Monday, April 20, 2015

2014-2015 NBA Playoffs Round 1 Preview (sport, gambling)

Well, not sure how much of a preview this is since I couldn't get it out in time before the first weekend of the playoffs, but I'll just add in my thoughts based on what I thought going in and what we saw in the first set of games.

Eastern Conference

Brooklyn Nets (8) at Atlanta Hawks (1)
Someone told me an interesting stat last week going into the start of the playoffs. No one on the Hawks had scored more than 35 points in a game all season, and the only two other teams in NBA history to have that happen both won less than 20 games whereas Atlanta won 60 games this season. The good and the bad of this team-oriented approach showed itself in the first game against the Nets. With Milsap and Horford both dealing with nagging injuries, Atlanta did not look like a team that won 60 games in the regular season. However, their bench is very deep and works well enough within the system. Brooklyn just doesn't have the one true star who can take advantage of such a situation, so I expect this series to go 4-1 in favor of the Hawks, with the Nets needing a huge game from either Joe Johnson or Brook Lopez to steal one. Atlanta's main concern during this series is to try to get everyone healthy for the next round.

Boston Celtics (7) at Cleveland Cavaliers (2)
No matter how good of a coach Stevens is, the Cavs are just too talented and should sweep this series. The only thing the Cavs should be concerned about is getting Love and Irving some good playoff experience, so in my opinion it would actually work out better for them if the games were close, especially up in Boston.

Milwaukee Bucks (6) at Chicago Bulls (3)
This is just a horrible matchup for the Bucks, as they've struggled against big men all season, and Chicago has two of the best in the game in Noah and Pau Gasol. This was evident in the first game as Chicago outrebounded Milwaukee 52-41, even though much of the spotlight was on the two Bulls guards who scored over 20 points each. The real thing to look for here is whether the Bulls will sweep as they're supposed to. With a taskmaster such as Tom Thibodeau as their head coach, it'll be clear if they're ready to go deep based on whether they take care of business or are sloppy (they committed 19 turnovers in game 1).

Washington Wizards (5) at Toronto Raptors (4)
I expected this to be the closest series of the first round, and game 1 did not disappoint. While this could in theory still go either way, I think the Wizards will pull it out with their underrated defense. I feel they have more of an identity as a team and the veteran experience of Paul Pierce goes a long way. One of the more interesting things I noticed was that both Marcin Gortat and Jonas Valanciunas, two very capable centers, only played 26 and 24 minutes respectively in an overtime game. This should also be to Washington's advantage as I think they have a deeper and more suitable bench for small ball. After stealing game 1, Wizards should win in 6 if not 5.

Western Conference

New Orleans Pelicans (8) at Golden State Warriors (1)
Even though the Pelicans sneaking into the playoffs was a nice feel good story, they are completely outclassed here by the Warriors who play tremendous basketball as a team, and yet are capable of being carried in stretches by EITHER Curry or Thompson getting hot. But what really separates this Warriors team from previous years' versions is a healthy Bogut, who not only gives them a capable rim protector, but works as a very useful cog in that offense. This will be an easy sweep.

Dallas Mavericks (7) at Houston Rockets (2)
I expect this to be a much closer series than any of the individual game scores would indicate. Both teams are very good at home, and I expect this series to go to 7 games unless someone steals one on the road. I also expect most of the games to go over the over/under lines, as both teams are probably more concerned about playing their own offensive games than really stopping or slowing down the other team.

San Antonio Spurs (6) at Los Angeles Clippers (3)
I think the writing was on the wall when the Spurs couldn't win that last game of the season and fell from a 2 seed all the way down to a 6 seed. They should still play very well at home, but until Leonard is ready to really step up and take the position of the main guy on that Spurs team, I don't see them going back to the Finals any time soon. The Clippers, on the other hand, have slowly built up to this point where they are probably as competitive at the highest level as they've ever been. The absence of CP3 and Griffin at different times last season and this season have helped DeAndre Jordan a lot, and have made them a more versatile team than people give them credit for. I expect the Clippers to win this in 6 or 7.

Portland Trailblazers (5) at Memphis Grizzlies (4)
The past two regular seasons, Portland has been true to their name, coming out of the gate strong. And yet both seasons it seems they just kind of limped into the playoffs. The current Trailblazer regime has a history of playing their starters a lot of minutes, and with Wes Matthews out, they look completely out of gas. It doesn't help that Memphis still has one of the best team defenses in the game and are used to the grind. This series really shouldn't be close, but Portland should win one or two games just from Memphis' inability to consistently score.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

I'm Still Here (rambling)

Sorry I've been MIA, but just wanted to let you know that I'm still here and that I do plan to write posts more consistently at some point. I swear this is not an April Fools joke! :)

At the very least I should have a post for the NBA playoffs coming up and my (now not-so-recent) meal at Cosme, one of the hottest restaurants in NYC.