Friday, April 27, 2012

NBA Eastern Conference Preview

The first round of the NBA playoffs does not attract the average fan. The NBA actually made it that way when it mandated that all series would be a best-of-seven deathmatch, instead of the exciting, upset-rich best-of-fives that occurred in the first round. So as KOBEsh mentioned in his Western Conference preview, the better team will win in the vast majority of occurrences. But true Mambinites are legitimate hoopheads, so this year's first round of the NBA playoffs won't be any less special. Call us hipsters, because we don't need the general public to appreciate the drama on the hardwood.

Onto the picks...

1) Chicago Bulls vs. 8) Philadelphia 76ers - Chicago in four

I wanted to get an actual picture of the cereal, but when
Google Images serves me lemons, I make lemonade.
BockerKnocker: The Sixers are an interesting bunch. I liken them to a bowl of Lucky Charms. Now, I haven't ever eaten Lucky Charms, so the fact that this analogy comes to mind makes me think that I'm quite possibly stealing someone else's material. Anyways, the perfect spoonful of this particular cereal is when you get the right mix of bran (for lack of a better word) and marshmallow. The whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. In 'Delphia, the basketball team can put together fantastic runs. Their perimeter defense, featuring all-world lockdown man Andre Iguodala, will force turnovers and produce plenty of easy baskets. A transition dunk is like the perfect spoonful of cereal. However, when your childlike eyes gaze upon a bowl of Lucky Charms, you pick out the spoonfuls that guarantee you the taste of sugar from those marshmallows. The only problem is that by the end of the bowl, you're going full bran. The change from good to bad is so sudden that you don't realize what happens. And that's what this Sixers team is like in the 4th quarter. There's no go-to guy in the clutch; their best scorer comes off the bench. They're either too old (Elton Brand) or too young (Evan Turner) to really make some noise. On the other side of the court, the Chicago Bulls are not being talked about like a normal #1 seed due to all of their injuries. Well guess what? They're after me Lucky Charms. Get Santa Claus out, because Philly fans will be booing all series long.

Why the 76ers can win 1 game (KOBEsh): I wrote this earlier this season, but the reason why the 76ers had so much early succcess is that every person on the roster fills their roles to the brim. Even in their second half slide, falling to the number 8 spot, the Sixers are still playing All-League defense, limiting opposing teams to 88 points on 42% shooting and 7th in rebounds. Philly has to continue their regular season trends, and then for just one game, one of their scorers has to go off for between 20 and 30 points at home. That's pretty much all this relatively punchless team can do against a monstrous Chicago attack.

2) Miami Heat vs. 7) YOUR...New York Knickerbockers - Miami in seven

KOBEsh: Oh, you mean besides LeBron James? Well...that's pretty much it. The Miami role players have been so rancid that the NBA title in June that once seemed a lock, no longer seems guaranteed. While the Knicks seemingly have a defensive stopper for both Wade and Bosh, LeBron's brilliance is the most prevalent factor that will give the Heatles the series W. As we wrote the other day in our MVP post, LeBron isn't just great right now; he's historically great. Even with Carmelo's inspired play as of late, I see no reason why an extremely motivated Bron won't torch the Knicks for all 7 games, on both ends of the floor.

The other factors? Miami's defense, just as it was last year, has been staunch all season long. They specialize in clogging passing lanes, packing the paint and being very disruptive on the perimeter, all specialties of the New York attack. Also, the Heat's biggest weakness is an inability to guard against strong post play and rebounding. Unfortunately for the Bockers, they really don't have the personnel to capitalize on that.This is going to be a very close, physical and electric series, but I see the Heat's defense outlasting the Knicks attack over the course of 7 games.

