Tondar's Daily Rant

Prepare yourself for the writings of Tondar the Destroyer, Baron of Atlanta, Rightful Heir to the Throne of Spain, from whom all babies come. As his will be blogged, so let it be done.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

2007 NBA PLAYOFF PREVIEW

Once again another great team has arisen to assume their destined crown after coming up short in the Finals the year before. In fact, Dallas should have won it all, if it weren't for some magical calls for Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki fading away. Recent experience has shown how today's NBA cannot be dominated. Will the 67 win Mavericks get popped by the injury train and implode? What exactly are we to make of the "Wild Wild West?" Is the East as inferior as everybody says? There's a lot of questions to answer so at this hour, without delay, let us review the Tondar keys to Playoff Basketball and meet our new rule (can you dig it?)...

1. DEFENSE
- Defense will always sit atop the Tondar basketball paradigm. And as we look to the statistics, we find the usual suspects. San Antonio led the league again giving up 90.1 ppg. And right behind them we find Detroit 91.8 ppg, Houston 92.1 ppg, and Dallas 92.8 ppg. Most likely we are going to find our champion among one of these teams. Plus, this trend also shows that the Colangelo Effect has become law as there is no longer a mediocre team that can get by on defense alone (Memphis, Indiana, New Jersey).

2. SOME OFFENSE
- The above mentioned leaders each have a great ability to score when needed, even if they are not the slamma-jamma-in-yo-face teams that the media enjoys. Sure, Phoenix, Golden State, and Denver have found relative success by trying to run up the score. However, teams like Miami, Detroit, and Cleveland may face elimination for going cold at the wrong possible time. For years this has been the problem with the Pistons, but Chris Webber may just be the remedy that keeps the Palace rockin' deep into June. With Chauncey running the offense outside, and C-Webb handling things down low, they have 2 great passers that can both score and easily find the open man. They may not be able to score points like Toronto, but this is the most adequate scoring team they have had in the Joe Dumars era.

3. EXPERIENCE - Going into this season, I imagined it as a crossroads between the young new studs and the established veterans returning for another great run. Given, the way the injury train has popped Gilbert Arenas, Dwyane Wade, Yao Ming, and Pau Gasol, it became the season of the steady veterans showing their stuff. Look for the old leaders like Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitski, Chauncey Billups, Jason Kidd, and Tracey McGrady to carry their teams however far they may go. These are the alpha dogs with the experience that has carried them this season, and these veterans will make the difference in those six or seven game series.

4. IMPLOSION
- Last year the Pistons joined the Meltdown Hall of Fame. Of course having Rip and 'Sheed popped by the injury train in the playoffs did not help. Nevertheless, we saw the wheels fly off a 64 win team as Ben Wallace gave up on his boss and stopped going to work. With Dallas being a 67 win team, but needing to fight their way through a very competitive West, we could see a repeat of last years playoffs. Assuming that is if Jason Terry doesn't bust out the dickpunch or Dirk Nowitski plays great defense for the second time in his career.

5. EUROPEAN FADE - You ask, Tondar, why are you so hard on Dirk Nowitzki? However, my issue is not solely with Dirk. I have problems with the Europeans in general. With the exception of the half-American Tony Parker, the Europeans are soft, defensively inept, and most importantly fade in the post season (Where was Peja last year?). If any team relies on a European heavily in their rotation, look for that player and team to fade in the playoffs (sorry Toronto and Utah). The most interesting thing is that this does not apply to Mexicans, Argentines, and the Chinese. But From Spain to Russia, when the wheels fall off, look for the American players to put the boot to the neck Kobe-style and exploit this weakness.

The First Round


The East

1. Detroit over 8. Orlando in 4
- I was hoping that Orlando would have turned out worse than they actually were so that the Pistons could make the Darko trade pay-off a little better in this summer's draft. But given all the consistent big men Detroit has, I expect the Dwight Howard turn-over machine to be in full effect (He's ranked second in the league with 3.9 per game). He will have trouble trying to get position against Wallace, McDyess and Webber. Plus with Darko injured, there will no longer be any weakside help. In a series like this, I would expect to see big minutes from Nazr Muhammed, Dale Davis, and Jason Maxiel. They can apply the defensive pressure and show why Orlando was ranked dead last with 16.3 turnovers a game.

