NBA Playoffs Round 2 Preview: Lakers v. Mavs, Bulls v. Hawks, Celtics v. Heat, Thunder v. Grizzlies

One of the most intriguing NBA playoffs in recent memory didn’t disappoint in the first round.  Shockingly, the #1 seed San Antonio Spurs fell to the #8 Grizzlies.  But I don’t buy into the idea that this means the Grizzlies are now a better team than the Spurs.  Ginobili was playing with one arm, and Tim Duncan was probably only 80% coming off his late season ankle sprain. These sorts of unlucky injuries can mean everything in a playoff series. Remember Lebron on one arm?

The Atlanta Hawks also shocked the Orlando Magic.  Which shows conclusively that how a team plays down the stretch in the regular season means almost nothing.  Was there a worse team than the Hawks in the last month of the season?  I remember the Celtics were also horrible last year in March and April. And of course, the Lakers were 3-7 coming into these playoffs.

Round 2 begins tomorrow, and with it the promise of more intriguing matchups. Jump for the 411.                                               

Lakers (-300) v. Mavs (+240)

The media is trying to build up the Mavs chances to upset the Lakers in this series, but I just don’t see it.  The Lakers had little trouble with the Mavs in the regular season, and I expect that to continue.  The Mavs problems start in the middle: Andrew Bynum looks at Tyson Chandler like a taste treat.  And they end, of course with Kobe Bryant.  The Mavs will try DeShawn Stevenson on him, who is a pretty decent defender.  But he’s not a 2 way player: his shooting percentages were ridiculously low the last few seasons.  And in fact, the Mavs don’t have any go to players in their backcourt to complement Dirk Nowitzki.  Terry is their main guy, but I’ve always thought that he struggles to get his shot off in the playoffs.

Predictions: Chandler in constant foul trouble. Kobe romps. Gasol and Odom cancel Nowitzki.  Lakers in… five?

Wagers: I don’t like laying long odds in series, but I view this line as way too low.  I would lay 3-1 on the Lakers.

Bulls (-500) v. Hawks (+350)

All chances of this being a competitive series went out the window with the Hinrich injury.  Do you remember what the ridiculously overrated Brandon Jennings was able to do to the Hawks in the playoffs last season?  Derrick Rose will make that look like kid’s play.  The Hawks backcourt, sans Hinrich, is one of the worst defensively in the league, and their frontline isn’t imposing enough to defend the rim from Rose’s predations.

There are some injury wildcards: Rose is playing on a recently sprained ankle, and Boozer is day-to-day on a turf toe.  But it won’t matter.

Predictions: The fans in Chicago begin chanting “Ole!” every time Jamal Crawford picks up Derrick Rose in the halfcourt.  Bulls in…. SWEEP?

Wagers: I think laying 5-1 on the Bulls is quite reasonable, if you can sweat that kind of bet.  If you have a friend from Georgia who is willing to split the juice, that would be even better.  I would lay 4.25 to 1 on the Bulls in a heartbeat.

Celtics (+170) v. Heat (-200)

Once again the former World champs, now defending Eastern Conference champs are being disrespected by the bookies in the first round.  I bet the Celtics throughout last years playoffs (excepting the Finals), but this year, I think the bookies may have it right.

The Celtics handled the Heat easily in the first three games of the regular season.  But that was then.  Before the Perkins trade.  The Celtics have some serious chemistry problems right now, due to their uncertain situation in the middle.  Krstic played well after the trade, but then he got injured, and is now behind Jermaine O’Neal in the rotation.  Shaq has been out for months.  Will he even help if he returns?

The Heat, meanwhile, have been playing better and better.  Mario Chalmers has emerged as their best player at the point.  Joel Anthony is back and playing well in the middle.  Chris Bosh is playing better.

And then, of course, there’s feltbot’s David Stern rule:  Never, ever bet against the face of the NBA.  In the East, that’s Lebron and Derrick Rose.

In their last regular season meeting, the Heat blew out the Celtics.  I think that’s a harbinger of what’s to come.

Predictions: Lebron and Paul Pierce engage in a battle for the ages, with Lebron prevailing.  His defense is as dominant as his offense.  The Celtics struggle to guard Dwayne Wade.  On the other end, Wade does what no man has done before: make Ray Allen look old. Wade’s defense is also dominant. Bosh cancels out Kevin Garnett (oh, how those words taste bitter in my mouth).

And there will be several blown calls in crunch time, all favoring the Heat.

Heat in… 7, making feltbot sweat.

Wagers: Laying 2-1.

