NBA Playoff Preview
April 25, 2013
The NBA regular season is finally over and the playoffs are finally here. Just in case you missed it, NBA basketball is getting better and the playoffs are even better. Last year’s postseason gave us excellent games and constant drama culminating in Lebron James and the Miami Heat winning the title.
I will be keeping you up to date with the action over the almost two-month postseason. Today I will share some thoughts on how the opening few rounds will go. You know there will be other storylines as the playoff rounds continue. I will have plenty of time to discuss the drama until the Finals are reached.
One annual question heading into any playoffs is will we have a repeat champion. In other words, can the Miami Heat repeat?
The answer is quite obvious as Miami’s 2013 roster is actually better then its championship roster. Ray Allen, Chris Anderson, and Voshon Leonard have given the Heat a huge lift. The additional talent has enabled James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh to cut down on their minutes. Hence, Miami enters the playoffs healthy and rested. The Heat will not have any trouble in round one versus Milwaukee. Within the Eastern Conference, Indiana and maybe the New York Knicks are the lone teams that could take a few games from Miami.
One question coming out of the Western Conference centers around the Los Angeles Clippers. Now that the perennial-losing franchise finally surpassed the Los Angeles Lakers in the standings, can they make Laker-like noise in the playoffs. The Clippers enter the playoffs on a seven-game winning streak. They have a tough first round matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies, the same Grizzlies that took the Clips to a game seven in last year’s playoffs before falling. Though some question the Clippers’ playoff makeup since they are a running team and playoff basketball usually comes down to halfcourt offense, I like them to reach the Western Finals. Chris Paul can make any halfcourt offense look good and the Clippers can run with the best of them if it is there. I also like their bench. Behind the likes of Jamal Crawford, Grant Hill, Lamar Odom, and Eric Bledsoe, the Clippers’ bench would likely make the playoffs on their own. The question within the question is will the Clippers show us any defense. If so, they are my surprise pick of the playoffs.
Another first round matchup in the West is Denver and Golden State. Few realize that the Nuggets ended the regular season with the fourth best record in the NBA. I see them advancing though the Warriors could win a few games if Charlotte native Stephen Curry can put up some big numbers.
Yes, the Clippers are now the best team in Los Angeles. But the Los Angeles Lakers are still in the playoffs. The seventh seed in the West will take on San Antonio in the first round. This would have been a very interesting series if Kobe Bryant did not suffer a season-ending injury last week. Still, the Spurs struggle against inside players and the Lakers have two of the best in Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. I don’t see an upset here but one never knows when a team enters the playoffs as beat up as San Antonio is. The Spurs have some young talent but they are still an old team.
Oklahoma City are the favorites in the West and I do not see them having any problems with their first round matchup, Houston. I still see the Thunder as the team that could give Miami the most problems. Kevin Durant is better then ever and Russell Westbrook wins the point guard matchup against most opponents. Problem is, OKC has not beaten the Heat in years as they were swept by Miami last year in the Finals and loss both encounters against them this season. I hope they can figure it out and give us an entertaining Finals.
Health is always an issue in the NBA Playoffs and this season is not any different. David Lee of the Golden State Warriors has already gone down with a season-ending injury. Derrick Rose still has not returned from his knee injury of last season. And everyone is wondering what would happen to Miami if James, Wade, or Bosh go down.
Back to the East. The upstart Brooklyn Nets will meet up with the Chicago Bulls. This series could go seven but it does not really matter who wins because they will come up short in second round action. I will go with the Nets because they have better “stars” in Derron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez.
The most entertaining first round matchup in the East will be Boston and New York. Injuries are an issue here as the Celtics are going nowhere if Kevin Garnett isn’t ready to play at least 30 minutes per game. On the other side, the Knicks say Tyson Chandler’s neck and back issues are gone. Hence, I see the Knicks advancing as Carmello Anthony is playing better then ever. And the Knicks are actually playing some defense. Enough to beat Miami later on? I don’t think so.
I like the Indiana Pacers as the surprise team out of the East. The Pacers almost upset the Heat last year before James woke up and took over. Indiana is a year older and enter the playoffs on a roll. The Pacers have the best defense in the NBA and they will not have any problems with Atlanta in the first round.
Enjoy the games. If you have stayed away from the NBA of late, give it another chance. Trust me here.
One And Done
One and done for Mike Dunlap. Yes, the lowly Charlotte Bobcats have fired another coach. While sitting outside of the playoffs again, the Bobcats did what they seem to do annually. Fire another head coach.
Charlotte officially let Dunlap go on Tuesday. When his replacement is hired, the new coach will be the franchise’s sixth coach over the past eight years. These numbers tell us that continuity is not a strength with the franchise.
Mike Dunlap, late of the Bobcats
Dunlap took over this season and started surprisingly well, getting Charlotte off to a 7-5 start. But after an embarrassing 45-point loss in Oklahoma City the Bobcats went into a tailspin. They proceeded to lose 18 in a row. That streak played a part in the Bobcats winning just 14 of their next 70 games en route to a 21-61 record.
The .256 winning percentage this season is a significant improvement over last season, when the Bobcats finished with an NBA record-worst .106 winning percentage.
Dunlap, 55, was a surprise hiring before the 2012-13 season after having no significant head coaching experience. He came to the Bobcats from St. John’s, where he was an assistant.