TSHQ Special: 2012 NBA Playoffs Ruthless Roundtable


What up all you non-K.M. Venne’s? It’s actual-K.M. Venne, K.M. Venne,  here with 4 of my closest online homeboys ready to ride on all the weak sports sites with our NBA Playoff Preview, done in the only way that TSHQ knows how to preview anything, ruthless roundtable style.

For those new to this gangster party, here’s how it works. One of us, this time Cole Zwicker, comes up with some playoff questions, then we all individually answer them, and by all I mean myself, Seth Cox, Coley Michalik, and the hate magnet himself Bryan Doherty. We give you our opinion on all the big topics to you, the big topics to us, and the topics only we got the stones to tackle, and in the end, I already predicted the NBA Finals winner, loser, and amount of games the NBA Finals goes in the preseason (at least that’s how it worked last year), and I will not stop bringing this fact up all playoffs long.

So, that should cover the intro. It’s a condensed season, a somewhat condensed playoffs, so let’s condense this intro and get right to it.

 

1. What first round series is going to be considered the best and most entertaining when the first round is all said and done?

Bryan: Heat/Knicks has the sex appeal but most intriguing series to me features this year’s favorite for the NBA title vs those guys that won it last year, OKC vs Dallas. The Mavericks appear to be heavy underdogs and don’t seem capable of pulling the upset. Then again, as much as they miss Tyson Chandler, well, that guy Dirk, you know the one OKC had no answer for last year, is still there. Dallas knew they wanted OKC once it came down to OKC or LA and they got it. Now we find out what grit the Mavs truly have as they begin their title defense. Not to mention the endless question of “Will Russell Westbrook get Durant the ball at the end of the game” will be asked every time a game is close. Miami and NY will be fun for about 2 games and then it becomes a bore. Remember when Boston-NY last year was supposed to be awesome? Yea….

Cole Z: NY/MIA. Screw just the first round, this might be the best and most entertaining series of the playoffs.  You have 1) a ridiculous amount of star-power and 2) two storied franchises rekindling a rivalry.  Melo is one of the handful of NBA player who can cancel LeBron out.  He always gets up for that matchup, and if his play over the last month of the season is any indication, he’s peaking at the right time.  Miami is a monster, but they’re vulnerable in two areas: three point defense (7th worst in 3pt fg% defense in the league) and on the interior.  If the Knicks can make threes and Tyson can control the glass New York can make it a series.  Tyson already noted he preferred the Heat to the Bulls, which surprised many as the popular consensus was Chicago, without Rose 100%, was the easier opponent.  However, Tyson was definitely onto something, something non-coincidentally I’ve been driving for a while.  Against Chicago NY would get murdered on the glass (Chi out-rebounded NY by 48 this year in 4 games).  Plus, Chicago is ridiculously disciplined in defending the three.  When you combine those two factors, it doesn’t leave  a lot of room for error, as most possessions will be low-percentage one and dones.  However, against Miami, the Heat’s lack of a center is the great equalizer.  Tyson can dominate the glass and generate more possessions with his deflections.  That aspect, coupled with Miami’s ineptitude defending the three, could equate an upset for NY.  Thus, not only will this series be the most intriguing and generate the most buzz, it might also be the most competitive.

Coley M: Without question, the Heat-Knicks series has the setup to be an epic matchup. LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony dueling with duel headbands. Amar’e Stoudemire coming back strong with the braids. JR Smith heaving all sorts of ill advised threes. Steve Novak making up for said ill advised threes. Zero point guard play whatsoever. Tim Tebow sitting courtside at MSG while Rick Ross squats courtside in Miami a la Jaba the Hut. Entertainment at its finest hour. And hey, there will be some actual basketball played somewhere in the mix. Some people had this as the ECF before the season started. Instead, we get it in the first round. Tremendous.

Keith: Let’s be honest here. Heat/Knicks is the first round series we care about far more then any other series. Grizzlies/Clippers could be close, but will we really, really care? 5 games of Heat/Knicks is going to trump 7 games of nearly every other series. This is the only series with two elite teams with national followings. It doesn’t matter how awful this series is, it’s the one series everyone is going to not miss any of. You’re going to watch every minute of your team, this series, and catch some, maybe even most, of every other series. But LeBron, Melo, Heat, Knicks, winner series.

