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Posted on: May 22, 2008 1:08 pm
 

Conference Finals Predictions

I know it's a little late, but...

[1] Boston Celtics vs. [2] Detroit Pistons

Why the Celtics can win: The Celtics - and their much-heralded trio of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen - entered this postseason untested as a collective, but they have discovered much about each other through 14 games - two grueling seven-games series. Boston has home-court advantage, which has proven to be all they need. The Celtics are 0-6 on the road in the playoffs, but are 8-0 at TD Banknorth Garden. They won the regular season series against Detroit 2-1, claiming the final two games.

Why the Pistons can win: Detroit is making its sixth consecutive trip to the conference finals - the longest streak since the Showtime Lakers made eight straight trips to the Western Conference finals from 1982 to 1989. After losing to Miami and Cleveland as the top seed in their past two trips to this round, Detroit is back in its preferred spot as the No. 2 seed - the same position it held the two times it advanced to the NBA Finals during this run. The Pistons won the title in 2004. They had a full week to rest and prepare for this round after disposing of Orlando in five games.

Difference Maker: Chauncey Billups, Detroit Pistons. Billups missed the final two games of the conference semifinals against Orlando with a strained right hamstring. He had 28 points in Detroit's lone win against Boston this season and led the Pistons in scoring against the Celtics this season, averaging 22.7 points. He will look to take advantage of his matchup against Celtics second-year guard Rajon Rondo, who has had his ups and downs in his playoff debut.

Bottom Line: Celtics in seven.

[1] Los Angeles Lakers vs. [3] San Antonio Spurs

Why the Lakers can win: Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant, and Derek Fisher are back in the conference finals for the first time in four years, eager to win another title, the first without Shaquille O'Neal for Bryant and Fisher. Jackson, who has won an NBA-record 46 playoff series, is 3-1 in head-to-head playoff matchups against Spurs Coach Greg Popovich. The Lakers had five days to rest before taking on the Spurs in Game 1, giving Bryant's back time to heal, while the Spurs are coming off a seven-game series against New Orleans. Lakers forward Lamar Odom has raised his scoring and rebounding averages in the playoffs.

Why the Spurs can win: San Antonio is the defending champion and can never be counted out. While the Lakers earned the top seed in the West and have played only 10 playoff games, they are still a relatively new playoff group. The Spurs have much more experience together, with the nucleus of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Bruce Bowen in its sixth season. The Lakers are 8-2 in the playoffs, but have yet to face a defensive team that comes close to rivaling the Spurs. San Antonio has won four championships in the past season, but it is hungry to win back-to-back titles for the first time and cement its status as a dynasty.

Difference Maker: Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs. Duncan took a back seat to Ginobili in the regular season, but Parker has emerged as the Spurs go-to man in the postseason. He is averaging 23.7 points in 12 playoff games. He averaged a team-high 20.7 pointsand shot 56.5 percent in three games against the Lakers this season, with San Antonio winning two of them.

Bottom Line: Lakers in seven.

Category: NBA
Posted on: May 13, 2008 7:14 pm
 

Take On O.J Mayo

So as you know, there's a mounting controversy over O.J Mayo and his accepting of money, goods, etc. at his time at USC... I think that if Mayo took the money, he's a cheat, because he knows the rules. Kids like Mayo are sophisticated. They don't travel the country on AAU teams for three years and play in al these tournaments without knowing the rules. I'm not going to talk about whether I would have taken the money or not when I was in ninth grade or whether O.J Mayo would have taken the money when he was in ninth grade. It matters not, because everyone knows it's wrong. That's why things like this get covered up - it's wrong, and they know it. The great irony here is Reggie Bush suffers no penalty whatsoever. He's making $50 million per year with the Saints, and he has more national commercial than any other non-quarterback in history. And in addition, what has he actually done in the NFL? Nothing...