5. Miami over 4. Chicago in 7 - If it ain't rough, it ain't the Bulls. This Bulls team reminds me of the Pistons from a few years ago. In fact, they even have Ben Wallace. But seriously, they are defensively driven. They live and die by the jumper, so they still have problems scoring for long stretches in games. For the benefit of the Pistons look for Chicago to make it a long physical series. Kirk Hinrich will push Dwyane Wade's shoulder to the limit. Thus the Heat will have to rely on Shaq, who has been awesome down the stretch without Wade. Like the last two years in the playoffs, look for the Heat to pound on Wallace and to either get him in foul trouble or send him to the line on the offensive end. However, I think that Scott Skiles will be smart enough not to rely on him down the stretch. Skiles is just a big enough jerk to try and win instead of insulating that fro-acious ego. However, without a 'Sheed or a Dale Davis, Chicao will eventually succumb. The only hope is that the toll in games and punishment on Wade will come back to haunt them in the second round.

6. New Jersey over 3. Toronto in 5 - This is the toss up series. Experience and momentum point to New Jersey. However, the energy and momentum of the Atlantic champion Raptors is quite intriguing considering they came out of nowhere to win 47 games this year. Sure Brian Colangelo has been an excellent GM and is thriving under the rules his father, Jerry forced upon the NBA. In the end I will put my money on the experience of Jason Kidd and Vagina Carter. Jason will use his experience, and Vagina will continue his contract-year play that has sent the Nets into the playoffs winning 8 of the last 10 games. Of course, Chris Bosh will have a monster series since New Jersey has limited interior defense. On the other hand, I am envoking the European Fade rule to declare that Andrea Bargnini finds a way to seal Toronto's fate. I have a feeling that the games will be close, but the series, not so much.

2. Cleveland over 7. Washington in 5
- If Gilbert Arenas were healthy, this would be a great series. Though I think Cleveland is a pretender to the throne, they will not get exposed in this round. Cleveland was fantastic down the stretch, and LeBron took one out of Shaq's playbook by turning it on only after the all-star game (82 is alotta games *sigh*). However, Washington was terrible down the stretch, winning only 2 of their last 10 games. Antwan Jamison should have a good series but without the self-proclaimed Hibachi and Caron Butler, Washington will show why they only won 10 games since March 1st.

In The West


1. Dallas over 8. Golden State in 5 - The media is all excited about this series because it pits Dallas' coach Avery Johnson against his former coach and mentor Don Nelson. Nelson's teams are known for playing smaller players in an attempt to simply outscore their opponents. Given the slower, grind it out, defense first mentality of the playoffs, Avery Johnson will show why Dallas won 67 games. Sure, I think Baron Davis and Monta Ellis will have a spectacular game for Golden State somewhere in there, but don't look for this series to be all that close or exciting.

4. Houston over 5. Utah in 5 - This should be a very intriguing series. Houston and Utah have not been playing their best basketball down the stretch. However, both coaches are part of the Defense First School of Dar. The only difference is that Jeff Van Gundy has actually played that style giving up only 92.1 ppg compared to 17th ranked Utah's 98.6 ppg. Plus with a healthy Yao Ming and Tondar's MVP, Tracey McGrady, I expect them to exploit Utah's Europeans. The Jazz rely too much on Andrei Kirilenko and Gordon Giricek. Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams have both had amazing seasons. However, Houston's superstars and supporting cast of Rafer Alston and Shane Battier should overwhelm.

3. San Antonio over 6. Denver in 6 - Every year it seems that San Antonio has to face the hottest team going into the playoffs. Every year they meticulously dispatch them in 6 games. It is possible that Carmello and/or Allen Iverson could catch on fire to make this a tight competitive series that the Nuggets could win. However, it's San Antonio and we all know how Gregg Popovich roll so let's just assume that Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili take care of business.

2. Phoenix over the LA Lakers in 5 - A few months back this would have been an interesting series. However, since then, the Suns have found their chemistry under the leadership of Steve Nash. Furthermore, the supporting cast for the Lakers has fallen victim to either injury (Kwame Brown and Lamar Odom) or douchebaggery (Vlad Radmanovic and Smush Parker). I'd expect Kobe Bryant to have several big games and one he will probably win single handedly. But with a healthy Amare Stoudamire and Kurt Thomas, the Lakers will have no answer inside.

The Second Round

1. Detroit over 5. Miami in 5 - This series could very well go long and end up going to the Heat in the end. However, I think the Pistons will be looking for paybacks and finally have enough big men to play proper Hack-a-Shaq defense. Between, 'Sheed, McDyess, Muhammed, Davis, and Webber the Pistons have 30 fouls to give in the post. Once you slow down the bigman by wearing on him and making him work for his supper, it will force an injured and ineffective Wade to step up. However, after a lengthy series with the Bulls, I don't think they will have enough in the tank. I'm certain that Udonis Haslem, Jason Williams, and Jason Kapono will have amazing games from their supporting rolls. However, I look for Detroit to keep on rolling. This is probably the most balanced team they have had since the Bad Boys. The stars will be there when you need them while the supporting players know their rolls. Plus, you don't have to worry about Ben Wallace being exploited when the Pistons go on offense. Chris Webber has never been all that good from the line. But his ability to pass and hit those 15 footers is going to be crucial for opening up a varied attack that can burn you from all angles. I just don't see a worn out Heat team competing (unless of course, this is another Pat Reiley trick and the Heat are actually perfectly fine).

