There is a great tradition in the blogosphere of sites giving their uninformed opinions about what will happen in this year's NBA playoffs, giving picks and generic information, filled with hyperbole like "this is a team no one wants to see". However, we here at THE GREAT MAMBINO will betray tradition and give our informed opinions about what will happen in this year's playoffs - except I can safely say, we will keep our hyperbole to a minimum and our bile for inferior teams at a maximum (I'm not going to point anyone out, but I hope The Atlanta Hawks get blown out by 40 a game). We'll go with our predictions and then a possible second outcome. First, we begin with the Eastern Conference, First Round:
Chicago Bulls vs. (8) Pacers Indiana
Bulls in 5: The Pacers are a sub-.500 squad with no business being in the playoffs. But in the past 30 days, they have gone 10-7, including an overtime win at home over the Bulls themselves. Additionally, the team has increased their scoring output by almost 6 points per game under interim coach Frank Vogel. They are an jump-shooting team who can light up the scoreboard at a moment's notice, especially at home, which is why I think they'll "steal" one at Conseco Fieldhouse. Bonus points if the game makes it out of the NBATV circle and onto national television, so as to make Danny Granger feel like playing. More bonus points if Leslie Knope makes a guest appearance in the nose-bleeds.
Why the Bulls could sweep: They have won 9 in a row, including a marauding of the Celtics, their primary roadblock to the NBA Finals. They have lost twice in the last month and a half. But most importantly, this team does not take games off and play to the level of their opponent. They are absolute killers who do not take their feet off the pedal. During the past 9 games, with the Eastern Conference regular season title well in hand, they have won by an average margin of 9 points. They will not hesitate to destroy these hapless Pacers. Match-up wise, Indiana will be dominated individually - all the hustle in the world will not stop Boozer from eating up Tyler Hansbrough, Joakim Noah is going to be blocking shots in Hibbert's dreams all summer long and Derrick Rose will absolutely lay waste to Earl Watson and Darren Collison. Expect a massacre everyone.
Miami Heat vs. (7) 76ers Philadelphia
Heat in 5: Too much firepower for the Sixers to handle. Doug Collins suffered from vertigo earlier this season (no, seriously, he really did). While he has done a helluva job getting these dudes playing meaningful April basketball, the road will end here. Kobash thinks they'll go 6, but I have witnessed first-hand how horrendous the Sixers home crowd is. They have less passion than a stoner on a rainy Sunday .
Why the Sixers could take it to 6: This Philly squad is a bad matchup for the Heat - Thaddeus Young and Iguodala are long athletic, and are arguably the best defensive set of small forward teammates in the league, which could be a problem for LeBron. I fully expect Lou Williams to break Mike Bibby's ankles on a minute to minute basis. The key is going to be Elton Brand - even though he didn't (and probably won't ever again) have a year like he did while in his prime, he certainly showed flashes of the Brand of old. Bosh won't have any success in the paint against him, which is really going to make things difficult considering how well the Sixers rotate defensively .
Boston Celtics vs. (6) YOUR Knickerbockers New York
Celtics in 6: These Knickerbockers have proven time and time again that they often play up or down to their competition - but given their lack of talent, I don't think that's sustainable for more than 2 home games, which would be games 3 and 4 of the series. The C's have had their fair share of problems the past two months, but the fact is that the Knicks are depending on Shelden Williams and Ronny Turiaf for major minutes, not to mention Toney Douglas and Shawne Williams that have never played a second of playoff basketball. I think the emotion of the crowd could elevate the Knicks to those first two home wins, but asking for more than that from this skeleton crew over the defending Eastern Conference champs is way too much.
Why a diehard would predict a possible 7 game series: I know why I like pizza; it's delicious. I'm not exactly sure why I'm a diehard Knicks fan though. I'd like to think there isn't a reason at all. But I think it'll go 7 for either of 2 reasons. Either the Knicks play up to their potential in front of 3 electric, celebrity-filled home crowds (definitely possible), or, David Stern throws a little *wink wink shove shove* action to the Donaghys (slightly more possible).
Orlando Magic vs. (5) Deadbeats Atlanta
Magic in 6: Depth.
Orlando has it and does not. Coach Ron Jeremy's team can go 10 deep: Dwight, Bass, Anderson, Hedo, the Atlanta boys, Reddick, Jameer, Arenas, Duhon. On the other side, Richardson plays Zaza Pachulia (that's really his name) big time minutes. Larry Drew's version of 10 deep mainly involves arguing over how many drumsticks he's allowed in a 10-piece bucket. Ok, fine, that last part was about me. Atlanta
Why the Deadbeats will be swept: I absolutely hate this Atlanta Hawks team. Most nights they play with no intensity, no focus and no purpose. They are the epitome of why people hate the NBA - a bunch of flashy, me-first gunners who play for the paycheck, not for the team. They have shown throughout the season that they will absolutely not get up for the big games, whether home or away. In March, they got beat by
Denver, Miami and Chicago by 15, 21 and 33 points, respectively...IN . Unacceptable with a roster like theirs. This team has shown ZERO heart the last 6 months and obviously has no interest in defending their home court. I expect the playoffs to be no different, and thus the prediction of the sweep. Oh I forgot to mention, they have lost 6 straight coming into the playoffs. These guys are a joke. Atlanta