Saturday, April 22, 2006

NBA PLAYOFFS; EASTERN CONFERENCE!

How 'bout it Hoopster fans? After an 82 game season which always feels longer, the NBA playoffs are finally upon us! Who made it and who didn't?

EASTERN CONFERENCE; ATLANTIC DIVISION:
WHO'S IN?
NEW JERSEY NETS: Here's a team that finally looks to be complete. In Nenad Krstic the team finally has a legit' Center. The dude really came on over the final 1/3 of the season and can both score AND rebound. While he may not be a tremendous shot blocker, Krstic is a true 7-footer and is able to force opponents to alter their shots. In conjunction with Krstic's emergence, SF Richard Jefferson was able to stay healthy and has really sharpened his game. The most impressive aspect to RJ's game? The guy worked on his mid-range jumper, improved his shootinge % by 70+ points, and averaged a hair under 20 PPG. Draining 49.3% of his shots from the field, RJ was second only to Nenad Krstic, who shot 50%. Naturally, PG Jason Kidd made the post-season possible. The prolific Point's leadership, court-vision, and ability to elevate the games of his teammates render him on par with Sun PG and reigning league MVP, Steve Nash.
PIVOTAL PLAYER; Richard Jefferson: It will be up to Jefferson to harry, defend, and score upon the fundamentally solid Peja Stojakovic.
If ANY favorite is looking at a 1st round exit... it'd be the New Jersey Nets. With PF Jermaine O'Neal peaking at the right time and a bench that is deeper, and more talented than that of NJ, coach Lawrence Frank had best work his troops up into a lather.
PREDICTION: Nets in a hard-fought 6.

WHO'S OUT? EVERYONE ELSE!

To no great surprise the Knicks, 23 win abomination that they were, didn't make it in. Nor, for that matter, did AI's 76'ers, Paul Pierce's young Celtics, or the very impressive Chris Bosh and his team Toronto.

CENTRAL DIVISION:
WHO'S IN?
EVERYBODY!

DETROIT PISTONS V. MILWAUKEE BUCKS: In what looks to be the most post-C's most lopsided series the Pistons, who went 3-0 against Milwaukee this season, should reduce the Bucks into so much venison.
BUCKS: Here's a team that backs into the playoffs with a losing record (40-42), thus underscoring the preposterous nature of the NBA system. PG T.J Ford's return from a scary neck injury is impressive and should be applauded; the simple fact that Ford is even playing at this level is a testament to both the medical care he received and his tenacious nature. That being said, the guy is a 6 foot, 165 pound gnat, and the much larger (6-3/203) and more skilled MoTown PG Chauncey Billups will punish his adversary. The Pistons take no prisoners during the post-season... and they didn't take many during their 64 win regular season rampage. Milwaukee will have no answer for Center Ben Wallace and his fearsome game and steel-smelting glare. Who's gonna' box-out Big Ben, rookie Andrew Bogut? Uh-uh, no chance, Center Jamaal Magloire whose numbers took a header this year? No way. Then, add PF Rasheed Wallace's physical style and 15+ PPG, SG Rip' Hamilton's sugar-sweet, "best-in-the-league Jumper, and a deep bench that boasts lightning-quick Antonio McDyess, and you have a recipe for a series sweep. With so many weapons at hand, the Pistons will be a tough nut to crack for anyone.
PIVOTAL PLAYER; Chauncey Billups: Chauncey scored 18+ PPG while dishing almost 9 assists per game this year, and is a solid defender.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS: The Bucks have a very nice player in Michael Redd but they will be unable to body-up with a VERY formidable Detroit squad. The only chance the Bucks have... of winning a game, is to go up-tempo by pairing Maurice Williams with T.J Ford. Ford and Williams, who has also struggled with a number of injuries this season, are jitterbug quick and it will be difficult for the Pistons to defend them both.
PIVOTAL PLAYER; Michael Redd: Even if Redd drops 50 points a game the Bucks will still lose.

PREDICTION: Pistons sweep!

WASHINGTON WIZARDS V. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS:
In what will probably be the most exciting match-up of the 1st round, King James makes his much anticipated post-season debut and leads his merry band of 4-seed Cavs' against the 5-seed Washington Wizards.
This is NOT "your MJ's" Wizards! PG Gilbert Arenas, an incredibly athletic hoopster who recorded almost 30 PPG, led the Wiz' to a 3-1 regular season record against the Cavs'. In no uncertain terms, Washington made it clear that they were eager to meet up with Cleveland in the 1st round of the "second-season." PF Antawn Jamison is talented enough to lead a team of his own, but alongside Arenas and a rapidly improving Caron Butler... the Wizards will make "The King" disappear.

PIVOTAL PLAYER; Caron Butler: It's a no-brainer that both Jamison and Arenas will get their points, but if Butler catches fire... Washington will go medieval on Cleveland.

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: LeBron is LeBron, and he alone affords the team a chance to see the 2nd round. That being said, experience counts for a great deal and the Cavs' are sorely lacking in it. Post-season, that is.

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