Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are a lethal combination on the court. If the Thunder are to return to the NBA Finals Westbrook must stay healthy as his absence was clearly noticed in last season’s playoffs. Durant has made a case to be MVP this year as he has carried this team night after night with stellar performances.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones stated the other day that he is in favor of an expansion of the NFL playoffs, adding four more teams, basically two per conference. From a business standpoint this is a great idea, as it will bring in more revenue for teams and the NFL, yet from a fan perspective I can only laugh at these comments in amusing disagreement. Sorry Jerry but mediocracy doesn’t get invited to the dance, in other words, your team sucks. It was bad enough that a 7-9 Seahawks team won the once pathetic NFC West. I do respect the victory over the Saints, but winning their division gave them the home game and Seattle is never an easy place to win in. Add two more teams and what is to say a 6-10 team doesn’t find it’s way into the playoffs. I could understand why Jones made this comment if his team had finished 10-6 and missed the playoffs, which in my opinion is a disappointment for what could be seen as a successful season record wise. However the Cowboys finished 8-8 and blew another opportunity to reach the playoffs for the third consecutive year, losing to a division rival in Week 17. So no Jerry, the playoff format should remain the way it is. Let the Super Bowl contenders play for a chance to win the Lombardi and let the pretenders like your Cowboys watch the playoffs from the couch.
Chargers @ Bengals
This is the most intriguing playoff matchup this weekend. We haven’t seen the Chargers in the playoffs in a while and the Bengals are relieved that they finally don’t have to see Houston again. I remain baffled at how Marvin Lewis has maintained his job as head coach despite 11 seasons without a playoff win. I guess job security isn’t as serious in Cincy because he would’ve been axed a long time ago somewhere else. What really intrigues me is that this is a matchup between two teams that have a Lombardi Trophy case but no trophy. Philip Rivers needs to make his case as an elite quarterback in this years playoffs, as he is set up in a position to place his name back into the conversation with Eli and Big Ben, as he remains the big time quarterback from the 04 Draft class without a championship. (Imagine if Matt Schawb would have won before Rivers) Yet again weather can be a factor in this game, as Ohio is not the sunny days of California. The Chargers are tough but I think the Bengals and Andy Dalton get that much desired first playoff win, it’s been a while. The Bengals are a good home team and in this January cold they get the win. End of the Day: Bengals 20 Chargers 17
Saints @ Eagles
Saints football away from the Superdome impacts my prediction, yet I believe that Sean Peyton and Drew Brees will bring their best into Philly, this being their first playoff game since 2011 at Candlestick in which they lost a shootout to the then Alex Smith led 49ers. I’m sure a lot of Saints fans feel that if they had won that game and faced the New York Giants at home in the NFC Championship Game, they surely would have gone on to face the Patriots in Super Bowl 46. But back to the prediction, I’m not sold on the Saints playing outdoors, as much as I am on the Eagles defense. Both teams have the offense to put up numbers and I would call this a shootout to be, considering the numbers Nick Foles has put up, but weather conditions could play a factor, and I see this as a “grind it out” kind of game, similar to the Eagles, Cowboys week 17 matchup. The Eagles need to win before the fans kick them out of Philly for losing at home so much, and the Saints want to show the league that they’re the real deal after bounty gate. Rob Ryan proves Jerry Jones wrong…again, because defense wins this game. End of the Day: Saints 24 Eagles 21
The 2013 NBA season is in full swing and has already provided fans with the usual basketball excitement of buzzer beaters, fast break throw downs, blocked shots, and the occasional flagrant two foul. Yet I can’t keep saying to myself, when do the playoffs start? I’m all for the NBA “where amazing happens” in which every game can provide a new level of excitement, but it gets to the point where some teams just produce a level of mediocracy that you want to see the real contenders face off against each other. This poses the question of, who are the real contenders?
I consider a contender to be any team with a very good chance of making a deep playoff run, which means they make it to their respective conference finals. This means that there are really only four contenders in this league, more or less, that are actually competing for a championship. The other 26 teams are just filler, there to showcase the little talent the team has and provide entertainment for the spectators that attend and watch their games. Yes, the playoffs consist of sixteen teams, eight per conference, yet half of these teams probably don’t belong in the same breath as the top seated teams, considering these are not one playoff games. Sure, a team like the Wizards can sneak in a win against a team like Miami once in a while, but in a seven game series we all know who we’re betting are money on. Not to say that a team hasn’t fought and clawed their way to that precious eighth seat, but more then likely beat out the rest of the teams swimming in the pool of mediocracy that will be watching basketball from the couch come April.
