Home > Basketball, The Final Buzzer > The Final Buzzer– Conference Semi-Final Previews (1/5/11)

The Final Buzzer– Conference Semi-Final Previews (1/5/11)

What a first round! Both the East and the West put on a show for us fans! No offense to the ANBL, but seeing Kirk Penny miss 3 pointer after 3 pointer in the finals isn’t as exciting as watching Zach Randolph collect Z-bound after Z-bound. Finally the first round is finished. We saw upsets (Grizzles and Hawks, does the Mavs win count as an upset?) we saw cracks in the armour (Lakers and Russell Westbrook’s shot selection) and the Knicks celebrating getting swept in the playoffs by picking up Chauncey Billup’s $14.2 million dollar option for next year!  Good times. Plus there are also plenty of things to look forward to as we enter the next round!

Eastern Conference

(1) Chicago Bulls vs. (5) Atlanta Hawks

Season Series: Bulls 2, Hawks, 1

The Bulls enter this match up after having their way with the Pacers 4-1. The Pacers showed a lot more fight than I actually thought and had real chances of stealing both opening games. But they lacked a go to scorer at the end of games much like the Denver Nuggets problem against the Thunder. Danny Granger didn’t want to take that shot. The only Indiana Pacer that probably wanted to take the shot was team president Larry Bird. But he hasn’t played since 1992. In the end Derrick Rose showed us why he’s the favourite to win MVP and basically won the Bulls the games by himself. Going into this series, they’re a little banged up, with Carlos Boozer suffering through turf toe. What the hell is turf toe? How do you get it? Is it contagious? Is it because he doesn’t wear sock? Maybe he wears too many socks? He’s listed as day-to-day. How bad can it be if it’s going to cause him to miss some games? Well anyways, they now face an in form Atlanta Hawks team that handily beat the Orlando Magic, which has caused everyone to question whether Dwight will leave the team once he becomes a free agent (Howard to the Lakers, unless Chris Paul tells him he’s going to Orlando). The Bulls defence should force the Hawks to shoot jump shots. The more jumpshots that Josh Smith shoots, the better it is for the Bulls. If the Bulls defence can’t stop the suddenly hot Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford, then this could be a long series. Derrick Rose should be able to do whatever he wants on the court…unless his ankles suggest otherwise. This match up will be the Bulls first tough outing in the playoffs, because no offence, but the Pacers were just filling up numbers. I said no offence so Pacer fans can’t take offence to what I just said.

Looking at the Hawks, I firstly have to apologise to my friend Josh, who rightfully mocked me for choosing the Magic, even when I said in my Eastern Conference Preview that I should choose the Hawks when I ended up choosing the Magic. In my defence, I couldn’t really back the Hawks when the one deciding factor in this series was Jason Collins. JASON COLLINS!!!!! The man only plays 4 times a year! In saying that the 4 times he played this year were against the Magic where they went 3-1. Also, I overlooked the trade that brought a defensive minded Kirk Hinrich in exchange for the chalk outline that was Mike Bibby. The last time the Hawks played the Magic in the playoffs, Jameer Nelson was the difference maker. Hinrich defended Nelson very well and Nelson didn’t have the same impact. Now Collins didn’t slow down Dwight at all (Dwight had a career series), but what he allowed the Hawks to do was defend Dwight 1 on 1. This meant that the Hawks didn’t have to double team and could stay on the perimeter shooters. This worked a treat and the Hawks definitely earned this win. Which brings us to this series. The Hawks also have their injuries to deal with. According the ESPN: Hinrich underwent an MRI on Monday that revealed a significant strain to his right hamstring and is considered doubtful for Game 1 against the Bulls. This is a huge blow to the Hawks, as Hinrich was going to attempt to slow down Rose I this series. And by slow down, I mean someone for Rose to dribble around on his way to the basket. He’ll slow down Rose as much as self respect slows down a prostitute. Not much. If Hinrich is a no go, then Jeff Teague will most likely start and he couldn’t even start ahead of Mike Bibby. Where is Jordan Crawford when you need him?!

