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Before the season started, Jay, Big Money, and I went back and forth about what we thought would happen in the 2012-2013 NBA season. Now that it’s the day before the playoffs are set to start, we’re doing it again.
Just so you know, Jay hosts the New York Knicks podcast which makes him a Knicks homer (and a LeBron hater). Big Money is also a Knicks fan. I am a Warriors fan. What does this mean? We’re extra amped for the playoffs to start since our teams are on the up and up again.
The match ups are set. It seems that all the juicy stories are out West (Kobe-less Lakers vs. San Antonio, James Harden’s revenge, the Warriors’ outside shooting vs. the Nuggets’ athleticism, and the physical series between Clippers and Grizzlies).
Other than the Knicks vs. Celtics, is there anything else out East that you’re looking forward to?
Jay: Miami can rest their starters and probably still sweep the Bucks. Atlanta probably won’t fare much better against the Pacers. I am curious about the Bulls/Nets matchup however. If the Bulls are healthy (minus Rose of course) I think they can take the Nyets and at least make the Heat break a sweat with their physical play which you know LeBron doesn’t like.
Big Money: Miami can wax the Bucks while half-asleep. Knicks/Celtics would be a series if Rondo was healthy, but he isn’t. The Bulls will take the Nets, who are not playoff tested. I don’t know a hell of a lot about the Pacers. Might this be the time the Hawks advance to Round 2?
GG: If the Nets win, they could give the Heat a different look with how big they can play. I do want to see how former Warriors guard, Monta Ellis plays against the Heat.
But let’s talk about your Knickerbockers for a second. When we did our NBA preview, we talked about how Boston had a really good chance to be right back in the Eastern Conference finals. Then, Rondo got injured. That gives the Knicks a clear edge to knock off Boston and get to the second round. But, the Celtics’ style is tough and their regular season is always just a dry run for the playoffs. Aren’t you slightly worried that they’ll be able to slow it down, play smartly, and put the Knicks into some tough spots?
Jay: The Celtics always play the Knicks tough but the Knicks are playing the best ball of the season right now while the Celtics haven’t looked great, especially Terry and Pierce. Bradley can give JR problems but unfortunately he can’t cover the four other guys on the court. It’ll be a tough series but I say Knicks in six.
Big Money: I don’t think the series will be easy for the Knicks, but I think they will prevail in less than 7 games. They don’t have a floor general anymore, but the Knicks have the clear advantage at every position except the two guard. The Knicks’ bench is much deeper, and KMart and QRich could be huge factors here.
GG: I would love to say that KG and Paul Pierce will their way into a seven game series, but I just don’t see how they’re going to keep up scoring-wise. Jeff Green is the wild card here. If good Jeff Green turns into great Jeff Green, we have quite a series.
Like I mentioned, the West has some tasty match-ups. Which series out West do you think has the best chance for the upset?
Jay: I don’t consider the 4/5 matchup when picking an upset so I’ll go with Denver/Golden State. I think Denver is MUCH better, but Gallo is out for the playoffs and Faried and Lawson aren’t 100%. Lawson may be by the time game one starts, but Gallo and Faried are important players to be missing. That and Denver doesn’t have great perimeter defense and the Warriors happen to have the best shooter in the league.
Big Money: I think the Spurs should be worried. Even without Kobe, the Lakers still have Nash, Howard and Gasol. The Thunder’s too experienced to fall to the Rockets, even if Harden has blood in his eyes.
GG: While I get that Gallo can get hot from the outside, I also think his shot selection and defense is terrible. I’m actually sad to see him missing this series against the Warriors. Here’s how the Warriors can win: Steph Curry and Klay Thompson go nuts, Kenneth Faried misses a couple of games and when he comes back, he’s not healthy, and Andre Miller acts his age. I think the Nuggets are ripe for an upset. The only problem here is that the Warriors are so green when it comes to the postseason, it may take them a couple games to get into it.
Is there a specific player or a specific series outside of your favorite team’s that you want to keep your eye on and why?
Jay: Josh Smith! Smoove is hoping for a max contract and laying an egg against the Pacers could cost him millions.
Big Money: CP3. The Clips for sure are going to be the most interesting team in the playoffs.
GG: I’ll say it again: Monta Ellis. This is his best chance to show his worth. I think we know who he is, but for one round and a small sample size, he can make disbelievers into believers. And if you’ve seen him play, he can do it the other way too. I think he’s going to have some great games offensively.
Obviously, the Heat are huge favorites in the East. Make a case for either your Knicks, or another team that may match up decently against them (Pacers? Nets? Bulls?). How can Miami be beaten?
Jay: The Knicks are the East’s only hope to beat the Heat. The key is ball movement. If Felton and JR can drive and kick to the open man, the Knicks are more than capable of hitting the open three. I’d say they could also go to the line but LeBron seems to have a force field around him that disables fouls from being called on him while drawing fouls from anyone penetrating the bubble. Getting one of those for the matchup would be nice. The Knicks also need to take advantage of their size and clean up on the boards.
Big Money: If D. Rose was healthy, I’d definitely say Chicago would have a chance to beat Miami.
