Hunger Games Playoff Picture: Part II
In case you missed it, Part I can be found here. Part I will give you a brief synopsis of the format and analyzes the play-in games. Enjoy.
1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. 9 San Antonio Spurs.
Now this is a game that Spurs fans would desperately want. And I certainly concur. As of right now, the Spurs are the better team — we have more lineup flexibility, more depth and Gregg Popovich. In a one-game elimination game on the road, I’m going to pick the Lakers. Their frontcourt is dynamic and the addition of point guard Ramon Sessions make this an exceedingly tough matchup for the Spurs. They still don’t have anyone that can answer Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, however. Just let it be known that if the Spurs were at home and if the series was longer than a game, I’d pick the Spurs without hesitating. It’s a good thing that the NBA Playoff system is vastly different. Lakers win (sigh), 96-93. I’m not a big fan of myself right now.
4 Dallas Mavericks vs. 5 Chicago Bulls.
I’ll try and keep this relatively short. The Bulls are my pick. They do everything well and their ball movement and floor spacing closely resemble the Spurs during 1999-07. I admire Derrick Rose and his humble nature and coach Tom Thibodeau’s defensive philosophy of funneling everything towards the baseline is remarkably unstoppable. Joakim Noah brings a lot of energy and he’s a great interior passer. They might not have the elite talent that OKC and Miami possess, but I think their club is more complete even without Richard Hamilton. Bulls win, 98-88.
2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. 10 Miami Heat.
Now this is a fun game, isn’t it? A potential Finals preview in the first round! Told you this tournament wasn’t going to be logical. At a neutral site, I’d probably side with Miami because of their athleticism, elite talent and defensive acumen. The Chalmers-Wade-LeBron-Bosh-Anthony starting lineup has been absolutely deadly. In 438 minutes of action, the Heat starting lineup has allowed 97.1 points per 100 possessions on 41.6 percent shooting. Overall, they have outscored their opponents by an average of 14.1 points per 100 possessions. Incredible. When the fourth quarter arrives, Spoelstra has a nice luxury of plugging this lineup in and letting them work. The reason this lineup is so successful is because of their high octane pace which leads to a multitude of turnovers and a general sense of disarray for the offense. This lineup is more than capable of scoring points and is one of the rare lineups that can switch on pick-and-rolls effectively.
That being said, OKC is one of the teams that can counter with a lineup that is just as effective. Westbrook-Sefolosha-Durant-Ibaka-Perkins has outscored their opposition by nine points per 100 possessions. Westbrook’s ostentatious game, Durant’s ethereal offensive ability and Ibaka’s ubiquitous shot blocking ability will be tough to stop. Give them home court advantage and I like OKC — barely. OKC wins, 99-97.
3 Philadelphia 76ers vs. 6 Los Angeles Clippers.
Gosh, what the hell happened to Lob City? Vinny Del Negro has completely lost his team. They still have an elite offense and Chris Paul at point guard. Not many teams can say the same thing. They’ve lost 12 out of their last 19 games and don’t look like the exuberant, flowing offensive team. I would like to see them increase their pace more often given their efficiency because it could go a long way towards ending their tailspin. Of course, more possessions means their mediocre defense has to spend more time on the court. I like the addition of Nick Young to the team and, if Del Negro is replaced, this team is still good enough to contend.
I don’t see their plans coming to fruition this year. They aren’t constructed in an optimal fashion and their penchant for getting into foul trouble is troublesome. Maybe next year. I like Philly at home. They are technically sound, prevent turnovers and offensive rebounds and their offense is deceptively efficient. Philly wins, 96-90.