Home > Basketball, The Final Buzzer > The Final Buzzer – Conference Final Previews (17/5/11)

The Final Buzzer – Conference Final Previews (17/5/11)

Wow. What a difference two weeks makes in the NBA! The Lakers and Celtics were tossed from the playoffs by the inform Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat to ensure that two other teams will be in the NBA finals for the first time since 2007. Surprising doesn’t even begin to explain how the playoffs are playing out. Epic is probably more fitting. If the NBA is heading towards a lockout, then the NBA are definitely putting on a show before we get there. Now it’s time to dive into the Conference Finals previews.

Eastern Conference

(1) Chicago Bulls vs. (2) Miami Heat

Season Series: Bulls 3, Heat, 0

During the last NBA offseason, when LeBron was trying to decide how to ruin his reputation (he would do it on a TV show which he thought was a good idea. It wasn’t) by announcing who he would sign with, most basketball experts (myself not included) thought he should sign with the Chicago Bulls. They had room for 2 max players, Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. However it wasn’t meant to be and LeBron decided to take his talents to South Beach to party with DWade. In the grand scheme of things this was probably the best thing to happen to the Chicago Bulls. WHAT!?!?!? I hear you say? Let me finish. Quietly, throughout the LeBron free agency obsession, Derrick Rose didn’t actually want LeBron to come and play with him in Chi Town. He believed he was the team leader and if LeBron went to the Bulls, it would take the ball out of Rose’s hands and cast him out to the side for the LeBron iso-settle-for-a-jumper-even-though-I-can-finish-at-the-rim-any-time-and-I-have-yet-to-develop-a-post-up-game offense. Then the Bulls lost out on LeBron and Wade, got the perfect complement to Rose and Noah in Carlos Boozer, hired Thibodeau, won 62 games and the top seed in the conference. All because they didn’t get Wade or LeBron. Not bad for the losers of the LeBron sweepstakes. Which leads us to here.

The Bulls arrive at the conference finals by finally putting away the spirited Atlanta Hawks which gave them much more trouble than I thought. The Hawks stole game 1 from the Bulls behind one of Joe Johnson’s best games as a Hawk with 34 points, and Jeff Teague improving his trade value by playing Derrick Rose admirably. However, after dropping game one, the Bulls would regroup and close out in game 6 in Atlanta behind Carlos Boozer’s 23 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists. It’s about time Boozer’s done anything worth mentioning about his game.  He’s been a no show during these playoffs so far and if he didn’t play well game 6, I was just going to make jokes about how he looks like the Hood off Thunderbirds. So Boozer finally has a good game and hopefully he can carry some of that form into this conference finals series. The Bulls are going to need the game 6 Boozer if they’re going to stand any chance of advancing. If Boozer and Noah can’t combine to give the Bulls at least a combine to 30 points and 20 rebounds, the Chicago will struggle. Both teams play great defense so whoever can step up and help Rose and Deng on offense will provide Chicago with an excellent chance at taking this series. Expect Rose to absolutely abuse the Heat PG’s. If his ankle is ok, he should be too fast, too strong and too explosive against Chalmers and Bibby. The Heat might be forced to throw Wade or LeBron at him which might limit them on the offensive end if they’re chasing Rose around for 7 games. There’s going to be a lot of pressure on Rose, as he’s going to have to produce a lot offensively, whether it’s creating for himself or teammates. If he can’t get going offensively, then the Bulls will struggle.

The Heat come into this series full of confidence after eliminating the Boston Celtics 4-1 to go through to the conference finals for the first time since 2006. This was pretty sweet for both Wade and especially for LeBron who have both been eliminated by the Celtics in the last couple of years. Wade erupted for 34 points in game 1. James went off for 35 in games 2 and 4. And Wade and LeBron combined for 77 points in game 5. The Heat had the two best players in the series and it showed. Celtic fans can only now wonder how the series would’ve played out if Rondo didn’t dislocate his elbow and have to play like an amputee victim.