The ultimate goal, as in any sport is to win that coveted championship, yet only one team can be named champions. So what about the other 29 NBA teams? Not every team enters the season with the same goal of winning a championship, simply because their wise and know that they can’t. The Boston Celtics are a prime example of a team that knows better then to have championship aspirations, but like many other teams facing similar situations (Bobcats, Bucks, Suns, [Insert Your Favorite Team Here]) competing for a bottom dweller playoff spot is just as good. After all this is the NBA where teams will “tank” a few games late in the season, so to say, to get a playoff spot that they really want, to avoid facing a certain team in the first round. It’s a nice strategy to say the least, especially for those teams in the East trying to avoid facing Miami in the first round, but it goes to show that they are nothing but pretenders. Remember last season when Brandon Jennings stated that the Bucks would beat Miami in six? We all know that was foolish optimism, but what was he to say? We don’t stand a chance, Miami is going to sweep us. No, he rose to the challenge and competed as the Bucks were the eighth playoff spot, attempting the biggest upset since Golden State beat Dallas in 2007. Yes the Bucks made the playoffs and yes, Brandon Jennings pretended as if the team was any good to actually beat the defending champs. So you see, that is what pretenders do, they pretend as if they are really contending for a championship, all the while fooling the loyal fans as if they really have a chance to make it past the second round. So let me state my opinion on who are the real contenders and who are the same old pretenders. (If a team isn’t mentioned then it’s simply because their so bad that labeling them as a pretender should be a compliment)
In the East the REAL contenders are: The Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers
In the East the top pretenders go to: The Chicago Bulls, the New York Knicks, the Brooklyn Nets
Why are the Bulls pretenders, they just got Derrick Rose back?Well boys and girls, the Bulls are pretenders because they lack another scorer to compliment Rose in the backcourt. They are a good defensive team and have good depth coming off their bench, but don’t be fooled by all those regular season victories against Miami in the past. This team cannot compete with Miami in a seven game series because they don’t have the offensive firepower to do so. Rose is a one man army come playoff time.
The Knicks: self explanatory, Melo is destined to be the Charles Barkley of this era, should’ve stayed out West!
The Nets: Father Time and an inexperienced coach will answer this question when April rolls around.
Now to the West, where the playing field is more leveled. The West is always a surprise because the sixth seated team can be just as good as the third in many cases. Separating the pretenders from the contenders is easier said then done. I only see the Spurs as the real contenders, but I won’t count out the Thunder or Warriors just yet either.
The pretenders as of now go to the Rockets: this team still needs time to mesh and find their identity with Dwight Howard.
The Grizzlies: we all saw the western conference finals last year.
The Clippers: the fans at Staples have gotten weary of chanting DEFENSE DEFENSE, because it just doesn’t get through.
The remaining teams in the West are all on an equal playing field (give or take a few) but I don’t see most of them making out of the first or second round, or making the playoffs for that matter. When the regular season ends however, I am positive that the eighth seat in the West will be the equivalent of a sixth seat in the East.
Now the season is young and anything can happen from now until the start of the playoffs. Injuries and trades play a factor, playoff upsets are always up for consideration as well. But at the end of the day will the real championship contenders please stand up.
The 2013 NBA Finals feature the Miami Heat (again) and the San Antonio Spurs. The Heat made light work of the Bucks in a sweep; so much for Bucks in 6 Brandon Jennings, and then dismantled a Bulls team that was ready to be checked into the ER in five. Miami didn’t play any real competition until they faced the Pacers, where they were forced to seven games but ultimately pulled it out in a beat down in South Beach. The Spurs found their road to the Finals fairly easy with little opposition standing in their way. They swept the Kobe-less Lakers, then doused the Warriors led by Stephen Curry in six, before sweeping the Grizzlies (which was a surprise) to reach the NBA Finals for the fifth time in franchise history. The story of the Finals will of course be LeBron’s rematch against the Spurs. The League MVP faced the Spurs in the 2007 Finals as a member of the Cavaliers, but simply outmatched by an experienced and superior Spurs squad was defeated in four games. However 2013 will be much different, so Gregg Popovich and his core three: Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker might as well leave the broom sticks at home this time. The LeBron James they will face in the 2013 Finals is returning a better player, the best in the league in fact, and in a sense is returning with “better players”. I mean c’mon, this Miami team is by far better than the Cleveland team LeBron somehow carried to the finals in 07’. LeBron averaged 22 points, 7 rebounds, and 6.8 assists in the 07’ Finals, remarkable numbers considering the team he had, and the fact he was only 22 years of age. Now playing for Miami, LeBron has the supporting cast that those numbers would be realistically enough to defeat the Spurs in this series. The Spurs are not a team to be underestimated; Popovich is one of the best, if not the best coach in the league and Tim Duncan, the Big Fundamental, is one of the best defenders protecting the rim in the league. The size and depth of the Spurs will be formidable against Miami. Tony Parker torched his opponents throughout the playoffs and will be a matchup nightmare for Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole, and Ginobili; the aggressive, versatile lefty will always be a concern for the Miami defenders. If Miami is going to win the Finals it will not solely depend on the efforts of LeBron, but of the overall production of his supporting cast. LeBron will need Wade and Chris Bosh to have big games and make shots and the other 12 players, the sharp shooters like Ray Allen, Mike Miller, Shane Battier, and crew have to make shots as well, it’s as simple as that. So I don’t believe the results of the 2013 Finals will be the same as in 2007. In fact I see LeBron winning the Finals for his second championship, and possibly ending the Spurs dynasty that has been around for so long. My prediction: Miami in seven, and LeBron the MVP. After all, “revenge is a dish best served cold.”
It doesn’t matter if the team that plays in Charlotte is called the bobcats or the hornets, the team is still awful and has only managed one season with a winning percentage over .500 (09-10) in the last nine years.
Going back to my last playoff prediction I was wrong about those Knickerbockers, the Pacers took it in 6, but my other three were correct, Miami did win in 5, and the Spurs did win in 6. The Grizzlies won but in 5.
Eastern Conference Finals
Miami/Pacers: Miami in 6
Western Conference Finals
Grizzlies/Spurs (yeah the Spurs are up 2-0 but….) Grizzlies in 7!!!
If you go back to my last playoff prediction you’ll notice that I nailed the East, the West…not so much. 2nd Round Predicts:
Pacers/Knicks Knicks in 7
Miami/Bulls Miami in 5
OKC/Grizzlies Grizzlies in 7
Spurs/Warriors Spurs in 6