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NBA 2006

Playoff Magic

Each year, the playoffs begin with speculation and lots of unanswered questions. Most of the time, fans and pundits have an understanding of who should win it all, but the favorite doesn't always win. The regular season is a great prognosticator of post-season success. But in the playoffs, it's imperative that each player get his team to its top level on every play -- stop the ball, fight through the screen, block out, work the shot clock... And if a player can't or won't do his assigned job(s), the coach has to make changes. That's playoff basketball and one look at past champion's rosters reveals teams loaded with veteran, team players -- willing to take the charge or make the hard foul. At this level it becomes a thinking man's game...

I've been in that "thinking" mode as well and here are a few thoughts about each series, with revised predictions, on the afternoon of April 28th

Detroit looks so solid. Nothing from the first two games against the Bucks is stopping the feeling that they are on their way to their second championship in three years. They have focus and the best starting five of any team.
Detroit over Milwaukee: 4 - 0

San Antonio's sharp but they narrowly averted a game two breakdown against Sacramento. This team is so hard to figure out offensively, but their defense keeps games close and will continue to key their run to repeat.
San Antonio over Sacramento: 4 - 1

A big surprise is the way Dallas is trashing Memphis. Wow. Dirk and Avery are passionate and tough as nails. The Mavericks have taken a big step forward this year. The only question yet to be answered, "Can they beat the Spurs?"
Dallas over Memphis: 4 - 1

So far, the biggest surprise has to be the way Indiana is taking it to New Jersey. That series could definitely go seven, but New Jersey better start playing better interior defense if they are to win it. That quip about O'Neal not being a take-over-the-game type of player might be proven false. It's good to see him at full strength.
New Jersey over Indiana: 4 - 3

The Clippers stepping up strong in their series with Denver. It's not over until it's over. We're talking about the Clippers after all. I'm starting to think this will go all seven with the Clippers squeaking by.
LA Clippers over Denver: 4 - 2

Another surprise is how old Miami seems against Chicago. It's hard to keep up with youngsters but now in three games, The Bulls could have won them all. Not a good sign for Heat fans. Miami will win, but the way they are winning is a harbinger to a future fall unless they get more inspired play from everybody.
Miami over Chicago: 4 - 2

Cleveland and Washington are so alike in their inexperienced, almost nervous play. Whoever wins this will have something to grow on, for next year, but not much more than that. It's LeBron's show. How long will it last?
Cleveland over Washington: 4 - 3

Lastly, the series the media was bound to gravitate to is actually starting to become a good series. The Lakers and Suns are both good teams, but more than anything, the Suns are proving that without Thomas and Stoudemire,
they are a deeply flawed team. Kobe is remaking himself once again and it could be enough to get the Lakers to the second round. I still have to take the Suns, but we'll see...
Phoenix over LA Lakers: 4 - 3