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What to watch for in the first round of the NBA playoffs

4-18

It’s that wonderful time of the year. The weather is getting warmer, the nights are getting longer and the April showers are on their way out. Spring is in full bloom and there’s no better indicator of great spring weather than the NBA playoffs. Basketball fans are finally starting the apex of the season. Contrary to most playoffs in American professional sports, the journey to the next Larry O’Brien trophy is a marathon, not a sprint. Yes, the individual games will feel like a sprint but the Finals don’t officially begin until June 5th. And looking at it now, it seems like an eternity until we have a new king of the basketball universe. There’s lots of basketball to be played and it all starts tomorrow (12:30 ET) with the Nets in Toronto.

Fitting actually. The Nets-Raptors series is really the only first round match up that is a complete toss-up. It’s almost certain that this is going to be a 6 or maybe even 7-game series because neither team seems to have a distinct advantage. If gambling were legal (ahem) and I were to bet on one team making this a quick series, it would be Toronto. The Raptors have been the more consistent team and aren’t dealing with as many injuries. Of course, the Nets have the advantage on paper but can their expensive roster actually make some noise in the eastern conference this postseason? Some think so but it’s not because the Nets have a glaring advantage over any other team, it’s because the eastern conference has been such a disaster this season. It’s been so bad that I don’t see any other series in the first round, aside from the one I just mentioned, going more than 5 games. The Pacers are playing some really bad basketball but would you trust the Hawks, a sub-.500 team, to win more than one playoff game? Same goes for the Bobcats, who have never won a playoff game (ouch) and have not beaten the Heat since LeBron joined them (double ouch) three seasons ago. One would think that the Bulls-Wizard (4 v 5) match up would be the most evenly matched but then you look at the way they played at their peaks this season. John Wall could make a leap for Washington but c’mon, look at the defensive and coaching advantage that Chicago has. Do I need to go any further? Let’s just go ahead and head out west.

Now THIS is the side of the bracket that will produce some of the best basketball that we’re going to see. This isn’t the boldest of predictions but i’ll make it either way: there will be no sweeps in the western conference playoffs this season. Even my Mavericks, who are the most likely to get swept out of all the teams, have enough talent and coaching to win at least one game this postseason. They’re in a Texas-sized battle with San Antonio but it’s a lop-sided one. I’m a big Dallas-homer (duh) but there’s nothing that indicates this won’t be a quick series. The Spurs swept the regular season series and it’s going to take a massive effort from Dirk and co to make this a long series. I don’t see it but i’m hoping that the Mavs fight until the very end and give their I-35 rival a nice fight to kick things off. Moving on up the freeway, we’re in OKC where the Grizzlies are in town for a nice battle. The Thunder have had their problems with Memphis, starting from the glorious 2011 7-game series. Last year the Grizzlies gave a depleted Thunder team an early exit but this is a different team and certainly a different Kevin Durant. Memphis will play their usual “grit” style and make things tough for the Durant but I don’t see any sort of upset here. Look for Durant to continue his MVP-level play and lead his team to a nice first round series win in 6 games.

Let’s head out west to Los Angeles and talk about a playoff series that doesn’t include the Lakers. The Clippers against the Warriors is definitely the first round series that i’m looking forward to the most. Besides anything the Mavs are involved with, of course. As we know, these two teams don’t like each other and would like nothing more than to give their opponent an early exit. But enough about that because all I care is what happens on the court. The Clippers are and have the been the superior team all season but don’t sleep on the Warriors. Golden State plays some of the most exciting basketball in the league and what do you know, so do the Clippers. Blake Griffin or Stephen Curry could both be the best player on the court and have monster games. Splash brothers heat-check anyone? Lob city anyone? Clippers will probably win this in 6 games but i’m hoping this series goes the distance. Back to Texas as the Blazers are in Houston to start their postseason journey. Neither the Rockets nor the Blazers play great defense so expect lots of points. I’m actually curious to watch James Harden and Damian Lillard go head-to-head to see who can play the worst back-court defense in a playoff series. Portland might get the early jump but I expect Houston to take the series in 6 or 7 games and move on.

To recap, I like sweeps for Miami and Indiana, five-game victories for the Spurs and Bulls, six-game victories for the Clippers and Thunder, and seven-game battles for the Raptors and Rockets.

Who doesn’t love shots from half court and beyond?

 

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“Orange Is The New Black” Season 2 Trailer is HERE!

The Girls Are Back.

Check out the finally released trailer of the upcoming second season of Orange Is The New Black from Netflix. For those who watched the first season religiously (as I did), it looks like we can expect Piper to learn a whole lotta new life lessons from her crew.

