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Playoffs Are Set…Let The Real Season Begin This Weekend
This is what everyone wants but only one team will be hoisting it up by the end of June. Will your team be that lucky team to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy?
SAN ANTONIO— TNT will begin it’s annual run of “40 games in 40 nights”. Kenny Smith is warming up the tackle shop to supply those teams who will be headed to their nearest watering hole when they are bounced out of the playoffs. As Charles Barkley so aptly said one night, “Now the ‘real’ season begins.” The playoff bracket in the above illustration is the representation of what should be the proper seeding coming today. The Eastern Conference may have a few changes but for the Western Conference, those seedings are set in stone. Here is my prediction of how the playoff series will go in the first round and who moves on to the next round.
EASTERN CONFERENCE (1) Miami Heat vs. (8) New Jersey Nets: This will be a five game series as the Heat are on a roll and with the experience that Dywane Wade learned in last year’s playoff run, he is now ready to learn from Shaquile O’Neal and help lead the Heat easily out of the first round. Now does the Nets have a chance of winning a game in this series? They have a chance at winning one game; the first one back in New Jersey. Prediction: Miami wins series 4-1.
(2) Detroit Pistons vs. (7) Philadelphia 76ers: The defending champions are looking for a repeat and their first challenge is Allen Iverson and Chris Webber, who are trying to upset the apple cart. Coach Larry Brown will need to extend his bench to take on the challenge and thwart the 76ers run and gun offense. This is going to be a tough series with both teams winning games on their home court. The Pistons will then win the next two games ending the series but should be an exciting match up. Prediction: Detroit wins series 4-2.
(3) Boston Celtics vs. (6) Indiana Pacers: Glenn “Doc” Rivers has a full cadre of players who are glad to be back in the playoff hunt. With Paul Pierce, Antoine Walker, and Gary Payton leading the charge, the Celtics will quickly dispatch the Indiana Pacers and send Reggie Miller to the TNT set a little earlier than scheduled. While the Pacers did make it in, hopefully Ron Artest is sitting at home and understanding just how important he could have been if he had used his head. Prediction: Boston wins series 4-1.
(4) Chicago Bulls vs. (5) Washington Wizards: If the Detroit v. Philly series is going to be the most intriguing, this match up has to be the most entertaining. The Bulls are back in the playoffs for the first time since the end of the Jordan era and Washington has the franchise going in the right direction. Will it be the upstart kids from Scott Skiles or will Washington’s Gilbert Arenas lead the Wizards onto the next round? This will be an epic battle that goes the distance. Prediction: Wizards win the series 4-3.
WESTERN CONFERENCE (1) Phoenix Suns vs. (8) Memphis Grizzlies: The Suns are on a roll and with Steve Nash at the helm, there is no limit as to how bad they can defeat the Grizzlies, a team that has no heart in playing for two Hall of Famers in Jerry West and Mike Fratello, the general manager and head coach respectively. This series should be over quickly. Prediction: Suns win series in a sweep, 4-0.
(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (7) Denver Nuggets: The Spurs are in a dogfight with the Nuggets but it is not an impossible task. The Nuggets have been the hottest team since the All-Star break but they have faltered twice during the final week of the regular season, getting blown out by both the Suns and by the Rockets. The Spurs are coming off of resting their star players but now have a bench deep enough to handle anything that coach George Karl throws at Tim Duncan and company. Prediction: Spurs win series 4-2.
(3) Seattle Supersonics vs. (6) Sacramento Kings: Seattle’s Nate McMillian will have to ask Ray Allen to bear with the franchise just a little longer and hope that ownership sees the dedication that the allstar guard will show during the playoffs because in order to defeat a Kings team that is dilapidated with injuries, they will need his leadership. The Kings are hoping that Brad Miller and Peja Stoyokavic are ready to do battle but without a legitimate presence at the power forward position, the Kings will fail. Prediction: Seattle wins series 4-1.
(4) Dallas Mavericks vs. (5) Houston Rockets: A Texas sized showdown lurks as the Dallas Mavericks are looking to vanquish the Rockets as quickly as possible. Ironically both of these teams are eerily similar in make up and coaching styles as Avery Johnson is hoping to get the Mavs to run ‘playoff’ style offenses while Jeff Van Gundy is hoping that Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming just gel. With that said, it is going to be the experience of Johnson as a player turned head coach and the reliable point production of Dirk Nowitzski and Michael Finley leads the team to the next round. Prediction: Mavericks win series 4-2.