April, May, June Madness

By SportsNerd April 17, 2009

[Editor's Note: Just in time for the NBA playoff's, PubliCola now has a SportsNerd. March "Madness" is right. Time for some real basketball.]

We all know the finals this year is going to be Cavs-Lakers but Goddamn! Every other match up along the way is so close that this postseason is poised to be the best since that tantalizing 2006 run. Just look at the West where the 3 thru 7 seeds are so evenly matched that it took the last day of the season to decide if Houston would be #2 or #5 seed. Plus: a possible Orlando-Boston match up; maybe Wade vs. LeBron; and even the first round gimme of Lakers-Jazz is shit hot.

So stop doing work or whatever and get primed for the playoffs with my preview of the first round


#1 Lakers vs. #8 Jazz

I hate Kobe Bryant. Not saying he isn't extremely talented. Not saying that he doesn't hit more jaw dropping fade away threes with a hand in face then any man has a right to. I am saying he's a brat. Let's not forget that just two summers ago he was approached by a fan with a cell phone video camera in a mall parking lot a proceeded to rip his teammates and the Lakers front office knowing full well that catty shit would end up on youtube. That is deranged. He is the perfect antagonist. Good enough to get to the finals and petulant enough to make it wonderful to revel in his every mistake. Is there a better super villain/ sniveling henchman combo in the NBA then him and the wimpering Sasha Vujacic?

And so he and his much improved supporting cast (Andrew Bynum is back from the DL and Pau Gasol is playing with fantastic intelligence in Phil Jackson's triangle offense) will face the team that played them the toughest last spring, the Utah Jazz. The Jazz got hit hard by injuries this year (Carlos Boozer, Memo, and D-Will all missed significant time) and have limped into the playoffs. They are miserable on the road going a paltry 15-26 and recently lost a home game to the Al Jefferson-less T-wolves. That is awful. The Jazz won't go down without a fight, these should all be excellent games, but they will go down. Everytime.



#2 Nuggets vs. #7 Hornets


Chris Paul on the other hand, I love Chris Paul. When he enters the lane everything slows down. You can see he has the option for a good kick-out pass to Peja or a nice little hand off to David West. But then, out of no-where, Tyson Chandler cuts through the lane. Paul feints as if he will drive to the basket and abruptly lobs a perfect alley-oop to Chandler's jump. Field Goal mother fucker. And what he did in New Orleans this year is phenomenal. In an attempt to cut payroll, the owner tried to trade away Chandler to the OKC Robbers. But at the last second OKC vetoed the trade, leaving the team reeling and stuck with a player they had tried to get rid of. How do the Hornets not fall apart after this? Chris Paul.


Too bad the rest Hornets are not so great and their opponents, the Denver Nuggets, are solid. Denver seemed to be in self destruct mode this summer, trading former defense player of the year, Marcus Camby, to the Clippers for nothing. Then they lucked out with the Chauncey Billups trade. Billups stabilized a team in turmoil and was finally a star who could compliment Carmelo Anthony's skill set. They are a dangerous team and, sadly, will be too much for Paul's *ahem* supporting cast.



#3 Spurs vs. #6 Mavs

Lets take it back to 2006. Duncan, Ginobili and Parker were relatively healthy but Dirk's Mavs gritted them out in seven epic games. They were the only team not named the Lakers to do this since 1999. The only thing that stopped the Mavs from the title was when members of the Miami criminal underground kidnapped David Stern's daughter and ransomed her back in exchange for the the worst officiated finals in my life time. (Consider the scope of this tragedy: Instead of those lame D-Wade Fav-five commercials, we could have Dirk starring in the Gieco caveman ads).

But nowadays the Spurs don't even have a healthy trio. Ginobili is out. Duncan is severely hobbled. Sure Parker can win a few games himself and will probably own Jason Kidd, but the Mavs are getting hot at the right time. The Mavs will double team Parker the whole game, force him to take outside shots and let an in-his-prime Dirk tool Duncan. Plus according to, the fivesome of Dirk-Terry-Kidd-Howard-Bass has the best +/- ratio of any group of five in the NBA. Sorry SA, not this odd numbered year.