Expect a tough battle from between the front courts of Noah Boozer vs. Horford and Smith. Whoever can win that battle will provide their team with a huge advantage. The Bulls lack of SG depth might come to hurt them with Johnson and Crawford playing some great ball right now, but in saying that, who on the Hawks can slow down Derrick Rose?

Prediction: Bulls win 4-2 (Sorry Josh)

 

(2) Miami Heat vs. (3) Boston Celtics

Season Series: Celtics 3, Heat, 1

The more exciting match up in the east. Big 3 vs. Big 3. Big Brother vs. Little Brother. Shaq vs. Haslem. Eddie House vs. ah nobody cares about him. After dismantling the Knicks, the Celtics appear to have their pre-Perkins trade swagger back. But their problem wasn’t their defence. It’s been solid all year. Their problem has been their offence, and playing a team that doesn’t play defence like the Knicks was probably the best thing for them. This has people reminding them of last year’s team that made it all the way to the finals. The problem this year though, is that the East is much stronger and the Celtics are a little older. Rondo was a beast in the Knicks series. He had just as many lay ups in that series as he does in the warm up line. The Knicks defence was that bad. They come into this Miami series with a relatively healthy team. Shaq is still injured, but what’s new? He’s expected to be back for game 2. Jermaine O’Neal showed some life in their last series, but how much does he have left in the tank? If the O’Neal twins can play and contribute, it shifts the match up in the Celtics favour. They know they can beat the Heat and have to find someone to mark Rondo (who has appeared to have gotten over the Perkins trade and started playing again). It won’t be Bibby. Can Chalmers? Probably not, he’s too busy waiting to shoot 3’s down the other end of the court. If Wade or James has to mark him, it’s going to take away from their offence down the other end. And it most certainly won’t be Chris Bosh. Otherwise it’ll end up like this:

Allen and Pierce will be forced to chase Wade and LeBron around all series so KG will need to outplay Chris Bosh. KG played well in the Knicks series and was clutch in game 3 with a bucket and a game-saving steal. And how much can the Celtics bench give? We know how much the Heat bench will give. Nothing. So if the Celtic bench can contribute something (I’m looking at you Baby Davis and Delonte West) then that would provide a huge boost the Celtics. Another advantage the Celtics have is that they’re not coached by Erik Spoelstra.

The Heat enter this series with a comfortable round 1 victory over the 76ers. They were lucky that the 76ers were so reliant on jumpshots, which didn’t expose their frontline like the Celtics will try to do. The Heat will have the two best players in this series in Wade and LeBron. Will that be enough in this series though? The Celtics eliminated both Wade and James from the Playoffs last year, and handed them out some hidings this year, so they owe the Celtics some playback. They would’ve eliminated Bosh as well, but he’s so terrible he couldn’t even get his team to the playoffs in the East. THE EASTERN CONFERENCE! WHERE THEY LET IN SUB -.500 TEAMS INTO THE PLAYOFFS TO SIMPLY FILL UP NUMBERS! AND HE COULDN’T EVEN DO THAT!

This is the ultimate match up of team vs. talent. Can you simply throw 2 superstars and an all star together (I’ll let you guess who the non superstar all star is. It starts with C and ends with Rish Bosh) and win by basically taking turns playing 1 on 1? If the Heat do beat the Celtics and go on to win the NBA, then do you just go after the best players, surround them with mediocre talent and hope for the best? Or do you take the Celtic path: you get pieces that complement each other, play in a system that utilizes each of their talents, without trying to play, as Doc Rivers would call it, “hero ball”. Thrown in Bill Simmon’s love for the Celtics and you know there’s going to be a column about this series. I can’t wait. Opinions seem to be divided as to who will win. I still think the Celtics have more talent top to bottom, and the Celtic defense will allow less fast breaks for the Heat- a great source of easy points for them. The Celtics are a much better offensive team than the 76ers so the Heat defense can’t just rely on them to throw up jumpshot after jumpshot. But in saying that, Wade and LeBron can turn a series by themselves (Wade: see 2006 NBA finals, LeBron: see 2007 eastern conference finals). They just so talented you can’t count them out. Wade’s struggled against the Celts this season (only 12.8 points per game) so he needs to be able to contribute if the Heat stands any chance of advancing.

