Sports

Ben Siebert’s Basketball Bracketology

IMAGE BY ERIK MAGNUSON

By Ben Siebert
CONTRIBUTOR

Eastern Conference Preview

(1) Chicago Bulls vs (8) Indiana Pacers (Bulls lead 2-0)

The Chicago Bulls entered the playoffs owning the NBA’s best record, making coach Tom Thibodeau and Derrick Rose candidates for Coach of the Year and MVP. Don’t get me wrong, the Bulls are good, and D-Rose deserves the MVP (although the case could be made for Dwight Howard), but the way they let Indiana hang around in the first two games isn’t a good sign for a team with little playoff experience outside the first round. Ex-Tar Heel Tyler Hansbrough had to make Bulls fans ask themselves why they pay ex-Blue Devil Carlos Boozer $11.5 million a season in Game 1. In the end, Rose and the Bulls are bigger, better, and more experienced than the Pacers, and this one should be over in four games. Prediction: Bulls in 4

(4) Orlando Magic vs (5) Atlanta Hawks (Series tied 1-1)

The Orlando Magic made some puzzling moves mid-season when they traded away Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis, Marcin Gortat, and Mickael Pietrus. But the new-looking Magic are still led by their core: Point guard Jameer Nelson and defensive player of the year, Dwight Howard. Howard’s 46 points and 19 rebounds weren’t enough for Orlando to take Game 1 at home, but the Magic took Game 2 behind another monster game from Howard. The old saying goes, live by the three, die by the three and the Magic, who led the NBA in 3-point field goals this season, are not looking nearly as good with 11-45 from downtown thus far. Nonetheless, I think the Magic will grind out this series against a mediocre Hawks squad who haven’t really improved since last season. Prediction: Magic in 6

(3) Boston Celtics vs (6) New York Knicks (Celtics lead 2-0)

While it hasn’t been pretty for Boston, the Celtics have done what they do best: win at all costs, no matter how ugly, lucky, or dirty they have to be. Ray Allen saved the Celtics from a Game 1 upset at home when he knocked down the go-ahead 3 with under a minute to go. Carmelo Anthony couldn’t have had all the stank-face in the world to lead the injury-ridden Knicks past Boston in Game 2. Carmelo will need more 40+ performances if the Knicks want to have a chance against Boston. Doc and Danny know how to win come playoff time, and I’m trusting they get it done. Prediction: Celtics in 5

(2) Miami Heat vs (7) Philadelphia 76ers (Heat lead 2-0)

The 76ers had an early lead in Game 1 and that is as close as they’re going to get to winning a game in this series. The Heat are in playoff mode, and although I’m not convinced their offense is run well enough, or that their bench is good enough to make it to the finals, this should be a walk-through for the Big Three and their aging counterparts. Prediction: Heat in 4 

Western Conference Preview

(1) San Antonio Spurs vs (8) Memphis Grizzlies (Series tied 1-1)

As my life coach Charles Barkley predicted, this series won’t be a cakewalk for the geriatrics of San Antonio. Zach Randolph is a double-double machine, and Tony Allen is a great source of energy for the young Grizzlies, helping to pull off the upset in Game 1. O.J. Mayo and Shane Battier were a combined 2-18 in a Game 2 loss and will have to play much better if Memphis has any chance of winning this series. San Antonio’s experience will lead them through a tough series with Memphis. Prediction: Spurs in 6

(4) Oklahoma City Thunder vs (5) Denver Nuggets (Thunder lead 2-0)

Game 1 of this series was the most exciting and controversial game so far in the playoffs. The NBA said after Game 1 that Kendrick Perkins’ late tip-in in the 4th quarter should have been called offensive goal-tending. That story overshadowed the great game between two well-coached, up-tempo teams. Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook combined for 72 of the Thunder’s 107 points to overcome a well-balanced Nugget attack. The Thunder are my sleepers to make it to the finals from the West. Prediction: Thunder in 5

(3) Dallas Mavericks vs (6) Portland Trail Blazers (Mavs lead 2-0)

When the seeding situation first became obvious in the West, this was the matchup where most people saw upset potential. After losing in the first round last year, the Mavs proved the pundits wrong and have taken a quick 2-0 lead. Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki will keep Portland from winning more than two games this series. The more physical and aggressive Trail Blazers will not beat the well-oiled machine that is the Mavericks. Prediction: Mavericks in 6

(2) Los Angeles Lakers vs (7) New Orleans Hornets (Series tied 1-1)

Chris Paul stole the show in Game 1 dropping 33 points and dishing out 14 assists in a 109-100 upset of the defending champion Lakers. Aaron Gray and Jarrett Jack combined for 27 points off the bench for the Hornets, but the New Orleans bench combined for only 13 points in the Game 2 loss. The Hornets are doing a good job of defending Pau Gasol (4-19 shooting combined), and they’ll have to keep it up if they want to steal a few more games from L.A. If Artest continues to knock down clutch shots, Kobe and the Lakers should take the series. Prediction: Lakers in 6


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