I would hand down some serious sanctions on Tim Floyd if all this turns out to be true. Why? Because the way in which Mayo was recruited was so strange. Floyd had gotten so many questions about it, that he had to know that this was an ongoing story. And in addition, I think Pete Carroll should be given a call and told the same thing. Although the Mayo controversy is arguably more serious, Bush could be just as guilty as Mayo, if not more. And Carroll should be disciplined as such, if this turns out to be true. I know all of these things are speculation at this point, but there is an awful lot of evidence pointing towards Mayo's guilt. And if he really did do it, it is going to reflect negatively upon USC and their respective coaches (i.e., Floyd and Carroll). So I think those two coaches should be dealt with to some degree...

Posted on: April 19, 2008 12:54 pm
 

NBA Playoffs Preview

Eastern Conference

[1] Boston Celtics vs. [8] Atlanta Hawks:

Why the Celtics can win: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen have led the Celtics to the biggest turnaround in NBA history and the league's best record. For the first time in a long time, Celtic pride is back. Boston hasn't overlooked an opponent this sesaon even once, and I doubt it will start now. The Celtics beat Atlanta by double digits in all three games this season.

Why the Hawks can win: Why bother? The Hawks are partying like it's 1999, the last time the franchise made the playoffs. Coach Mike Woodson plans to shave his head to celebrate... no really - he is. But unless they can devise a plan to kidnap Boston's Big Three, there's no chance Atlanta takes this one.

Difference Maker: Kevin Garnett. The MVP candidate is back in the playoffs for the first time in four years. The last time he was there, his Timberwolves got knocked out of the Western conference finals. Naturally, he wants a championship ring - the one that has evaded a player of his caliber for quite some time now. He has dominated Atlanta this season, averaging 23.7 points and 13.7 rebounds.

Bottom Line: Pull out the broom - Celtics in four.

[2] Detroit Pistons vs. [7] Philadelphia 76'ers

Why the Pistons can win: The Pistons have won at least 50 games for, count 'em, seven consecutive seasons and advanced to the Eastern conference finals in each of the past five postseasons. The past two times Detroit was the #2 seed, it made the NBA Finals, winning the  title in 2004. Detroit is arguably the most battle-tested team in the East, with starters Chauncey Billips, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, and Rasheed Wallace still remaining from the championship team.

Why the 76'ers can win: Since Febuary 5th, Philadelphia has had the third-best record in the Eastern conference at 22-12, behind Boston and Detroit. The 76'ers have defeated the Pistons in their past two meetings.

Difference Maker: Andre Iguodala. Iguodala averaged 23.5 points in Philly's two wins over Detroit and just 16 in their two losses. If he gets hot, Detroit better be careful...

Bottom Line: Pistons in five.

[3] Orlando Magic vs. [6] Toronto Raptors

Why the Magic can win: Dwight Howard aka Superman, has emerged as a cornerstone center, and Hedo Turkoglu is a front-runner for the league's most improved player. The Magic are looking to win their first playoff series since 1996, when Shaquille O'Neal led Orlando to the conference finals... Damn Shaq's old...

Why the Raptors can win: The Raptors desired a matchup against Orlando because they have the size and speed to handle them. Orlando is also the least experienced of the top seeds. Toronto overcame jitters of making the playoffs for the first time in five seasons last year. The Raptors have lost 17 of their past 26 games, but Rasho Nesterovic has stepped up in the second half of the season, scoring in double figures in 17 of his final 18 games.

Difference Maker: Chris Bosh. Bosh has averaged 33 points on 64.5% shooting in his two games against Orlando this season. In the Raptors' lone win against Orlando this year, Bosh had 40 points on 14-16 shooting.

Bottom Line: Magic in six.