SUV driver: Can I just copy and paste what Keith wrote? Derp, derp, derp… (K.M. sidenote: Apparently you cannot.)

2. What first round series are you most interested in seeing, not involving your team (eliminates Lakers for Cole, Celtics for Bryan and Coley, Knicks for K.M., and nobody at all for the CEO)?

Bryan: Im most interested in the OKC-Dallas series for many of the reasons listed above. BUT I will be watching a lot of Clippers-Grizz mainly because the winner should give San Antonio one hell of a series in Round 2 and who can’t get excited for a Z-Bo/Blake Griffin tussle in the front court. We haven’t seen bone-headed Z-Bo in quite some time and the thinking is Blake’s antics could get a rise out of one of the NBA’s best personalities when he loses his mind.

Cole Z: New York is the only team in the East who can beat Miami, so why not get it out of the way in the first round?  This is also mostly by default, as the only other intriguing series not affiliated with my team is Clippers/Grizzlies, which still doesn’t hold a candle to Miami/New York.

Coley M: Memphis-Los Angeles (Clippers). To me, this series is unreal. Last year the Grizzlies introduced themselves to the Association by upsetting the Spurs in the first round. They did not disappoint in the lockout shortened 2012. The Clippers, meanwhile, have long been the laughing stock of the NBA. Finally, things began looking up after Blake Griffin’s rookie season. Then, LAC picked up the pieces from the botched Chris Paul-Lakers trade and brought in a potential perennial MVP candidate. Both of these teams can get up and down the floor, play some solid defense, and score in bunches. Between Tony Allen, Rudy Gay, Eric Bledsoe, Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan, there should be a highlight reel dunk every other possession. The show CP3 put on alone against LAL last post-season should be enough to warrant excitement for LAC fans alone.

Keith: Thunder/Mavericks for me, as of right now. Let’s face it, it is HARD to care about Spurs/Jazz, Lakers/Nuggets, Bulls/Sixers, Pacers/Magic, and Celtics/Hawks right now, unless you somehow think the Hawks have a chance, which would be silly, because I don’t believe we live in a universe where the Atlanta Hawks are going to win a playoff series in back to back years. Now, my gut tells me one or two of these series I don’t care about right now could get mighty interesting after a big upset or two. But for now, all I got to pick from is Thunder/Mavericks  and Grizzlies/Clippers, and I’ll take the WCF rematch from last year with a Dallas team that is lesser, but still has a great blueprint for OKC and could make this a hell of a series.

Getting told what to do by a 4 year old right now: Wait the Suns didn’t make the playoffs?  What am I supposed to do with these Suns playoff tickets I paid for then? Again this is Heat/Knicks and it really isn’t even close.  I want to see if the Heat can pass their stiffest competition on their way to the NBA Finals. If anyone thinks that this is going to be a quick and easy series hasn’t paid attention to what the Heat do the worst and what the Knicks do the best. Not many elite defensive teams guard the 3pt line as poorly as the Heat, and with players like Smith, Novak and even Baron Davis, the Knicks can catch fire like few teams in the league and shoot themselves right past the Heat in the first round. With a dynamic defensive player in Iman Shumpert, and Carmelo seemingly always playing Lebron tough, it will be up to Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler to lock down the paint, keep the Heat off the boards and carry them to a series win.

3. Who is going to be the biggest X-factor in round one, turning a series loss into a win or a possible lopsided series into a close, long series?

Bryan: It’s gotta be Dirk right? I mean we saw this matchup last year and Dirk owned it. There’s very few players on lower seeds that have the capability of single-handedly taking over a series to upset a higher seed and this is one of them. You really trust anyone on another team seeded 5 or lower more than last year’s finals MVP? Of course you don’t. You’d be foolish to. At the end of the day, Dirk is the only one with the pedigree, the matchup, and the star treatment necessary to play the role of surprise X-factor over a clearly better team.

