Sunday, May 6, 2012

Playoffs Heat-ing Up

Well, heading into the 2012 NBA Playoffs, the two consensus favorites to reach the finals, and the two teams we picked here at WRD, were the OKC Thunder and the Miami Heat. The Thunder rolled past the defending champion Dallas Mavericks with a 4-0 sweep, but the Heat failed to do so against their counterpart, the New York Knicks, as NY beat them in game four to keep hopes alive behind a valiant effort by Caremlo Anthony.

Melo's 41 Keeps NY Breathing
With all the Knicks injury issues, I didn't think they would have won a single game without a healthy Stoudemire and without their breakout point guard Jeremy Lin, but Carmelo Anthony prevailed over LeBron James in game 4, once again showing that James can disappear in crunch time. Melo outplayed the Miami star, scoring 41 points in the process to push NY to a 2-point victory to keep them alive. On the other side of the spectrum, the upset in the making thus far has the top-seeded Chicago Bulls down 3 games to 1 to the 8th seeded Philadelphia 76ers, who were reeling heading into postseason. However, the Bulls lost their star point guard Derrick Rose, as well as any Championship aspirations they had for 2012, and have failed to respond like winners, making the Heat now the clear-cut favorites in the East. They still do have to win another game vs. a New York team that gained a lot of momentum in that game 4 win, so there's still a slight chance they could get derailed, but unless injury strikes or they completely melt down, I don't see them having any problems going through a Knicks squad that has players dropping left and right (lost Baron Davis in game 4). Then the Indiana Pacers who look to be heading to the next round, assuming they beat out the Dwight Howard-less Orlando Magic (Pacers have 3-1 lead in series). In perhaps the most interesting match-up in the Eastern Conference's round 1 though has been the aging Boston Celtics vs. the young gun Atlanta Hawks. I thought the Hawks, even without their star center Al Horford and Joe Johnson and Josh Smith each banged up, had enough talent to battle and possibly beat Boston, but the Celtics big-three have shown they can still turn it on when it counts. Boston's up 2-1 in the series and currently is leading by 20 points in the 2nd half of game 4. They to me look like the dark-horses in the East, and may be the one team that Miami fears. They have a pretty similar team to the Dallas Mavericks, with veteran grit, good defense and a smart point guard, and we all know how they fared vs. Dallas last June.

Over in the West, as I said, the Thunder are the only team that cleanly swept their opponent and are sitting there in round two waiting for the winner of the Lakers/Nuggets series. LA has the lead and should beat Denver, but it'll be the LA/OKC match-up that could determine which team represents the West in the finals. With respect to the Spurs, I think the Lakers and Thunder are the two best teams in the West this year, and one of them will reach the finals. The Spurs have been impressive in their series with Utah though, however the Jazz are one of the worst teams in this years bracket, with a 3-0 lead heading into game four on Monday night. The somewhat overlooked series, the Memphis/Clippers match-up has been an exciting one as well, with the Clippers holding a 2-1 lead, but Memphis could just as easily be in the drivers seat, losing game 3 by just a point. I think Memphis is the better overall team and I do think they'll battle back and beat the Clippers, but that is one of series I'm trying not to miss a minute of, and there aren't many of those in the first round.

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