Fans in other sports, especially hockey fans, like to slam the NBA playoffs for just not being that interesting. This year, they could not have been more wrong. There were five Game 7’s in two days, making this past weekend the “Game 7 weekend.” Only one series was boring, but everybody expected the Miami Heat to kill the Charlotte Bobcats anyway. The Wizards may have beat the Bulls in just 5 games, but that was also a really fun series because of how much the Wizards are surprising everybody. And the only other series that didn’t go the full 7 games only didn’t because of an absolutely amazing shot from Damian Lillard to end the series in 6. (How in the world did he get THAT open for that shot???!!! Pretty sure Rasheed Wallace in 2010 could’ve stuck Lillard better on that play.)
And then there were the five Game 7’s. The Spurs put the Mavericks in their place, and the Thunder hung on, but maybe just because seemingly 90% of the Memphis Grizzlies were injured or suspended. The Clippers held onto home court, and then they and the Warriors reminded us that the two teams hate each other. The Pacers beat the Hawks in a series that reminded me 100% of the Celtics beating the Hawks in Round 1 in 2008. Remember how the C’s barely beat the inferior Hawks in a series that took way too long? That’s what the Pacers are pointing to right now.
And then, Paul Pierce came up huge. What an ending to a series — that’s why we love sports. God, I miss Pierce and KG.
(Right, and Jason Terry too.)
Now it’s onto the Conference Semis. (All lines courtesy of Betonline.)
Los Angeles Clippers (+175) over Oklahoma City Thunder (-205) in 6.
Everybody is going to make this prediction, because it isn’t exactly difficult to see how it plays out, which is why the line baffles me. Easy choice. The Clippers are a very good home team, and so it’s logical to pick them to win the series at home. But they won’t sweep OKC (actually, that wouldn’t shock me at all), so 6 is the best bet. Frankly, the Thunder are overrated, because their offense can’t be relied upon to step up if Durant is either cold or covered tightly. It helps that Tony Allen doesn’t play for the Clippers, but Durant won’t be enough. Whether it was LeBron in 2009 or 2010 or just about any other superstar who carried his team’s offense singlehandedly in the regular season, they don’t fare well in the playoffs. The Thunder will be done in the 2nd round for the second straight year, and Scott Brooks should get fired, and Sam Presti might drink heavily for a month because he traded James Harden for nothing.
San Antonio Spurs (-400) over Portland Trail Blazers in 6 (+330)
It’s the San Antonio Spurs against an inferior team in the playoffs. Damian Lillard is good, and LaMarcus Aldridge is better. But Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili are the best. Gregg Popovich, how do you feel about me calling you the best? That’s what I thought.
Washington Wizards (+145) over Indiana Pacers (-165) in 6.
Now I feel like I have a problem. I just selected the second popular upset pick that everyone is going to choose, and I just predicted the third straight series to end in 6 games. What’s more is we have the distinct possibility of the “Nets over Heat in 6” pick coming up, because it would be hard for as big of a Celtics fan as myself to pick against those two, and they take pride in protecting home court. But this Wiz pick one just makes too much sense, and I’m not the kind of guy who says “If it makes too much sense, go the other way.” Nope. If it’s the smart call, go with it. That was my reasoning for taking Bruins in 5 over Detroit, even though everyone in the 617 area code made the same prediction. The Pacers are not what they were four months ago, and they won’t return to form in the 2nd round. Wiz taking the series.
Miami Heat (-550) over Brooklyn Nets (+445) in 7.
I hate myself. I really do. I wanted to pick Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to beat the Heat one more time, and I wanted to live vicariously through them and every one of Brooklyn’s fans. If it’s any consolation, know that I paused right after typing the prediction in bold to take a YouTube break and watch highlights of the Pierce-LeBron game in the 2nd round of 2008. (I’m posting it below so that you have no excuse not to watch it.) Every time I think about picking Pierce, KG, and everybody else on the Nets that I don’t care about, I think of one phrase: “Grit and Balls.” There’s a very real chance that Grit and Balls could propel the ex-Celtics to a massive, orgasmic upset over the Heat, but LeBron is LeBron. The last thing that I’ll say to make both you and me hate me less is that I’ve never been rooting harder for a non-Boston sports prediction to be wrong.