Cole Z: The three-point shooting of J.R. Smith, Steve Novak, Iman Shumpert, Baron Davis and Landry Fields.  The Knicks will go as far as their perimeter shooting can take them.  If Melo’s supporting cast gets hot, NY could legitimately make finals run.  If not, they’ll likely get swept or lose in 5 in the first round.  I can’t think of a greater x-factor than that. 

Coley M: Al Jefferson just wrapped up his best season as a pro. He is a threat to go off for 20 points and 10 boards every single night and if the Jazz can steal a game or two early on in the series, Tim Duncan may be worn out be game six. After the way Zach Randolph dominated the Spurs last year, Jefferson could take advantage in the same way. His ability to score from the post and crash the offensive boards gives the Jazz a real chance to push this game to six or seven games. While I believe the Spurs will win this series, I’m just trying to answer the damn question. Give me Big Al FTW.

Keith: I’m going total cop out and going Chris Paul, but I’ll give you damn good reasons why. Chris Paul is the 3 most important people on the Clippers. Firstly, he’s Chris Paul, the best point guard in the game today. Secondly, he is the one that makes Blake Griffin a factor, nobody in the playoffs is more dependent on another person then Blake is on Paul. Unless the Clippers want Blake making terrible moves to the basket that end tragically or taking that awful jump shot that rookie Patrick Ewing is laughing at from the past, CP3 has to make Blake the Blake so many people not named me love as a player. And thirdly, Chris Paul has to be the coach of this team, because Vinny Del Negro isn’t worth a wooden nickle as a coach, and Paul has to take what Del Negro says, ignore the hell out of it, and do what is in the best interest of his team instead. The Clippers will go as Paul goes.

Reviewing the Cardinals draft, weeping softly: Amar’e Stoudemire and it’s not really even that close of a second. Amar’e has to be good, focused Amar’e in order for the Knicks to have any kind of shot, because even though he usually doesn’t, Amar’e can rebound when he puts his mind to it. If he can help keep the Heat off the offensive boards, and be a scoring threat in a tertiary role, the Knicks will be golden.

4. Who is going to be the biggest superstar bust in round one, turning a series win into a loss or a possible easy series win into a long, drawn out series?

Bryan: The East I don’t even have most teams sweating. Even the Heat-Knicks I don’t have as a sweating 6. So who gets pushed a little further than they should? I’m going with the team I don’t have making the finals because of history. That team is the Spurs. The Spurs would do something defensively that has been accomplished once in the last 19 NBA Finals if they made it there and that is go to the finals with a FG% defense of 13th lowest or worse. So what player causes me to answer San Antonio here? Mr. Fundamentals. I’m not even sure he qualifies as a superstar anymore but Tim Duncan has had a pretty strong season all things considered and since I’m forced by my predictions to go with SA or LAL here, I have to find one matchup I’m appealed to and I’ll go with the frontcourts in this series to say Duncan gets outplayed by his counterpart, be it Al Jeff or Milsap. The Spurs I think are ripe for the picking and while I don’t have them going out as a #1 seed again, I do have them getting pushed further than they like in Round 1.

Cole Z: Chris Bosh/Amar’e Stoudemire Tie.  Both are superstar names, not superstars.  But the mass media considers them superstars, so I’ll play along.  The Knicks/Heat series will in part come down to who doesn’t suck more between the two.  The Knicks are at their best with Melo at the four next to Tyson surrounded by shooters.  Miami is at their best with LeBron at the four next to Bosh.  However, it’s difficult to play put Bosh on Chandler due to the insane rebounding advantage that would give the Knicks.  Ditto for playing Amar’e next to Melo, especially from a defensive perspective.  Essentially, New York is better with Amar’e off the court (or at least not on the court at the same time as Melo) while Miami in this particular matchup is better off without Bosh in the game next to Bron.  Thus, whatever team can cut their losses and mitigate their matchup damages with each respective player might come out on top. 