In the end, I see the Celtics beating the Heat again, LeBron still ending up with the same number of rings as most of us (zero), questions whether he’ll ever win a ring, and Bill Simmons saying that he always knew this Celtic team had it in them and that the Perkins trade makes total sense.

Prediction: Celtics win 4-2


Western  Conference

(8) Memphis Grizzlies vs. (4) Oklahoma City Thunder

Season Series: Grizzlies 3, Thunder, 1


The Memphis Grizzlies shocked the world and delivered a beating to the aging San Antonio Spurs 4-2 to advance to the conference semis. You can’t even really call it an upset. The Grizzlies manhandled, outplayed, outhustled and had the best player in the series in Zach Randolph. That sentence shouldn’t make any sense. But it does. God I love the NBA! Z-Bo has transformed himself from a headcase that was a cancer to his team (Kevin Garnett reference) to a face of a franchise, a go to scorer and a team leader. Are we in the Fringe alternate universe? This is only the second time an 8 seed has beaten a 1 seed since the change to 7 game first round series. Randolph was a beast. No one could stop him. He made Duncan look like the old man that he is and was collecting rebounds, even though he barely jumped off the floor. Throw in Marc Gasol and Tim Duncan couldn’t even wish for an offensive rebound. They made Duncan look like the 35 year old man he is. Which is sad. Because Duncan is really good. Was really good. It’s hard to talk about Duncan’s talent in the past tense, but he’s at the point now. Shout out to Gary Neal for that awesome buzzer beater in game 5 to force OT. Awesome shot:

Anyways, The Grizzlies got their first playoff win and now their first series win ever. Pretty impressive stuff. What is even more impressive is that they tanked to get the 8th seed because they knew they could beat the Spurs (a 61 win team). Ballsy move. They now move on to face the Thunder. Is another upset on the cards? They’ll probably match up better against the Thunder than the Spurs would’ve, with more youth, athleticism and an in form frontcourt which will test the Ibaka/ Perkins defense. They have defenders to throw at Durant (Tony Allen and Shane Battier) and can counter James Harden off the bench with O.J Mayo.

The Thunder enter this round with an easier than expected match up against the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets lacked a go to scorer at the end of games and that cost them. It shouldn’t be Aaron Afflalo. Ever. The Thunder on the other hand has Kevin Durant. They also have Russell Westbrook who tried to be ‘the man’ but ended up shooting 12-30 in game 4 which the Nuggets won. He ended up being shamed and in game 5 kept passing the ball to Durant who scored 41 points in an offensive showcase to put the Nuggets away. The Thunder get their first series win since 2005 (when they were the Seattle Supersonics- R.I.P). They finally won a road playoff game and were rather impressive in destroying the Nuggets. They now face a different beast in the Grizzlies (get it…beast…grizzlies…bear?), especially with the new all star that has taken over Zach Randolph. If the Thunder can slow him down, then they will be in an excellent place to take this series. Kevin Durant’s going to have his work cut out for him against Allen and Battier, but he’s much taller than both, and after getting around some massive (and also most likely illegal) screens set by Perk, should have some great looks to get that jumper of his off.

Nobody expected this matchup which is why this series should be a lot of fun. However, I expect the Grizzles fairy tale to end and the Thunder to move onto the conference finals.

