (53-29) vs. 6. Milwaukee Bucks (46-36): The Bucks were one of my favorite teams to pay attention to this season (I would say watch, but there aren’t networks clamoring to broadcast Bucks’ games). Sadly, Bogut, who is their best player, is out for the season. I love the Jennings, Salmons backcourt, but the Hawks are too good for young Milwaukee to handle. Hawks in 6

4. Boston Celtics (50-32) vs. 5. Miami Heat (47-35): I would love nothing more than to see Wade take out the Senile-tics. Garnett can’t move. Rasheed Wallace is awful. This could be the Bulls/Celtics matchup from last season. I’m not able to tell if this is extreme bias or what I really feel. Either way… Heat in 7

WESTERN CONFERENCE FIRST ROUND

1. Los Angeles Lakers (57-25) vs. 8. Oklahoma City Thunder (50-32): I already liked Kevin Durant previous to him going off on the criticism for referees giving him “special treatment.” His response to Phil Jackson’s remarks is textbook. Gave officials credit, felt disrespected, made himself lovable. And as much as everyone would like to see the Lakers thrown out early, it isn’t going to happen. Because as much talent as Durant has (he is the scoring champion this season by the way), I hear the Lakers have this guy that’s pretty good as well. Kobe in 6

2. Dallas Mavericks (55-27) vs. 7. San Antonio Spurs (50-32): In a battle between the two teams I absolutely loathe, I would rather a bomb just be dropped on whichever arena they are playing in. I can’t even make myself care enough to write anything other than that. Mavs in 7

3. Phoenix Suns (54-28) vs. 6. Portland Trail Blazers (50-32): This one is pretty interesting. Portland owns the season series 2-1 and every game was pretty close. The Blazers will really give the Suns a run for their money, but I think I like Nash at the end of the day. I think. Suns in 7

4. Denver Nuggets (53-29) vs. 5. Utah Jazz (53-29): Denver has a main distraction with Head Coach George Karl out due to his battle with cancer. Still, the Nuggets have the talent to get them out of the first round. Denver in 6

CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS

1. Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 5. Miami Heat: I’m still not picking against Lebron…yet. However, I will enjoy it if we get to see him and Wade battle it out. Cavs in 5

2. Orlando Magic vs. 3. Atlanta Hawks: This is a tough one for me. I like the Hawks. It depresses me that they will go back to nothing once Joe Johnson bolts this summer. Vince, Dwight and crew will be too much to handle. Magic in 6

1. Los Angeles Lakers vs. 4. Denver Nuggets: People keep questioning the motivation and urgency of the Lakers. Everyone has watched Kobe play in the playoffs, right? Lakers in 6

2. Dallas Mavericks vs. 3. Phoenix Suns I like when we get to see friends go to war. Dirk vs. Nash will create a nice storyline around this matchup. At the end of the day, the Mavs have too many weapons on that team. Dallas in 6

CONFERENCE FINALS

1. Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 2. Orlando Magic: In a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, Lebron will seek revenge on the team that cut his championship hopes short. We all know what we want to see though, right? Cleveland in 7

1. Los Angeles Lakers vs. 2. Dallas Mavericks: Out of any NBA-related questions, emails, etc., the most repetitive thing I have been asked is, “do you think the Mavs could beat the Lakers in a seven-game series?” Do you want to long answer or the short answer? Well, I’m giving you the short answer. No. Lakers in 6

NBA FINALS

1. Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Los Angeles Lakers

This is what we have all been waiting to see. Kobe vs. Lebron. Shaq vs. Kobe. There’s too many subplots for the NBA Gods to not let this happen. It has to happen. Basketball depends on it.

Here is the deal. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, rivalries were what made the NBA succeed greatly. You don’t see anything like Magic vs. Bird or Jordan vs. anyone anymore. If these two teams meet in the Finals and you have the best two players battling each other for a ring, EVERYONE WILL BE WATCHING. This could single-handedly bring basketball back to what it once was. Especially with the upcoming offseason of free agents galore, there is no telling what will happen from this point on. In order to keep momentum going after many stars will change teams this summer, the NBA needs this matchup to happen.

As far as the series itself, the Cavs definitely have the size to contend against the Lakers. This could be one of the best finales to a sport season we have seen in a while. I will hope this happens, and I hope I have talked the rest of you into this as well. I also can’t wait to see the look on Lebron’s face when he loses the championship, again.

Lakers in 7

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