BYU Wins Holy War

BYU Wins Holy War
George, like Collie and Harline before him, is now still open!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Utah Jazz: Projecting The First Round of the NBA Playoffs

Reviewing the regular season projections and predicting every match up in the first round...

I have never liked that there is virtually no accountability for sports writers/commentators when they make their predictions. This is a lucky fact for many of them; however, I continue my policy of self-policing my predictions. On March 19th I projected the final Western Conference standings for the NBA as follows.

Projected Final Standings:
1. LA Lakers..................................57-25
2. Utah Jazz...................................56-26
3. Phoenix Suns.............................55-27
4. Houston Rockets.......................55-27
5. San Antonio Spurs....................54-28
6. New Orleans Hornets...............54-28
7. Dallas Mavericks.......................53-29
8. Golden State Warriors..............52-30
9. Denver Nuggets.........................49-33

Below is the actual standing and the margin of which I was wrong.

Actual Final Standings: (changes in the lost column from predicted final standings)
1. LA Lakers...................................57-25 (even)
2. New Orleans Hornets...............56-26 (-2)
3. San Antonio Spurs.....................56-26 (-2)
4. Utah Jazz....................................54-28 (+2)
5. Houston Rockets........................55-27 (even)
6. Phoenix Suns..............................55-27 (even)
7. Dallas Mavericks........................51-31 (+2)
8. Denver Nuggets.........................50-32 (-1)
9. Golden State Warriors..............48-34 (+4)

I feel good about predicting three teams dead on and having an average offage of just +.333(considering that a 0 offage would be the best I could possibly do). I was very wrong about the finish of the Golden State Warriors. They really feel apart down the stretch opening the door for the Nuggets to blow by them into the eight spot. Also, I must give credit to the Hornets for their amazing performance on their, late season, eight game road trip. They did blow a game to the Kings that would have given them the top seed, but being that close with the schedule that they had was truly amazing.

Now for the playoff predictions. I have decided to predict the playoffs round-by-round instead of projecting out the entire bracket.

Western Conference
#1 Los Angeles Lakers Vs. #8 Denver Nuggets

Series Enjoyability Rating: 5th 0f 8

Story Lines -- Will Bynum play a role in this series? Will the Nuggets ever play defense?

Prediction: Lakers in 5. The Nuggets don't play defense! The lack of defense is what keeps the Nuggets from turning into a very elite team in the NBA. They have no one on their roster that will match up with Kobe Bryant or Gasol. None of the games during the regular season were close, with the Lakers sweeping the Nuggets during the season. AI and Melo will explode offensively in one of the games to keep from getting swept, but the Lakers will roll in the series.

#4 Utah Jazz Vs. #5 Houston Rockets
Series Enjoyability Rating: 4th of 8

Story Lines -- How injured is Deron Williams? Can T-Mac finally make it out of the first round of the playoffs?

Prediction: Jazz in 5. No one is singing the praises of Tracy McGrady this year, which may make him very dangerous in the post season. Without that pressure on him, he may be more inclined to over achieve. Yet, if Deron Williams' injury isn't too serious, the Jazz just have too many weapons for the Rockets to handle. Boozer should dominate the blocks, and Okur/Korver should spread the floor with the three-point threat.

#3 San Antonio Spurs Vs. #6 Phoenix Suns
Series Enjoyability Rating: 1st of 8 (The Best Series)

Story Lines -- How will the Spurs defend Stoudemire? What impact will Shaq have in the series?

Prediction: Suns in 6. I really want to say that this will be a seven game series; however, I think the Suns will win on their home court and steal one of the first two games on the road against San Antonio. The Suns made the Shaq deal to beat the Spurs. Having Shaq should free up Stoudemire, who has been nearly unstoppable for the past two weeks, and stop Tim Duncan from getting to the front of the rim. This is really a pick'em series. If either team won the series I wouldn't be surprised, but it will be a great series to watch.

#2 New Orleans Hornets Vs. #7 Dallas Mavericks
Series Enjoyability Rating: 3rd of 8

Story Lines -- How will CP3/Hornets respond to their first playoff appearance? Will Dirk continue his dominate late season play?