Thunder (-300) v. Grizzlies (+240)

I’m saving the best for last. The Thunder are everyone’s darling right now, everyone’s pick to meet the Lakers in the next round.  And maybe they will advance through Memphis, but if they do, it may not be because they’re the better team. I think this line is ridiculously wrong.

Here’s why:

1) Marc Gasol will dominate Kendrick Perkins in every way imaginable. Size, weight, health.  Inside scoring.  Perkins will get absolutely nothing against Gasol, and I don’t think he is healthy enough to return the favor.

2) Tony Allen.  Did you see what Aaron Afflalo did to Russell Westbrook in the last series?  It’s about to get worse.  Westbrook will struggle to shoot 40% in this series.  But that won’t stop this selfish gunner from continuing to ignore his teammates and hoist bad shots.

3) Shane Battier.  Gallinari and Chandler did a decent job on Durant, about half the time.  This is about to get worse as well.  Battier might be the best wing defender in the league right now, who studies every opponent’s tendencies religiously.  Let’s see which way he pushes Durant.

4) Zach Randolph against Serge Ibaka:  I am absolutely relishing the prospect of this matchup.  The wizardly floor-bound vet against the amazing high-flying, shot-swatting 21-yr-old prodigy.  I just have a sneaking suspicion that Randolph is going to win this battle.  Why?  Here’s a hint: Jumpers like to jump.

On the other hand, there is a very good reason not to pick Memphis to win this series.  It would be disastrous to the NBA’s marketing plans and TV revenues.  If you think I’m joking, or even half-joking about this, you would be wrong.  Kevin Durant is the new face of the Western Conference.  The last remaining standard-bearer for all the league’s small market teams.  Don’t bet against the face of the NBA.

Predictions: Westbrook has a miserable series.  Battier holds down Durant to merely exceptionally good.  The rest of the Thunder struggle mightily to pick up the slack, and the Thunder shoot under 40% from the field for the series (just as they did against the Nuggets, with Afflalo back).

Ibaka finds himself in constant foul trouble against the crafty Randolph. Both Perkins and Ibaka struggle to keep Gasol and Randolph out of the paint.

And the refs steal at least 2 games for the Thunder in crunch time.

Memphis in 6.  Err… Thunder in 7, thanks to a series of godawful calls in game 6.

Wagers: Very tempted to take the +240, but I don’t want to bet against the face of the NBA in a series.  And I think there’s a better way to bet on underdogs in the playoffs.  I’m going to bet Memphis in selected games, starting with game 1, taking +6.5.

[Edit:  Actually I may back off game 1, due to the short turnaround.  Hoping the Grizzlies lose game 1 and taking the points in game 2 seems like a better plan.]

17 Responses to NBA Playoffs Round 2 Preview: Lakers v. Mavs, Bulls v. Hawks, Celtics v. Heat, Thunder v. Grizzlies

  1. Please note I’ve updated my Grizzlies game plan.

  2. Felt, you had it right…Griz straight up in a game 1 blowout. What’s your plan for game 2? Is there any way Stern and friends allow this to happen? Thunder in 7 might be a great bet.

  3. feltmeister, ’tis a pity you second guessed yourself. Mem appears to be peaking and completely compatible with Hollins — are there many other coaches who’d start a defender rather than scorer at the 2 guard and use another wing of similar ilk as the sixth man ? [putting ellis, the ‘much better player’ acc. to woeyr fans, on his ideal home team would not necessarily improve them] .

    a dark horse run to the western finals would make this post season note worthy, and further push the once-unique upset over #1 Dal into the realm of fading memories.

  4. Hope I didn’t talk anyone out of betting the Grizzlies in game 1. Hollins clearly had them prepared, and they look to me like the far better team.

    It was interesting to me that Hollins let Conley guard Westbrook. Perhaps he wants to encourage Westbrook to shoot the Thunder out of the series? If that’s his plan, it clearly worked in game 1.

    It was also very interesting to me that Hollins cross-matched Tony Allen onto Durant. Young and Battier absolutely shut down the Thunder’s off-guards (Harden 2-5), which just might be an excellent strategy.

    It is clear to me that Hollins is a thinking-man’s playoff coach. Very, very impressed.

    I also loved the use of Gasol in the high post. He’s a terrific passer. How would he look in a Warriors uniform?

    Probably not as good as he looks for Memphis. Lacob would no doubt jam him in the low post.

    Please recognize that the amended game plan I wrote of above is of no use now. Memphis won game 1, and the Thunder are now in a MUST-WIN situation, while Memphis must guard against a let-down. Memphis controls the series now, and doesn’t need this game. So the +6.5 they’re getting in this game doesn’t look nearly as good as it would if they had lost. Even championship caliber teams have been known to get blown out in this spot.