Coley M: This has to be LeBron doesn’t it? Talk about pressure, also known as LBJ’s least favorite word. The Heat cruised through the first three rounds last season and looked great through the first two games of the Finals. After losing to the Mavs, turmoil began in South Beach. This season became irrelevant and now they get one of the hottest teams in the East for the first round. LeBron could average 40 ppg with 20 assists and 15 boards for the series. But it wouldn’t mean a damn thing if they got eliminated. Dwayne Wade could average 0.5 ppg with a 1:12 TO:A ratio and it would be LeBron’s fault. It’s just the world we live in. I’m praying for seven games.

Keith: Anyone who knows me knows I am going Derrick Rose here, but you may be surprised I’m willing to qualify this within the context of the question. I am. Everyone in the media is going to predict Bulls in 4 or Bulls in 5. I’m going Bulls in 6. The Bulls are floundering down the stretch, and a good rebounding, defensive minded team like the Sixers is nearly a clone of the Bulls, outside the fact the Bulls are the team with the superstar, so in theory this should be 4 cakewalk games for Chicago, maybe 5 if Chicago gives one away. But I expect Rose to be far from the Rose of the media’s creation, and I expect the Sixers are going to be able to go into game 5 of this series tied two games to two. Crazy? Maybe. But what isn’t crazy is that the Bulls will live at the line if I’m right for the rest of the series, the NBA isn’t giving up the Chicago cash cow without a fight, but there may come a point where most of you will wonder “Wow, is Philly really going to pull this off?” during this series, and when that happens, not only did you hear it here first, but you’ll also be wondering “Where the hell has Rose been?”, and if you do, you’ll know I nailed this question.

Drowning in mortgage payments: Ehh, my mortgage is actually really palatable, but I appreciate the concern. Dwayne Wade or Kobe Bryant.  As I said earlier the Knicks have an uber talented defender in Shump who can possibly create issues for Wade, and as great as Lebron is, and he is the MVP this season, he can’t be a loaded Knicks squad by himself. (Note: If Lebron ends up destroying the Knicks and Wade is a non factor and the Heat advance in 7 b/c of it I never want to hear how soft Lebron is again) Meanwhile you always have to be wary of Kobe.  Kobe can get into eff you mode quicker and at the worst time than any player in the NBA, and maybe in it’s history.  He can turn into Kobe the chucker, Kobe the I don’t want to shoot, or he can continue to play the role of facilitator who takes over to end the game and gets all the praise despite not doing a damn thing offensively for the first 40 minutes of game. The Lakers need that last Kobe to show up, or else the quick 5-6 game series can turn into a battle, where the Lakers have to go 7, get crazy Ron Artest back into the flow and figure out a way to stop the over confident Nuggets.

5. What seed between 6 and 8 is going to be the last of the low seeds standing in this postseason?

Bryan: Utah and Philly as 8’s aren’t winning. Dallas and NY each have a small shot. Orlando is one of the weakest playoff teams (as presently entering the playoffs) in a long time and if last year taught us anything it is that teams without a superstar generally don’t last long so take out Denver. I have 3 of these series going 6 games. So I’ll give you the team I think is most competitive and that is Dallas. Are you following along yet? I don’t think much of this year’s first round matchups. Frankly, I’m putting all my eggs in the Dallas Mavericks basket, not to win, but to be the most competitive. They’re the only team I trust that has experience. They’re the only team with a star. And they’re the only team who I think has the league and ref’s respect. The desire to squeeze as much TV money as possible out of Miami and NY concerns me but again I’ll got Dallas.

Cole Z: This answer has to be either New York or Dallas by default.  Orlando, Philly, Utah and Denver are cooked.  Dallas has a shot to push the Thunder to six or seven, but a lot will have to go favorably for them, most notably Harden not being 100%.  New York on the other hand has a chance to upset Miami, and when you throw in a potential game six in MSG, you can’t pick against the Knicks in that scenario should it arise.  I have Miami in 7 and OKC in 6, so New York will be the last lower seed standing, though a true dark-horse run by any team is difficult to see.

