2009 NBA Playoff Predictions: Second Round

May 3, 2009 in Basketball, NBA by pacejmiller

Shortly after Round 1 of the 2009 NBA playoffs ended with the Atlanta Hawk’s game 7 thrashing of the Miami Heat (thereby ending the possibility of a dream matchup between Lebron James and Dwayne Wade), Round 2 began with game 1 between the Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks.

So I better get my picks for the Conference Semi-Finals in before that game finishes!

Eastern Conference

Will the Hawks stand a chance against Lebron and the Cavs?

Will the Hawks stand a chance against Lebron and the Cavs?

1 Cleveland Cavaliers (66-16) vs 4 Atlanta Hawks (47-35)

The Cavs finished the first round in style, blowing out a weary Detroit Pistons squad in 4 straight games.  The Hawks, on the other hand, came out on top after a grueling, seesawing 7-game series against the Miami Heat.  Seeing that the Cavs have home-court advantage and won the season series 3-1, it’ll be outrageous to bet against them in this series.  Plus I don’t see anyone on the Hawk’s squad (or in the NBA, for that matter) that can stop Lebron the way he’s playing right now.  The question really should be whether the Hawks can win a game or two against them.  My guess is that they can, but just one.  Cleveland in 5.

2 Boston Celtics (62-20) vs 3 Orlando Magic (59-23)

The Celtics just came off possibly the greatest first round series of all time by finally disposing of the resilient Chicago Bulls in 7 amazing games.  The Magic toppled the Philadelphia 76ers in an uneven, inconsistent 6-game series.

This will be a tough one to call.  Without Kevin Garnett, stopping Dwight Howard will be that much tougher than it already is, but on the other hand, the Celtics do have the championship experience.  Further, they have the big-time players in Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, plus Rajon Rondo demonstrated just how good he can be.  Rafer Alston will no doubt have his hands full.  In my opinion, this series will come down to whether Howard’s supporting cast can step up and hit the shots when called upon.

If I was calling this series at the beginning of the playoffs, I would have said the Magic in 6 against a KG-less Celtics.  But after seeing how the Magic played against the 76ers in the first round, my gut instinct is to go with the defending champs.  Boston in 7.

Western Conference

Artest will do his best to ruffle Kobe's feathers

Artest will do his best to ruffle Kobe's feathers

1 Los Angeles Lakers (65-17) vs 5 Houston Rockets (53-29)

Yao Ming finally got out of the first round – but he’s going to find out just how hard it is to get past the second.  After overcoming the inexperienced Portland Trailblazers in 6, the Houston Rockets will face last year’s Western Conference Champions, the LA Lakers, who defeated the Utah Jazz in 5.

The season series wasn’t even close, with LA sweeping it 4-0.  However, with Andrew Bynum at less than 100%, Yao Ming will have opportunities to dominate.  For the Rockets to have a chance, Yao really needs to be more than just a 20-10 guy this series.  If he doesn’t assert himself and start having big games (and I mean 30+ points a night), it could be a short series.

On the other hand, no one can stop Kobe Bryant, but Ron Artest and Shane Battier are just about the best anyone could hope for.  They also need to make Kobe work hard on the defensive end.  If Artest can rough up Kobe a little bit then things could get interesting.   The real question is whether the Rockets can stop the likes of Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol or have the firepower to stay with the Lakers’ high octane offense.

In the end, I think Houston will give LA a tougher test than most Lakers fans are willing to imagine, but they won’t be able to beat them.  Los Angeles in 6.

2 Denver Nuggets (54-28) vs 6 Dallas Mavericks (50-32)

Denver was so much more impressive than I thought they would be against the New Orleans Hornets, whom they eliminated in 5 games.  Dallas also did well to knock off perennial contender San Antonio in 6 games, though the Spurs were clearly operating at less than full capacity.

Another difficult series to pick.  Jason Kidd is lucky that they are facing the Nuggets instead of the Hornets, because he would have been burnt even worse by Chris Paul than he did by Tony Parker.  Chauncey Billups is great, but as he’s not the speedy type, it’s a good matchup for Kidd.  Dirk will no doubt have a big series, but I see the X-factor for the Mavs being newly crowned 6th Man of the Year Jason Terry.  He’s the type of player that can catch fire and turn a game around in a hurry.  For the Nuggets, JR Smith and Nene are their keys to victory.  Smith is also a guy that can light it up real quick, and Nene can make a difference in the middle with his defensive presence.

The two teams appear to be pretty evenly matched on paper.  However, I think home-court advantage will play a factor here, so I will say Denver in 7.

PS: How my Round 1 predictions stacked up

I am an admittedly bad predictor when it comes to sports, but I don’t think I did too bad in the first round (full analysis here).  The only series I got wrong was Atlanta vs Miami, where I declared that the Heat would prevail in 6 games (I was probably blinded by my desire to see Lebron vs D-Wade).

In terms of guessing the number of games per series, I correctly guessed that the Rockets would beat the Trailblazers and the Magic would beat the 76ers, both in 6 games, but that was it.  I gave too much credit to Detroit, New Orleans and San Antonio, but not enough to Chicago and Utah.