|Posted on April 19, 2014 at 4:45 PM|
San Antonio Spurs
Good: Everyone is well-rested and healthy (their starters missed 75 total games and still clinched the league's top record)… the bracket couldn’t have worked out better for them (avoided the three hottest teams since the All-Star break: Clippers, Warriors, and Grizzlies)… Popovich’s nightmares will prevent him from randomly benching Tim Duncan for no reason
Bad: Home-court throughout the playoffs, meaning Boris Diaw will have MANY opportunities to chug barbecue sauce before heading to the arena and may or may not gain ten pounds between the first and second rounds… they have trouble with really athletic teams, all of whom they’ll probably have to face in after the first round (1-9 against Oklahoma City, Miami, and Houston and 61-11 against the rest of the league)
Oklahoma City Thunder
Good: Kevin Durant! Kevin Durant! Kevin Durant! Kevin Durant! Kevin Durant! Kevin Durant! Kevin Durant! Kevin Durant! Kevin Durant! Kevin Durant! Kevin Durant! Kevin Durant! Kevin Durant! Kevin Durant!
Bad: Kendrick Perkins is like vomit; the only positive is knowing you’ll feel better once he’s out of the game… the possibility of their coach, Scott Brooks, not figuring out the whole “small ball” thing until he’s facing elimination in Game 5 of the first round
Good: They’re the best team in the league when their on/off switch is on… LeBron James… Shane Battier is going to shoot 6/6 on threes when they need it most… LeBron James
Bad: LeBron James has played a heck of a lot of minutes in the last 42 months… the on/off switch is currently off… are they for real with Rashard Lewis playing 20 minutes a game?
Good: Home-court for the first three rounds, and they had the league’s best home record… despite a total careen off a cliff after the All-Star break, those late-season wins against Miami and Oklahoma City are big confidence boosters
Bad: Roy Hibbert falls to the ground every fifth play, can’t stop a quick pick-and-roll slasher for his life, and thinks he’s Bill Russell… Paul George got hot from three-point range for a month and thinks he’s the next LeBron James… as dangerous as Lance “I got this” Stephenson can be to a team, Lance “I got this” Stephenson playing for a new contract and out to avenge his Al-Star snub is anywhere between 50% and 75% more dangerous
Los Angeles Clippers
Good: Not much, but screw it, they’re fun to watch, so let’s make them a sleeper anyway
Bad: Lots of Hedo Turkoglu sightings… for some reason the Clippers’ owner never deemed it necessary to find a third big-man to back up two below-average defenders and abysmal free-throw shooters (Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan)
Good: If Good-Dwight shows up, this team starts to look a lot like the Orlando Magic (the ultimate “WTF! How did they make the Finals?” team)… Patrick Beverly might kill someone on the opposing team
Bad: Their coach, Kevin McHale, said publicly that Joakim Noah defends better than Dwight Howard... If you don’t think Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich will exploit James Harden’s defense in Round 2 by running Danny Green all over the court, you’re insane… if Bad-Dwight shows up, Houston might give up 150 points a game
Golden State Warriors
Good: They’re getting two free Stephen Curry explosion games in any series, so they only have to go 2-3 in the other five games… With Andrew Bogut injured, they’re forced to go small ball, which was highly successful in the playoffs last year
Bad: For a team with Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and David Lee, they run way too many Harrison Barnes isolation post-ups from 18 feet… With Andrew Bogut injured, they have only David Lee and Jermaine O’Neal’s corpse to contain Deandre Jordan (they let Timofey Mozgov grab 29 rebounds in one game!)
Things of Note:
1) Miami has coasted in the first round every year with LeBron, but they’re actually going to have to try against Charlotte (amazingly, the Heat are only 1.5 games ahead of Charlotte since New Year’s). The Bobcats have an athletic defender in Michael-Kidd Gilchrist to put on LeBron, who still absolutely torched the Bobcats this season, scoring 61 points in one game. The Bobcats have Al Jefferson, a quiet 22-11 every night, and needs to be double-teamed in the post if Chris Bosh guards him. The Bobcats have Josh McRoberts, who occasionally does some pretty crazy stuff, like this. And that’s just the first round. The Brooklyn Nets beat Miami four times this season, and match up really well with them (Deron Williams and Shaun Livingston post up the smaller Miami guards, Paul Pierce slides up to power forward and match up with LeBron, and Kevin Garnett is mobile enough to follow Chris Bosh outside of the paint). Miami’s not going to have a cakewalk to the Conference Finals.
2) And neither will Indiana. They’ve been in a total funk since starting off the season 18-1. The first main problem is that Evan Turner doesn’t fit in with the grind-it-out, move the ball, play defense mindset (check out this play for a major Evan Turner defensive lapse). It was dumb to trade the most experienced veteran on the team and a well-liked teammate in Danny Granger for a very marginal upgrade in talent. The second main problem is Roy Hibbert (who just won the “You’re seven f***ing feet tall! Grab a f***ing rebound!” Award, breaking Andrea Bargnani’s excellent three-year run). I talked about his weaknesses on defense in my previous article, but his offense has been even worse. He often doesn’t make the extra pass and settles for low-percentage shots (like this play and this one), which the team is getting enough of from Paul George already, and he regularly clogs up the middle and gets in the way of what his teammates are doing (like this play). The Pacers miraculously ended up with the #1 seed, but playing .500 ball for four months is not a fluke, folks.
3) Dwyane Wade is the luckiest dude on the planet. I wish I could just wake up any morning and say, “Nah, I'm not going to school today. I’m going to sleep in till 1:00 PM while the smartest kid in the school does my homework for me.”
4) As hot as the Nets have been, Toronto has had a better record since the All-Star break, going 20-10. Brooklyn is a very poor road team, and that Toronto crowd is going to be super-excited. Also, Jason Kidd and Duane Casey are coaching head-to-head in a playoff series. Literally anything could happen - Intentionally spilled drinks, five timeouts left on the table in a close game - be prepared for anything.
5) Memphis has the best record in the NBA since Marc Gasol returned from injury in January, and with all the talk about Indiana fading in the second half of the season, Oklahoma City had the eighth best record in the Western Conference after the All-Star break.
Spurs over Mavs in 5 (Dallas has nobody to guard Duncan and Parker)
Thunder over Grizzlies in 6 (Wouldn’t be surprised if the Grizzlies won, but I have the Grizzlies stealing one of the first two games, followed by everyone freaking out, Kendrick Perkins and Zach Randolph getting into a shoving match in the closing seconds of Game 2, and Durant taking over the series with much shorter defenders on him)
Clippers over Warriors in 7 (Too much rebounding for the Clippers, too much Draymond Green for the Warriors)
Rockets over Blazers in 7 (Total toss-up. Depends on whether Good-Dwight or Bad-Dwight shows up)
Pacers over Hawks in 6 (Putting this series on NBA TV instead of one of the major channels might actually be an insult to NBA TV… this series should be played exclusively on Comedy Central)
Heat over Bobcats in 4 (Yea, I know I said the Bobcats would put up a fight, but it’s LeBron, guys, come on. And by the way, Wade is definitely sitting one of the two games at Charlotte)
Raptors over Nets in 7 (This will be the greatest moment in Canadian basketball history)
Bulls over Wizards in 7 (Joakim Noah with a 14-12-11-7 in the clincher)
Spurs over Rockets in 4
Thunder over Clippers in 7
Bulls over Pacers in 6
Heat over Raptors in 4
Spurs over Thunder in 6
Heat over Bulls in 5
Spurs over Heat in 7
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