Earlier, I posted a Eastern Conference Prediction Bracket that had a broken poll and assumed that the NBA no longer used hard brackets. Hopefully, this prediction bracket will help redeem me from some of my sillier mistakes.
Due to technical difficulties, this is being released after the first Nuggets-Jazz game. It's been a virus-filled day, with my computer getting infected by "Antivirus soft", Daddy Dai's email getting hacked, and more SPAM messages on the front page posts. Blergh. In any case, rest assured that I predicted the outcome before the game was played.
Without further ado, let's get to the predictions....
1. Los Angeles Lakers vs. 8. Oklahoma City Thunder
This series will be previewed much more in depth later tonight and earlier tomorrow, but I'll give some condensed thoughts here. This is the closest 1 vs. 8 matchup since the Lakers faced the Nuggets in 2007. The Lakers swept that series. No matter how many ways you want to slice this matchup, it's still the 8 seed versus the 1 seed, and it would be a huge upset if the Thunder won. And I think they will. They have the depth of lineup to beat the Lakers, and there will always be a flaw to exploit in the Lakers' lineup. Throwing out the 2 blowouts, the Thunder and Lakers have played two close games that were decided in the final moments, and if the series is decided like this, I can't help but imagining that it could go either way.
Thunder in 7.
4. Denver Nuggets vs. 5 Utah Jazz
This is the only series that is giving NBA playoff prediction experts any trouble. Most of them have a consensus toward the higher seed, but here, it's looking like a tossup. But I just don't see the Nuggets pulling this one out. They had a drastic late-season slide after their coach, George Karl, went in for chemotherapy. Utah is experiencing its own problems in that they're missing Andrei Kirilenko, who re-aggravated a calf-strain in his leg on Thursday, but he's only been there for half of the year anyway, and the Jazz are used to playing without him now. As long as they can keep a solid 8-Man rotation and stay out of foul trouble, they should be able to win this series.
UPDATE: Okur left the arena in crutches, and might not return to the series. I originally had the Jazz though, so I have to go with my prediction.
Jazz in 7.
3. Phoenix Suns vs. 6. Portland Trail Blazers
Like the other 3 vs. 6 matchup, what was going to be a good series was ruined by a key injury. This time, the injury was to Brandon Roy late in the season. The Trailblazers have proven capable against opponents without him, defeating the Lakers and Thunder. But the Lakers had nothing to play for, and they only beat the Thunder by virtue of a miracle performance from Marcus Camby and an inexperienced team. Then again, you can't underestimate the Trail Blazers, because they've beaten the Suns twice, including once without Roy or Oden. When it comes down to it, they key to this series is going to be controlling the pace of the game. If the Trail Blazers can wait until the very last second to shoot the ball on every single possession and make sure the Suns don't develop any kind of rhythm, they stand a chance of winning the series. But in the end, the Suns are 23 and 6 since the All-Star Break, and the Trail Blazers are without their two best players. It will take a whole lot of luck for the Trail Blazers to pull one out here.
Suns in 6.
2. Dallas Mavericks vs. 7. San Antonio Spurs
For those of you wondering, yes, the Spurs are still kicking around. Their team might be ancient, but they can still ball. Unfortunately, they can't ball well enough to beat the Mavericks. As much as anybody would like to see the old guys make another run, they just don't have the talent to do it. Their bench only goes 3 deep, and their team relies on younger players, like George Hill, and DeJuan Blair while simultaneously relying on ancient players, like Tim Duncan and Antonio McDyess. Meanwhile, the Mavericks have a consistently aged, experienced, and more talented roster. Also, they've done much better after trading for Caron Butler.
Mavericks in 6.
Below: Semi-Finals, Conference Finals, and NBA Finals!
The Western Conference Semi-Finals
4. Utah Jazz vs. 8. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder have licked their chops at this matchup all season. Now, I know I'm a kook for sending the Thunder to the conference finals, and, in truth, if it were any other team meeting them in the semi-finals, I'd eliminate them. But we've owned the Jazz all season. It will be tough, since the Jazz will most likely have Kirilenko back from injury, but he hasn't proved to be too much of a foil to KD in the past. At least, not any more than C.J. Miles has been. Expect a tough, hard-fought series that ends up coming down to the final seconds.
Thunder in 7.
2. Dallas Mavericks vs. 3. Phoenix Suns
The Mavericks and Suns have always provided entertaining matchups throughout the past half-decade, and this matchup should be no exception to the rule. Neither of them have an innate advantage over the other, and each player seems to have a foil on the other team. Dirk meets Amare. Steve Nash meets Jason Kidd. Caron Butler meets Jason Richardson. Heck, even Shawn Marion meets Grant Hill is a bit intriguing. But in the end, I feel that the Suns will prevail. Don't ask me why, they just will. No expert can accurately predict a series like this, and if they try, tell them they're lying, because we all know that both of these teams are evenly matched and fierce rivals. If I had to pinpoint to any one reason, it would be the Suns recent string of success.
Suns in 7.
The Western Conference Finals
3. Phoenix Suns vs. 8. Oklahoma City Thunder
The gravy train has to stop somewhere, even for homers. In a huge disappointment after the two intense semi-final series, I think the Suns will win this one in 5 games. Their players are much more experienced at this level, and they always have had a penchant for having late comeback against the Thunder in close games. When it's all on the time, I just don't see the Thunder pulling this one off. There's always next year....
Suns in 5.
The NBA Finals
3. Phoenix Suns (Home Court Advantage) vs. 3. Atlanta Hawks
So, how about those 3 seeds? After a crazy playoffs, these hungry, virtually titleless teams (The Hawks had one in 1958 in St. Louis) will go at it. To put pressure on top of that, there will be lots of players in this series who have gotten close before but never won, like Mike Bibby with the Kings, Amare and Nash with the Suns, and Grant Hill with a long, titleless career. Again, every player seems to have their own foil (Horford-Lopez, Amare-Smith, Bibby-Nash, Johnson-Richardson), so the game is going to come down to mostly intangibles. And in a game of intangibles, the Suns win. Better fans, home court advantage, and a faster pace. I know it's not much to go on, but once you get down to it, this series is a dead heat.
Suns in 7.
NBA Champions: The Phoenix Suns
How do you think the West will shake out? Vote in the poll or post a comment!