3. New Jersey over 2. Cleveland in 7
- Cleveland has had an amazing season. However, since this is only the LeBron show, I cannot see them winning this series without a solid second banana. New Jersey, has made their season come together at the perfect time. And certainly Cleveland has found a way to win playing great defense. But given the experience of Kidd, Carter and Jefferson, New Jersey has several weapons that could heat up and burn you at any time. In the end, this series will come down to how well Anderson Varejao, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and Drew Gooden can dominate inside. If they have an amazing series things will go Cleveland's way. Personally, I would put my money on Nets no-namers like Mikki Moore, Jason Collins, and Josh Boone to be simply adequate while that experienced all-star trio plays some career basketball.

1. Dallas over 4. Houston in 7 - This is where Dallas will start to run into trouble. I expect them to eventually overwhelm Houston. However, it will depend on how long it takes and what kind of series Yao and McGrady have. This second round is where things will get wild. And I can see Van Gundy making this a slow grind it out series. In addition, we should remember that these teams met in a brutal seven game series two years ago. Dallas eventually won. However, Houston was not that much worse. And today, these teams are both significantly better so I don't see Dallas walking away like their 67 wins would suggest. Jeff Van Gundy has a way of finding success in the playoffs. Just remember it was his 8th seeded 1999 Knicks that knocked off the Heat and rolled all the way to the NBA Finals with great grind it out defense. Though I will admit that the Colangelo Rules have made the NBA more offensively oriented, like the NHL however, a defense first team with some hot players could roll deep into May.

2. San Antonio over Phoenix in 6 - This is probably the best team the Suns will have. They can score at will against everyteam and they are completely healthy going into the playoffs. However, their team defense is atrocious in particular the defense of 2 time MVP, Steve Nash. Popovich and Parker are no fools and will exploit this. 2 years ago San Antonio won in 5 games that weren't all that competitive. This time if they are to win, they will have to do it on the defensive end. San Antonio most certainly has the ability and experience to get this done. The biggest question is whether the Suns will have the cohesive desire to raise their game to the Spur's level. I'm not counting on that, and the interior defense of San Antonio will make Phoenix struggle just enough in this series.

The Conference Finals


1. Detroit over New Jersey in 4 - I predicted this going into the season. And suddenly, here we are again. This will be a payback series for the 2003 Eastern Conference Finals. The difference between the Pistons and the rest of the teams that the Nets had to face is the post play of Detroit. Chris Webber will have a career series against this group of no-name Nets bigmen. Meanwhile, an older and wiser Chauncey, Rip and Tayshaun should be able to give Kidd, Jefferson, and Carter fits respectively. And with that all of a sudden, we see the Pistons go from their 5th straight conference finals appearance into their 3rd NBA Finals in 4 years (see how much the media crams that stat down your throat).

1. Dallas over 2. San Antonio in 7 - This is another toss-up series. I expect Dallas and San Antonio to both be tuckered out after their second round match-up going into the epic batttle awaiting (whoever) in the Western Conference Finals. This series will be a long and dramatic war for the ages. In the end, I think it will go to the team with the homecourt advantage. But expect some great moments and keep an eye on the showdown between Duncan and Nowitzki.

The NBA FINALS


1. Dallas over Detroit in 6 - Everybody knows that the East is the weaker conference. However, Detroit has an excellent team and will have to face the winner of the most competitive Western Conference ever. Whoever does limp into the Finals will be tuckered out, a little injured and ripe for an upset. So why am I picking a Dallas Mavericks team led by a European? Given what I know about NBA History, teams that win somewhere around 65 games are so dominant that it is foolish to pick against them. It is true that Detroit lost in last year's Eastern Conference Finals after having won 64 games. But everybody knew going in how great the Heat actually were, and Detroit had been hit by the injury train which led to a long series against Cleveland before blowing that game 1 against Miami which made all the difference. I'm going to predict a Dallas championship. But don't be surprised if an energized Detroit tears through the Eastern Conference to exploit a weakened worn-down Western Champ in the Finals.

So let it be blogged. So let it be done.

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