The first round of the playoffs brought a plethora of excitement to NBA fans across the country. From upsets to injuries we saw it all in the past two weeks and now we are entering the Conference Semis with some unpredictable faces. The power in the West seems to have shifted now that Westbrook is sidelined until next year and while the Heat still remain everybody’s favorite, there are a few teams that are looking to rock the boat. With 5 out of 8 correct first round picks, I am now going to try and go a perfect 4 for 4 for the Semis.
As I predicted, the Heat ran over the lowly Bucks for an easy sweep. While the Bulls won’t provide the same simplicity that Milwaukee did, Miami should have no problem making it to the next round but I don’t feel that this series will end in a sweep. I am predicting that the Bulls will squeeze out a meaningless game 4, a la the Knicks last season, but inevitably the Heat will prevail in 5. Lebron is too good and Rose is too injured.
Prediction: Heat 4-1
I am very proud that my Knicks are finally in the second round again but they are running into arguably the best defense in the Playoffs. Indiana and the Knicks provided the NBA with some of the best playoff series through the 90’s. Who could forget Miller’s heroics or LJ’s 4-point play. It’s safe to say that these two teams hate each other. Melo has a lot to prove if the Knicks are truly competing for a Title. Paul George and Indiana pose a lot of threats to the Knicks and I feel this series will be extremely tight throughout. That being said, the Knicks should be meeting the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Prediction: Knicks 4-2
I might have predicted this match up to be the Clippers vs Thunder but I feel that the Grizz will make it a much more enticing series. It was heartbreaking to see Westbrook get injured the way he did, but let’s not forget who the Thunder belongs too; he’s known as the Durantula! Durant can score and Memphis can defend. The Clippers found out first hand how tough the Grizzlies can be when they are on top of their game. A lot of analysts are writing the Thunder off with Russel being out but I don’t necessarily see it that way. The Thunder are more of a playoff-seasoned team and while this match up will probably be a lot harder without Westbrook, they will still come out on top.
Prediction: Thunder 4-3
I have to apologize to the Spurs for even questioning their ability to trounce the Lakers. San Antonio handled their business with class and ease and now they have the luxury of facing the young and hyped Golden State Warriors. In what has to be the biggest upset of the first round, Mark Jackson led his talented cast of neophytes over the starless Denver Nuggets only to have the Spurs waiting for them in round 2. Outside of my Knicks, there is no team I enjoy watching more than the Warriors, but with Duncan and Parker on the top of their games the Warriors don’t stand a shot of the Conference Finals.
Prediction: Spurs 4-1
For almost two decades now the San Antonio Spurs have demonstrated exactly what it is like to play as a team. Year after year, the Spurs have proven that it does not matter who is in the game as long as you play as a team. With NBA championships in 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007, the Spurs are looking to add a fifth title to the dynasty that started when San Antonio drafted Tim Duncan as the first overall pick from Wake Forest in 1997. Last night the Spurs finished their second straight sweep of an opponent in the 2012 playoffs and added to their win streak of 18 in a row dating back to the regular season. In round 1, San Antonio demolished the Utah Jazz only to be faced up with the young and talented LA Clippers in round 2. Fear of this high-flying acrobatic team that fans call “lob city,” was nonexistent in the minds of the Spurs as they won all 4 games without missing a beat. At this point I do not see anybody being able to beat this powerhouse team, whether it be the winner of the Thunder/Lakers match-up in the Western Conference Finals or whomever they would face in the NBA finals.
Although this team is clearly led by their veterans Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli, San Antonio is a team with endless depth and can beat you from a million different angles. Second in the NBA in scoring, fourth in assists and ninth in rebounds, the Spurs hit on all facets of basketball fundamentals. The Spurs finished the regular season tied with Chicago for the best record in the NBA at 50-16. The incredible thing about that is that they played relativity under the radar all year. I guess that America has just come to expect that Tim Duncan will lead his team to success season after season. This season was extra special for San Antonio because their expectations were a lot lower after losing in the first round of the playoffs last year.
With a roster filled with relatively unknowns, San Antonio found ways this season to pinpoint each players strengths and weaknesses so they could put a solid 11-man rotation together. Role players like Gary Neal, Kawhi Leonard, Daniel Green and Tiago Splitter have embraced their opportunities as secondary options to the Spurs all-stars. Aging veterans like Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw and Matt Bonner have bought into the idea of supporting rather than shinning, knowing that it will help their ultimate goal of winning a championship. Already tasting one championship in 2007, Matt Bonner has become a huge vocal leader off the bench, as well as providing the Spurs with a deadly 3-point shot. When the Spurs play it is always a complete team effort and it all starts with the marvelous coaching of Gregg Popovich.
With the Lakers trailing the Thunder 3-1 in their best-of-seven match-up, it looks like the Spurs will be facing off with yet another young and extremely talented team in Oklahoma City. I can’t bet against the Spurs right now with the way they are playing, but I do feel that OKC poses a tough match-up. If the SAS make the finals it will most likely be against the Eastern Conference favorites, Miami Heat. If this is how it all plays out I will really look forward to seeing the Spurs and Heat duke it out till the very end. Regardless of what else happens for the rest of the playoffs, I think we should all pay our respects to the under-appreciated and over-achieving San Antonio Spurs.
