Friday, April 20, 2007

NBA Playoff Primer

The Phanatic Magazine takes a capsule look at the NBA playoffs, which begin this weekend:

By John McMullen
The Phanatic Magazine

EASTERN CONFERENCE

No. 1 DETROIT PISTONS (53-29) vs. No. 8 ORLANDO MAGIC (40-42)
Top-seeded Detroit welcomes back a couple of ex-Pistons in Grant Hill and Darko Milicic but the true test will be the ever-improving Dwight Howard. Howard is a force and will be working against the Philadelphia's favorite son, Chris Webber. That's the good news for Orlando, everything else is bad. The Pistons swept the season series (4-0) and Chauncey Billups usually makes the Magic his own personal playground. - Pistons in 4

The Phanatic Magazine staff predictions:

Greg Wiley - Pistons in 5 - Pistons are too much for the Magic to handle. Dwight Howard might be able to give the Magic one game in series.
Jeff Glauser - Pistons in 5
Mike Rushton - Pistons in 5 - Howard a force, but can't stop Pistons
Jared Trexler - Pistons in 4
John Gottlieb - Pistons in 5 - Detroit is too strong for the force known as Dwight Howard.
Tim McManus - Pistons in 5
Bob Herpen - Pistons in 5

No. 2 CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (50-32) vs. No. 7 WASHINGTON WIZARDS (41-41)
Most looked at Cleveland as a deeply flawed team that could be upset as a second seed but that's before Washington fell to the seventh spot. Teams were lining up to face the Wizards, who have lost All-Stars Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler to injury. Washington just doesn't have the fire power to compete now and the only question is whether they will win a game. - Cavs in 5

The Phanatic Magazine staff predictions:
Wiley
- Cavs in 4 - - No "Agent Zero" = no chance for Wizards.
Glauser - Cavs in 6
Rushton - Cavs in 5 - Do Wizards have enough bodies for this series?
Trexler - Cavs in 4
Gottlieb - Cavs in 6 - LeBron, Cavs beat up on a depleted Wizards team.
McManus - Cavs in 4
Herpen - Cavs in 6

No. 3 TORONTO RAPTORS (47-35) vs. No. 6 NEW JERSEY NETS (41-41)
This may be the most interesting first round series . The Raptors are the Atlantic Division champions, facing a team most thought would win the division. Toronto also welcomes back Vince Carter and while the folks North of the Border are a tad more classy than Philly fans, you can bet Carter will be booed heavily every time he touches the rock. Chris Bosh should prove to be the difference. The All-Star can take you on the blocks or slip outside and stick the 15-footer. More importantly, the Nets will be counting on Mikki Moore to stop Bosh and while Moore has been a great story and a big surprise, you can't like that matchup. - Raptors in 7

The Phanatic Magazine staff predictions:
Wiley - Raptors in 7 - This series can go either way. But the Raptors are young so I'm going against the trendy pick.
Glauser - Raptors in 7
Rushton - Nets in 6 - Hot Nets keep going
Trexler - Raptors in 6
Gottlieb - Nets in 6 - NJ hitting its stride at the right time.
McManus - Raptors in 6
Herpen - Nets in 6

No. 4 MIAMI HEAT (44-38) vs. No. 5 CHICAGO BULLS (49-33)
Chicago desperately wanted the two-seed and now you know why. Shaquille O'Neal, Dwyane Wade and Pat Riley were waiting if they slipped. A loss at NewJersey on the final night of the regular season left the Bulls staring at a rematch of a first-round series loss with the Heat from last year. The Bulls are younger and have fresher legs but come on -- you know the Heat will keep it close in a number of games and Wade will take over in the final five minutes. - Heat in 6

The Phanatic Magazine staff predictions:
Wiley
- Heat in 7 - Bulls give Heat fits. In the end, though, too much Shaq for perimeter oriented Bulls.
Glauser - Heat in 7
Rushton - Heat in 6 - Tune-up for big O'Neal finale
Trexler - Bulls in 6
Gottlieb - Heat in 6 - Chicago kissed its title hopes away with season-ending loss to the Nets.
McManus - Bulls in 7
Herpen - Heat in 6

WESTERN CONFERENCE

No. 1 DALLAS MAVERICKS (67-15) vs. No. 8 GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (42-40)
The Warriors fought and clawed to get in and look what is waiting on them. Good luck stopping the pick-and-roll with Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki as the key cogs. Maybe ex-Mavericks coach Don Nelson will be enough to get the Warriors a win but don't count on it. - Mavs in 4.

