Sunday, May 3, 2009

Playing With House Money

No, this post isn't going to detail Eddie's lights-out shooting last night (although that would've been a nice lead-in). Rather, I'm referring to my fairly-strong performance in handicapping the eight first-round series, in relation to the so-called experts (which I'll detail after the Heat-Hawks gave 7 is over). I am incidentally rooting for the Hawks, a win by whom would put me at the top of all the Yahoo Sports and ESPN analysts. Anyway, enough about the first round, let's try to predict the next round.

(6) Mavericks vs (2) Nuggets

Nuggets in 6? Dallas in 6?? Nuggets in 7???

I'm having a damn hard time handicapping this series. Denver might've gone 4-0 against Dallas this year, but each game was a tight win with Dallas missing players. I mean, Josh Howard and Jason Kidd out, Nene out and Denver only wins by 2 points?? Carmelo out, Howard out, and -- still a 2-pt Denver win?

It's anybody's guess who has the upper-hand here. Both teams have identically-mediocre, 22-22 records against plus-500 teams; then you factor in the fact that Dallas hasn't had their full lineup for the bulk of the year. I already severely underestimated the Mavs, both in the late-season stretch, and then again verses the Spurs. Can I bet against them again? Or is it midnight for Cinderella?

Ultimately, I think if it comes down to a game 7, the Nuggets would find a way to pull it out on their home court. I think. Ah to hell with it: Nuggets in 7.

(1) Cavaliers vs. (4) Hawks
It's halftime of the Hawks-Heat game 7, a game that is shaping up just like the other 6 games -- a blowout. So I'll just pencil the Hawks into this spot. Ultimately the outcome isn't going to hinge on the opponent; they'll both suffer the same quick fate.

Incidentally, a few days ago I read one analyst's first-round predictions; his "explanation" under the Cavs/Pistons matchup was simply "let's not waste anyone's time." If that wasn't humourous enough, his prediction was met with severe and abject hostility by one user in the comments section, who projected at least a 7-game series and a big surprise from the Pistons.

Then the rest of us got to see what actually happened.

In any case, for this matchup, look for the Hawks to keep throwing up stinkers in alternate games: Cavaliers in 5.

(1) Lakers vs. (4) Rockets
The Lakers' depth and star-power vs. Houston's defense and Great China Wall length. Hmm. This really comes down to how many games can Houston steal. And also how effective Andrew Bynum is, rebounding and blocking shots. I'll stretch my imagination and say 2 games: Lakers in 6.

(2) Celtics vs. (3) Magic
This is an interesting matchup, what with Boston losing players on a daily basis, and the Magic getting semi-healthy and putting together one of their better games (in the close-out verses Philadelphia) in weeks. I wish I would've had the time to blog previous to that game, because I wholly unsurprised to see Marcin Gortat fill in so nicely for Superman; and equally unsurprised to see the Sixers come out so unbelievably flat, on top of having middling players like Sam Dalembert embarrass themselves to think that they'd have some sort of automatic advantage over anyone on the Magic roster in Dwight Howard's absence. When has Dalembert ever in his career dominated a game? You have to wonder about the inflated opinions some players -- some people -- have of themselves sometimes.

In any case, the competitiveness of this series hinges solely on the Magic playing to their ability. They should be able to take out a Garnett-less Celtics team in 6 games; somewhere in the pits of my stomach I see them finding some way of playing below their potential. As much as I love this young team, I have been watching them all year. Celtics in 7.

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