Today is one of those days where if you are a sport fan, it doesn’t get much better! You have the NBA and NHL playoffs, a full slate of baseball, the Kentucky Derby and to top it all off, a big boxing match. My suggestion is to start off with a few beers and a comfortable couch for some hockey and basketball this afternoon, then find a nice lounge and order a few Mint Juleps and enjoy the derby, then switch over to a bar, order some tequila in any form, and watch the fight! For you gamblers out there, get your wallets ready and read below because this is a great day to wager on some action!
NHL Playoffs: Rangers vs. Capitals- This series has been played very close throughout. Both teams play solid defense, have great goaltending and contains dangerous scorers who are capable of hitting the nets. However, the Rangers have all the momentum in the world after their last game, a triple OT win on Wednesday night. I expect the Rangers to carry their solid play into today’s game, and even though it is in Washington, New York has played excellent away from the Garden so this won’t be much of a factor. Look for the Rangers to win another close, exciting game and take a 3-1 lead in the series.
NBA Playoffs: Pacers vs. Magic- The Pacers are coming off 2 straight wins, the last being in Orlando and I don’t expect anything different from today. Danny Granger is the best player on the floor, coming off a 26 point, 9 rebound game. In game 3, Roy Hibbert had a solid 18 points, 10 rebound game, taking advantage of the huge void left by Dwight Howard, and I don’t see how Orlando can match his size. Indiana had a solid season all year long, though received very little attention. Look for them to take a stranglehold on this series today by beating the Magic and taking the series back to Indiana up 3-1.
NBA Playoffs: Spurs vs. Jazz- Although San Antonio is a favorite to win the entire thing this year, as the Spurs have had a great season lead by Tony Parker, I believe the Jazz have a little more fight in them then they have shown. Though Utah lost the first two games in San Antonio by a combined 46 points, Utah has always enjoyed a great home court advantage. I do not think the Jazz have the talent to match up with the Spurs over the course of a series, but I also don’t see them getting swept. I think today is when they get their first and only win, and look for Derrick Favors to play more minutes and have a positive impact for the Jazz.
NBA Playoffs: Thunder vs. Mavericks: Though the first two games were very close, Oklahoma prevailed in both and then dominated the Mavs in Dallas to take game 3, 95-79. The defending champion Mavericks have a lot of veteran leadership, and Dirk and company have been in this position before. The only difference this year is they are going against a younger, hungrier, and better basketball team. Kevin Durant threw up 31 points in game 3, and it appears that the Thunder are trying to make a statement that they are ready for the big time. Look for Durant’s hot shooting to carry over and the Thunder to sweep the champs out of this year’s tournament.
NBA Playoff: Grizzlies vs. Clippers- This series has been my favorite of the playoffs so far. The Clippers had a great comeback in game 1, the Grizz matched them in game 2 behind OJ Mayo’s 20 points off the bench, and now the series returns to Los Angeles. The Clipper fans have been overshadowed by Kobe and the Lakers for so many years, and this is the series and chance they have been waiting a while for. When they brought Chris Paul in this season it was for games like todays. I like both of these young, talented teams, and I really feel like this series has a great shot of going the distance. Though I am leaning towards to Grizzlies to take the series, I think the home crowd, who haven’t had a home playoff game since 2006, will give Paul, Griffin and the rest of the Clippers team the energy needed to match Memphis’s physical play and allow LA to take Game 3.
The 138th Kentucky Derby- I am not going to pretend I know a lot about horse racing. Every now and then (and by that I mean three times a year), I’ll tune in just because I like the half a minute of excitement and I enjoy hearing the announcers call the winner. I have not been researching the horses, I do not know how they each run on different tracks, and I’m not sure which jockeys have the inside advantage. However, from what I know, this particular field seems to be very open. As a result, I will predict my winner by using my usual strategy, pick a horse that has a cool name and pays out well. Since I plan on drinking a decent amount today, and plan on uttering the phrase, “I’ll Have Another”, then I don’t see how picking any other horse makes sense. I’ll Have Another is paying out 17-1, so as I’m at the bar, I’ll be simultaneously ordering drinks and rooting on this beautiful chestnut colt.
Junior Middleweight Title Match: Floyd Mayweather vs. Miguel Cotto- Floyd “Money” Mayweather has taken a lot of heat over the past few years for who he hasn’t fought, mainly Manny Pacquiao. However, in tonight’s match, he will certainly be tested by the 31 year old Miguel Cotto, who has a career 37-2 record, with one of those losses extremely questionable. His only other loss came at the hands of Pacquiao, so Cotto can definitely hold his own in the ring. Cotto is much more humble than the 35 year old Mayweather, who is the biggest showman in the sport. Though Cotto might be easier to root for, Floyd is the best in the business hands down. With a 42-0 lifetime record, it is very hard to argue that point. I think Floyd will win tonight, as he is just a better boxer than Cotto. I don’t see a knockout, as both fighters are technically sound, though I believe at the end of the night, Mayweather will receive the judge’s decision on the score cards.
Enjoy the day and night in sports and good look with your bookies and at the OTB!