Coley M: To me it comes down to Philadelphia and the Knicks. I don’t think any of the low seeds from the West are going to advance but I could see Philly and NYK pulling upsets against Chicago and Miami. But, I’m only picking Philadephia here to upset the Rose-hobbled Bulls in the first round. Philly can match Chicago in just about every way. They are as athletic as Chicago, the have the height to rebound with the Bulls and they have depth at point guard to matchup with whoever Chicago throws at them. Philly wont get passed the second round, but this team will beat the Bulls in my opinion.

Keith: Well, Orlando and Philly are not getting out of the first round. Denver and Utah are not getting out of the first round. Dallas is pretty terrible. Who does that leave? New York? Then I’ll go with them.

Trying to check into this NBA Roundtable on Yelp! right now: Knicks

6. Each first round series: Who you got, how many games, and why?

Bryan: Chicago in 5. Philly was dreadful down the stretch and while they can play defense, I don’t think they can do much vs Coach Thibs defense. Miami in 6. Knicks will have to shoot lights out for any chance of advancing because I don’t trust them to score in the halfcourt with Miami consistently. Indiana in 5. I don’t respect Orlando nearly enough to give them 2 wins. I almost didn’t give them one. Boston in 5. Hawks are trash. Only thing intriguing about this series is whether or not they can sell out their home playoff games. San Antonio in 6. Utah’s frontcourt + a pretty good home crowd is good enough for two wins in this series but ultimately Utah is still a year or two away from winning a playoff series. OKC in 6. The West’s best team takes out the champs as Dallas doesn’t have the defensive leadership from a year ago. Plus youth wins out. Los Angeles Lakers in 6. McGee against Bynum and Gasol? Check-mate. Memphis in 6. Year 1 of Lob City ends without a playoff series win. They’ll be back though.

Cole Z:

Chicago in 5
All you need to know about this series is both teams are phenomenal defensively and neither have a closer.  Ok, that was my one psuedo-Rose joke.  I’m not that much of a heartless bastard.  But seriously, this will be an ugly defense- fest most likely played in the 70’s to low 80’s.  If that brand of basketball is your cup of tea than great.  If you prefer ball that is easy on the eyes, I’d strongly suggest looking elsewhere.  Philly started out the season like gangbusters, but finished only 16-20 over their final 36.  The Sixers are also in the bottom third in the league on the glass.  Not playing your best ball entering the playoffs (or just being frauds in general) coupled with a deficiency on the glass equates to hell playing the ridiculously fundamental, rebound crazed Bulls that don’t beat themselves.  Bulls win easily in 5.
Boston in 6
Atlanta is feisty, and they’ll be amped to play on a cable network in the opening round for the first time in a decade.  Unfortunately, they’re missing their best interior player (Horford) and their only other “legitimate” big man in Zaza.  Thus, the Hawks don’t have the big bodies to exploit Boston’s deficiency on the glass.  The Celtics have a significant talent advantage and are rolling right now.  Hotlanta will steal two games, but even with HCA I can’t see the Hawks dragging this out beyond six, especially without Zaza’s head-butting theatrics to fire up the usually dead Philips crowd.
Miami in 7
I think I’ve already reached my word limit in terms of Knicks material.  I’ll just say this is a shameful hedge on my part trying to balance reality (Miami is the much safer pick) with reward in demonstrating enough sway toward to Knicks where should they win I’ll get some credit for being bold.
Indiana in 5
I don’t have anything to add about this series other than welcome to the elephant graveyard and wasteland that is NBA.TV.  Watch at your own peril.
West
San Antonio in 5
The young thunder-cats versus the savvy veterans.  It’s not difficult to foresee where this is headed: annihilation of the former.  Utah is just too young and not nearly good enough defensively to compete with the wily vets of SA.  The only chance the Jazz have at making this series respectable is slowing the game down and implementing their “Monstars” lineup with Millsap at the three in effort to pound the Spurs’ interior.  We’ve seen how vulnerable the Spurs are inside (see Grizzlies, Memphis last year in the playoffs).  The only problem is the Jefferson-Millsap combo isn’t 2011 Z-BO & Gasol.  Utah will be a force to be reckoned with in a few years, but for now, they’re shall we say outmatched.
LA Clippers in 6
Memphis is everyones darling this year after their cinderella esque run in the playoffs last year.  Hell, even the czar himself Bill Simmons thinks Memphis will navigate their way to the finals this year.  That should be incentive enough for you to fade the hell out of the Grizz.  If you aren’t satisfied with that analysis, recall what made Memphis so great last year.  I’ll give you a hint: at one point in time you couldn’t raise an eyebrow at him without getting publicly assaulted by his posse.  That’s right, Zach Randolph.  Unfortunately, 2012 Z-Bo is nowhere near 2011 Z-Bo, thus it follows that Memphis isn’t the same team they were last year.  If Z-Bo was fully integrated into the lineup and meshing with Rudy Gay especially I’d lean Memphis, but that isn’t the case.  There’s just not enough cohesiveness on Memphis to ride them right now.   Their opposition isn’t without flaws either, but “Lob City” will sport by far the best player on the court.  We’ve seen the maestro CP3 win series single handedly in the past.  CP3’s clutch play and complete command of the game will be too much for the still mixing and matching Grizz, even with his band of irrational confidence space cadets always making things interesting (for the other team that is).
LA Lakers in 5
Denver is the worst playoff team in the West and any competent NBA fan should know their makeup, no star-power and no defense, doesn’t cut it in the playoffs.  Denver will try to do the only thing they know how to do and push the tempo against the Lakers in effort to outrun them and get easy buckets in transition.  Unfortunately it’s hard to sustain that approach in the playoffs when the game slows down and you can’t get stops.  The Lakers, lead by the Kraken, will slow the game down and pound the Nene-less Nuggets inside.  Too much efficient execution for Denver to handle.
Oklahoma City  in 6
The longevity of this series obviously rests on the condition of Harden.  He’s been cleared to play, but the question is will he be himself.  The Thunder rely on their big three to score as much as any team in the league.  If Harden is not up to par it will put a ton of pressure on the always dicey fingers of Westbrook to shoulder an even greater load, especially with Marion hounding Durant. That’s good news if you’re a Mavs fan.  You want Westbrook to maximize his opportunity to be inefficient.  Rick Carlisle is a top five coach in the league and his defensive schemes, especially the zone, will frustrate OKC.  Still, without Tyson Chandler running circles around Kendrick Perkins and with the alarming drop-off of Dirk’s supporting cast, OKC will be too much here.