[4] Cleveland Cavaliers vs. [5] Washington Wizards

Why the Cavaliers can win: Two words: LeBron James. This is the third straight year the teams have met in the first round of the playoffs, with the Cavs winning each of the previous series and getting some BS calls. The Cavs have the superstar player, they have home-court advantage, and they have the experience of going to the Finals last year. All are big advantages. The Cavs underwent a midseason makeover, importing Ben Wallace, Wally Szczerbiak, Joe Smith and Delonte West, but went just 15-13 after the move. Cleveland, without Sasha Pavlovic for the first round, causes a lot of struggles with its all-out approach to crashing the boards.

Why the Wizards will win: This is probably the only first-round series in the East that could feature an upset -- even though the Wizards, including DeShawn Stevenson, fired up the Cavs and James by claiming they wanted Cleveland. Washington has played good team basketball all season and has integrated Gilbert Arenas back into the rotation off the bench, even after missing 90% of the season, without damaging their flow. So the Wizards have a very formidable core with Arenas, the vastly underrated Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison. But they are a mediocre rebounding team, so to pull off an upset, they must keep the Cavs off the offensive glass. I want to see the Wizards win this series more than anything so we can smack Charles Barkley in the mouth - stupidest team in NBA history, my a**... Get a life, you old, washed up, has-been. Don't you have a T-Mobile "My Fav Five" commercial to do or something? Idiot...

Difference Maker: Gilbert Arenas. Arenas could be the X-factor in this series. The Cavaliers didn't face him at all this season and no longer have Larry Hughes to defend him one-on-one. No team in the playoff field has a weapon like Arenas coming off the bench. As long as his surgically repaired knee holds up, Arenas should be in for a big series because the Cavaliers have nobody to defend him.

Bottom Line: Wizards in 6

Western Conference

[1] Los Angeles Lakers vs. [8] Denver Nuggets

Why the Lakers can win: With Kobe Bryant's MVP-caliber performance this season, the Lakers came out on top of the greatest Western conference race ever and won the Pacific Division for the first time since Shaq was traded. Andrew Bynum remains out with a knee injury, but the Lakers are 22-5 without him and with Pau Gasol in the lineup. They are 3-0 against Denver this season, winning by an average of 16.3 points.

Why the Nuggets can win: They score more points and have some of the best talent in the NBA. Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson are the highest-scoring duo in the league, combining for 52.1 points per game. Marcus Camby led the league in blocked shots and reserve J.R Smith has been a revelation in the second half, providing a constant jolt of offense, whenver it is needed.

Difference Maker: Carmelo Anthony. After being arrested for suspicion of DUI this week, Anthony will have to block out the distractions and focus on the task ahead. He hasn't played particularly well against the Lakers, averaging just 20.7 points - five below his season average.

Bottom Line: Lakers in five.

[2] New Orleans Hornets vs. [7] Dallas Mavericks

Why the Hornets can win: Chris Paul has blossomed into an all-star and MVP candidate in his third year, but he certainly hasn't done it alone. David West joined Paul at the All-Star game, and Tyson Chandler has helped make them one of the better defensive teams in the league. The Hornets don't have much postseason experience, but Coach Byron Scott has been to the NBA Finals twice.

Why the Mavericks can win: The Mavericks have much more playoff experience than New Orleans, and they have finally returned to a more comfortable role as underdog. Despite a 16-13 record since acquiring Jason Kidd, reigning MVP Dirk Nowitzki is playing more freely and enjoying the union. If any team knows that a lower seed can pull of a playoff upset, it's Dallas, which lost to eighth-seeded Golden State last year.

Difference Maker: Jason Kidd. The Mavericks didn't trade for Kidd just to make the playoffs: they did it because they thought he would be the part to get them over the top. Kidd will be matched up against Scott, his former coach in New Jersey, and Paul, one of the best point guards in the league - much quicker and versatile than the aging Kidd.

Bottom Line: Mavericks in six.

[3] San Antonio Spurs vs. [6] Phoenix Suns

Why the Spurs can win: The defending champion Spurs have never lost in the first round with Tim Duncan in the lineup. They have defeated Phoenix in the playoffs two times in the past three years. Duncan is still the foundation of everything San Antonio does, but Manu Ginobli has estabished himself as the go-to guy this season, averaging a team-high 19.5 points.

