And Peja was 6-6, too. Let’s just say this: No team was going to beat Dallas yesterday. They were absolutely brilliant.
And deservingly so. Gasol sucked…again.
Most underrated signing of the off-season? I think so.
So much for Artest having a Game 3 impact. Surely David Stern will suspend him for this – and understandably so.
Couldn’t have asked for a better look to end the game. (That moving screen from Andrew Bynum definitely helped, too.)
by Eddie Moore
PLAYOFF TIME, BABY!!!!!
Now I’ve already prematurely posted my playoff predictions when I finished up my Western Conference Predictions column a few months back and I also stated my Finals predictions (LA over MIA in 6) when I wrote my NBA Mid-Season Recap column as well. Well, obviously a lot has changed since then, so here we go with my official NBA playoff predictions:
(Note: This appears to be one of the toughest playoffs in a long while to prophesy, so be easy on me with your disdainful comments if I only nail like 25% of these…)
NBA Western Conference:
#1 San Antonio Spurs vs. #8 Memphis Grizzlies – Depending on the severity of Manu’s elbow, the Griz could pull off a Golden State-like upset against the number-one seed out west. Won’t happen, though. Prediction: Spurs 4-3.
#2 Los Angeles Lakers vs. #7 New Orleans Hornets – The Hornets are the worst team in the playoffs in the West; the Lakers may be the best. The Lakers will get some much needed rest while they wait to play the winner of the grueling series, Dallas versus Portland. Prediction: Lakers 4-0.
#3 Dallas Mavericks vs. #6 Portland Trail Blazers – Absolute worst-case scenario for the Mavs: They draw the hardest first-round opponent, and if they win, they’ll have to beat the Lakers in a series when they won’t hold the vital home-court advantage. The Mavs, like usual, will fall short of expectations in the playoffs. Prediction: Blazers 4-3.
#4 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #5 Denver Nuggets – The Nuggets are a feel-good story. Coach Karl gets my vote for Coach of the Year for being able to essentially coach two completely different teams – and being able to do so successfully . Unfortunately the Nuggets are running into, arguably, the hottest team in the league, OKC. Prediction: OKC 4-2.
#1 San Antonio Spurs vs. #4 Oklahoma City Thunder – I predicted back in February the Spurs would escape past the Thunder. Not anymore. Perkins’ impact has solidified this team as absolutely championship material. Durant goes wild. Prediction: OKC 4-2.
#2 Los Angeles Lakers vs. #6 Portland Trail Blazers – The Lakers’ extra rest from the first-round will give them enough energy to take advantage of this fatigued opponent. It’ll still be a war. Prediction: Lakers 4-3.
#2 Los Angeles Lakers vs. #4 Oklahoma City Thunder – Can the inexperienced Thunder dethrone the defending champs? Not this year. Prediction: Lakers 4-3.
NBA Eastern Conference:
#1 Chicago Bulls vs. #8 Indian Pacers – The team with the league’s-best record and the eventual league’s MVP will soar past the Pacers with east. Prediction: Bulls 4-0.
#2 Miami Heat vs. #7 Philadelphia 76ers – Wade will have a field day feasting on Philly’s undersized guards, and the Heat will enjoy playing in a rare up-tempo playoff series. Prediction: Heat 4-1.
#3 Boston Celtics vs. #6 New York Knicks – This is the most exciting first-round match-up. I keep trying to convince myself the Knicks can pull off the unthinkable, especially with the Celts playing such atrocious ball lately. I still believe in the Celts, though. Prediction: Celts 4-3.
#4 Orlando Magic vs. #5 Atlanta Hawks – This is a hurdle the Hawks will never overcome. Prediction: Magic 4-2.
#1 Chicago Bulls vs. #4 Orlando Magic – Joakim Noah will be the key to this series as he’ll be able to slow down Howard enough to allow the Bulls to stay at home on Orlando’s three-point shooters. Prediction: Bulls 4-2.
#2 Miami Heat vs. #3 Boston Celtics – Over/Under for number of technicals handed out in this series…15? In what will be an all-out war, the Heat slide by because of the brilliant play of the best player in the game, LeBron. Expect a 28-11-7-type performance. Prediction: Heat 4-3.
#1 Chicago Bulls vs. #2 Miami Heat – Like the Thunder, I definitely think they’re championship contenders. I just don’t see the Bulls being able to defeat Wade and LeBron in four games. Prediction: Heat 4-2.
#2 Miami Heat vs. #2 Los Angeles Lakers –The combination of Bynum, Gasol and Odom proves to be too much for the undersized Heat.
And there you have it. The Lakers will collect their third-straight championship; Kobe will tie Jordan with six titles; and Phil Jackson will retire with one of the most impressive coaching resumes off all time.
Sadly, this may be the last playoffs we witness for two years.
Get that mess outta here!
This looks almost identical to the game-winner he hit against Boston last year.
Just not a good day for the Lakers.
Maybe the Lakers need to make a deal before the trade deadline after all.
After suffering a twenty-point shellacking from the Bobcats, a team that has defeated the Lakers in eight of the last ten games, much of Laker nation is in panic mode.
Here’s Phil Jackson after the embarrasing loss:
“I just have this to say: I’m very disappointed in our performance tonight,” he said, his eyes rimmed red with anger. “I’m embarrassed about what we did, and that’s it.”