Coley M: In the East: Philly in six; Miami in six; Indiana in five; and Boston in five
In the West: San Antonio in five; Oklahoma City in five; Los Angeles in five; Memphis in seven

Keith:

Bulls in 6 – Philly has struggled the second half of the season, but started playing a bit better as we approached the stretch run. Chicago is a team known for it’s defense and rebounding. Sadly for Chicago, Philly does these two things very well. With Rose less then 100% and also less then a superstar when he is 100%, I don’t see why this series can’t go six. Philly is a poor man’s Chicago, but not that poor of a man that they can’t win two games.

Indiana in 6 – Just because nobody knows how this series goes 6. Pretend I wrote something retarded about the Ewing factor and maybe I can get a job at the four letter!

Boston in 7 – Boston is really banged up, and nobody is giving Atlanta any shot in this series. I’d pick Atlanta if I thought there was any way this universe could justify the Hawks making two straight East semis. I expect a hot start for Atlanta and Boston to be better for the challenge moving forward.

San Antonio in 5 – This seems like about as easy a series to call as there is. Jazz have little hope of winning a playoff road game, and SA is good enough to split in Utah without question. All this dumb idea about how Utah is too big for SA, I don’t see it. Parker and Manu and Stephen Jackson are going to have their way with the perimeter players of Utah, and Duncan can handle one of the Utah bigs. Youth in the playoffs is a disaster.

Lakers in 6 – Denver is not at all built for the playoffs. I’m going 6 here because the Lakers finish nobody off in quick order. Far too much talent for the Lakers for any other pick here, no matter what Chuck says.

