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.
Hey there! After yet another long hiatus, in which we’ve ignored much of what has gone on in the sporting world since the end of the NFL season, including the return of hockey, the Miami Heat’s 27-game winning streak, and the entire NCAA tournament, along with other stories both tragic and idiotic, Organized Sports is returning to do what it’s best known for: incorrectly predicting things.
Up now: the NBA playoffs. It’s been a long season, but in the dead times there were stories to keep interest in the league afloat: the bumbling of the Lakers in the early going, the Heat’s streak in the season’s dragging middle-third, and lots and lots of lob dunks from the Clippers throughout. No use trying to run through all of it, so let’s get right to it. The picks, after the jump.
Round 1 Predictions – Western Conference
(1) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (8) Houston Rockets
Many were surprised the Thunder did not keep their own “Big Three” together for another year, trading James Harden in advance of not being able to afford him after this season to, guess who, the Houston Rockets. Many were surprised also when the Thunder didn’t lose a step, with Kevin Martin and Reggie Jackson filling the Harden role capably, if without as much flair for the dramatic. Harden will likely want to put up some numbers against his old team, but the Rockets weren’t even necessarily expected to make the playoffs this year, and won’t be much of a speedbump for the Thunder on their road (Thunder Road?) through the west.
Prediction: OKC in 4
(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (7) Los Angeles Lakers
This year, the Spurs have done what they do: win games consistently, playing good basketball, while resting their aging stars as needed. There do seem to be some cracks in the facade, though, as it is unlikely Manu Ginobili will be available for egregious flops and clutch shots, at least at his normal level, and they have been tinkering with the roster up to the end of the season, waiving Stephen Jackson and signing Tracy McGrady (yeah, you read that right, switching out S-Jack for T-Mac). When they were the number one seed two years ago and Ginobili wasn’t at his best, the Grizzlies upset them from the 8-spot. Will the Lakers pull off the upset, rallying behind Dwight Howard with Kobe Bryant sidelined, maybe forever? No.
Prediction: Spurs in 5
(3) Denver Nuggets vs. (6) Golden State Warriors
There likely isn’t a huge audience for this series, but it should be a fun one to watch, two teams who are up-and-comers in the West running and gunning and scoring well into the 100s. The Nuggets are better defensively and a better all-around offensive team, even without their nominal “star,” Italian wing-gunner Danilo Gallinari. Even though the biggest-name player in the series is Steph Curry, and in the NBA wins usually follow the stars more than any other sport, the true star of this series will be Nuggets coach George Karl, who’ll add another playoff series win to his career resume.
Prediction: Nuggets in 6
(4) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (5) Memphis Grizzlies
This may be the best series of all the first-round matchups, because there is genuine bad blood between these teams. They’ve had tough regular season games this year, and last year the Clippers ousted the Grizzlies, who were favored in the series, in seven games. The Grizzlies play tough and physical and are infuriated by the amount of flopping Chris Paul and the rest of the Clippers use to gain an advantage. The Clippers are high-flying where the Grizzlies are grounded. This was the best regular season the Clips have ever had, but they need this playoff win to make it the best season overall. I think they’ll get it.
Prediction: Clippers in 7
Round 1 Predictions – Eastern Conference
(1) Miami Heat vs. (8) Milwaukee Bucks
The road to the Finals through the Eastern Conference comes through Miami, and really there’s no way I can see anyone beating them. In hockey, the difference between the 8-seed and the 1-seed can be a wide gap or a tiny one eliminated by a team coming on at the right time, as the Stanley Cup-winning Los Angeles Kings showed last year. In the NBA, on the other hand, it’s rare, and in this case, with the massively unimpressive Bucks going up against a team that had the second-longest win streak of all time, it’s impossible. As in, not possible. As in, if it happens, liberals and conservatives will somehow all agree on gun control. The only way the Bucks can have an effect on this year’s playoffs is if some freak (purposeful or accidental) injury occurs, knocking LeBron James, the best player on the planet, out for the remainder. Even if that happens, the Bucks won’t win this series.
Prediction: Heat in 4
(2) New York Knicks vs. (7) Boston Celtics
I guess it’s cool that the Knicks are a fun team to watch this year, and that they’re good, and that Carmelo is playing at his best and won the scoring title, but it’s very indicative of New York that they claim to have such a great basketball history even though they haven’t won a title since Bachmann-Turner Overdrive was on the charts, and that other cities that are not often thought of in those terms have the same amount, or more, titles than the Knicks. All that being said, I like Carmelo and I like watching these Knicks and I think they’ll escape the Rondo-less Celtics in a battle.
Prediction: Knicks in 6
(3) Indiana Pacers vs. (6) Atlanta Hawks
No one will watch this series, and there isn’t much reason to. The Hawks are a franchise that hovers between fourth and eighth-best in the East and never does anything more than that, and even Atlanta residents don’t really seem to care about them, except when arguing that Dominique Wilkins got robbed in the dunk contest against Jordan. The Pacers are near the bottom of the league in attendance despite being pretty good, and the most-likely team to dethrone the Heat. Though, by most-likely, that just means it’s a much larger snowball that will take a slight bit more time in hell to melt.
Prediction: Pacers in 6
(4) Brooklyn Nets vs. (5) Chicago Bulls
The Brooklyn Nets have gotten a new city, a new stadium, and midway through the year a new coach. Deron Williams is finally back to playing as well as he can, and the coachkiller talk has died down a little bit. Still, now that Jay-Z has sold his share and will likely be back watching the Knicks at the Garden, how long will people care? Winning this playoff series could be a way to keep that momentum for fandom going, but it’ll be tough. The Bulls, even without Derrick Rose, play tough defense and physical team basketball. This one seems like a coin toss to me, but I’ll take the Bulls gutting it out before losing to the Heat.
Prediction: Bulls in 7
There you have it, my picks for the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Fully Reconditioned and Organized Sports: where wrong predictions happen.