Why the Suns can win: The Suns are 3-1 against San Antonio this season. The Spurs are the only Western conference team that Phoenix has a winning record against. After initially struggling to incorporate senior citizen Shaquille O'Neal into the Suns' run 'n' gun tempo, Phoenix finished the season 15-5 with him in the lineup.

Difference Maker: Shaquille O'Neal. Phoenix acquired Shaq Diesel with the intention of getting past Duncan and the Spurs. It just had no idea the team would meet so early. O'Neal is 2-0 against Duncan as a member of the Suns, averaging 15 points and 12.5 rebounds in those games.

Bottom Line: Spurs in seven.

[4] Utah Jazz vs. [5] Houston Rockets

Why the Jazz can win: As playoff novices, Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams led Utah to the conference finals last season. The run began when they defeated Houston in the first round, when the Rockets had home-court advantage - and Yao Ming. Boozer and Williams both improved this season and expect to go further this season.

Why the Rockets can win: Houston has home-court advantage and the Jazz have a terrible road-record (17-24). The Rockets are short-handed without big man Yao Ming, but they have surprisingly gone 19-7 in his absence, including winning the first 10 without him during their improbable franchise-record 22-game win streak. The Rockets have found a way to win games without relying on All-Star Tracy McGrady alone, and Coach Rick Adelman has pushed the right buttons all season.

Difference Maker: Luis Scola. The Rockets have gone 31-7 since the 27-year old rookie became the starting power forward on January 29. He averaged 12.8 points, 7.4 rebounds, and shot 53.4% from the field in those contests.

Bottom Line: Rockets in seven.

Category: NBA
Posted on: April 14, 2008 8:54 pm
 

Teams most likely to win the Stanley Cup

1. San Jose Sharks

San Jose entered the playoffs on a serious roll. Before dropping its last two essentially meaningless regular season games, the Sharks had gone a ridiculous 18-0-2, a run which included the best March in NHL history (16-0-2). Most of that serious roll came after a trade for defenseman Brian Campbell, who gave the team an offensive presence from the blue line which boosted its power play into the upper echelon. The Sharks already had superstar center Joe Thornton, who led the NHL in assists, and goalie Evgeni Nabokov, who was tops in wins, so talent isn't an issue. Unfortunately, San Jose dropped its first game of the postseason to Calgary, and had to scramble a bit to restore order. But I have every confidence that they will regroup and come out strong for the rest of the series/playoffs.

2. Detroit Red Wings

The good news is that the Red Wings finished as the top team in the NHL, with three players (Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Henrik Zetterberg) in the top five in plus-minus, and the league's best goal-against average. The bad news: Detroit has the league's oldest roster and has a bit of a history of playoff chokage. In fact, only in 2002 has Detroit won the Cup as a top seed...

3. Montreal Canadiens

Interesting fact: the Stanley Cup hasn't been in Canada since the Canadiens won it in 1993. But Montreal will need to grow up fast, as, outside of veteran star Alex Kovalev, this is a young team that missed the playoffs last year and is banking on rookie goaltender Carey Price, to not come off looking like... well, a rookie...

4. Pittsburgh Penguins

Speaking of the young, the Penguins are also struggling to gain valuable experience in the playoffs. But Sidney Crosby and Co. got their free time in the postseason water in 2007, and are now ready to make a bit more of a splash. They were just inches away from having the Eastern Conference's best record and trust me, the NHL would love nothing more than to see one of its brightest Stars get some major playoff experience over the next two months.

