Tuesday is the kick-off of this year’s conference finals with the Western Conference match between the LA Lakers and Denver Nuggets. On Wednesday the Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic will follow with the start to the East series. This year it feels like we have sort of stumbled into the conference finals. Most likely due to the tremendous build-up of excitement heading into the respective Round 2, Game 7’s in the Celtics-Magic and Lakers-Rockets series, only to be let down with two blow-outs that were deemed by most as anti-climatic.
Personally I think the malaise will wear off quite quickly for NBA fans, once they get a glimpse of King James vs. Superman, or possibly the buzz that will surround Kobe Bryant heading back to Colorado, the scene of his infamous rape allegation, to face the hungry Denver Nuggets.
I know, I know, you guys want predictions. Why, i’ll never know. Maybe it’s just so you can berate or make fun of me when I turn out to be wrong, or quite possibly the temptation of a big fat “I told you so” is just too much for you to resist. None the less, i’ll give you what you wish. I’m thinking Cavaliers will take down the Magic in 5 games, and the Nuggets will upset the Lakers in Game 6. But what are the other blog-o-experts saying?
Here is what I hear from some other blogs thus far about the upcoming Conference Finals:
Zach Harper at Talk Hoops – “The Orlando Magic now get a shot at the perfect Cavaliers, a team they’ve played extremely well against this season and for the past couple of seasons. There’s a perceived notion that LeBron James is afraid to try to dunk on Dwight Howard and that the Magic have better players. But the Cavs have a version of LeBron James that we’ve never seen before and a well-oiled machine with one of the best young coaches in basketball. The Magic are at a HUGE disadvantage going into this series but that can be turned around with a big rebounding effort and Hedo Turkoglu showing up in this series like he did against the Celtics in Game Seven.
Prediction: The Magic get big efforts from Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis in this series but Hedo once again fails to play well. “
Shaver Sports – “I know we will hear a lot about the frontline of the Magic in days to come. The way they beat the Cavs in Orlando towards the end of the regular season; and how much better Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis are than Z and Andy. But before all that happens, I want to say this. The Magic have no LeBron James. And while I’ll give the edge to the Magic at the 4 and 5 spot, I have to give the edge to Cleveland at the 1, 2, and 3. In other words, I like Mo Williams over Rafer Alston, Delonte West over JJ Redick, and LeBron James over Hedo Turkulo…by a ton. Cleveland will have to deal with Howard, that’s a given, but I’ll let Mike Brown take care of that. And defensively, on the interior for Cleveland, I’ll say this right now, Anderson Varejao will come up huge this series.”
Sean Deveney at The Baseline – “The Lakers need to get a stranglehold on this series from the get-go, which means sweeping the two opening games in L.A. They need to keep the momentum going from their Game 7 win against the Rockets, and they can’t afford to go to Denver — where the Nuggets have been especially dangerous — with the series tied 1-1. Ultimately, homecourt advantage figures to play a big role here, and because the Lakers have that edge, they should take the series. Lakers in 6.”
Double Dribbling – “For the Cavs to win, they just have to keep playing the same game they’ve been playing for the last few weeks. Keep the defense tight, play physically, and let Lebron make plays. They’ve had a while to rest, so hopefully rust won’t be too much of a factor( I doubt it will). And as long as they don’t get overconfident, they should be able to take care of business. Cavs in 6….
Phil Jackson should also consider putting Shannon Brown on Billups to negate Chauncey’s blatant size advantage on Fisher and Farmar. Ariza and Odom are also going to have the pleasure of manning up Carmelo (I didn’t forget him); the best way to neutralize Melo’s offensive game is to attack him when he’s on defense. To top it off, Phil Jackson should probably start coaching like he actually cares about whether or not his team wins. I don’t think L.A. will be able to pull it together in time, and the Nuggets are playing too well for me to overlook them. Billups has also always been one of my favorites: Denver in 7.”
SportsPolyMath – “The key to the playoffs for the Lakers is the defensive play of Trevor Ariza. In all likelihood, he will have to guard scoring machine Carmelo Anthony of the Nuggets, before having the ultimate task of guarding MVP King James in the finals. In the NBA playoffs, this is the opportunity young Trevor has been waiting for, the chance to compete against the best in the world.”
Jared Wade at BothTeamsPlayedHard – “ESPN/ABC should do alright just on the strength of Kobe and the LA market alone. And with most people projecting the Nuggets and the Lakers to battle for at least six games, a competitive WCF should drum up plenty of national interest even if it the Denver market is less than ideal. (Then again, how many locals who normally wouldn’t pay much attention are going to have special rooting interest against the Lakers given Mamba’s legal troubles in Colorado a few years back?) Orlando, then, seems to be the market that TNT really needs to worry about, especially since the national audience probably isn’t going to be overly excited by the time the Cavs fly down to Orlando up 2-0. Orlando/Boston Game 6, for instance, drew fewer local Orlando viewers than The Preakness Stakes, and Games 2 and 3 were both beat by the final round of PGA’s Players Championship.”
What are your thoughts on the Conference Finals?