Saturday, April 18, 2009

Where will AMAZING happen this year?

(While you read, I highly recommend playing one of the two videos belows. Yes, I've given you a choice today! Either one works effectively. You don't even need to watch either video. Just jack up your volume meter, and listen to the awesomeness to get you FIRED UP while you read.)

Completing my second-round, conference final and 2009 NBA FINALS, we've got a small, informal bracket challenge going on, so I'll list those selections too.

Oh, and from Part I, I had a belated Brooklyn Decker picture, and didn't want to disappoint my faithful readers by losing in the mix. Here it is. Damn you, Andy Roddick with your 155-mph serve. Go back to Maria, why don't ya.

But I digress. Bulls-Celtics tip off in exactly 102 minutes, so let's get to it. Time to party. But first, your choice of video. Option 1...

...or if you prefer, here's a little Kanye to get you in the mood...


1) Cavaliers vs. 4) Hawks

Remember how much trouble Atlanta gave Boston last year? That was fun. Why couldn't it happen again? I feel like the Hawks are THE most underrated team in the NBA - and that says something, folks, coming from a guy that follows probably the most disrespected team in the league. At least people are talking about the Nuggets. The Hawks won 47 games this year!! That's one less than Utah, two less than NO, and three less than Dallas ... and guess what? The East, from top to bottom, was much better than the West in 2008-09! (That's right, I said it.) The Hawks had much less gimmes than those three, and kept pace. So why did I get bombarded with constant talk about those Western teams, but never heard a peep about Atlanta? I thought it was just a myth that Hawks fans don't exist. Or maybe Hawks fans are the myth.

So I'll go out on a small limb: Atlanta will be the second team this year to beat Cleveland at the Q (the Philly garbage doesn't count; the Sixers beat a JV team masquerading in Cleveland uniforms) and make this an interesting series. But Cleveland will recover and advance.

Prediction: The LeBrons in seven games

2) Celtics vs. 3) Magic

This series lost its luster when KG went down. Unfortunately, the cover story for SI this week didn't convince me that Dwight Howard really, really, really, really wants the NBA title this year; something that can be said for KG, LeBron and Kobe. But you know what? I'm a man of my word (even when that word is totally, totally wrong; see, Northwestern-Wisconsin hoops, Jan. 31) and I was all set to pick Orlando to make the conference finals back when Boston had us fooled that KG was just fine and dandy. So to heck with my fears from the SI article; I'm not just picking Orlando. I'm picking a shocker.

Prediction: Man-Children in four. That's right: a sweep. (This is why I stay away from Vegas.)


1) Lakers vs. 4) Trail Blazers

I keep hearing that Portland's the only team with a chance to knock off the Lakers, due to the mini-rivalry and Los Angeles' alarmingly predominant struggles in Rip City. Well, goodie. Maybe Denver won't have to knock off Kobe after all (okay, enough homerism). I just don't see it, though. That Rockets series should take a ton out of Portland, and while they'll be the nation's darling underdogs against the Lakers, I'm having trouble understanding how Portland, a weak road team, is supposed to put up any sort of fight at the Staples Center in four tries (if it gets that far). Portland's inexperience, particularly opposed to LA's first-round foe Utah, could make this easier for the Lakers than we all think. Obviously, I hope I'm wrong.

Prediction: Black Mambas in five

2) Nuggets vs. 6) Mavericks

When you look at head-to-head records among all Western Conference playoff teams, there are a few three-game sweeps, but only two four-game sweeps. Lakers over Houston is one; the other is...Nuggets over Mavericks? Not what you would expect, now is it? Not to discount three-game dominance over one team, but if you only had to go to the other team's building once, it's a little empty. Not as empty as, you know, using steroids to juice your home run numbers, but still.