Mama, there goes that man.
How the Bockers can pull off the big upset (BockerKnocker): Carmelo Anthony is not a likeable human being, to state the obvious. He quit on his Denver teammates, forced his way out, and pretended like he was the victim once he made it to Broadway. Then, he quit on his coach, sulked, and only when he got what he wanted did he start to play. But when I say "start to play," he STARTED TO PLAY. His shooting percentages are off the charts. He is showcasing the defensive tenacity that nobody, from Baltimore to Boeheim, has ever seen before. And he is unguardable. Not virtually unguardable, not almost unguardable. He is LITERALLY unguardable. The word "literally" gets tossed around like a rag doll, and even so in cases when the speaker means the absolute opposite of the word's connotation, but the only way the man gets beat is if his teammates become as wide-eyed as I do when Carmelo exercises his offensive genius. Melo-ball can win this series, but I don't have enough confidence in a depleted Bocker squad to support him. I'm never wrong, but for this one, I'll accept being wrong if it meant that MSG becomes a recurring nightmare in Bron Bron's summer.

3) Indiana Pacers vs. 6) Orlando Magic - Indiana in six

KOBEsh: The Pacers are a more explosive and less defensively efficient, but still fundamentally sound 76ers team. Coach Frank Vogel has a team of not quite All-Stars (even though Roy Hibbert was on the team this year, is he still an "All-Star player"?) who aptly fill their roles and jobs, while staying patient and disciplined on defense. They'll be able to take down the Magic's 3 point arsenal more easily without having to help on Dwight in the post.

Howard will miss the entire postseason after back surgery, but to be honest, I think his teammates are elated. They've played tough even if losing 4 out of the last 5 games doesn't show it and are looking to win without their superstar who completely took apart what could have been a promising season. They're well coached and shoot even better, so I think against a sometimes-static Indiana offense I think that'll be worth two games in Orlando's favor. This all being said, I couldn't be less interested in this series if I tried. Writing this much only proves what NBA nerds we are here at MAMBINO.

Why the Magic show almost no fight and lose in 5 (BockerKnocker): It'd be a cute story for this talent-less Orlando team to band together and in defiance of Dwight Coward. But the only way they even win one game is if they shoot lights out from beyond the arc. And lights out doesn't just mean a good percentage; I'm saying they'll need to shoot 30 threes and make AT LEAST 15 of them. That might work on a team with slow wing players, but Indiana has some of the best perimeter defenders in the game. Paul George, George Hill, and Darren Collison will not let this happen. And if Danny Granger decides to wake up from the dead, then Orlando could even be going home in 4. Hey Otis Smith, do you know how to do podcasts? We'll have an opening for you at Mambino. Maybe.

4) Atlanta Hawks vs. 5) Boston Celtics - Boston in six

If he ditched those ugly colors, Rondo would be
a BockerKnocker favorite.
BockerKnocker: If I didn't hate the Celtics so damn much, I'd friggin love them. Everybody likes to speak of the emergence of Avery Bradley as a fantastic two-way player, but if you've watched any Boston game in the past month, Rajon Rondo is making defenses look downright stoopit! Not only will you get the scouting report stuff from Rondo; he continues to carve people up on the pick-and-roll, and as far as point guards go, he has the best touch around the rim. But he's starting to fearlessly attempt 18-20 foot shots...and they go in! He's the hardest worker that nobody knows about. Most of that is due to the fact that media-heads don't like to shed positive light on people that won't give them the time of day. Rajon doesn't smile, but he makes better decisions with the ball in his hands than anybody not named Chris Paul. Combine that with a healthy Kevin Garnett, who has finally listened to head coach Doc Rivers by being more assertive on offense, and Boston is a true title contender. If Derrick Rose isn't healthy by the 2nd round, then the Celtics could be looking at yet another ECF berth. Excuse me while I vomit.

How could this pathetic Hawks team upset the C's (KOBEsh): My disdain for the Hawks couldn't possibly be any higher. However, no amount of disgust I have for the bi-polar Atlanta squad (sometimes I can't tell if they know they're playing a regular season game, or if they think they're in the Las Vegas league. In Atlanta.) can deny that on paper, they're just more talented than the Celtics. There's no reason a team with Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and Jeff Teague can't take down Garnett, Pierce, Rondo, Ray Allen who hasn't played in 9 games and then guys like Greg Stiemsma, Mikael Pietrus and Keyon freakin' Dooling. Even without Al Horford, Atlanta is deeper than the Celtics, and with Josh Smith all over Pierce on defense, better offensively. On top of all that, they'll have home court advantage. The Hawks should win this series, but the fact that we all think that they won't is just another testament to why I hate them so much.

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