Sunday, May 17, 2009

Brewing Rivalries...

Well, it's been long enough since I last wrote a post, so here comes one. The topic: NBA playoff basketball. I think it's safe to assume my first and second round predictions would have been perfect, so I'll start at the Conference Finals. The match-ups: In the West, the Laker Gold versus the Gold Diggers. In the East, the King and his court versus a little bit of Magic.

Let's break it down.

How the West will be won:
All season long, the West has been a competition for second place. That's because, like Michael Phelps in a pool at Beijing, the Lakers couldn't be caught. But when Where Amazing Happens came, a surprising team surged -- the Denver Nuggets. A team that, just a year ago, went fishing after an embarrassing 4-0 sweep to the Lakers. But a new year brought a new team. Denver learned that The Answer was the main problem -- cutting Allen Iverson loose in exchange for Chauncey Billups. 60 wins and only 27 losses later, the Nuggets are riding Cloud Nine into the Western Conference Finals. Replacing Allen Iverson with a proven leader and big-time player in the clutch was the solution all along. Imagine that.

Now Denver, 8-2 in the playoffs and undefeated at home, looks like a legitimate contender to take down not only the Lakers, but maybe even the Cavs or Magic. Find a man on this Earth that would have predicted this before the season. It cannot be done.

Denver is even playing defense. They look like the Baltimore Ravens out there. Their Birdman, Chris Anderson, has been putting on a block party on defense and serving up jams on offense. Dhantay Jones has put the locks on all opponents, and even Carmelo is playing hard on the defensive end, leading the team in steals.

A Denver team that's playing defense as well as its playing offense? That's scary.

The Lakers boast the West's best regular season record, but are only 8-4 in the playoffs. They barely escaped a series against the Rockets, and were questioned for their effort. The Rockets didn't have Yao Ming or Tracy McGrady. It shouldn't have gone 7 games. But it did. They were even embarassed in Game 6. This Laker team should never be embarassed. There's just too much talent.

One has to question the attitude of this Laker team. Might they think they're actually above the rest of the league? Maybe. But they shouldn't. They didn't win last year. And there's three great teams that could make that the case again this year.

With all this being said, the Lakers are practically unbeatable when they want to be. But that want will be the question this week versus Denver. Which Laker team will show up? Because Denver isn't too far below the Lakers talent-wise, and any beat the Lakers skip could easily send the Nuggets to the Finals.

The Beast of the East:
As the Magic grinded out a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals, Lebron likely relaxed watching in front of his television. The Cavs are 8-0 in the postseason, winning every game by 10 points or more. The highly-talented Magic could be an admirable foe for the Cavs, but their attitude is questionable as well. Until Game 6 versus the Celtics, the Magic were seen as a young team with a lack of desire -- a waste of talent. After Dwight Howard called out coach Stan Van Gundy, the Magic transformed into a team of poise. The question is: Will the Magic stay this way?

It's going to be tough to take down the only team that looks like they're having more fun than the Magic. Lebron James is only getting better and better by the day, and he's only playing about three quarters a game. But the Magic are 2-1 versus the Cavs this year. They match-up particularly well against them. The one loss did, however, come in Cleveland -- a place where the Cavs are 43-2 this season (43-1 with Lebron in the lineup), and a place where 4 of the 7 games will be played in the series. The odds are not in Orlando's favor.

Prediction time:

Lakers 4-3: Toughest pick for sure. I think the Lakers need to steal one on the road after the Nuggets humble them at home, but they'll prevail in Game 7.



Cavaliers 4-1: Lebron has everyone believing, including myself. I don't see this series going past six without Jameer Nelson running the show for the Magic.



Images taken from espn.com & Yahoo! Sports