I woke up to news of Kevin Garnett missing the playoffs. Bummer. The Big Ticket to success for Boston Celtics is not going to be available and that pretty much ends their repeat aspirations. The Celtics have played well without KG but without him, even Jesus Shuttlesworth cannot save them, and that's the Truth. They'll give it a fight; the Ubuntu spirit, a defensive mentality, a big-time player like Paul Pierce, an assassin like Ray Allen and a supporting cast that has grown in stature will make the Celtics competitive. However, missing the defensive stalwart in KG, they may give up too many points to stand a chance winning against some of the best teams in the NBA.
The NBA regular season ended yesterday and the playoff matchups are set. I've picked the Los Angeles Lakers to win this year, Phil Jackson to get ring #10 and for Kobe to win his first Finals' MVP. I thought the Cleveland Cavaliers would make the NBA Finals and with the Celtics down, we can pretty much pencil in a Lebron-Kobe duel in June. The Lakers are the class of the NBA right now, I am actually surprised when they lose games. You have to outscore them to win and you can't really prevent them from scoring much when they are the best rebounding team in the NBA. It's unfair. Let's take a look at the brackets.
First round Cavs-Pistons: I am a sucker for rivalries so I am happy these teams will be meeting. The Pistons have been out of sorts without Billups and they don't have the swagger. Where they really miss Chauncey is in defence and leadership. Lebron has too much of that for the Pistons to stand a chance. Rasheed Wallace has been really quiet, I am suspecting we'll hear from him in this series. Cavaliers in 5.
Celtics-Bulls: I really wanted the Celtics to get the 76ers. You know, Atlantic Division rivalry. Iguodala versus Pierce. We have a great matchup here though - Derrick Rose vrs Rajon Rondo. These guys could be the best point-guards in the East for years to come. Without Garnett, it will be tougher to knock out the Bulls, but the Celtics will prevail. Pierce won't have his hands full on the defensive end and the Celtics' bigs would handle the youth of the Bulls. The difference in the series would be the coaching and I expect Ray Allen to go off. Celtics in 7, I doubt they'll close out the Bulls in Chicago.
Magic-76ers: It seems Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis are a bit banged up. I'll still take the Magic if they are not 100%. Yes, Dwight Howard is the reason. The only way the Sixers pull off an upset is if Superman is unlucky with whistles and gets into foul trouble or shoots 40% for free-throws. The Sixers can't exactly defend the three-pointer or make one themselves. They have Courtney Lee and Mickael Pietrus to throw at Iguodala. Magic in 5.
Hawks-Heat: Dwyane Wade has been fantastic this season. Too bad, his team didn't win as many games, he'd have been the MVP. The Hawks pose many problems but one thing they don't have, is someone to stop Dwyane Wade. The Heat has the length to bother the Hawks enough. This series would be close but with the way Wade has been playing, the guy is even making threes, it's difficult not to see Miami beat out Atlanta in 6 games.
Lakers-Jazz: This is the toughest matchup the Lakers could have gotten at this stage. A lot of people felt the Jazz is the biggest threat to the Lakers in the West. The Jazz can rebound, they play tough, they have men to throw at Kobe and they have a good bench. They also have Deron Williams, who could make people forget Derek Fisher is a killer three-point shooter. But like last year, the Lakers will prevail because they have Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson. Kobe can defend D-Will and still make it happen at the other end. The only way the Jazz pull off an upset is if Lamar Odom doesn't show up and the Kyle Korver shoots lights out. Also, Boozer is not what he was last year. Lakers in 5.
Nuggets-Hornets: I like Carmelo Anthony (because he went to Syracuse) and I am excited they have homecourt advantage. At last, they should make it out of the 1st round. The New Orleans Hornets will not go down easily but with no Chandler, who's going to stop the lay-up line of Melo, Linas Kleiza, and Nene? Chris Paul will have his hands full and he wont' be getting as many steals with Billups holding the rock. David West will find a nightmare in Kenyon Martin. The Hornets have James Posey but he can't stop J.R. Smith as well. Nuggets in 5.
Spurs-Mavericks: Another big rivalry. Texas-sized showdown. The two most consistent teams in this decade. Jason Kidd versus Tony Parker. Do y'all know Kidd almost ended up in San Antonio in 2003 if not for Mr. Longoria throwing up tantrums? Kidd can't stay in front of Tony now, Parker's too good. Nowitzki will have his hands full with Bowen and that Roger Mason (who?) - Jason Terry matchup should be good. Tim Duncan is looking good though and the Spurs play too much defense while the Mavericks don't play enough. Maybe if Nowitzki plays well and Josh Howard goes bananas, they may pull an upset. However, when Tony Parker puts Erick Dampier in foul trouble, who do the Mavs have? Right. Spurs in 7.
Trailblazers-Rockets: The young, upstart TrailBlazers are exciting. This Portland team will be good for a long time. The Houston Rockets should have had homecourt advantage in this series. Yao Ming hasn't been in the second round yet and without T-Mac by his side, it will be difficult this year as well. The Rockets play great defense but they don't have a closer. Portland can throw two seven-footers at Ming, what else does Houston have? Ron Artest? You want to see Artest launching fade-aways at the end of games? This series would be close but I think it will be won at the power-forward position. Will Scola out-do Aldrige? Will Aldrige be fazed by the bright-lights of the second season? Portland prevails because they have homecourt and Yao Ming has to wait for next year. Blazers in 7.
Come back later to see my predictions for the second round and beyond.