So I feel like, prediction-wise, I’m doing pretty well in this first round. The only major exceptions being that the Bulls lost to the Sixers, which is totally understandable considering that last year’s MVP Derrick Rose tore his ACL the first game in. The Lakers closed out Denver in game 7, which is good because I wouldn’t have been able to countenance the thought of Javale McGee getting into the second round. (Also, did you know rookie Kenneth Faried’s nickname is “The Manimal”? How awesome is that!)
The other major exception, of course, was my prediction that the Knicks/Heat series would be, I don’t know, at least sort of competitive. It wasn’t. And that’s largely because Monstar Lebron showed up…
… instead of the passive, deer-in-the-headlights Lebron. King Crab dominated, no doubt about it, well, except for the one game that the Knicks did manage to win, where the last shot went to Dwayne Wade, and Lebron sat around at the corner 3. I’ve always felt the Lebron gets a bad rap for being a team player at the end of games rather than buying into the Kobe/Jordan scorched earth Godmode mentality, which is dumb, but that last sequence was a little strange nonetheless, as even when the play was clearly breaking down and Lebron continued to just sort of… drift.
But otherwise Lebron was basically who we’ve always wanted him to be, averaging 27.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.6 assists, all with an efficiency rating hovering around 30 (which is insanely good, league average being 15). If this is the Lebron we’re getting all playoffs, than the Heat will win. He’s far and away the most talented player in the league, as seen by him winning a rare 3rd MVP. The Heat’s decision to go small and play him at the 4 is downright terrifying (keeps him closer to the basket, where he’s godlike, rather than floating around the perimeter chucking up long 2′s, where he’s merely really good), and with Howard out of the playoffs, there really isn’t a big man in the Eastern Conference who can make the Heat pay for this strategy. Except for Roy Hibbert. Maybe. Considering this, I’ve got some Round 2 predictions for you!
(2) Miami Heat vs (3) Indiana Pacers
Hibbert has been a maddeningly up-and-down player for the Pacers over the course of his career. He seems like he should be able to score easily using his size, relative athleticism, and fluid postmoves. And sometimes he does. If Bosh is playing small at the 5-spot, then he really ought to. The series probably depends on it. Like I said last series, the Pacers have some good, athletic young wings who can put some pressure on Wade on the perimeter, and bringing Collison off the bench as a sparkplug point guard ought to generate some offense for the Pacers, but Monstar Lebron is coming, and Tyler Hansbrough is scared, because, well, Tyler Hansbrough is always scared:
I imagine that the swarming style defense that the Heat can play will overwhelm Hibbert, who in my (admittedly scarce) experience watching him play, doesn’t react well to advanced defensive strategies like fronting and unexpected double teams. The Pacers really need Danny Granger to score and score a lot in this series, and he’s been off all year. The Pacers are a good team, but they’re not developed enough on offense to consistently generate points.
Prediction: Lebron remains in Monstar form at least until the Finals, Miami in 6.
(4) Boston Celtics vs (8) Philadelphia 76ers
So obviously I dropped the ball on this one a little, as they’ve already actually played the first game in this series, with Rondo notching yet another triple double this postseason. Let me just say that although he clearly isn’t the best point guard in the league, I think Rondo is the most fun to watch. He almost always uncorks some weird, physics-defying layup at least once per game, and flies around the court like a ninja with ADHD. It’s awesome.
So the Celtics won, and should probably win the series for the same reasons that the Bulls gave the Sixers fits even without Derrick Rose. The Celtics and the Bulls actually play the same defensive scheme, and the Sixers have a terrible offense. This will be a problem.
Something to watch though: Evan Turner for the Sixers is an underrated young guard. He has a developing and fluid offensive game, and grabs an inordinately large number of rebounds for a wing. He’s a little inconsistent, but should uncork 2-3 impressive lines this series.
Prediction: the Sixers are game to try so so hard, but they’re just not talented enough, and the Celtics are on a collision course with the Heat. It’s destiny. Celtics in 6.
More round 2 predictions will come on a rolling basis as the 1st round shores up. Thunder vs. Lakers next!