5. Anaheim Ducks

Last year, this squad gained all sorts of good karma by not only dropping the cliche "Mighty" in its name, but also by continuing to positively identify itself with the fine city of Anaheim, unlike a certain scummy baseball team. The result? A championship. Fair trade, if you ask me. However, the Ducks' karmic (sp?) ledger may have taken a huge hit when the NHL signed up Lauren Conrad to blog about the team's quest for a repeat. Not only does it degrade the venerable Stanley Cup to be associated with the vapid star of MTV's "The Hills," but in her very first post, Conrad admitted she was actually a fan of the Los Angeles Kings! Sorry, Anaheim. Better luck next year...

Posted on: April 13, 2008 3:07 pm
Edited on: April 13, 2008 3:10 pm
 

Scary thought: The West could be better next year

Denver seized control of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western conference with a huge victory at Golden State on Thursday, meaning that the Warriors likely will go down as the best NBA lottery team in history. The playoff race in the West was more competitive than ever this season - with all eight playoff teams on pace to win at least 50 games. But the conference battle could be more intense next season with Portland adding both Greg Oden and a lottery pick, and the Clippers having Elton Brand for a full season (presuming he decides not to opt out of his contract this summer). Sacramento isn't going to be bad next season either; however, I don't think we're going to have many 50-win teams next year. I think we'll have maybe 10-11 of them, and the point margin will be a lot more spread out. Next season, the West will go right back to beating up on each other a little bit more. And what this all boils down to is that this season will certainly be a historical one...

The Boston Celtics have completed the best turnaround in NBA history by going from 24 wins to 63, entering last night's game at Atlanta. The previous best was when San Antonio improved from 20-62 to 52-26 in (go figure) Tim Duncan's rookie season in 1997. And Boston can essentially thank Paul Pierce for making these trades happen. After all, if it weren't for Pierce breaking his foot and missing 24 games (Boston only won 2 of those games), there wouldn't have been much motivation to make the kind of switchup that the Celtics front office did this past summer...

So as good as the Western conference is this year, I believe that they're going to be even better next year: there just aren't going to be as many 50+-win teams as there are this year. I'm really excited to see what Oden can do against the best the NBA has to offer. He was a men amongst boys at Ohio State, and it's about time he started earning that $5 million they originally payed him... It also should be interesting to see who the Blazers pick up in the draft this year's draft to complement Oden. The current NBA season is anything but close to being over, but it's definitely worth looking forward to next season, where it's very likely the West will be that much better... Kinda scary, huh?

Posted on: April 12, 2008 9:23 pm
 

Why the Capitals will beat the Flyers...

So as you all know, Game 1 of the series was last night, which ended in Washington taking the come-from-behind victory at the Verizon Center... And what a game it was! Anyone who watched that game knows what I'm talking about. When we fell behind 4-2, I was positive it was over. When entering the third period trailing, our record was 1-25-1, so it was pretty understandable why I wasn't too optimistic about us coming back. But true to Capitals form, we came back and won it on Ovechkin's incredible goal and some great defense...

Now a lot of the doubters will just say that last night was a fluke, that Ovechkin won't be able to save us every time. Well, the way the Capitals have been playing recently, there will be no need for Ovechkin to "save" us. The first game of a series is always the toughest. Both teams are trying to feel each other out and get a sense of what they need to do to make the series go in their favor. Last night was a great game, but I feel that compared to the rest of the series, last night is going to look like a peewee game...

