Photo: Miami Heat’s LeBron James (6), Mike Miller (13), Mario Chalmers, center, and Dwyane Wade (3) high-five after taking a ten-point lead over the Chicago Bulls during the second half of an NBA basketball game on Sunday, April 14, 2013, in Miami. The Heat defeated the Bulls 105-93. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
It has begun.
Well, on April 20 that is, let’s just make it more dramatic. Why is that? Well, this side will be pretty much bereft of drama for no one can stop Miami. Bloody them a bit yes, but make them work triple extra hard in shutting down the lanes, boxing out and cleaning those glasses plus the defensive hand-to-hand combats? Not in this year’s edition.
Out West, it’s a Royal Rumble. It’ll be interesting to see how a Kobe-less Lakers will try to make a push for the title. And no, I don’t think I have heard Metta World Peace saying that they’re the team to beat, reminding everybody of his bold prediction when he was in Sacto before being gunned down by Ray Allen and his Sonics. Everybody out West have something to show. All of them real contenders to Miami’s throne. But in the end, it still is Kevin Durant and his Thunder delivering the death blow to San Antonio’s old folks.
It’s just the first round, let’s not look ahead too much so let’s do a round-by-round prediction to make it more interesting. All ready? Let’s hit it first for the Eastern Conference.
Miami vs. Milwaukee
How I see it:
This will be short. Very short. Milwaukee would be lucky enough to win just a single game. Why is that? Well, LeBron James, that’s why. While the Bucks’ backcourt of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings are electric, they shoot their ballclub out of games most of the times. And outside of those two, no one can steadily provide additional offense. Ersan Ilyasova? He’s not the same after signing that huge contract. At times it’s back to being the raw rookie Ilyasova out there and think, he’s going to be getting LeBron James or Chris Bosh in their defensive assignment sweepstakes.
Well, sing your hymns of burial to the Bucks frontline as LBJ charges down the middle obliterating Mbah A Moute, Ilyasova, Sanders and/or Dalembert along the way. And down the guard spot, well, if Dwyane Wade gets his, he better get it in the post against the much smaller Ellis and Reddick, who will be taking turns in trying to stop the 6’5” guard out of marquette.
And of course, they have LeBron James.
Verdict: Miami via sweep or at most, five.
New York vs. Boston
How I see it:
Seems New York disproved me this year. Earlier, I believed, and rightfully so, that they’ll bomb out. Well, well, gotta give Mike Woodson a fair shake here. He made disparate and aging parts mesh together and turn into a lean, mean, three-point shooting machine. Chris Copeland is able to give Carmelo quality breathers night in and night out. Pablo Prigioni, the otherb half of New York’s old “rookies,” is able to spell some down the backcourt as well.
And then there’s Carmelo. I’m still not sold on the Melo man. Yes, he’ll be carrying the Knicks’ offense just about 85% of the time with a little help from Raymond Felton and JR Smith. He’s shooting better than last year and very efficient at the four when they go small ball. It’ll be critical against the Celtics bigs because he’ll pull them out of the paint. That leaves more room to work with and he can just blow by them with his quickness.
Boston will be hard-pressed to keep up when the Knicks run especially without Rajon Rondo, who’s really the heart and soul of this team as much as Paul Pierce is it’s offense. Tough luck for Boston. Better hit the “reboot” button, Danny.
Verdict: Knicks in six. Celtics probably gonna gut it out but wither in the end.
Indiana vs. Atlanta
How I see it:
Hmm, not at all interested on the opponent.
But I’m sure as hell interested in “Indiana Basketball.”
The Pacers are stacked against this Hawks team trying to find their groove especially in the game’s closing moments. Well, it can’t be helped if your closer is traded in the offseason and burying game winners elsewhere.
Consider this a dry run as the Pacers try to be the team that can make Miami earn it’s ticket to the NBA Finals. Only Al Horford can take the tremendous beating Indiana likes to dish out, especially underneath, inside that paint. J-Smoove? I see Paul George taking that assignment off of David West to ensure West doesn’t get easily blown by by the Hawks highflyer when he decides to take it off the bounce.
Tyler Hansbrough should blossom in his own rugged match against Ivan Johnson down low. George Hill and DJ Augustin shouldn’t have any problems giving Jeff Teague a fit and some. As for Roy Hibbert, well, let’s just say I’ve conceded this battle to Big Al. It’s up to Mahinmi to pick it up and bully Horford as Hibbert softens him up (funny I know, Hibbert softening somebody up).
Verdict: Pacers in six. Or five, depends on how rough it is.
Brooklyn vs. Chicago
How I see it:
Too close to call this one.
Deron Williams is no longer the killer that he is at the point. Yes, he can blow by Kirk Hinrich but when he gets inside that lane, it’s a no tresspassing zone since Noah is back and feeling good to man the paint for the Bulls. And as a heads up, his partner, Carlos Boozer, has that extra spring in his step and can now play defense, much to my chagrin.
Benchplay will be important here and the Bulls, while having their deep bench shattered into smithereens in the offseason, still have a semblance of it. Expect Nate Robinson to give the Nets bench fits. And watch as Taj Gibson and Nazr Mohammed, who seems to have found the Shangri-La and its fountain of youth, outhustle, outsmart, and overpower Andray Blatche (too finesse) and Kris Humphries (too much Kim). Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler, with Marco Bellineli should hold their own against Joe Johnson, Deng knowing JJ too much in their past playoff battles. It should come as a bonus to the Bulls that Gerald “Crash” Wallace is out.
But what I really want to see is how Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer shows up the pansy Brooklyn frontline of Reggie Evans and perennial softie, Brook Lopez. Between Noah and Boozer, they can surely put this frontline on a gurney. I see Lopez getting pushed out of his comfort zone by Noah’s elbows while Evans gets bulldozed by Booze in the paint. Take note, Boozer will be pivotal. He’s the focal point of the playoff offense in my book.
Verdict: Too close to call. I’m going with my heart and pick the Bulls here.