Prediction: Mavericks in 5. Dirk has been playing out of his mind in the last weeks of the regular season! He has shown that he has the ability to put the team on his back and carry them to a victory. Ironically, the Hornets had the opportunity to avoid the Mavericks in the first round by beating the Mavericks in their final game of the regular season. The Mavericks had the same scenario last year when they could have avoided the Warriors in the first round with a win in their final regular season game. The Hornets last year, like the Mavericks this year, would have been much better off with a better pairing. The Hornets would have blown by the Nuggets, but the Mavericks have the players and schemes that can shut down CP3 and the Hornets. This series should be fun to watch, but I am foreseeing an upset (I use the word upset in a very loose way, because all of the teams in the West 1-9 are very even).

Eastern Conference
#1 Boston Celtics Vs. #8 Atlanta Hawks
Series Enjoyability Rating: 8th of 8(The Worst Series)

Story Lines -- Will it be a sweep? How many fans will show up to the Hawks home games, more or less than half?

Prediction: Boston in 4. Nothing like seeing teams with losing records in the playoffs. Especially the lowly Hawks. Nothing too complicated about this series, the Celtics are a much better team than the Hawks. The really interesting thing to watch for in this series will be to see if the Celtics will score more points than people that show up to the first home game in Atlanta. Sports fans in Atlanta are horrible!

#4 Cleveland Cavaliers Vs. #5 Washington Wizards
Series Enjoyability Rating: 2nd of 8

Story Lines -- How much separation will LeBron's butt have from the officials lips? Will Agent Zero be the difference?

Prediction: Wizards in 6. This is the second hardest series to predict. The Wizards finally have their team back to full strength, and they have been playing really good basketball. Agent Zero should help the cause by coming off the bench and providing instant offense. Plus they have plenty of bodies to throw at LeBron to try and slow him down. The series really depends on what types of calls are made. This is the third time in a row these teams have meet in the first round, and in the previous two series the Wizards out played Cleveland. Yet, awful officiating gave the series to the LeBrons. Hopefully the officials can keep their whistle muted and let the game be won on the court. The two previous series were awesome, and this year's version should be more of the same. (Side note: You have to be angry if you are a Wizards fan right now! You have been the whipping boys of terrible officiating in your last two playoff series, and now due to poor officiating (The NBA gifting a foul to Devin Brown allowing them to win a game and stay ahead of the 76ers) you will have to face the same poor officiating in another playoff series this year. Agent Zero will be leaving after this season! This is a good/BAD thing indeed for the Wizards.)

#3 Orlando Magic Vs. #6 Toronto Raptors
Series Enjoyability Rating: 6th of 8

Story Lines -- Has everyone been overlooking the Magic while talking about the East? Who will win the battle of young talent, Bosh or Howard?

Prediction: Magic in 5. The coverage of the NBA can be very interesting at times. Dwight Howard is the MOST dominate big man in the game today. He is a beast on the glass, can power over the top of other players, and he is a coachable player that wants to get the entire team involved in games. He has two excellent scorers around him in Turkoglu and Lewis, and a descent point guard in Nelson. Coaching is also a huge advantage for Orlando. Sam Mitchell has done an awful job with the talent he has in Toronto! Orlando has already proven that they can win on the road against the Raptors, so look for a dominating performance from the Magic.

#2 Detroit Pistons Vs. # 7 Philadelphia 76ers
Series Enjoyability Rating: 7th of 8

Story Lines -- Will Andre Miller finally get the recognition he deserves? Will Detroit get surprised by the play of the 76ers?

Prediction: Pistons in 7. This is going to be a very close series. The teams spilt the season series 2-2; however, the first two games, which the Pistons won, were early in the season. The other more recent games the 76ers proved they can play with the Pistons. Andre Miller is having an amazing year. He has thrown this 76ers team, which has very little talent besides Miller and Iguodala, and made them into a playoff team in the East. On the other side of the series the Pistons have a tendency of overlooking opponents. If they don't come to play in the first game, the 76ers could steal one of the early games and make a very good series of it. Yet, in the end the Pistons have too much talent, and should out last the 76ers in the end.

In the second round it should be the Lakers vs. Jazz and the Suns vs. Mavericks in the West. In the East the Celtics vs. Wizards and the Magic vs. Detroit. I will wait for the conclusion of the first round to continue my predictions; however, my favorite to win it all is....Boston. They have the talent and the path, and now they just need to avoid injuries and a mental let down.

If the playoffs are anything like the regular season than anyone that appreciates basketball is in for a treat.

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