Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Day Two of the Playoff Preview

Hi there. I was thinking about previewing the Nets/Bulls matchup, but because there is some significant likelihood that it will not happen, it's probably better to wait a day or two. Something that I was thinking about that I don't think anyone has pointed out about this game is that the Bulls are almost given the choice of whom they want to play in the first round by virtue of their contest against the Nets on the 18th (tomorrow).

To wit: If the Wizards, who are currently in the six spot, lose one more game (and they are playing in such a way that there is very good chance they will), then the Wiz and Nets' respective records before tomorrow's Nets / Bulls will be 40-41 for the Wizards and 40-41 for the Nets. The Nets own a 4-0 record against the Wizards this year (with two contests decided in overtime, interestingly), and therefore hold the tie-breaker. That means that if the Nets win in Chicago, they gain control of the sixth seed.

Chicago is the two seed, and if there is a rational mind on the team, they would prefer to play the Arenas-less Wizards about 140 times as much as the Nets (who are currently seeded seventh and who will play the Bulls if they remain there). Therefore, the Nets gaining the sixth seed is actually to the Bulls' advantage, and by throwing a game against the Nets, the Bulls would be giving themselves a markedly weaker first round adversary in the Wizards, who they are sure to pants.

It's a great opportunity to rest players, give the bench guys some minutes, and it will still give the Bulls another game become the second team in the East to reach the magic 50-victory plateau. (Wait, there's only one team in the East with 50 wins? How many do they have? 51? Oh.) The only wrench in the ointment is the Cavaliers, who are a game behind Chicago, and who could turn the win-by-losing strategy on its head. I don't think they'll be able to do this because they are not very good, but they do contribute to a very interesting situation.

Obviously, because of this situation, I am also handicapped from previewing the potential Raptors/Wizards series or the potential Bulls/Nets, so I'll just go right ahead to the other first-round matchup in the East:

Miami Heat vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

Dwayne Wade is going to be back. I'm glad that we got that over with, because it really adds something to this series. I'm a little worried about how he'll play because so much of his game is predicated on his fearlessness, but something tells me Dwayne Wade has faced down tougher shit than having his shoulder messed up. (Dude can give a way a Lincoln Navigator without blinking.)

In my eyes, if Wade (who has been receiving treatments including acupuncture and Slick Rick's Kangol) is back and in full health, this series should go decisively the Heat's way, because they have gross matchup advantages at almost every position.

Dwayne Wade matching up with Larry Hughes (certainly this year's Least Improved Player) should be exciting to watch, as Hughes's overrated defense will get Flashed repeatedly. It's true that Lebron and Gooden's help might be effective, but Cleveland's team defense just isn't that well-prepared, and they haven't executed particularly well all season. Miami's perimeter acumen and Wade's ability to distribute, both in the lane and to the wing, should further counteract the help defense.

Likewise, LeBron (literally, "The Bron") will destroy whomever guards him, Kapono or Posey (if he can play). Also, his distribution skills will pick apart whatever help defense Miami uses (if they elect to do this at all).

If the matchups ended there, this would be one hell of a series. The problem is, there are other players on the floor, and every matchup seems to go Miami's way.

Shaq and Ilguaskas, for instance, is laughable. Shaq might just get bored and start trying to bring down the hoop. The only hope Z has is to try to get the daddy in foul trouble, but it will be hard to do that, because he is very slow and deliberate on offense. Z'll have to be sinking everything to make Shaq risk fouling him on The Hook That Time Forgot. Even if he does succeed in doing this, I don't think he can handle Mourning, either.

Drew Gooden is essentially a weaker version of Udonis Haslem with less heart and a less consistent jump shot, as well as a patently ridiculous patch of hair on the back of his head that I can't stop seeing because TNT bought up every Cav game all season. He is a bit more athletic, but I don't think it's enough to make any difference unless he can somehow lure Haslem into a faceup game. Haslem would have to be an idiot to do that, though, because Gooden has no jump shot. Therefore, for Gooden to beat his man, he's going to have to get lucky and go on a hot streak. I have never seen Drew Gooden "get lucky and go on a hot streak".

Gary Payton and Jason Williams are both very good point guards with diverse talents. The Cavaliers point guards...don't exist. I think the legal term for what would happen in this case is "Default Judgment". (As for the counter-argument of Eric Snow...come on...)

Sasha Pavlovic, Anderson Varejao, and Donyell Marshall are all mediocre, while Eddie Jones, Alonzo Mourning, James Posey (if available), Antoine Walker, and Dorrell Wright probably constitute the best bench in the Eastern conference. As a matter of fact, if they got to play with Dwayne Wade, I think they'd have a decent chance against the Cavs on their own.

The bottom line? I think the Cavs, despite their possible 50-win status and despite the presence of The Bron, just won't get it done. They're not tough, they can't shoot, they don't seem to have a lot of heart, and their role players are not the type to come through in big situations (especially not Larry Hughes). If they win one game, that's an accomplishment. Yeah, I said it.

(Editors Note: Damon Jones was intentionally omitted from this column as it pertains to basketball. Thank you.)

As always, e-mail me at dontgiveupthebasketballblog@gmail.com

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