Organized Sports is a recurring sports column named for a seminal DC avant-hardcore song by the equally stupid and brilliant (to me, “equally stupid and brilliant” pretty much just means “brilliant”) band Void. Take from that what you will.
It’s been a wild, woolly, wacky, weird and other adjectives that begin with “W” NBA season, with the compressed schedule amping up the storylines and making sure that what is usually a slog—the NBA regular season—never had a chance to get boring. Sure, the play was at times sloppy, but it was a helluva ride. Ron Artest changed his name to Metta World Peace then declared Total War on James Harden’s head. The Clippers actually rivaled the Lakers for the attentions of Los Angeles. The Heat looked alternately unstoppable and, well, stoppable. The ancient Celtics were nearly blown up at the trade deadline, but now they seem like real viable contenders. Kate Upton did the Dougie at a Knicks game. Like I said, a helluva ride.
But now it’s time for the real season, which is the postseason, and that means it’s time for Organized Sports to make some likely incorrect predictions. Said predictions begin after the jump, which is something basketball players do.
Round 1 Predictions – Western Conference
(1) San Antonio Spurs vs. (8) Utah Jazz
Just like last year, the San Antonio Spurs defied the talk that they’re too old and wound up with the best record in the West. The Jazz just barely squeaked into the playoffs at the last minute. Unlike last year, the Spurs will not be upset in the first round—Tony Parker is playing out of his mind, Tim Duncan is still the smartest post player in the game, and Manu Ginobili will be around to draw fouls with exaggerated soccer-flops and make unbelievable shots as the clock expires. The Spurs’ jingling and jangling will give the Jazz a hard bop (wordplay!).
Prediction: Spurs in 5
(2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (7) Dallas Mavericks
Last year, the Mavericks knocked the Thunder out in the Conference Finals on the way to winning their first NBA title. The Thunder are far better this year, and the Mavericks far worse, missing the defensive presence of Tyson Chandler in the middle. Look for the Thunder to avenge last year’s loss in a series that will be tough but fall decisively in the favor of Durant, Westbrook, and company. Two bonus predictions: the Thunder will make the NBA Finals, winning the West; if the Thunder lose in the first round, the Thunder’s head coach Scott Brooks will be gone.
Prediction: Thunder in 7
(3) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (6) Denver Nuggets
The Lakers will be without Metta World Peace for this round (unless it goes to seven games, in which case he can play in the final contest) but they won’t miss him yet at this point. The Denver Nuggets are an appealing team because they don’t have a true star and everyone contributes, but when you don’t have one superstar and the other team has three—those who Lake Los Angeles include in their ranks an all-time great in Kobe Bryant, a top-three power forward in Pau Gasol, and the best center in the game other than Dwight Howard in Andrew Bynum—you’re not going to win in the NBA. This ain’t hockey.
Prediction: Lakers in 5
(4) Memphis Grizzlies vs. (5) Los Angeles Clippers
The Memphis Grizzlies were last year’s Cinderella story, upsetting the number one seed Spurs in the first round and giving the Thunder a run(der) for their money in the second round before bowing out. This time, they have home court advantage. The Clippers have great potential, but without a real head coach and with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan still very green, they won’t make it out of the first round. I could be totally wrong, especially if Chris Paul can will the team and steal some games entirely on his own, but I’m going with Memphis to take this one. Additional least-bold-ever-prediction: Vinny Del Negro will lose his job after this year.
Prediction: Grizzlies in 7
Round 1 Predictions – Eastern Conference
(1) Chicago Bulls vs. (8) Philadelphia 76ers
The Bulls take the regular season in the East again, this time even doing so without reigning MVP Derrick Rose for most of the year. So why do they leave me feeling so cold? They’re a tough defensive bunch with a great defensive mind at the head coaching position, but they have trouble scoring, and a team that can defend the perimeter can gang up on Rose and give the Bulls some trouble. The 76ers are one of those teams, a hard working defensive bunch that’s sort of like a low budget Bulls, but without anyone nearing Rose in ability. They’ll work hard and make a series out of it, but eventually fall to the Bulls; but the Bulls may be so worn out afterwards they’ll have trouble advancing any further.
Prediction: Bulls in 6
(2) Miami Heat vs. (7) New York Knicks
Since the Knicks got hot at the end of the year following the firing of head coach Mike D’Antoni, this has become a trendy upset pick, with lots of people talking about how if Carmelo Anthony can outplay LeBron James, the Knicks can knock out the preseason title favorites early. These are probably the same assholes who made the whole Jeremy Lin story insufferably inescapable, and how did that end up? Linsanity: a fun week. This series won’t even last that long.
Prediction: Heat in 4
(3) Indiana Pacers vs. (6) Orlando Magic
The brilliant minds who made the NBA’s biggest star into a villain by letting him go through with The Decision have got to be thanking Dwight Howard every minute of every day for handling his own situation in a way that’s even worse. And now, the Magic don’t even have him for the playoffs. Whether or not he’s really injured doesn’t matter; he’s not playing, and that means the Magic aren’t going to be playing for very long either.
Prediction: Pacers in 5
(4) Boston Celtics vs. (5) Atlanta Hawks
The Celtics seemed deader than the proverbial doornail a couple of months ago, but Avery Bradley finding his role and the return of solid play from the Big Four of Garnett, Rondo, Allen and Pierce have many people thinking that the Celtics have one final dark horse run in them. I’m not willing to go that far, but I am willing to go as far as to say that Boston’s only remotely likable sports team will advance farther than the scraptastic hockey Welkers they share a building with.
Prediction: Celtics in 5
I’ll close out this pick column with some finals predictions: Heat over Thunder in six games, with LeBron James winning Finals MVP. I’m not trolling; I just think it’s time. If that thought leaves a bad taste in your mouth, dear reader, clear it out with this terrible final pun: if Dwyane Wade were running from the law in a low-speed, televised chase, would he ride in a white LeBronco?