Prediction: Thunder win 4-3


(2) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (3) Dallas Mavericks

Season Series: Lakers 2, Mavericks, 1

After a Chris Paul comeback special and another Kobe ankle injury, the Lakers overcame a pesky Hornets squad in a tough than expected first round series 4-2. In the two games the Hornets won, Chris Paul was incredible. Like NBA historically amazing. If David West wasn’t injured, they would’ve had a real shot at winning the series. Unfortunately he ran out of gas and the Lakers decided to play, closing out games 5 and 6 with double digit wins. They now move onto the Mavs in the first ever showdown between Kobe and Dirk in the playoffs. It’s crazy to think this is the first time ever these guys have matched up. They’ve both so old. What’s also exciting is going to be the verbal exchanges of Mark Cuban and Phil Jackson. Both love to speak their minds through the media and now we get it for an entire series!? Sign me up for that now! The last time these guys played, 5 people were ejected. There appears to be legitimate beef between these teams. I love it.

If the Lakers decide to play hard, then they shouldn’t have any problems with the Mavs. Although the Mavs have some length to bother the Lakers, they aren’t as big or as scary as the 3 headed beast of Bynum, Gasol and Odom. Bynum was a beast against the Hornets averaging 15pts and 10rebs (his best ever series stat line in the playoffs). His performances help make up for the crappiness that was Pau Gasol. Gasol was pretty terrible in the opening games, and needs to be a lot better when he’s matched up against Dirk. If Pau can get his offensive game together, then it will cause Dirk to use energy on defence, taking away from his offence. The Lakers will have to contain Dirk, Jason Terry and that hobbit, JJ Barea. The Mavs will most likely also throw a lot of zone defence at the Lakers, which has had success, but the Lakers are too good, and should make the necessary adjustments. They also have to respect Jason Kidd’s shooting. He was hot in the Blazers series and if they’re not careful, can make them pay. Now that Steve Blake has had chicken pox, I don’t think Jason Terry’s going to mess with him, in fear of catching the disease. But how on earth did Blake get them in the first place?! His kids didn’t have them…maybe his mistresses kids has them? The plot thickens! Unlike the regular season, Derek Fisher is now in playoff mode and can now hit shots, ready to add to his playoff legacy of clutchness. It’s probably still a round too early though. Gotta save it for at least the conference finals. Oh and Kobe will play despite his bad ankle. As if anyone doubted that. Emeka Okafor and the Hornets doubted Kobe and look how that ended up:

Up high and down hard!

I love hearing Kevin Harlan commentate because it sounds exactly like playing NBA 2k! Then Reggie Miller has to state the obvious “I guess that ankle is ok”. Really Reggie?! Him jumping and posterising Okafor like its 2007 convinced you his ankle is ok? I don’t know because he didn’t take off from the free throw line so the ankle can’t be 100%…

Anyways onto the Mavs. Unlike a lot of people, I picked the Mavs in 6. And I was right. Yay! Dirk was fantastic, Kidd shot the ball very well and LaMarcus Aldridge didn’t have a great series. Brandon Roy had an epic game 4 with 18pts in the fourth quarter and the go ahead bucket to give the Blazers the win, but unfortunately in game 6 when he threatened to do it again, Dirk answered every bucket with a shot of his own. Dirk is killing it right now. The Big German is playing some great ball and his fadeaway is money. But once again, the man will need help to have any chance at getting by the Lakers. Shawn Marion had a solid series and will probably have to defend Kobe. Caron Butler is still out and isn’t expected back in this series…which is a shame. Can the Mavs shed that soft tag that they’ve had for so long? The Lakers basically bullied them into submission in the last regular season game which ended up with the Matt Barnes suspension. Jason Terry has stated that this Mavs team was built to take on the Lakers. We’ve about to see if they have enough, otherwise their seasons going to end with the Ron Artest bicep flex…

Prediction: Lakers win 4-2


After an awesome first round, we’re now treated to probably an even more exciting round of conference semis! Hopefully we get a 7 game series this time though, which would be the icing on an already delicious cake.

So until next time, that my friends, is The Final Buzzer.

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  1. lucy
    May 2, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    awesome article!

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