The Phanatic Magazine staff predictions:
Wiley - Mavs in 7 - Warriors won all three against the Mavs this season. This will be the best first-round series with the Mavs escaping.
Glauser - Mavs in 4
Rushton - Mavs in 4 - Thanks for coming
Trexler - Mavs in 4
Gottlieb - Mavs in 6 - Warriors scare Mavs, but they move on.
McManus - Mavs in 5
Herpen - Mavs in 5

No. 2 PHOENIX SUNS (61-21) vs. No. 7 LOS ANGELES LAKERS (42-40)
This is a rematch of a tough first-round series from a year ago which the Suns won in seven games. But, things are different now -- Amare Stoudemire is back for Phoenix and the Lakers stumbled badly down the stretch. That said, Kobe will carry the Lakers to a couple of wins. - Suns in 6

The Phanatic Magazine staff predictions:
Wiley - Suns in 6 - Kobe is good enough to steal one, maybe two games forLakers.
Glauser - Suns in 5.
Rushton - Suns in 6 - Kobe heads to Colorado early this year
Trexler - Suns in 6
Gottlieb - Suns in 7 - Lakers are too one-dimensional to Steve Nash and the Suns.
McManus - Suns in 6
Herpen - Suns in 5

No. 3 SAN ANTONIO SPURS (58-24) vs. No. 6 DENVER NUGGETS (45-37)
This might be the most interesting series for the locals as Allen Iverson tries to slay the giant in Tim Duncan. Both teams come in playing very well. San Antonio had the NBA's best record after the All-Star break, and theNuggets won 10 of their last 11 games to sprint past the Lakers into the No. 6 seed. But as we all know from our Basketball 101 class, always take the big man. Spurs in 6.

The Phanatic Magazine staff predictions:
Wiley
- Spurs in 6 - Tim Duncan is too much for 'Melo and A.I.
Glauser - Spurs in 6
Rushton - Spurs in 4 - And a higher pick for the 76ers
Trexler - Nuggets in 7
Gottlieb - Spurs in 5 - Spurs are playoff tested and are primed for a deep run.
McManus - Spurs in 5
Herpen - Spurs in 6

No. 4 UTAH JAZZ (51-31) vs. No. 5 HOUSTON ROCKETS (52-30)
It's tough to win 50 games in the NBA and sail under the radar but Dallas, Phoenix and San Antonio are so good that's what happened to these clubs. If Tracy McGrady isn't whining about back problems, the Rockets have quite the one-two punch with McGrady and Yao Ming. If you are Utah, hang your hat on this -- McGrady, despite the immense talent, has never made it out of the opening round in the playoffs. Jazz in 7.

The Phanatic Magazine staff predictions:
Wiley
- Rockets in 6 - T-Mac gets first playoff series win, but has Yao's inside presence to thank.
Glauser - Rockets in 7
Rushton - Jazz in 6 - How do you say "no shot" in Chinese
Trexler - Jazz in 6
Gottlieb - Rockets in 6 - McGrady, Yao move on
McManus - Rockets in 7
Herpen - Rockets in 7

Eastern Conference Semifinal staff Predictions:

McMullen:
-Pistons over Heat in 7 - The real Eastern Conference finals goes the distance with Mr. Big Shot taking over in the final two minutes of Game 7.
-Raptors over Cavs in 5 - LeBron still hasn't figured out how to finish games.
Wiley:
-Pistons over Heat in 7 - Two straight tough series will be too much for the old, injured Heat to overcome. Pistons should come away with the win in a rematch of last year's conference final.
-Cavs over Raptors in 6 - Cavs shouldn't have too much trouble with the Raptors. This could be the postseason that LeBron defines himself.
Glauser:
-Pistons over Heat in 7
-Cavs over Raptors in 6
Rushton:
-Heat over Pistons in 6 - No Ben to guard O'Neal
-Cavs over Nets in 7 - LeBron wills club to win
Trexler:
-Bulls over Pistons in 7
-Raptors over Cavs in 6
Gottlieb:
-Pistons over Heat in 7 - The beasts of the East collide and Pistons hold down a less than healthy Wade
-Nets over Cavs in 6 - LeBron can't will the team to victory on his own.
McManus:
-Pistons over Bulls in 6
-Cavs over Raptors in 6
Herpen:
-Heat over Pistons in 7
-Nets over Cavs in 6