Hard as this might be to believe, the Capitals are the team that no one really wants to face in the first round - no joke. The Flyers get the dubious pleasure of facing Washington thanks to their last-day victory that kept Pittsburgh from winning the East, but it can't be a pleasant experience seeing as the Caps blazed their way into the playoffs with seven consecutive wins and eleven victories in their last twelve games. The Capitals are on a serious roll these days, providing good auxiliary support for Alex Ovechkin who is on a mission to prove that he, not Sidney Crosby, is the king of the NHL. They're also getting the kind of goaltending right now from Cristobal Huet that wins a lot of games in the playoffs. But the danger facing a young team is in getting ahead of itself now that the primary goal of getting to the playoffs has been accomplished. And Philadelphia has been nearly as good lately. The Flyers were dead in February after losing 10 in a row, but they got back on track and won seven of their last nine to jump up to sixth. More important key players Mike Richards, Daniel Briere and goalie Martin Biron finished strong.The Flyers aren't the Broad Street Bullies any more, but they play the game rough and tough and that could go either way for the them. It could take a toll on Philadelphia, or it could take a toll on the Capitals... I see Washington's finesse, speed, and heart being too much for Philly to handle. Roughness and hard hits can only take a team so far. You all saw what happened last night. You saw how Washington was down 4-2 last night and looked completely out of it. But they didn't skip a beat and came back in dramatic fashion. Briere played great last night and those two goals in 45 seconds was just insane... But let's face it, Huet isn't going to let that happen again. So last night was a great game played by both teams, but my Caps came out on top, and rightfully so. Philly showed more heart and strength than I expected them to show, but I doubt they can replicate that throughout the rest of the series, especially if it goes to seven games...

My prediction: Capitals in 5.

C-A-P-S, CAPS, CAPS, CAPS!!!

Posted on: April 10, 2008 11:41 pm
Edited on: April 10, 2008 11:44 pm
 

Who can beat Tiger?

The Masters started today (April 10) and I'm going to go out on a limb and say Tiger's going to win it all... Hey, no guts, no glory, right? But in my opinion, there are five players who could seriously challenge Woods at the Masters this weekend.

1. Phil Mickelson

He's healthy and his game seems to be rounding into shape recently. He's hitting it long and with some great accuracy. He has a brilliant short game and has the confidence from winning two of the past four Masters.

2. Retief Goosen

He had a sub-par 2007, but nearly won at Doral two weeks ago. The tougher the greens, the better the South African likes it. He's tied for third twice, and tied for second in his last three Masters.

3. Padraig Harrington

This Irishman broke through for his first major triumph at the 2007 British Open, an enormous boost for his confidence. He's had four top 20 finishes here, including a best-ever tie for seventh last year.

4. Adam Scott

Scott was supposed to have won a major by now, especially after tying for ninth here in 2002. This 27-year old has got the long game as well as the short game, but does he have the stomach for a back nine run on Sunday?

5. Henrik Stenson

He made a huge splash last year when he won the World Match Play championship, but hasn't really done much since. In two appearances at Augusta, he hasn't been in the 60's in six rounds.

Yes, Woods is tied for 19th place right now managing an even-par 72, but do you really think he's worried? Tiger always starts major championships slow and scouts out a feel for the course and what he needs to do. And then he proceeds to blow past everyone and leave the entire field in his wake. Trust me: Tiger is right where he wants to be. Immelman is in first right now, shooting an impressive 68, but what's the last thing Immelman actually won? Seriously... He missed the cut entirely for the Shell Houston Open and finished tied for 48th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Give him 3-4 holes tomorrow and watch him slip into a tie for 20th...

All five of the players I mentioned above have a legitimate chance at beating Woods. Even though their positions are: T-11, T-11, T-44, T-52, and T-44 respectively, Tiger is not shooting anything considerably higher than what these guys are. But let's face it, Tiger's won the Masters four times. This course is essentially set up towards Tiger's strengths, and barely hinders his weaknesses. It doesn't matter what they do to the course: Woods will own it and beat it into submission every time. The only people it ends up hurting are every single other player in the tournament. Most of these golfers don't even deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Tiger, let alone share a green with him. In my opinion (just an opinion, folks), the only players that have a shot/deserve that shot, are the aforementioned five.

The Masters is only a day in, folks. Anything could happen. That's the beauty of golf: nothing is for sure. Yeah, Tiger's the greatest and doesn't seem to be slowing down, but there are some solid opponents for Tiger to watch out for. There's a good chance Tiger will end up winning, but if for some reason he doesn't, I would not be the least bit surprised to see one of these five golfers atop the leaderboard...

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com