NBA Conference Finals Preview and Picks

Well, the Bostonian in me would be remiss not to touch base about the Bruins historic collapse against the Philadelphia Flyers – the scribes have written, what more is there to say?  Let’s move on.

The Celtics, coming off of their shocking upset of the Cleveland Cavaliers face the Orlando Magic, who have sliced through the playoffs with ferocious intent so far in the Eastern Conference Finals.  Meanwhile, in the West, the Suns and Lakers come off of a week rest after each swept through the Spurs and Jazz respectively.  If one remember’s Steve Nash’s face after the win over the Spurs, clearly the Suns needed the rest:

Ewwwww

So, how will the series go?  Given my knowledge of the Cavs-Celtics series, take these at your own peril.

Suns v Lakers … power rankings wise this is #3 vs #7.  The Suns have been outstanding this postseason with their sweep and their more one sided than it looked win over the Blazers.  The Lakers had to work harder, but are coming off of a high level sweep of the Jazz.  If we just look at the 5 man lineups, the Lakers size is a real problem for the Suns.  Normally, when we think Suns, we expect the team to be soft on the inside and not really care.  With these guys, that is different.  They won the Spurs series basically on the glass with their earnestness – outrebounding the Spurs in Game 2 severely on the offensive side.  The Suns with their #19 defense, will never be considered a juggernaut – but they try harder this year – and have a mean streak with Jared Dudley and Louis Amundsen, that previous vintages don’t have.  However, all of this still leaves the Lakers at an advantage down low, even with the Suns offering more length than the Jazz could.

However, the Suns are a brilliant offensive team, #1 in the league again.  Amare Stoudemire could and should still give the Lakers problems, and the Nash is as good as ever.  While the Lakers can match up small using Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher or Jordan Farmar most likely will have to guard somebody, whether it be Nash, Jason Richardson or Barbosa.  There is an edge there.  Also the Suns’ bench has been outstanding – they must flog the Lakers generally woeful second unit to optimize their probability of winning.  But the probability is significant.  This shapes up as a classic: Lakers in 7

Magic v Celtics: The Magic finished the season #1 in the Power Rankings, while the Celtics finished #10.  That said the Celtics have gotten healthier and played a brilliant series to beat Cleveland.  But this is another kettle of fish.  The Magic are coming off of an epic 27-3 stretch with a high scoring margin over those 30 games than the Celtics had ALL SEASON.  They might not win it all, but they have clearly been the best team in the league since 2010 started.  The Magic have the league’s best defense anchored by Dwight Howard, offer matchup issues with Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter, and Jameer Nelson playing a PG so well that the Magic’s “if only he were healthy last year” misgiving is legitimate.  Rondo should not be able to flog this matchup like he did against Cleveland.  Also the Celtics beat Cleveland because Kevin Garnett emerged as the team’s second best player again, and dominated Antawn Jamison.  Rashard Lewis is a tougher test – lacking the wussiness and the inability to dribble fashioned by Antawn.  The Magic also offer unmatched depth with Ryan Anderson, Jason Williams, JJ Redick and Marcin Gortat – the Celtics bench, a weakness all season, will be tested again.  The Celtics can win this, but it is on Rondo and Pierce to rise up in the toughest scenario to date.  Magic in 5

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