Friday, May 14, 2010

Degenerate Friday - NBA Conference Finals

Last night the Celtics started the Cavaliers summer earlier than expected and began the LeBron Watch in Cleveland, New York, New Jersey, Chicago and Miami. Everyone is going to focus in on the Cavs and why they were able to put up the best record in the regular season and then fizzled out in the playoffs. Was it LeBron’s fault? Was it Mike Brown’s poor coaching? Was it his pathetic supporting cast? The one thing that seems to get overlooked is that, using a decent sized caveat: “when healthy,” the Celtics are a better team with more talent than the Cavaliers.

Before game 5 of this round, everyone believed that the Celtics were old, washed up and trying to make one last stand against Cleveland before they drift off into the sunset. Now they have to be a legit threat to beat the Magic and challenge the Lakers. The Celtics won the title two years ago riding the leadership and defense of Kevin Garnett combined with the scoring of Paul Pierce. Last year Garnett was hurt and missed the playoffs, meaning the Celtics had no shot. This year Garnett is healthy and looks to have his swagger back. In addition, Rajon Rondo has matured into one of the top point guards in the league, and Ray Allen is shooting, literally, for one last contract. Add to that Pierce’s experience and shooting despite the fact that he was the slowest guy on the court that included Shaq and Zdrunas Ilgauskas, and the Celtics have all the pieces needed to contend. They have all the talent of Heidi Klum, they just need to stay healthy the same way she has bounced back from having her kids.

So let’s make degenerate Friday about picking the Eastern & Western Conference Finals:

Western Conference: Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Lakers

This should be an extremely entertaining series with the fast pace of the Suns matching up with the stingy defense and offensive firepower of the Lakers. The Lakers have much more size on the interior which will provide a matchup problem for the Suns. Yet the Suns bigs like Channing Frye will be a tough pairing for the Lakers defensively because Frye will pull Gasol or Bynum away from the hoop and somewhat negate their rebounding. Steve Nash will provide nightmares for the Lakers because they’re going to need to use Derrick Fisher and Jordan Farmar to try and contain him. The Suns have also played better defense this year than they ever have, and that’s what will make this a close series.

The long lay off has helped both teams, allowing Nash’s eye to pop back in his socket and allowing Kobe’s finger and knees to get even more healthy. The Suns are flashy and have the people’s support to see Nash and Grant Hill finally get a title. They are like Kate Hudson in that everyone likes them and wants her to be happy, but even with her new perky friends it won’t be enough to win back A-Rod.

The Pick: Lakers in 6 games

Eastern Conference: Boston Celtics vs. Orlando Magic

The match up I am fired up for in this series is Jameer Nelson versus Rajon Rondo. My brother and I already have a wager as to who will have a better series, with me taking the Rondo side. I think Rondo is long enough to keep Nelson from shooting over him, and quick enough to keep Nelson in front of him. While Rondo may not score as much as Nelson, he is a much better playmaker and rebounds well with his long E.T. arms. The Celtics are big enough to run a rotation of defenders at Dwight Howard with Kendrick Perkins, Rasheed Wallace and even Big Baby Davis. Vince Carter should be able to explode against the eroding Paul Pierce and he will be the reason the Magic will get by the Celtics.

When it comes down to it, the Celtics still have the heart of a champion, and are playing their championship level defense again. The Magic are the hottest team in the league, having won something like 27 of their past 30 games, averaging double digit wins during that time period and they haven’t lost in the playoffs. Yet they haven’t played against anyone with the talent, experience and personality of Brooke Burke. The long lay off provides them an opportunity to cool off and game 1 will be a huge opportunity for the Celtics to jump on them early and wrestle away home court advantage. Maybe I’m just drinking the Kool-Aid and have forgotten how good the Magic has been playing, but…….

The Pick: Celtics in 6 games

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