Dallas in 7 –  I cannot resist making this pick. If Harden is less then 100%, I don’t like Westbrook at all, and what do the Thunder have now? Dirk is a machine, Marion is a top 5 defender in the NBA who will bother Durant big time, and hell, upsets happen, I’m going to take this one and stand by it.

Clippers in 5 – Easy. Paul > Memphis. Seriously, the next person who tells me about the Pacers or Grizzlies in person is getting punched in their dick. Even if it’s a female. I’m not hearing another word about these two pretenders.

Knicks in 4 – YES! YES! YES! YES! YES!

Wondering how a Suns fan trolls anybody at this point of the year: Spurs in 5 over Jazz: It will be closer than the five game series says, but not by much.  The Jazz are up and coming, maybe, but lack a PG who can really change the game for them on a consistent basis. OKC in 6 over Mavs: Have you seen the Mavs this year? Lakers in 6 over Nuggets: Safest play, no real reason. Clippers in 6 over Grizzlies: If Z-Bo was last years version I would flop this. Alas, the best player is on the Clippers. Bulls in 5 over Sixers: Philly is awful. Knicks in 6 over Heat: I’m going big, what can I say. Pacers in 5 over Orl: No D12, no chance. Celtics in 5 over Hawks: Um, it’s the Hawks, is there really any chance they win this series?

7: Looking ahead, what ECF and WCF are we going to see, and how will it end up?

Bryan: In the East I got Miami over Boston in 7. The Heat have plans to get back to the finals after last season’s collapse and they do it at the expense of the aging Celtics who run out of gas after beating Chicago. Rondo and the Big 3 will play well and steal a game in Miami early but not being able to sweep Miami in games 3 and 4 will set up a mammoth Game 7 in front of the always loyal, never, ever disappear Heat fans with LBJ and Wade hugging and kissing the ECF trophy like it is the Larry O Brien trophy itself. Out west I have OKC over SA in 6. While the Spurs seem to have the Thunder’s number, I think the Thunder will find a way to neutralize Duncan and force Parker and Ginobili to beat them over the course of the series. While it may prove effective for a few wins I think the combo of Durant and Westbrook prove too much and the matchup many projected before the season comes to light.

Cole Z: ECF: Chicago Miami. Why tell you how it will end up when you can just go back to the tape of the ECF last year and just copy and paste.  In case you need a refresher, the story goes something like this: game tied 80-80 in the fourth quarter with two minutes left, LeBron locks down Rose and the Bulls don’t score again.  Your redundant ECF, ladies and gentlemen. WCF: OKC SA. How perfect did the bracket unfold for the Spurs this year?  They get inexperienced Utah in round one, then likely the defensively hapless Clips in round two and finally their bitch, OKC, in the WCF.  The Thunder are futile at preventing dribble penetration.  That, my friends, is Tony Parker’s speciality (other than quietly tip-toeing out of Brent Barry’s backdoor).  You don’t want to get into an offensive fight with the Spurs.  You want to slow the game down and pound them.  Perkins and Ibaka aren’t the interior scorers needed to accomplish that feat.  SA will make it rain offensively on OKC with their penetration and kick game.   Dare I say it, but it looks like the Spurs are locks to make the finals.  Unreal.

Coley M: Boston will defeat the Miami Heat in six games sending ESPN into a 24 hour shit storm of LeBron pandemonium. Rajon Rondo will average a triple double and the benches will likely clear at some point and time. These teams do not like each other much & the Celtics have been running off of pure hate and vengence since the All Star Break. Out West, I could see Memphis squaring off with the Lakers, but I’m taking the Spurs over the Thunder in seven. I though the Thunder were the obvious Champs before the season started but I don’t know what happened. Meanwhile, the Spurs look as strong as ever and have home court throughout.

Keith: Knicks over Celtics in 6 – The Knicks slay the dragon! Spurs over Mavericks in 5 – Spurs win their 3rd straight series in 5 games.

