Thursday, April 18, 2013

Eastern Conference Predictions

This weekend marks the beginning of the NBA Playoffs. The writers at Volume Shooters have collaborated to give you a comprehensive and thorough break-down of each match-up. And even if that isn't completely true, we at least matched all the teams up correctly. Today we preview the Eastern Conference playoff picture; tomorrow we'll visit the West.

(1) Miami Heat vs. (8) BYE Milwaukee Bucks

We believe this is Monta kissing the Bucks' hopes good-bye.
How they got here: Most of us are acutely aware of how Miami got to this point, starting somewhat slowly before Lebron James put the screws to the league in February and they rattled off 27 wins in a row. They will finish the season 66-16 (only one win shy of my preseason prediction), with the best player in the world having one of his best seasons, as the prohibitive favorites to take home the hardware in a few weeks. Milwaukee, meanwhile, was on a mission to prove you can make the playoffs with Ersan Ilyasova as your 3rd best player...and they are going to do it! Who cares if they will finish solidly below .500 - when you play in the Eastern Conference, that can be good enough.

Individual match-up to watch:
Serious: Brandon Jennings vs Norris Cole. Cole is a little known sophomore who has actually become a very useful bench guard for the Heat. He only averages about 20 minutes a game, but could play a much bigger role for his defense on Jennings. Jennings is not my favorite point guard but when he gets hot, the Bucks can be (semi) dangerous offensively.

Less Serious: Lebron James vs. boredom. How is this series supposed to keep the attention of the likely MVP? You think Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders are keeping him up at night? Serious question - if you were Milwaukee, why wouldn't you sign Delonte West just for this series? For those who weren't aware, there were rumors that Delonte had sex with Lebron's mom! Why wouldn't you try it just to get in Lebron's head?

Volume shooter impact: It's hard to even know where to begin with this one. Obviously Miami's offense is so fluid that all Ray Allen, Mike Miller, and anyone besides their "Big 3" have to do is shoot when it comes to them. On the other side...Monta Ellis is perhaps the volume shooter (just kidding JR Smith! you're still #1). But he doesn't even shoot the most three pointers on his team. In fact...he's third? How can that be? Expect Ellis, Jennings, and Redick to understand that the only way they win is by averaging a combined 30 attempted 3s a game...and making 25 of them. Expect them to give it a shot (no pun intended).

  PB: James against...Ilyasova? Wade against...Ellis? Bosh against...Mbah a Moute? Miami in "fo'."
  BS: Monta Ellis has one "god damn it he's actually making shots" game, Heat roll 4-1
  JP: I hate that the Heat starters get a series where they only have to play 25 minutes/game.

(2) New York Knicks vs. (7) Boston Celtics

How they got here: New York started off like gangbusters, rolling to an 18-5 record in their first 6 weeks behind some awesome (and unsustainable) 3-point shooting. To their credit, they kept jacking 'em up, but weren't knocking 'em down in going 20-21 in the middle section of the season. Battling to beat the line in the seniors only buffet at Golden Corral injuries the whole way, they recovered with a nice end-of-season win streak and awesome shooting (and volume shooting) from Carmelo Anthony. Meanwhile, things went from bad to worse in Boston when they started 20-23 before losing Rajon Rondo for the season with a torn ACL. Naturally, this (and a whole bunch of deer-antler spray for Pierce and Garnett) inspired them to go on a mini-tear and finish a game above .500...which is good enough for 7th in the Eastern Conference!

Individual match-up to watch:
Serious: Paul Pierce vs Carmelo Anthony. I know that Anthony has played a lot of power forward this year, but you're crazy if you think the Celts are gonna let Brandon Bass take this matchup. Pierce is a competitive player and wants nothing more than to get the better of the younger Anthony. Watch for Pierce to try to get Carmelo in foul trouble early with his patented "step back - pump fake - jump into the airborne defender and flail his arms" move.

Less Serious: Carmelo Anthony vs Honey Nut Cheerios. I'm not joking - I think Garnett is in Carmelo's head a little bit after telling Carmelo that his wife tasted like Honey Nut Cheerios. Can Melo hold it together? Would an off series by him open the door for a potential upset? Will Garnett tell Steve Novak that his wife tastes like Cinnamon Toast Crunch? I can't wait either!

Volume shooter impact: As we mentioned, the Knicks shoot a lot of threes. The JR Smith (you da man JR!), Melo, and Novak trio are going to have to do well, with some big time contributions from Kidd and Felton. Meanwhile, Paul Pierce is the only Celtic that averages over 1.6 threes per game. So don't expect this to be a shoot out. More like a firing squad.

  PB: The Knicks are clearly more talented, but they are banged up and Boston wants it. C's in 6.
  BS: Teams that rely on the 3 get exposed in the playoffs (see D'Antoni, Mike). Boston in 7.
  JP: Melo has decided he's going to prove his super-stardom...which he believes means winning one round.