My guys did win all four meetings with B-dubs' squad, but to be fair, the total margin in those four wins was 16 points ... and 10 of them were in the Dec. 15 effort. Thus, the Mavericks have every reason to believe they can beat Denver, the way they're playing and with the confidence they would certainly harbor by conquering the Spurs. However, the Nuggets match up well at pretty much every position; it's no mistake that Denver did win each of those games. Plus, David Stern hates Mark Cuban, so Denver has that going for it.

Prediction: Birdman flies high in seven

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS - Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Orlando Magic

The teams only met three nights in the regular season, with the home team winning each time. Orlando actually had two of those. That doesn't necessarily help the Magic, who only got one experience dealing with the Q. (By the way, that's Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, for those who keep wondering. I just really like that moniker.) By this point, the loss of Jameer Nelson has got to be hurting the Magic; and I don't think the Cavs will drop one to Orlando in Cleveland. Don't be thrown by the number of games I predict; this will be a tight, tight series.

Prediction: Title-Starved City in five

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS - Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets

The series everyone wants to see. The Nuggets' fans because it means Chauncey and Carmelo have spearheaded a deep playoff run, and the Lakers' fans because, well, the Nuggets don't have much of a chance of stopping LA from setting up the series everyone REALLY, REALLY wants to see.

Prediction: Dream, Revenge Seekers in six

2009 NBA FINALS - Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Los Angeles Lakers

Everyone is picking the Lakers to win the title. It's not a bad pick at all. Kobe has the best overall supporting cast (and it's not even close) among the MVP candidates, he's the best closer in the game which is huge during playoff time, his team is super-experienced, we all seem to have forgotten that Phil Jackson has been here before. And if these two teams played one game, for it all, at a neutral site, I'd probably be picking Los Angeles too.

But I think I'm smitten with 39-2*. (Asterisk indicates one garbage loss that did not feature real Cleveland team.) You don't just waltz into Cleveland and win games, with that crowd so desperately wanting a championship and so desperately wanting LeBron to retire a Cavalier ... or at least deliver a title before he leaves.

I think Games 1 and 2 are the most important. Remember, at this stage of the playoffs, it's 2-3-2 time. If the Lakers can steal one at the Q, then they can calmly take a "one-game-at-a-time" approach back at home, and try to get three in a row to send LeBron and company back to Ohio with the Finals completed and Kobe clutching his fourth championship trophy. But if the Lakers can' becomes that much tougher to believe that LA can definitely win all three at Staples, knowing they still have to go back to Cleveland and find a way to win a game.

Count me among the believers. The Witnesses. LeBron is about to prove who's really the best in the game.

Prediction: Cleveland Cavaliers in six games

Unofficial Bracket Challenge 2009

AJ's Bracket
First-round winners: Cleveland, Boston, Orlando, Atlanta, Lakers, Denver, Dallas, Portland
Conference finals: Cleveland beats Orlando, Lakers beat Denver
NBA finals: Cleveland beats Lakers in six

B-dubs' Bracket
First-round winners: Cleveland, Chicago, Orlando, Miami, Lakers, Dallas, Portland
Conference finals: Cleveland beats Orlando, Lakers beat Denver
NBA finals: Cleveland beats Lakers in seven

Justin Petek's Bracket
First-round winners: Cleveland, Boston, Orlando, Miami, Lakers, Denver, San Antonio, Portland
Conference finals: Cleveland beats Boston, Lakers beat Denver
NBA finals: Lakers beat Cleveland in six

Zach Sundelius' Bracket
First-round winners: Cleveland, Boston, Orlando, Miami, Lakers, Denver, San Antonio, Portland
Conference finals: Cleveland beats Orlando, Lakers beat San Antonio
NBA finals: Lakers beat Cleveland in seven

Tom Lea's Bracket
First-round winners: Cleveland, Boston, Orlando, Miami, Lakers, Denver, Dallas, Portland
Conference finals: Cleveland beats Boston, Lakers beat Denver
NBA finals: Cleveland beats Lakers in six

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