Wishes someone would explain icing to him: Hockey in the desert baby! How are the Canucks and Bruins doing? ECF: Celtics over Knicks in 7.  Two of the most storied NBA franchises going to seven games, with two of the most passionate basketball fanbases?  It’s like basketball nirvana. I’m taking the Celtics because of their big game experience, home court advantage, and the fact that they know this is the last run with this squad.  I am guessing this is one of the most heated, and entertaining series we will see in a long time, and the best these playoffs will offer. WCF: Thunder over Clippers in 6. I am going out on a limb here, and saying that the Clippers are able to take out the Spurs in round 2, and this may be crazy, but I think the Chris Paul train runs through the western conference finals before Kevin Durant and the Thunder derail it. If Westbrook can learn to defer to the two better players in Durant and James Harden, the Thunder should roll through any team in the Western Conference, that is a big if though.

8. The big one, give us all the details about the NBA Finals right now, the who, the other who, the how long, the details, all of it.

Bryan: Miami over OKC in 6. LBJ has a monster NBA Finals and gets his first ring. While the Thunder are great, the Heat get strong finals from Wade and LBJ and after winning the title LBJ cries on national television asking what the haters have to say now. He gives a shoutout to all the people in Cleveland who supported him and guarantees 12 championships as he accepts the Finals MVP trophy from Bill Russell and tells him “I’m coming for you.” In a thrilling Game 7 loss, Russell Westbrook goes 4 for 21 and takes the last 3 shots of a close loss to which the normally humble Kevin Durant asks the media, angrily wearing his backpack, “What the F*** is this dude thinking? He’s gotta go. I’m sorry, he’s gotta go.”

Cole Z: SA over Miami in 6. This defies logic, because I don’t see how the Spurs can guard any of Miami’s big three, and conversely, I can definitely see Miami guarding SA’s big two.  However, this is a season of the illogical.  Thus, I will side with the improbable upset, if for no other reason than it doesn’t make sense.  Plus, I heavily favor the team with home-court in the 2-3-2 format.  It’s near impossible for a team to win all three games at home in that stretch.

Coley M: A nostalgic 2012 NBA Finals will have two of the best power forwards of all time squaring off for the trophey. Tim Duncan vs. Kevin Garnett on the biggest stage playing second fiddle to their team’s respective point guards. Yes, while Garnett and Duncan have the star power, this will come down to the 9’s: Rajon Rondo vs. Tony Parker. This matchup I believe heavily favors Boston. While Parker is an excellent player, he is most known for his offense. And when I say his offense, I mean HIS offense (mid range jumpers, floaters, fast breaks, etc.). Rondo will be able to check Parker defensively while creating for the Celtics on the offensive end. If the Spurs can absolutely dominate the boards, they will be a tough beat. But, if the battle of the boards are close, Rondo, Avery Bradley, Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass, KG, and Ray Allen will have enough to take this series from the top seed in the West. Rondo will win Finals MVP after a statistical showcase throughout all 16 of the Celtics wins leading up to #Green18.

Keith: Knicks over the Spurs in 5 – The last lockout Final, but in reverse, and the New  York Knicks win the NBA Championship. I then ascend to Heaven as the one true son of the Lord, and everyone wonders why God sent his only son down to Earth only to perform the single miracle of predicting two straight NBA Finals winners, losers, and length before a season starts. Then you get to Heaven and see all the basketball courts and you realize God is a hoopster. Be sure to compliment him on his sweet Nique throwback he’s rocking.

Mentally checked out of this preview 5 questions ago: It’s true, I was very engulfed in the NFL Draft and I thought all four teams that we are fans of represented themselves well in it. I loved the Patriots draft and told Bryan and Coley as such because of Dont’a Hightower, not nearly as high on Chandler Jones, but he has upside, the question is as he puts on weight, needs to add 30lbs, can he keep that elite level speed and quickness. As for the Steelers and Cole, steal just sitting there and taking David DeCastro, absolute highway robbery. I have been high on AJ Jenkins as a prospect, just not a day one guy, but the 49ers are not necessarily a team that just needs to add a WR and then win it all, they need to develop, and Jenkins has that potential. As for the Cardinals, I loved it going best available athlete in Michael Floyd instead of biggest need. Oh, right, the NBA Finals: Celtics over Thunder in 6.  Go Big Green… bleh.

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