Ok, ok. So I tried to go Nostradamus on StepienRules with my Ten and Counting post a few weeks back, and while I was close (yeah, as close as American Pie 12 was to getting nominated) I was still somewhat off in my predictions. But come on, I fully didn’t expect Coach Brown to rest Bron for all those games, I thought he’d at least get a half here or there. But I hold no grudges towards you Mikey B for making me look silly, I’m about to redeem myself. The redemption of all redemptions is ahead for all my loyal fans out there (basically it’s just Brendan, he puts up my stuff on the site through either sympathy or just to avoid an abusive email from a disgruntled Irishman, I’m not sure which one yet) as I’m about to give a rundown of the Eastern Conference First Round matchups with the knowledge of me being 100% right in everything I say. (Editor’s note – could you imagine if I was being serious??). So without further ado, the Eastern Conference First Round Matchups should go something like this…
Cavs (1) v Bulls (8). The Bulls slipped us twice this year, by a combined total of two points. One of those games came without LeBron; the other was when our record was 3-3 after tying the total number of home losses for the season previous in our first two of this season. So to say the Bulls caught us on off days may be understating it. This time around (like the two victories we scored over them in the regular season) we’ll be ready and at full strength. Shaq looks as great as a guy weighing 300 plus pounds can so I’ve no worries regarding him and his future man handling of that frizzy-haired-antagonising-mind-melting-dance-hating-cry-baby Joakim Noah. I just broke the world record for “Longest Joakim Noah Nickname” by the way. I’m going to take the Cavs in five here. I think the Bulls just might sneak one at home, they do have the pieces to give us a game, but not a series. Just do me one favor, Google the Celtics-Bulls series in ’08…Surely not again?
Orlando (2) v Charlotte (7). Am I the only Cavs fan out there really happy we avoided the Bobcats in the opening round? I’m not? Good. These Bobcats have a real chance of doing the Magic over. I love the fact that they have two legit point guards that can hurt teams in different ways. You have to love the 55-point a game potential the duo of Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson offer. Providing Tyson Chandler is ok after his fall against the Bulls last night, he should give Dwight Howard a problem or two on both ends of the court. Experience is the only thing counting against them, but with a Coach and an owner like they have, I’m sure words of advice won’t be long coming. Make no mistake about it, they are overwhelming underdogs, but if they get up a head of steam and maybe steal a game in Orlando, who knows? If I’m Orlando, I’m doing one thing to win this series – breast feeding Dwight Howard the ball every time down the floor. Sure, Chandler is an above average defender in the post, but can he really stop Dwight that much? No. He hasn’t got the conditioning to keep up with Dwight for 35 minutes a night. If they double Dwight, SVG better hope his shooters come out firing. I think this series will be a lot closer than the regular season one in terms of margin of victory, but I’m still taking the Magic to advance in six. I would be shocked if this series went to a game seven, but there are scenarios where it could just happen.
Atlanta (3) v Milwaukee (6). Andrew Bogut picked a rotten time to get hurt. They really could have used his 16 and 10 against the Hawks, who will now attack the lane relentlessly. You can’t blame the Hawks; it’s the logical thing to do. I don’t like Kurt Thomas’ chances of stopping Josh Smith or Al Horford from gobbling up double-digit rebounds, do you? I do however love the fact that the Bucks have defied a lot of people this season, led by the irrepressible Brandon Jennings in the backcourt. He has been a revelation, and if he brings his A-Game from the opening tip there’s nobody on the Hawks roster that can stay with him. John Salmons may be the undervalued acquisition of the season. He’ll go shot for shot with Joe Johnson all day long. But the guy who’ll determine this series and swing it in the favor of the Hawks will be Jamal Crawford. The Bucks don’t have a scorer to match him off the bench (Jerry Stackhouse anyone?) nor have they got a defensive stopper to keep him quiet. He’s the killer here for Milwaukee, and a legit Playoff X Factor for Mike Woodson. I’m taking the Hawks in five here, the only reason it’s not four is because I think the Bucks will give the people of Wisconsin something to cheer about by means of a home victory.
Boston (4) v Miami (5). Hands up those of you who had the Celtics finishing fourth in the East after starting out the season 23-5 with victories over the Cavs, Orlando and Utah? Yeah, the same number of people who also predicted that they’d lose to the Nets at home, New York, Washington at home and lose Kevin Garnett mid-season due to him hitting the state obligatory age for retirement only to see Bill Simmons lead a petition and Garnett get reinstated. However, if there is a sliver lining here, it’s that they have absolutely owned the Heat this season, taking the series 3-0. The Heat simply don’t have the depth or overall quality to handle the aging Celtics. Look for Rajon Rondo to annihilate the Heat throughout the series, Miami’s point guards don’t exactly preach defense. Expect Dwyane Wade to have the mother of all back aches from carrying his teamates for an entire season when this series ends in four.
How did I do? To summarize...I have the Cavs in five, Magic in six, the Hawks in five and the Celtics in four. If I were a betting man would I bet on those being the actual outcomes? Sure, but with Brendan’s wallet and not mine…
Not to be East coast bias (though we definitely are here at Stepien Rules) I’ll give you my thoughts on the West. The Fakers should take out the Thunder in four, maybe five. Dallas will end the Tim Duncan dynasty in San Antonio, Amare Stoudemire will continue his post-All Star form to carry the Suns through and the series of the first round will come from Utah and Denver. I’ll take Denver in seven. Kenyon Martin and George Karl returning will rejuvenate them in a way not seen since John gave Uma the needle in Pulp Fiction.