(3) Indiana Pacers vs. (6) Atlanta Hawks

How they got here: I honestly have no idea how they got here. Both of these teams are very boring and inspire extreme apathy within their fan bases. The most exciting player on either team is Paul George, who broke out this year to score 17.4 PPG as one of the only consistent performers on the Pacers offense. Atlanta is led by the solid fundamentals of Al Horford, the athleticism of Josh Smith, and the diamond grill of Ivan Johnson.

That wasn't a joke.

Individual match-up to watch:
Serious: David West/Roy Hibbert vs Al Horford. The Pacers play arguably the best defense in the league. Horford is one of the best passing big men in the league, and the Pacers defense will rely on not having to double team him in the post. If Horford can take advantage of these isolation plays, this could be a close series.

Less Serious: Zaza Pachulia's back acne vs Roy Hibbert's everything. You can't find two uglier players in the entire league - I'm talking about both physical appearance and their respective games. They are the perfect microcosm of this series.

Volume shooter impact: Full respect paid here to Kyle Korver - 70% of his field goals come from outside the arc! And he averages 5.6 attempts per game!? Maybe we should have covered him more.  Actually, the volume shooting that could have the most impact will come from Josh Smith, who undoubtedly will attempt at some point to "volume-shoot" his team out of a game.

  PB: Indiana is elite on defense, Atlanta in the summer? Pacers in 5.
  BS: Zaza Pachulia makes his MVP case Pacers defense smothers the Hawks. Indiana 4-1.
  JP: Pacerzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Sorry I fell asleep what happened...

(4) Brooklyn Nets vs. (5) Chicago Bulls

How they got here: Two franchises that seemingly went in opposite directions this year. Brooklyn rose from the depths by signing 3 decent players to enormous contracts - because if your owner does this for fun and owns this yacht, why not? Deron Williams has been playing much better since the all-star break, and their bench - led by the notorious Andray Blatche - has been a strength when many thought it would be a weakness. For Chicago, the story starts and stops with Derrick Rose, who is regularly seen dunking in pregame and completes all practices but has yet to appear in a game this year. Barring a postseason comeback for the notorious Mr. Rose, Chicago's postseason is likely to be short-lived, even if iron men Luol Deng and Joakim Noah have played through the distractions all year and put up all-star numbers.

Individual match-up to watch:
Serious: Joakim Noah vs Brook Lopez. Lopez has quietly become a top 5 center this year, adding a lot of polish to his offensive game (even if his rebounding numbers are atrocious for a 7 footer). Noah continues to be the most hated player in the league, and probably #2 all time behind Hitler. Nonetheless, he is a relentless and scrappy player that will frustrate Lopez all series.

Less serious: Derrick Rose's knee vs Brooklyn's psyche. Let's call it like it is: the Nets know they are completely f*cked if Rose returns. Even if he isn't effective, the boost to team morale would be enough. So if you're the Bulls, why wouldn't you bring him out from the locker room in the 3rd quarter of one game like a WWF wrestler? Dim the lights, show a video montage, play Rose's intro music...wouldn't that be a death blow to the Nets? I say yes.

Volume shooter impact: After a bloody awful start to the season, Deron Williams has quietly turned up his shooting numbers over the last couple of months. There's a chance, and just a chance, that he goes ballistic and validates his contract size over a 4 or 5 game series.  But since the Nets only have 3 players that average in the double-digits in field goal attempts, we'll focus on Nate Robinson's 40% year from beyond the arc, and his team leading 4.2 attempts from out there per game. Jack wrote once about the relationship Nate shares with his coach - if Rose doesn't return Tom Thibodeau will have no choice but to hope Nate continues to be faithful.

  PB: Rose returns? Bulls in 7. Rose remains sidelined? Gunna say Bulls in 7 anyways.
  BS: Nate "The Great" Robinson catches fire and the Nets are who we thought they are. Bulls 4-2.
  JP: At this point there's no incentive for Rose to return. So he does anyway and leads them through in 5!!


  1. Dis is sum bullshit mane! Shawty dem Hawks finna go HAM dis series. I b lyk fuk dem Pacers. Roy Hibbert can catch dat D. My lil' brah J-Smooth gon t-bag dat hoe as he posterizes dem fools.

    Peace Up, A-Town Down

    1. Good Sir,

      While I concur with your impeccable analysis and critique of this abhorrent prediction, I would advise you to refrain from such language. I understand and empathize with your anger shown for this neanderthal of a sports writer, but I urge you to maintain a level head. Any NBA analyst worth a damn would agree that Zaza Pechulia should be the recipient of the 6th Man Award, if not at least Most Improved for his exponential progress in the English language.

      Best regards,

      Atlanta Yuppie