Was it a dirty play by Wade? Probably. It was an extremely physical series and the Heat definitely brought it to the Celtics. The only positive the Celtics got out of this was that Doc Rivers resigned for 5 years and that Rondo doesn’t need surgery. The other thing we can take from this series is that we simply cannot take Chris Bosh seriously. Firstly, his chest bump with Juwan Howard was so weak and pathetic. Secondly, he chest bumped Juwan Howard! Who does that?! Thirdly, someone on YouTube believes that they’re actually kissing as well after the chest bump. Judge for youself:

But I guess we shouldn’t expect anything less from Bosh. This is the guy who dressed up as a cowboy and recorded himself on YouTube to get all star starter votes…FAIL. Don’t believe me?

So the Heat got to exorcise some of their demons and now prepare to match up against Rose and the Bulls. The last MVP winners face off (Rose and LeBron) and Wade plays against his hometown. The Heat seemed to improve after each series and appear to be playing so fantastic basketball right now. Despite only have 3 good players, LeBron and Wade have been so good it doesn’t matter who the other players are. James Jones is shooting very well and if let alone, will knock down the 3. Just ask the Celtics. He’s doing what Mike Miller should’ve been doing. Mario Chalmers has been solid for them and provides a spark and a change of pace when he’s on for Mike Bibby. Bibby, to his credit, hasn’t been terrible and doesn’t look as washed up as he did earlier in the year with Atlanta. Probably most surprisingly though is how good the Miami team has been defensively. Especially with players with Bibby, Miller and Ilgauskas. Is it weird that those 3 players are all white? Udonis Haslem finally returned from foot surgery and had 2 personal fouls, a technical foul and a missed shot in 2 minutes of play. Awesome return. Really inspirational stuff. I see why the Heat believe that Haslem’s return would be the last piece of the puzzle.

Points are going to be scarce in this series, with two of the top defences in the league in this series. But there should also be some impressive highlight worth dunks with 3 of the top in game dunkers in Wade, Rose and LeBron in this series. It should be ugly, physical and emotional. Wade and LeBron are trying to win a title before people begin to seriously question if they’re ever going to get one (or in Wade’s case, another one) and Rose trying to add to his young legacy. I don’t know if Chicago can elevate their game to another level. Have they already played their best basketball or can Derrick take it to raise his game even further? But if the Bulls are able to send Miami home down 2-0 then it will put real pressure on the Heat. The Heat have been a front runner team all season and being down in a series would be something new for them and make them sweat a little under all those bright lights. In the end it could come down to offensive execution as both teams are so strong defensively. I give that edge to the Heat with LeBron and Wade being able to create offense more easily than Derrick Rose. The Heat can survive if one of them doesn’t play well. The Bulls can’t survive if the league MVP isn’t the best player on the floor which gives the Heat the advantage.

Prediction: Heat win 4-2

*Side note- sorry about this being released after game 1. I wanted to wait until the West was decided. But now that I’ve seen game 1 a couple of thoughts. Wow Derrick Rose was carving up the Heat’s defense. Just some really great stuff. Thibodeau’s defense is perfectly designed to handle iso situations which both Wade and LeBron thrive on. Maybe one Derrick Rose will be enough to beat LeBron and Wade…Speaking of the Heat stars, they struggled…I mean Bosh was the best player in the game for them. Not good. And Taj Gibson! Holy Moley! He provided some fantastic energy off the bench and 2 unbelievable dunks! The first was an and-1 dunk over Wade. Impressive. Then he goes and finishes the game with a put pack dunk with 40 seconds remaining to sum up the Bulls dominance of game one. Check the dunks below:



 

(3) Dallas Mavericks vs. (4) Oklahoma City Thunder

Season Series: Mavericks 2, Thunder, 1

I don’t think many people would’ve picked this series. The Mavs shock the world by destroying the Lakers 4-0 to send Kobe on holiday, Pau to pick up the pieces of his broken game, Bynum to rehab…no wait forget that, he’s not actually injured at the moment (just suspended for spear tackling JJ Barea), Artest to…well be Ron Artest (you think he regrets auctioning off his Championship Ring?) and Phil Jackson into an early retirement. Definitely not the fairly tail ending he planned for. Full credit deserves to go to Dirk and the Mavs, they were fantastic and fully deserve their place in the Conference Finals (as much as I hate to say it). But I’ve got to wonder just how long they can keep this going. The Mavs shooting was incredible in the series (granted the Lakers gave them a lot of open looks) and every time it seemed like the Lakers were grabbing control or bringing the game closer, BANG! (In Mike Breen voice) another 3 pointer. Whether it was Dirk, Peja or Terry, they always had an answer which made them so dangerous. Jason Kidd defended Kobe fantastically (although he did get away with a lot of pushing. Smart veteran play from him) and the rest he’s getting now before the Conference Finals will only benefit him. After all he is operating in a wheelchair when he isn’t playing basketball.

