NBA Conference Semifinals Picks

May 01, 2011 |

 

    We are now down to the final eight of the NBA season. Other than the historic defeat of number one seed San Antonio, it is about who we would think would be there. The obvious draw of this round is the Celtics-Heat, but the other matchups should produce some exciting basketball as well. We will take a quick look at the starting lineups and see how they match up.

  Just for the record, I am using minutes played, not who actually starts in these lineups. Some teams like the Heat will start a Zydrunas Ilgauskas, but Joel Anthony ends up playing double the minutes.

 

                                          WESTERN CONFERENCE

   #4 Oklahoma City Thunder     vs.    #8  Memphis Grizzlies

Season Series:                 1                                                        3

Starters:      Kendrick Perkins                                   Marc Gasol

                        Serge Ibaka                                             Zach Randolph

                        Kevin Durant                                           Shane Battier

                       James Harden                                           Tony Allen

                       Russell Westbrook                                  Mike Conley

       Even though Memphis is the eight seed, they aren’t really a Cinderella in this round. They won 3 out of 4 against Oklahoma City this year, and they are playing great basketball. Zach Randolph is on fire and they have guys like OJ Mayo and Sam Young producing in backup roles. I just think it is Durant’s time. I can see Okla City making it to the Finals. First Durant will need to keep Battier and Allen from slowing him down, and Kendrick Perkins needs to play physical with Gasol and Randolph. Both teams are mostly young with only a couple of veterans sprinkled in, so nerves could be a factor. The key will be the Conley/Westbrook matchup. Whichever one can get his points, but keep it within the flow of the offense will lead his team to victory.

    MY PICK:    THUNDER in 7

    #2  Los Angeles Lakers          vs.         #3   Dallas Mavericks

season:           2                                                                            1

st:              Andrew Bynum                                          Tyson Chandler

                    Pau Gasol                                                         Dirk Nowitzki

                    Ron Artest                                                      Shawn Marion

                   Kobe Bryant                                                     Jason Terry

                   Derek Fisher                                                   Jason Kidd

    The Lakers are the defending champs, they have to be given the benefit of the doubt. You will get that with 5 time champion Kobe Bryant on your roster. They have been a little shaky this season. Their bench, other than sixth starter Lamar Odom hasn’t produced much for them. It’s just they dominated the Mavericks last time they played, and Dallas always gets the opposite of the benefit of the doubt in the playoffs. Tyson Chandler has been an upgrade in the post for Dallas, but he may not be able to rebound as effectively against Bynum as he did against Portland. I will admit , I am not a Lakers fan. I would like to find reasons to pick Dallas. Some exist. Artest and Fisher can be liabilities at times, but I don’t see Dallas stopping Kobe when it matters.

       MY PICK:      LAKERS in 6

                                     EASTERN CONFERENCE

       #1   Chicago Bulls                   vs.              #5   Atlanta Hawks

season:        2                                                                                       1

st:              Carlos Boozer                                                   Al Horford

                   Joakim Noah                                                    Josh Smith

                   Luol Deng                                                          Joe Johnson

                   Kyle Korver                                                      Jamal Crawford

                   Derrick Rose                                                     Kirk Hinrich

         Will Hinrich be healthy enough to help Atlanta take on his former team. Atlanta normally goes with kind of a small , quick lineup; but if Hinrich can’t go guys like Jason Collins and Zasa Pachulia will get more minutes in a more traditional line up. The question is can anyone on the Hawks keep Rose out of the lane. His probable MVP season has been a revelation and led the Bulls to the best record in the East. He has gotten shooting help from Korver and Deng, and inside presence from Noah and Boozer. In what is now a rare occurrence, 4 of their 5 starters played in a Final Four in college. They are winners. They have felt the pressure their entire basketball lives and come out on top. I see this as the most lopsided of the four series. I respect what Atlanta did against Orlando, but Horford can’t do it alone on the inside against the Bulls; and without Hinrich, Crawford and Johnson will have to adjust their games in ways that may not make them at their best.

        MY PICK:    BULLS in 5

               #2  Miami Heat             vs.    #3  Boston Celtics

season:               1                                                              3

st:              Joel Anthony                                 Jermaine O’Neal

                    Chris Bosh                                         Kevin Garnett

                    LeBron James                                Paul Pierce

                     Dwayne Wade                                  Ray Allen

                    Mario Chalmers                            Rajon Rondo

    So many difficult questions to answer questions in this A list series. Do you give more credit to the three victories the Celtics had earlier in the year or the Heat thumping over the current Celtics lineup last month?  Will the Heat outside the top three provide any offense? How will Miami guard Rondo? Will Shaq be able to give it a go? Will Jeff Green provide whatever it was Ainge thought he was getting in the Perkins trade? When it really gets to crunch time in this series will the Heat look to James or Wade?

   There are so many juicy storylines, I can’t wait for this one to get started. As for my predictions, I usually go with experience. the Celtics know how to win big games. If Shaq plays, he and Garnett can be really physical on the inside and make Miami a jump shooting team. Not exactly their strength. I don’t think Bibby and Chalmers can guard Rondo, so if someone else steps up, that will open up things for Allen and Pierce. I think this will be close, I see maybe 4 of the games coming down to the final possession. In the end, I think the Heat dynasty will have to wait one more year.

       MY PICK:   CELTICS in 6

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