2005 NBA Playoffs preview

This is when the real NBA season starts – playoff time. And, to the dismay of many readers, it’s time for my (first) annual NBA Playoff preview.

I promise that when the season is over, the page will be sports free… for the most part… at least until September. Don’t worry though; I’ll make this quick.

Eastern Conference:

Miami Heat(1) Miami Heat vs. (8) New Jersey NetsNew Jersey Nets

Shaq is predicted to be out for a few games, and in most cases that would swing the momentum over to the opponents. However, this Heat team has been very competitive without their MVP candidate and their opponent happens to be the New Jersey Nets. Vince Carter is foaming at the mouth to be back in the playoffs, and Richard Jefferson should be back to help out, but I think the Nets may have spent all that they had just getting to the playoffs. And even if Shaq is out for the first few, he’s still going to be in the last few, if it even comes down to that.

Prediction: Miami in five

Detroit Pistons(2) Detroit Pistons vs. (7) Philadelphia 76ersPhiladelphia 76ers

Detroit nearly took a gazillion game win streak into the playoffs, but dropped their season finale. Philly nearly took a dive, and without Iverson’s dramatic push would have probably sat this post season out. It’s not a huge surprise what my pick here is. Webber has floundered next to AI, and the Pistons have won 39 games since January 1st (tops in the league) and have gone 16-2 in the past two Aprils. The defending champs could very well be in the same position as last year – NBA Finals underdog.

Prediction: Detroit in four

Boston Celtics(3) Boston Celtics vs. (6) Indiana PacersIndiana Pacers

Everyone has the Pacers as the sexy pick to make it to the next round, especially with Boston’s obligatory seeding due to winning a weak division. I, as the local Indiana apologist, would be crazy not to go along with the mass media, so I’ll just comment that every deciding game could be Reggie Miller’s last, and that alone will fire up the rest of the team to play their heart out. Boston has been pretty good since reacquiring Antoine Walker, and their lineup of Walker, Gary Payton, Ricky Davis, and Paul Pierce, while being what could be the most ego-driven team in the league, is still very scary, especially to a team that has had more bad luck than any team this year. But really, whom am I kidding? And remember, if both Indiana and Detroit win their series, they’ll meet in the next round. Awesome.

Prediction: Indiana in six

Chicago Bulls(4) Chicago Bulls vs. (5) Washington WizardsWashington Wizards

Oh boy! Chicago is without their Dukie (Deng) and their top scorer (Curry), and Washington is without a playoff series win in 24 years (1982 was the last one.) Marc Stein has the Wizards as the 16th best team in the playoffs, and they are facing the team with the best opponent field goal percentage in the league (teams playing against the Bulls shot just 42% all year,) which means that the Wizards need to play their best games every game in order to make it out of here alive. I’m pretty sure they won’t.

Prediction: Chicago in five

Western Conference:

Phoenix Suns(1) Phoenix Suns vs. (8) Memphis GrizzliesMemphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies had trouble closing out their playoff spot; letting the 9th place Timberwolves stay in the game for much longer than expected. At the same time, though, the Grizzlies play a type of team game that maintains a tempo and substitutes often, thus defeating the advantage of a fast running team. Still, the Suns led the league in points scored and three point shooting, and while their defense a little more porous than one would like, I can’t believe that my MVP choice Steve Nash would let this team go out so quickly in the playoffs. Anyway, the Suns are too fun to watch.

Prediction: Phoenix in five

San Antonio Spurs(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (7) Denver NuggetsDenver Nuggets

With Tim Duncan down and out, and admittedly only 75-80 percent even now, the Spurs just aren’t the same team – in fact, they’ve limped into the playoffs after hoping for home court throughout. Sure, Ginobli and Parker are first class stars, but they became first class stars by playing with Duncan under the basket. On the opposite end of the spectrum, this Nuggets team is winning at a blistering pace. With new coach George Karl at the helm, Denver seems to have come together as a team (imagine that!) and look ready to upset someone. It won’t come easy, especially since the Spurs are a wildly talented playoff team, but I’ve got to go against the grain here somewhere, and Karl is looking to erase any memories of his own Sonics’ upset back in the Jordan era.

Prediction: Denver in seven

Seattle Supersonics(3) Seattle Supersonics vs. (6) Sacramento KingsSacramento Kings

Seattle, who started the season by blasting everyone’s expectations to shreds, has leveled in the past months. They’re not healthy, and they’ve got no defense, and so it’s easy to pick an upset. Still, they did win 52 games this year, and the Sacramento team they are facing is not the same team that took the Wolves to seven games last year, and the Lakers to seven games in years past. As Mark Stein (yes, him again) mentioned, this Sacramento team could enter the playoffs without Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic, Brad Miller, Vlade Divac, Bobby Jackson, and Doug Christie – either because of injury or banishment. That’s a lot of pieces to lose or have missing in a playoff game. Sacto’s got no chance.

Prediction: Seattle in four

Dallas Mavericks(4) Dallas Mavericks vs. (5) Houston RocketsHouston Rockets

This could be the most exciting first round match up, as both teams are steaming hot rolling into the playoffs. The Mavs are way better than anyone expected after losing Nash to the Suns, and the Rockets’ top duo has finally gelled enough to become a true force – Ming and McGrady could be most intriguing tandem in the league. This is a series that could come down to home court advantage, a luxury that Dallas currently holds, and coaching, in which the advantage goes to Jeff Van Horn and the Rockets. In a perfect world I’d watch every game of this series. Of course, in a perfect world, we’d be getting ready for an Indiana/Phoenix NBA Finals.

Prediction: Dallas in seven

This was lovingly handwritten on April 22nd, 2005