Saturday, April 16, 2011

Playoffs Predictions: Lakers over Heat

It's the day of the playoffs, wow-wow-wow. Here's a quick post before tipoff to get our picks on the record. We're sticking with our preseason Finals pick of Heat vs. Lakers, though we're switching our prediction of the winner of that matchup to Los Angeles. The Lakers still have too many mobile, skilled bigs, and as much as the NBA has gone small in recent years, quality size has still reigned supreme come June. That's really the ultimate challenge for the LeBron-Wade combo - are they good enough to overcome the fact that they have less quality size seen in an NBA champion really since Jordan and Pippen were able to carry the Bulls? Note that Andrew Bynum's health is of paramount importance - we don't see L.A. winning it all without him patrolling the middle this year.

We're picking all the higher seeds in the first two rounds, and then going with 2-seeds L.A. and Miami to knock off 1-seeds San Antonio and Chicago in the conference finals. We've loved both the Spurs and the Bulls since early on. They were both teams we tabbed for the "over" on season wins prior to the season (happy to say we went 5-2 on season-win O/U picks overall, thankyouverymuch), and we had Lakers over Spurs in the conference finals from the start. However, our logic for San Antonio surpassing expectations was faulty, as we thought Tiago Splitter would play a key role, allowing the Spurs to play effectively with big lineups. That hasn't come to pass, and while it didn't hurt the Spurs in the regular season, we don't think they can beat the Lakers without contributions from Splitter, who would allow them to match up with the L.A bigs.

As far as picking the Bulls to lose to Miami, it's just a bit of a hunch that Chicago really maxed out its potential in the regular season, with Tom Thibodeau driving them through every possession. We'd still expect it to be a tough, close series, and the Bulls' depth of mobile bigs poses almost as much of a challenge as the Lakers' would. Still, we're going with Miami.

As much as there are several compelling characters and storylines as we head into the postseason - Derrick Rose leading a 1-seed as the presumptive MVP, Kobe Bryant going for his second threepeat and Phil Jackson going for his fourth, San Antonio and Boston vets trying to turn back the clock while Oklahoma City's kids try to speed it up - the guy we come back to is LeBron James. More than for others, his season really starts now. We know that he can dominate regular seasons, but his curiously detached and poor performance in Game 5 against the Celtics last spring raised previously unfounded doubts about his worthiness as a postseason performer. Only now - really only starting with a second-round series vs. Boston - can LeBron truly start to move on from Game 5, and fully restore and enhance his basketball reputation. My sense is that he's being slept on a little bit, as it seems like expectations for him are lower than they've been in some time. We gonna see.

Whaddaya say we tip these playoffs off, and decide who the best basketball team in the world is? To us, this is the best sporting event on Earth. Let's do it.

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