  5. At least one more year of NBA basketball in Sac town.

  6. If you’re Brian Shaw and are offered the Lakers head coaching position do you take it? Or what about Shaw instead coaching the Warriors?

  7. Shaw to the Warriors would be an unmitigated disaster. Not a single one of Jackson’s triangle acolytes has succeeded in the real world (of teams without Jordan or Bryant to bail them out). Rambis being just the latest. The triangle is not an NBA system. The only time it has “worked” is when Jackson has had Jordan or Kobe to IGNORE the system in the 4th quarter, play one on three, and pull Jackson’s fat out of the fire.

    Did you catch the Lakers game last night? Truly unbelievable. Jackson is an incompetent game coach, and has always been an incompetent game coach. What Kenny Smith alluded to last night was just the tip of the iceberg.

    The way that Pau Gasol is used by Jackson is an absolute joke. Posting him up against Tyson Chandler? Idiotic. Setting and holding picks for Kobe Bryant, only to watch the rest of the play from the top of the key? Moronic. Keith Smart-worthy.

    Pau Gasol might be the best high post big man who’s ever lived. And one of the best pick and roll big men as well. I don’t think any player in history has ever been forced to sacrifice more for his team.

  8. A masterpiece of NBA round 2 analysis from Bill Simmons. Especially recommended for fans of The Wire.

  9. Nene is there for the taking.

    A question I wouldn’t have bothered with last year: Would you rather have him or Marc Gasol?

  10. Felt, I agree totally with your take on Jackson. My way of summarizing Jackson’s coaching career would be to say that he was very fortunate to be on the same team as MJ, Shaq and Kobe (last night on TNT they talked of how players such as Kerr were fortunate to be teammates of MJ. I look at that from the standpoint of coaches as well).

    That said, where does it say that Shaw would implement the Triangle if he were offered and accepted the Warriors head coaching position? Afterall, did Smart look like a Nelli clone once he took over as head coach? Unfortunately, no. IF Shaw were to say the heck with someone elses (Jackson’s) coaching schemes and develop a philosophy to complement the Warriors personnel he would be an attractive choice, IMO. He’s young and been a part of championship teams. Those are the voices that ring loudest with a young team like GSW.

  11. One of my favorites as a kid, let’s hope the Warriors new head coach has a “Roadrunner” mentality, as in FAST up and down. Loves me some up tempo BB.

  12. Kobe has anointed Shaw anyway, right? Next year should be interesting.

  13. Steve
    RE: Shaw
    I see lots of reasons why Shaw would appeal to Joe Lacob. As with Myers – both have a local connection having played high school locally and college in California. Both are younger up-and-comers and thus, may have more of an open ear to an involved owner’s thoughts and/or suggestions??? Shaw has a connection to the Boston Celtics family having played there. Helping out Phil Jackson and the back-to-back NBA champs can’t hurt.

    My gut feeling/intuition says Phil Jackson coaches one more season no matter how this season plays out… I cannot see him walking away from Kobe, Pau, Bynum, and Odom and company if they still can contend for a title. If Phil coaches yet another season, will Shaw wait another year? Or will Shaw consider the Warriors?

    As for Feltbot’s assumption that Shaw will run the triangle with the Warriors… may or may not be the case – we’ll never know until Shaw actually goes live. But I think the new Warriors head coach will run whatever Joe Lacob wants him to run. Haha!

    Whoever is hired, I pray that the new coach will be one that free agents would prefer…

  14. Hi, Petey. I think Shaw is head coaching next season, somewhere. From all I’ve read Jackson is definitely calling it quits once this season is over, citing health issues as a key factor.

    If Kobe was still in his 20’s I’d say Shaw would be a slam dunk to take the Lakers job if offered, but he’s not and I think the window closing process has begun in regards to the Lakers chances of winning more titles with Kobe as their best player. Does an aging team influence Shaw’s decision? Does the Warriors situation/roster appeal to Shaw? Does Shaw appeal to Lacob? Will Felt win another basketball wager anytime soon? Too many questions and not enough answers for now. Outta here, or as Roadrunner would say, “BEEP BEEP.”

  15. The Lakers look like a drug addict on withdrawal.

  16. It’s as if Jackson zenned his way into a loss, defense above all. Almost no shooting from the guards.

  17. Pingback: Previews: Grizzlies v. Thunder, Game 7 + Heat v. Bulls, Game 1 | | Feltbot's Warriors BlogFeltbot's Warriors Blog