So what’s wrong with LA?
For starters, Ron Artest is playing the worst basketball of his entire career, and it’s tough to understand why. Is he afraid of Phil Jackson? Definitely possible. Is Kobe striking fear in him? Plausible. Is he just in a slump? Who knows? Regardless, his stats are atrocious – especially for being a starter on a championship team: 8 PPG, 3 REB, 2 AST, 63 FT%, 39 FG%, 35 3P%. No team in their right mind wants anything to do with the unpredictable headcase that can’t hit wide-open threes. Luckily, the Lakers have an adequate SF (Matt Barnes) that can chase Artest out of the starting lineup, but the problem is he’s out until mid-March. Defensively, the Barnes-Artest tandem is about as good as they come; offensively, they’re average at best. I anticipate the Lakers to explore possibilities of upgrading at the three-spot, but I don’t think they have the pieces to swing such a deal.
Another worrisome issue, as always, is the Lakers don’t have a good, true PG. The Lakers for years have survived without having one. This is because the triangle doesn’t require a great PG and because they have extreme length on their front line to compensate. Look at the Bulls teams of the 90s. I wouldn’t label B.J. Armstrong, Steve Kerr, John Paxson and Ron Harper “great PGs,” yet Michael Jordan still won title after title with them. Why should the Lakers worry then? First off, when the Lakers signed Steve Blake this off-season that signaled that they were getting worried about Derek Fisher. Fisher has been so clutch and effective for the Lakers over the years in the playoffs, but how much longer can the Lakers really rely on him? Unfortunately for the Lakers, Blake, widely considered one of the best signings of the off-season, has been terrible. When you look at all the PGs the Lakers may encounter in the West come playoff time – Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams, Ty Lawson/Chauncey Billups, Steve Nash, Jason Kidd/J.J. Barrea – the Lakers have far and away the worst situation at that position. Defensively, Fisher and Blake kill LA because they force Kobe to pick up the opposing team’s PG on many occasions. If you look at the Lakers from merely a PG/SF aspect, they’re not good.
Last year the Lakers had a relatively easy road to the finals. Sure, the Thunder took LA to six and easily should have taken them to seven if Serge Ibaka boxed out Pau Gasol, but the Thunder were not going to win that series. They were just too young. The Lakers then subsequently swept the overrated Utah Jazz, a team that had absolutely no answer for Kobe and that lacked the height to keep Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum off the boards. And lastly, the Lakers defeated a Phoenix Suns squad, that in any other year, wouldn’t have been playing in the conference finals. (I owe Nash an apology for that last sentence. They were better than I’m giving them credit for. They just shouldn’t have been western-conference-finals good.)
Fast forward to this season. The San Antonino Spurs are tearing up the entire league, and they are showing no signs of slowing down. Take for example last night. Two minutes into the game after Tim Duncan misplays a pick-and-roll, Gregg Popovich immediately calls a timeout and reams out his four-time champion, sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer, and greatest power forward of all time. The night before, after coming off an embarrassing loss to the 76ers, Popovich shakes up the starting lineup and brings Manu off the bench. The result? They score 77 first-half points. The Spurs aren’t satisfied with where they are. They only want to keep getting better. Because of this, they’re going to be the number-one seed heading in the playoffs. Unlike the last three years when the road to the finals went through LA, the Lakers will now have the major hurdle of defeating the Spurs in a seven-game series as the road team. No easy task.
Another team that could give LA troubles is Dallas. I’m not sold on them yet because they always succeed in the regular-season. It’s the post-season where they wilt and disappoint. I’d be lying if I said this year’s team is worse than last year’s, though. The addition of Tyson Chandler gives them the much-needed body to pound with the likes of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. If the Mavs were to make a deal here in the next two weeks to acquire, say, Stephen Jackson, Tayshaun Prince or Gerald Wallace, then the Mavs will be a legitimate threat to the Lakers in the West.
The Western conference will not be an easy stroll in the park this year, especially when you consider that the Thunder, a team with two of the top fifteen or twenty players in the NBA, haven’t played their best basketball yet.
It’s understandable the Lakers are jaded. The regular season, ultimately, doesn’t mean anything. They just won the title. At the same time, though, it’s foolish for the Lakers to just assume they can immediately turn it on once they reach the playoffs. Phil Jackson knows this. Look at the Boston Celtics in the Eastern conference. They’ve overcame a plethora of significant injuries and currently have the number-one seed in the East. They also have four statement wins, three over their rival, the Miami Heat, and one over the champions, the Lakers. Conversely, the Lakers have just one statement win, one over the hobbled Celtics. Don’t get me wrong, with one of the best players in basketball, three massive bodies that can all score 20 and control the paint, and the most experienced playoff coach in the NBA, the Lakers are still the favorites and the team to beat.
So no, I don’t think they need to be overly worried. They do need to start finding a groove defensively and also a three-point game. It also doesn’t help that their two two biggest threats, Boston and San Antonio, aren’t missing a beat right now. One thing’s for sure, though: It appears, at best, the Lakers will be heading into the playoffs as a two-seed, and that’s uncharted territory for a team that’s been able to rely on home-court advantage to get to the finals.
Something’s got to give come playoff time.
This was a goaltend.
Regardless, the Cavs finally get a W! Congrats, Cleveland!
The man has serious hops.