So now they move onto the Conference Finals rested up and facing the Thunder who survived a 7 game series with the Memphis Grizzlies. The Mavs must find a way to slow down Kevin Durant. Expect to see DeShawn Stevenson and Shaun Marion defending him. Dirk is too slow to mark him and Kidd is too small. Westbrook presents a whole different problem for the Mavs. He’s definitely no Derek Fisher. Westbrook is coming off a game 7 triple double against the Griz and although he’s had some shot selection problems, he’s been very good this postseason. There is no way Kidd, Terry or Barea can stop him. Even Russell Westbrook can’t stop Russell Westbrook. Roddy Beaubois is fast enough, but he’s fallen out of rotation. The Mavs don’t have the Tony Allen type defender to throw at Durant, who is just simply owning it right now. Expect the Mavs to utilize their impressive zone defense. Their defense has been very good in the playoffs and Tyson Chandler gets a lot of credit. Actually Michael Jordan should get credit for handing them Chandler for literally nothing. The Mavs advantage will once again be Dirk, who behind Zach Randolph has been the most dominant player in the 2011 playoffs. He’s not only scoring at will, but he’s creating space and great looks for his team mates. If the Mavs can continue to hit their shots like they did in the Lakers series, then they have a real shot at returning to the NBA finals for the first time since 2006.

Oklahoma City is making their first appearance to the Conference Finals after beating the Grizzlies 105-90 in the decider. Durant scored 39 and Westbrook had a trip dub (14pts, 10 reb, 14 ast). Those two young guys played dominantly under pressure and not enter the Conference Finals with all the pressure on the Mavs. As I said before both Durant and Westbrook could both have dominant series. Harden was also impressive off the bench and contributing like the expected him to. Serge Ibaka didn’t have the best series with foul trouble, but Nick Collison was great off the bench and defended Randolph as well as anyone has this season. There isn’t really anyone on the Mavs roster that can truly stop either. Durant can simply shoot over defenders or if Dirk is marking him, take him off the dribble. Westbrook can attack the rim, force the Mavericks defense to collapse and kick out to open shooters. Sounds like the Thunder’s going to win comfortably right? Not so fast. The Maverick zone will make that harder to penetrate with the help defense there. Hopefully Westbrook doesn’t settle for jumpers because that is what the Mavericks want. On the flip side, Scotty Brooks and the Thunder staff have to find some way to stop Dirk. Perk is too slow, and I still feel Ibaka won’t be as effective if Dirk takes him out to the 3 point line. Dirk’s playing the best basketball of his life and if they can’t slow Dirk down, then that will create space for the Mavs and problems for the Thunder. The Thunder need to chase the Mavs off the 3 point line, because the Mavs have some great ball movement which finds them open looks. Take that away and force them to dribble the ball. The Mavs have lived by the 3 all post season. Will they die by the 3 in this series?

This is such a tough series to call. I see it going to 7 games and I see the experience of Kidd, Dirk and homecourt advantage being enough to get the Mavs through to face the Heat in a 5 years on rematch of the 2006 NBA Finals. Is that scenario too perfect? Maybe. Would I be surprised if the Thunder win? No.

Prediction: Mavericks win 4-3

There you have it, nothing much more to add to this. Got to say, this isn’t the way I thought the playoffs were heading, but the unpredictability and excitement so far has made this one of the best postseasons ever. If only the Lakers were still involved…

And that my friends, is The Final Buzzer.

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  1. Anon
    May 18, 2011 at 8:13 am

    So, now that the lakers are out tomo, which team do you support?

  2. ISO 9000
    August 9, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    I read your post . it was amazing.Your thought process is wonderful.The way you tell about things is awesome.

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