Friday, April 17, 2009


Well, that's what the mainstream media would have you believe, at least.

Especially since this week's revelation that Kevin Garnett could miss the rest of the playoffs with a bad knee. I mean, you'd think the 14 other teams in the NBA Playoffs had no business being there.

I don't pretend to be a basketball expert, but "Kobe, LeBron, and the guys who don't play very good" doesn't seem like a smart marketing strategery for a four-round tournament that lasts around two months.

(Then again, the NHL seems to only care about two teams. I mean, at least the Lakers and Cleveland can actually meet in the Finals. Pittsburgh and Washington could meet as early as the second round in the NHL. Man, is Bettman really an idiot.)

With all that in mind, here's a quick look at the games being played on hardwood this weekend. Why so quick? Because I don't try to act like a huge fan of the sport. Check the links on the right if you want more in-depth stuff.

Best matchup

Atlanta vs Miami.
It's the 4-5 pairing, but features a legitimate MVP candidate capable of carrying his team at any given time. Dwyane Wade has had a fantastic season, but does he have enough magic left in him?

As for Atlanta, the Hawks have actually built on last year's seven-game tilt with the Celtics in the first round. Proving it wasn't a fluke, Atlanta energized their fan base and earned home court for this series. Guys like Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, and Al Horford give the Hawks a great chance to advance. They're much deeper across the front line and the bench than Miami is.

Wade took more than 300 more shots than Johnson - who led the Hawks with over 1,400 shot attempts - did. His 30-point average includes a number of huge performances, and he's the key player in the series.

Atlanta should win this series, but I'd be stunned if it didn't go seven. If this ends up being a five- or six-game series, Miami wins it.

Worst matchup

Orlando vs Philadelphia.
Where is the intrigue? The Magic are a very good team, and should be able to challenge Boston for a shot at Cleveland in the conference final. Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, and Jameer Nelson are too good for the Sixers to slow down.

About the only thing Philadelphia has going for them is that no one thinks they can win. While that "no one gives us a chance" mentality is all over sports and is often a good thing, it doesn't help when you're just not as good as your opponent.

Phillly might win one or two games, but this isn't a good enough team to seriously threaten the Magic.

The rest

Boston vs Chicago.
No Garnett means the Bulls might have a shot. It would still take a perfect storm for them to win. Not much has changed from Chicago's last playoff berth. Ben Gordon makes the team go, and there's no one else who can carry them.

Cleveland vs Detroit. Step one to James' coronation. The Pistons offer little to no resistance.

Best matchup

Denver vs New Orleans.
You may think the Hornets have to "ugly it up" against the fast-paced Nuggets to win. However, I think there's some serious drama in this series. The Hornets have the best player among the two teams in Chris Paul. Despite this, Denver has all the pressure in the world on it. After all, they managed to win a tough division, and they have home court for this series.

Sure, Paul and the Hornets want to win, but Denver has to. You can't measure that kind of pressure, and you don't get that kind of pressure when you're the seventh seed.

New Orleans has a real chance to win this thing in six or seven games, though the Nuggets could win this thing quickly with their, um, fast pace. George Karl has to keep this team playing warp speed to overwhelm the somewhat-undermanned Hornets. If he can do that, and they shoot well, Denver not only can win this series, but they could go far.

Worst matchup

LA Lakers vs Utah.
I don't even have anything productive to say about this. It's not going to be pretty. Remember how competitive Utah was in the conference semifinals a year ago? Well, hold on to those memories, Laker haters. No chance.

The rest

San Antonio vs Dallas.
The Mavericks have lost their last nine road playoff games. That's probably not a good way to go into this series. Being that the Spurs have home court, my math tells me Dallas has to win at least one road game.

Portland vs Houston. Bill Simmons touts the Blazers as the biggest threat to the Lakers in the West. He might be right, but they have to get through a legitimately tough first-round opponent in the Rockets. Brandon Roy hit a buzzer-beater to avert a season sweep at the hands of Houston, and he'll have to be huge again in this series.

(Rub on the head: TrueHoop)

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