Chuck’s Playoff Bracket with First Round Preview
First Round: Eastern Conference
(1) Boston Celtics vs. (8) Atlanta Hawks: Boston Celtics in four
Kevin Garnett’s “off” switch went missing at some point late last millennium, and that spells trouble for his opponents. Expect the Big Ticket’s infectious energy to inspire Gang Green to build big leads early before Doc benches the usual suspects. Close contests will simply mean K.G., Paul Pierce and crew will stay on the court later in the game to secure the W.
(2) Detroit Pistons vs. (7) Philadelphia 76ers: Detroit Pistons in six
Count me among those who aren’t entirely sure how Philly managed to win so many games this year. Detroit’s lackadaisical attitude of late coupled with the stellar play of the two Andres (Iguodala and Miller) should stretch the series to six, but don’t expect an upset here.
(3) Orlando Magic vs. (6) Toronto Raptors: Orlando Magic in six
While Chris Bosh will exploit Dwight Howard’s difficulty guarding bigs who draw him away from the basket, D12 will more than make up for it at the other end. Post play counts double in the postseason, and Dwight’s short game is well suited to the slow-down style of the playoffs. Expect him to twenty-fifteen his team to the series win.
(4) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (5) Washington Wizards: Cleveland Cavaliers in seven
Despite Washington’s surprising play in big games this year (they were the only team other than the Magic to win their season series against Boston), Cleveland’s worst-kept secret is simply too much for them to handle. With the added benefit of being granted five bonus free throws a game and two extra steps on every drive, LeBron James will do to DeShawn Stevenson what R. Kelly did to that twelve-year-old girl, only he’ll own up to it.
First Round: Western Conference
(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (8) Denver Nuggets: Los Angeles Lakers in six
If J.R. Smith could break the habits of a lifetime and find some consistency on the court, this might be a very different series. A healthy Nenê for the Nuggets and an injured Bynum for the Lakers would signal a shift in the balance of power inside, but since that doesn’t look likely, expect the Lake Show to run right through the Nugs and into the second round.
(2) New Orleans Hornets vs. (7) Dallas Mavericks: New Orleans Hornets in seven
Chris Paul’s swagger is off the charts right now, while Dirk Nowitzki has all the confidence of a fat kid at a swimming pool. Avery Johnson will light a fire under his squad, but the home-court and psychological advantage of the league’s greatest overachievers should see the Mavs not making it out of the first round for the second straight season.
(3) San Antonio Spurs vs. (6) Phoenix Suns: Phoenix Suns in seven
I could see this one going either way, but STAT’s tradition of using Tim Duncan as a vaulting horse makes me think that the defending champs just might be a one-and-done team this year. Shaq’s presence on the inside leaves PHX better equipped for the half-court game they never quite could master when their run-and-gun attack came up empty in years gone by, and that, to my mind, gives them a half-step on San Antonio.
(4) Utah Jazz vs. (5) Houston Rockets: Utah Jazz in six
While the Rockets managed to piece together one of the greatest win streaks in history without Yao manning the middle, the absence of Skip at the start of the series will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Were it not for Houston’s home-court advantage (the Jazz are the higher seed only by virtue of winning their division), I’d see this as a five-gamer at best.
Boston vs. Cleveland: Boston in five
Orlando vs. Detroit: Detroit in six
L.A. Lakers vs. Utah: L.A. Lakers in five
Phoenix vs. New Orleans: Phoenix in seven
Boston vs. Detroit: Boston in six
L.A. Lakers vs. Phoenix: L.A. Lakers in seven
Boston vs. L.A. Lakers: Boston in six