After six months of occasionally interesting and frequently dull basketball, the NBA playoffs begin today, meaning things are about to get interesting…in a couple weeks when the second round kicks off. As far as Round One goes, if any of the NBA’s Elite Eight teams don’t win their first round series, it’s time to back up the truck and make some serious changes.
So, taking a lesson from Your Los Angeles Lakers, who bring nothing but their best every single time they figure they might potentially want to make sure they don’t have any regrets when the final whistle blows, we’re taking off a few games and humbly presenting our preview of…the next round of the NBA playoffs. Yesterday, we hit the Western Conference, so today we turn our attention to teams we don’t really care about until June.
Orlando vs. Chicago. Just like everybody expected, da Bulls finished the season with the league’s best record. Actually, we should have seen at least some of this coming considering that, going into the year, Derrick Rose had The Next Big Thing written all over him. With Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, and Luol Deng on the front line, the Bulls have a slightly watered down version of the Lakers’ size and skill. Plus, doesn’t it just seem like kismet that Zenmaster’s career should wrap up with his current team earning one last threepeat against his old team?
Actually, we like this for karma even better: Howzabout Dwight Howard playing for his current team against his (alleged) future team? Plus, we can enjoy the ultimate battle of crazy people when Ron Ron takes the floor against Agent Zero! Enjoy the “battle” between Half-Man Half-Amazing and the Black Mamba, who is always amazing, if a little (or a lot) rough around the edges. Plus, Orlando is deep – as in, eight guys averaging double digits deep – and they’ve been there and done that already.
Unless Rose totally dominates this series, which is obviously possible, the Magic should take this.
What could go wrong in April: Chicago gets sub-.500 Indiana in the first round. Orlando gets Atlanta – better known as Joe Johnson and the Disappointmentaires – who might scare them for a game or two. In other words, nothing will go wrong.
Boston vs. Miami. Going into the year, this was everybody’s Eastern Conference Finals. Now, we have no idea how either team takes this thing. The Heat are still a year or two away from grabbing a ring. Even with the obvious three guys, they’re missing talent at the two most important positions on the floor, and no, Mike Bibby was not the answer at the point. In 22 games in South Beach, he’s averaging 7.3 ppg and 2.5 assists. Just for fun, the Heat are still without Udonis Haslem, and Mike Miller and Erick Dampier are dinged.
Like the Heat, you have to get past the obvious Big Three to figure out the Celtics. Having made one of the more asinine deadline deals in recent memory and leaving themselves with nothing in the middle, Boston’s hopes allegedly hang on the sudden reemergence of a four-time NBA champion. Look, we still love Shaq out here, but c’mon, he made it five minutes into his first game in two months before getting hurt again. He’s about a month behind Stu in terms of needing to wear Depends to work.
Oh, and the league is finally on to Rajan Rondo, with teams forcing him to shoot from the outside instead of allowing him to penetrate and dish. His shooting’s gone from 51-47% this year, but he’s still rolling up the assists.
Three reasons why we think Boston wins this thing: (1) experience, (2) a slightly-off Rondo still gives the Celtics a real, live point guard instead of the shadow of one, and (3) lost in all the Waiting For Shaquille nonsense is the fact that Jermaine O’Neal might be back. In Game #82, they actually used him for 37 minutes against a crappy Washington team, and he went for 15 and 13.
What could go wrong in April: The Heat start with the Sixers, and the Celtics get the Knicks. We’d bet on uttering the words “President Trump” before we’d bet on either of those series resulting in an upset.