Thanks For Playing
The Nets wonderful “end of the season run” will itself end once they get run over by Shaq Diesel. Being a Knick fan, I’m just not big on resting all your hopes on an injured shooting guard coming back to the rescue. Even if Jefferson were healthy, he’s not good enough to make the 8th seed all of a sudden topple the best team in the East. Also extending their season for only one more week are Memphis, Philly, and Denver. George Karl will have his seventh first round exit 20 years after the first.
Pondering in Seattle
A month ago considering the Sonics as upsetees would have been APBRmetric heresy, but since then they’ve limped to the finish line. Seattle’s 2-8 conclusion to the season included going a pitiful 0-6 versus West playoff teams. What happened to the APBRSonics? Did other teams figure them out? Was it the injuries? Did McMillan’s jenga move of pulling Danny Fortson out of the rotation topple his team’s on-court chemistry? (Or was it Fortson who forced the withdrawal?) Maybe they decided to sleepwalk down the stretch?
Even with those questions, I’m not confident enough with taking the Kings, especially with Stojakovic’s injury. Even if Peja was taking the last few games off as a precaution, it’s not out of the question that the injury isn’t fully healed. Additionally, when they made the Webber trade, I thought Sacramento’s defense would improve. However they’ve gone from 20th to 23rd, so color me unimpressed. No matter how bad Seattle was down the stretch, I’m not going to throw out 72 good games for the last 10. I’ll pass on the Kings.
No Joy In Hoosierville
I’m going to pass on the Pacers as well. This is not the same team that I picked to go all the way last year. Their defense has gone from awesome to a mortal 11th. Consider that the Celtics 13th ranked D is only two spots behind, and that their offense is superior, 105.0 to 102.4 points per 100 possessions. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Pacers won, but I’ll take Boston with the home court advantage.
The Last Seed
While the 4th versus the 5th seed is usually a toss-up, because of the absurd tri-divisional alignment the Dallas Mavericks are much better than their playoff position would indicate. With a top 5 offense and a top 10 defense, they’ve compiled the 4th best record in the NBA. Despite having two phenomenal players in Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, Houston still hasn’t gotten enough offense from the rest of their team. Their PER at PF is a laughable 11.9, and the PG position is only a point higher. The Rockets offense will be their downfall until they fill in some of those big gaps.
On the other hand, the East’s last matchup might be the first round’s closest battle. Like the Sonics, the Bulls would have been one of my dark horse teams a month ago because they sported the #2 overall defense. However the injury bug has landed in Chicago and stung Deng & Curry. Chandler was bitten as well, and sat out the last game with a bum ankle. Right now the Bulls have more question marks than an old episode of Batman with the Riddler as the villain.
Ironically their opponents, the Wizards, are usually the ones limping to the finish line on crutches. From my view, Washington looks as healthy as can be, but before you lay down a few bills on the Wizards consider that I got a D in biology in high school. The Bulls winning would certainly be the better story: their first playoff series since Jordan, top notch defense, Ben Gordon’s wonderful rookie year, and the team overcoming injuries to two key players. While Chicago has gone 7-4 since both Curry and Deng were lost, most of those were against weak clubs. Filter that to only playoff teams, and the Bulls are a winless 0-4. I’ll take the Wizards in 6.
My Round 1 Picks:
Miami in 5
Detroit in 4
Boston in 7
Washington in 6
Phoenix in 5
San Antonio in 5
Seattle in 6
Dallas in 6