The Knicks have played Miami tight all year-they won the season series and beat the Heat by 20 without Carmelo. I don’t think they can beat the Heat in a playoff series, but if both teams make it to the Eastern Conference Finals, that series could be like one of those late ’90s/early 2000s Heat/Knicks battles. Just no Jeff Van Gundy around to swing from anyone’s leg.
GG: Simply because of how hard Madison Garden will rock, I think the Knicks are the team that has to be there in the Eastern Conference Finals. Brooklyn needed the third seed to face Miami in the ECF and they didn’t get it. The Pacers had the look earlier in the year, but they don’t have it now. It’s the Knicks. Has to be the Knicks. Melo will have to match Bron, JR will have to match Wade, and Chandler will have to dominate the boards and use his six the hard way.
The Thunder are the favorite to win the West. But, unlike in the East where the Heat are a clear favorite, you can argue that any of the top 5 teams have a shot to get out of the West. Two part question:
Which team do you think wins the West?
Also, which team is best suited to beat the Heat if they get to the finals for the third year in a row.
Jay: 1. While I think the Thunder make it out of the West, I would not be shocked if any of seeds 2-5 make it as well.
2. I’d say the Grizzlies are best equipped to stop the Heat. They are the best defensive team in the league and Tony Allen can slow down LeBron while Randolph and Gasol clog the paint.
Big Money: I guess I’d have to say OKC and OKC, because at least they’re battle tested.
GG: 1. I also think OKC makes it to the finals because they’re so efficient offensively.
2. Like Jay, it’s the Grizzlies. They have the best chance of changing the way Miami plays and it would be the most boring matchup, which is why they’d have a chance.
Okay, before I ask you for your finals predictions, I want to ask you True/False questions. Give me your True/False answer, and then quick answers why.
True or False: Indiana vs. Atlanta will be the more exciting series than Chicago vs. New Jersey.
Jay: False – Atlanta is not very good and are outmatched at just about every position.
Big Money: True
GG: False – I think Chicago and New Jersey is way more interesting. You’d have to pay me in the thousands to watch Indiana vs. Atlanta.
True or False: There will be at least one fight which results in suspensions in the Memphis vs. LA Clippers series.
Jay: False – But there will be at least four flagrants, a few fines, and a lot of techs.
Big Money: True
GG: True – I think Blake sets someone off. His tough guy act gets bothersome.
True or False: There will be at least one game where Stephen Curry goes for 40 or more points.
Jay: True – He’s bound to go off at least once.
Big Money: True – I say at least two.
GG: True – At least it better be, because if it doesn’t happen, I’m not sure the Warriors can keep up.
True or False: Kevin Garnett and Carmelo Anthony go nose to nose and nearly come to blows at least once during the Boston vs. New York series.
Jay: False – Melo will keep his cool in the playoffs.
Big Money: True – YOU CAN WRITE THAT SHIT DOWN.
GG: True – I’d actually bet money that this happens at least once.
True or False: Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol play like Twin Towers and both look like players of old giving the bloggers a lot of anti-Kobe ball ammo in the offseason.
Jay: Half true – Gasol looks good, Dwight looks mediocre leading to another offseason of ‘where will Dwight go?’
Big Money: True – I think this is going to happen.
GG: True – I’d bet money on this one too. I’m a big Pau fan and I think he can be a game changer.
True or False: Monta Ellis outscores Dwyane Wade during the Milwaukee/Miami series.
Jay: True – Monta is playing for a contract.
Big Money: True – Wade is happy being number two to LeBron.
GG: True – Wade outscored Monta by about two points per game during the regular season. However, while Monta will play worse overall, I think he’ll outscore him. Monta’s going for delf.
True or False: James Harden outscores Kevin Durant in the OKC vs. Houston series.
Jay: False – No one on Houston can cover Durant.
Big Money: True – Harden is going to explode.
GG: False – But it’s going to be close. KD doesn’t have to take as many shots because he’s efficient, but these teams are going to score so much that Harden has a chance for some forty point games and maybe a fifty. If KD gets enough shots, he’ll match him and more.
Denver makes at least the Western Conference Finals, making Jay a happy man for picking them to win the West before the season started.
Jay: True! They might end up playing a very beat up Spurs team in round two.
GG: False – But I’m basing this on the Warriors giving them fits and either beating them or putting them through a marathon.
Lastly, give me your Easter Conference and Western Conference winners and finals prediction.
Jay: I think it’ll be Heat/Thunder again but with the Thunder winning this time. Both teams are tired from the 7-game series the Nuggets and Knicks give them and the Thunder’s youth gives them the slight edge they need to outlast the Heat and their decrepit bench. I seriously can’t deal with the Heat winning again. Someone please beat them!
Big Money: Despite the fact that I don’t want to see Heat/Thunder II, this year’s Finals match up will be…
Heat/Thunder II. Heat win this one in six or less. These guys are playing ’98 Bulls style right now.
GG: I wish I could say something different, but I can’t. Unlike Big Money, this is the series that I hope for. I really enjoy it when the two best players in the league face off for the biggest prize.