MAVS in 6


#4 Trailblazers vs. #5 Houston

I am a MN Timberwolves fan, but I don't kid myself. When the T' Wolves idiotically traded Brandon Roy to the Blazers on draft day for Randy Foye I thought, “Well at least Roy has a chance to be great now.” And Roy has really delivered. He has made the leap to Super Star this year by simply being smarter than his opponent (His Player Efficiency Rating is a fantastic 24.21). He picks his spots, plays shut down D and is one of the best crunch time players in the game. He is also surrounded with a strong nucleus of young talent: LaMarcus Aldridge is solid and Rudy Fernandez is plain fun to watch.


Houston is a good team. Coach Rick Adelman should probably receive coach of the year honors just for getting Ron Artest to stay focused on basketball as opposed to his side careers of being a rapper who threatens to punch his fans—and a guy who actually punches fans. The have persevered through injuries to T-Mac and with Yao in the line up they play solid D. But they persevere through injuries every year only to fall apart in the first round, and I don't see that changing.



#1 LeBron James and some other dudes vs. The #8 Detroit Pistons

LeBron is the hands down, unanimous MVP this year and that's saying something. This is the year D-Wade led a terrible Heat team to the 5 seed after its second best player was traded for the corpse of Jermaine O'Neal and Chris Paul led the league in steals and assists and finished in the top 10 in scoring. But LeBron man, 28.4 points per game, 7.6 rebounds per game, 7.2 assists per game and Cleveland plays at one of the slowest paces in the league's slowest era. (Check out Neal Paine of's adjustment of LeBron's numbers to the pace of basketball in 1962. He had LeBron averaging 40, 10 and 10) Much like Milton's God, these numbers are too inhuman to relate to.

Plus: The Cavs are facing the self destructing Pistons in the first round. What a sad fall from grace. Why would you trade Chauncey for Iverson? Who convinced Joey D that replacing a stabilizing aging superstar with selfish aging superstar equaled victory?

CAVS in 4

#2 Celtics vs. #7 Bulls

With KG out this becomes a more intriguing series, but don't fall for the doomsday predictions of a first round bow out to Chicago. Sure the Bulls are hot having won 12 of their last 16 games, but even sans-the big ticket the Celts have three legit All Stars in Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo. Also don't underestimate Pierce. Last year he turned one of the games into a rare “fuck-you-I-am-winning-this-game-by-myself” and out-LeBroned LeBron in game 7 of the Eastern Finals. I say the Cs win every home game and advance.



#3 Orlando Magic vs. #6 Philly 76ers

Call me crazy but I am actually more worried about the effect of Hedo Turkoglu's absence due to injury on the Magic in the first round then I am about KG's loss to the Celts. Turk was Orlando's go-to closer. Dwight Howard, while he is a fantastic center, is too poor a free throw shooter for the Magic to really trust in crunch time. Turk hit all the big threes, made the craziest reverse layups, and he was their most reliable end of game ball handler.

But here's why Orlando will finally get out of the first round. Philly are just not built to win in the playoffs. They rely on transition baskets created by speedy guards forcing turnovers. As illustrated by the failed Elton Brand experiment, they struggle if forced into a typical half court game and they have abysmal three point shooting. Basically their style of play is great for beating sub-par teams with shaky ball handlers so they can eke out a .500 record and earn a playoff spot in the weaker Eastern Conference. But actually winning a series once they get there? Not going to happen.

MAGIC in 5


#4 Hawks vs. #5 Heat


Oh man. This is a toss up series for me. The Hawks are long, young and athletic. They took the World Champion Celtics to 7 games last year and this year made the natural maturation steps due to young talented teams, securing home court and getting better leadership from All Star Joe Johnson (It's still tragic he left the Suns). Al Horford, while young, is a beast on the boards and Mile Bibby gives them a savvy point guard with experience being deep in the second season.

But the Heat have D-Wade who is one of three active players who could win a series all by his lonesome (the others are LeBron and Kobe). The refs love Wade (he averaged 9.8 free throw attempts per game this season) and since the all-star break he has averaged a mind boggling 34-8-5 with a 51 percent field goal percentage. If the Heat are in the game in the forth quarter chances are Wade will ice it. So while the Hawks have the better team (who is the second best player on the Heat? Udonis Haslem?) I am too afraid of Wade to pick against him

HEAT in 7
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