By now, almost every blogger out there would have put out their own predictions for the Conference Finals.
Being one of them, I thought I'd join in on the fun! But a word of caution: the basketball channel in my household switched over to another cable provider at the start of the year, so since January I haven't been able to watch the NBA on a consistent basis. And even in the playoffs, I missed some great games, and that sucks. I've been doing my best to make up for it by scouring the net for blogs, articles and features, but it's just not the same.
Still, I think I've read and know enough about the teams playing to make, at least, some sensible predictions.
And with that, I present my thoughts on the NBA Conference Finals.
BOSTON CELTICS (1) vs DETROIT PISTONS (2)Boston Celtics in 7
This is it. The dream match-up. The one almost everybody saw coming since the season began. The Cavs almost screwed it all up, but we finally have it.
I'm picking the Celtics in 7 games, though. Despite their obvious troubles on the road and Ray Allen's nightly flirtations with mediocrity, they have found ways to win. I think those tough tests should only prepare them better for Detroit, who is oozing experience and team chemistry. Ray Allen is too good not to get better (although he did shoot 3-10 in Game 1), and Kevin Garnett has somehow increased his role in the offense. Pierce showed the world how much he wants to win the title this year when he answered the call in Game 7, so I feel all the Celtcis will follow suit. Oh, and yeah, they will finally win a road game in the Playoffs.
The Pistons, I believe, will prove to be a tough test. Although you have to question their mindset. Let's not forget, this is the same team that claims to perform better when unappreciated. But with Celtics underachieving, mostly everybody favors the Pistons now. And that could rob them of their intensity. Especially Rasheed Wallace, who thrives on adversity. Detroit will still come out focused, though, and you can bet Chauncey will keep his boys in check all throughout.
Every obvious advantage goes to the Pistons (deeper bench, rock-solid chemistry, championship experience, and a clutch player), but somehow, I feel it's the Celtics' time. Paul Pierce wants it, Kevin Garnett also wants it, Ray Allen should want it, and they just survived two taxing match-ups. I think they're ready for the next step.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS (1) vs SAN ANTONIO SPURS (3)
Los Angeles Lakers in 7
As much as I disregarded all conventional wisdom in my pick for the East Finals, I have to be more realistic with the Spurs-Lakers series.
Like the Pistons, the core of the Spurs have been together for so long now. Also, like the Pistons, they have been playing virtually the same core for years now, have won championships and always is a threat to win the title any given year.
But that's where the similarities end. Unlike the Pistons, the Spurs have no motivational issues, plays the same way whether they're the underdogs (HA!) or the favorites. They have one of the best coaches in the league, they never implode at the most inopportune times, and they seem to have mastered the black arts while getting away with it.
HOWEVER, the Lakers have the reigning MVP. But, unlike Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant can never be considered as "soft" or "un-clutch". And, as dirty as Bruce Bowen can be, he cannot contain The Black Mamba. With Kobe playing for something meaningful again, expect him to rise to the occasion like he always does.
The biggest question here is whether the bench will answer the call. This is a pretty young group of guys, with no one exceptional having been on a stage as big as this. Fortunately for them, they have an international champion in Pau Gasol, a Lamar Odom who seems to have turned the corner, and the valuable leadership and toughness that Derek Fisher provides.
This will be a great series, and with two coaching genuises at the helms, it's going to be fun seeing them one-upping each other game after game.
But in the end, I think the Lakers will take this in 7. The Spurs are tough, but the series against the Hornets showed they have somehow really slowed a little. And I just can't vouch for a team that deliberately hurts other players.
And yeah, the Spurs are allergic to consecutive titles.