Eastern Conference Final staff predictions:
McMullen - Pistons over Raptors in 5 - Glenn Robinson already has his ring, now CWebb gets his shot. The Phanatic has learned life is not fair.
Wiley - Pistons over Cavs in 6 - Pistons are more experienced and will be able to overcome Cavs.
Glauser - Pistons over Cavs in 6.
Rushton - Heat over Cavs in 7 - O'Neal steals show from Wade and James
Trexler - Bulls over Raptors in 6
Gottlieb - Pistons over Nets in 4 - The Pistons sweep the Nets out of the playoffs.
McManus - Pistons over Cavs in 6

Western Conference Semifinal staff predictions:
McMullen:
-Mavs over Jazz in 5 - Mavs continue to roll and set new record. Nine straight playoff games without Mark Cuban blasting referees.
-Spurs over Suns in 7 - Tim Duncan is healthy and Joey Crawford is safely tucked away.
Wiley:
-Mavs over Rockets in 6 - With the Warriors behind them, Mavs' depth handle Rockets.
-Spurs over Suns in 7 - This will go seven games. Suns have just as good a chance to win, but I'll always go in favor of the best big man Duncan.
Glauser:
-Mavs over Rockets in 5
-Suns over Spurs in 7
Rushton:
-Mavs over Jazz in 5 - Cuban still finds way to insult Mormons
-Suns over Spurs in 7 - Nash makes case for MVP
Trexler:
-Mavs over Nuggets in 6
-Suns over Jazz in 6
Gottlieb:
-Mavs over Rockets in 5 - Mavericks have an easier time in Round 2.
-Spurs over Suns in 7 - Suns don't play enough defense to stop Parker, Ginobili, Duncan.
McManus:
-Mavs over Rockets in 6
-Suns over Spurs in 7
Herpen:
-Mavs over Rockets in 5
-Spurs over Suns in 7

Western Conference Final staff predictions:
McMullen
- Mavs over Spurs in 7 - Dirk caps his MVP season by outplaying Duncan.
Wiley - Mavs over Spurs in 6 - Without Joey Crawford, Duncan will be around for the end of these games. But in the end, he'll wish he wasn't. Dirk is too good.
Glauser - Mavs over Suns in 7
Rushton - Suns over Mavs in 7 - The Mavs will always have the regular season
Trexler - Mavs over Suns in 5
Gottlieb - Spurs over Mavs in 7 - Spurs cruised in the regular season and are ready to take down the Mavericks.
McManus - Suns over Mavs in 7
Herpen - Mavs over Spurs in 6

NBA Finals:
McMullen
- Pistons over Mavs in 7 - Mavs up 3-2 and have 10-point lead with five minutes to go in Game 6. Detroit roars back to win and takes Game 7 easily. Cuban accuses David Stern of international conspiracy.
Wiley - Mavs over Pistons in 6 - Mavs make amends for last year's collapse.They were the best team all year and there's no reason to think they won't be in the playoffs.
Glauser - Mavs over Pistons in 6 - In the end, it will be team play and offense versus team play and defense. The Mavs get the upper hand with intangibles such as a sharp young coach in Avery Johnson who knows how to work a rotation and the drive to finally get the elusive ring.
Rushton - Suns over Heat in 6 - Nash wins title and MVP, hell freezes over.
Trexler - Mavs over Bulls in 6.
Gottlieb - Spurs over Pistons in 6 - Come on Chris Webber can't win a ring.
McManus - Suns over Pistons in 6
Herpen - Mavs over Heat in 6
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