So now we’ve finally hit that All-Star weekend mark. The point in the season where we are finally over football, and the basketball juggernauts actually start to wake up. Well, at this point, I don’t really know if the Lakers will actually start playing 35 minutes of real basketball per night until April, but at least Boston, Miami, and Orlando will continue turning it up.
This is the time I love the most because it’s a reflection of the very little basketball knowledge NBA fans and so-called experts possess. A recent poll on espn.com showed that ~35% of people in the U.S. believe the Lakers will lose in the second round of the playoffs and that less than 10% believe they’ll win in the finals. Reminds me of 2001 when Sports Illustrated writers predicted during All-Star weekend that the Lakers would lose the Sacramento Queens in seven games in the second round of the playoffs. The Lakers then proceeded to go 15-1 in the playoffs, sweeping Sacramento in the second round en route.
Thus, predictions at this point in the season have to be based on more than records and stats. They have to be based on talent, match ups, and history. In 2009, prior to the playoffs, Bill Simmons adamantly claimed that Lebron and the Cavs would take the title easily with Garnett hurt. Anyone who understands basketball knew that the Cavs were worse at every position except SF when matching up with Orlando. Lebron would have been completely humiliated in that ECF if he didn’t hit that game 2 winner. You cannot base your predictions on highlights, home records, and media hype.
So on to the predictions. I’m certain a lot of you will disagree with me in the Conference Finals section and be at my throat in the comments section. I assure you, I’m right and you’re wrong :).
MVP: Derrick Rose
25/4.5/8 vs. 26/7.5/7. Statistically, this goes to Bron. But the MVP award rarely is based on stats. Moreover, Bron can’t win a third MVP award in a row especially after jumping ship to MIA. The voters/NBA would never allow it. Rose offers an amicable award winner. He is the consummate leader. He lives for the fourth quarter. He excels in his biggest games (42 points against SA 2 nights ago). Plus, he’s doing it with Noah hurt while Bron is doing it with Wade and Bosh.
And the NBA would be sending a great message to kids by teaching them that the SAT is merely just a test, and you don’t have to excel at it to have an excellent career or be a role-model.
WCF Prediction: LAL (2 seed) over SAS (1 seed)
I know, I know, Duncan is “such a great guy” who “deserves this” and Ginobli is a “hard worker” and “excellent teammate” and George Hill is “a good young kid who adds fresh legs and boosts energy in this team.” Whatever, you lost the morality argument when Tony Parker bagged his ex-teammate’s wife. Furthermore, what was the last fast-break offense to win a championship? Probably the 1988 Lakers (the 2008 Celts were much less fast-break based than the more recent Celts). I don’t trust the Spurs to have any 4th quarter sustainable offense. I trust the Lakers’ resolve to push them through in six games.
ECF Prediction: MIA (1 seed) over BOS (2 seed)
Here it is. This is an idea that people absolutely hate. Of course, the counter-argument will automatically be the 3-0 season record Boston has over Miami.
But take out the first two wins because those were during the first 10 games of the season and Miami just wasn’t jelling yet. So you have a Celtics 3 point win in Boston, in which Boston does exactly what Boston does best: the Celtics had 11 total points in the fourth quarter. Yes, Lebron choked by missing a crucial free throw. And yes, I completely agree, that is definitely an important issue worth considering in the future.
However, Lebron, has taken Boston to 7 games and 6 games in the past with Mo Williams as his second best player. Besides having Wade, he now has Bosh, who everybody wants to claim can’t do anything against Boston, even though in their last meeting he went 8-11 with 24 points and 10 rebounds.
Miami is equally, if not more talented, and Boston has not showed me that they are clutch enough to overcome that talent barrier (they were evenly matched with Orlando two years ago with Garnett out and the Lakers last year but lost both series). And no, I don’t think Boston will be fully healthy in mid to late May, especially when they’ve been playing passionately to try to compete with Mia for home advantage this early in the season.
I do agree though, that if Boston has home advantage, and it goes seven games, Boston will eek out a win. But with their age, I just don’t see them winning home advantage throughout the Eastern Conference. The Heat win in seven in MIA.
Title Prediction: LAL over MIA (MIA has home advantage)
For me, this is the most difficult prediction to make. I know MIA is more athletic. Additionally, I think they have the best ball movement in the NBA, which may be enough to break through the Lakers’ exceptional playoff defense. Also, I really don’t know what to expect out of Gasol/Bynum these days. But what separates the Lakers from Boston against Miami in this matchup is purely Bryant.
I know the media loves to overhype Kobe’s fall from athletic grace this year. The real truth is that last year he looked like an old man due to knee problems. This year, he actually looks great, especially after he stopped practicing. I do believe that Wade is a top 5 Kobe defender. But Bryant’s fourth quarter methodical high-post offense will slow Miami’s athleticism down too much.
This series will go seven games like last year’s Laker-Celtic series. But Miami’s home advantage really means nothing. Too many senior citizens and South American soccer fans in South Beach. Kobe/Pau/Lamar/Artest have proven that they can perform in a game 7 in the Finals. I don’t feel the same way about Lebron or even Wade honestly.