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The final day of the NBA regular season is here

DeAndre Jordan, Chris Paul

What will be remembered most about this season? Depends on what your personal tastes are when it comes to professional basketball. If you prefer off-the-court issues, then look no further than franchises like the Knicks and Lakers. I know one can also include the Pacers and Nets in the discussion but because their team will be participating in the postseason, i’d like to omit them. Chicago was a prime candidate to be a “behind the scenes” disaster after Derrick Rose’s injury and the trade of Luol Deng but like coach Thibodeau and team leader Joakim Noah, the Bulls fought the entire year to put together an impressive season. It’s that kind of play that makes fans love professional sports. Ignoring everything that surrounds them and proving themselves on the court. Who else portrays that more than the Bulls? Well, i’d like the nominate the Spurs. As a Mavs fan, I despise them but completely respect them. The irony is that most of the media spends more time talking about how no one talks about the Spurs rather than actually talking about the Spurs. San Antonio bounced back from a heart-breaking Finals to put together yet another impressive regular season. One that included the quietest 19-game winning streak in the history of the league. Which team surprised the most in the west? Portland was not supposed to be this good and with their unconventional roster, neither were the Mavericks. But that honor clearly goes to the Suns. Thought to be in the race for the #1 pick in the draft, the Suns put together a team that almost won 50 games and almost made the playoffs in the ridiculously difficult western conference. Let’s also give it up to the Raptors, who never seem to jump off the page simply because they are a basketball team in Toronto. The 3rd seed in the east during a season where they were supposed to be a lower seed to the likes of Chicago, Brooklyn or New York, only to get bounced in the first round. Now, with Drake’s consent of course, could the Raptors make some noise in these eastern conference playoffs? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Those were some of the team headlines but what story line was the leader throughout the season? No, not Phil Jackson joining the Knicks or anything having to do wit the Lakers. Let’s sick to franchises that are going to matter after tonight’s final day of the regular season. The season-long battle between LeBron James and Kevin Durant for the season’s best player and winner of the 2013-14 MVP trophy. I’ll be first to admit that I was in the camp of “as long as LeBron is in his prime, the award goes to him” before the season started. But as great as LeBron has been all season, there’s no doubt that Kevin Durant deserves the trophy for most valuable player in the league this season. The list goes on for, #35 of the Thunder, when discussing whether he deserves it or not. The incredible shooting goes without saying because once again, Durant will be the league’s champion for scoring. As we all know, that’s the not the trophy he cares about the most at this point in his career. After all he already has three of those. Now it’s time for “KD” to move up to the next echelon of players in history. That means an MVP trophy and if this season continues in the same direction, it means finally getting that first NBA championship. How does LeBron feel about all of this Durant talk? James seems to think Durant is also deserving of the trophy. Does watching Durant get the personal hardware light a first under LeBron during the postseason? It’s surprising that a player with a 27.1-6.4-6.9 stat line needs any help for when “the real season” begins. If this season has shown us anything is that KD and LeBron have brought out the best in each other for the entire season and we can only go up from here because now, the stakes are even bigger.

As usual on the final day of the season, every team in the NBA is in action. There are too many scenarios to list here, but I found a nice link on NBA.com that summarizes them nice and neat. I will be hoping for a Mavericks victory as they try to secure the 7th seed and win 50 games. I’ll be predicting the first round of the eastern conference tomorrow and the west on Friday before things get going on Saturday.

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Last night’s excellent games and what’s in store for the final weekend in the NBA

4-11

It’s pretty crazy to think that we’re less than a week from the final day in the NBA season. Lots of teams were eliminated from the postseason long ago and various teams have secured their spot, but there’s still a lot to figure out. That’s what makes the final week so interesting. The Spurs haven’t clinched the top seed in the conference (lose tie breakers to OKC) but last night’s strong victory over the Mavericks was an important step in that direction with only a few regular season games on their schedule. Chances are San Antonio will be the top seed by the end of the season but it won’t be a cake walk as they face two teams (Suns and Rockets) who are trying to clinch and/or keep their momentum going before they get the terrible Lakers in their final game. My Mavericks, on the other hand, are still trying to clinch their spot as they fight with the Suns and Grizzlies for the final two spots in the conference. And what do you know, those are the Mavs’ two remaining opponents this season. It’s such a shame that one of those three teams won’t be participating in the playoffs because all three teams are deserving. The Warriors had a chance to pretty much secure their spot in the playoffs last night but fell short to the Nuggets in a thriller. I’d like to give a bit shout out to Timofey Mozgov (23 pts, 29 reb; pic above), who had the performance of his career so far as he led Denver to victory. Understandably, most people are still going crazy over Andre Iguodala’s mind-blowing crossover. Quincy Miller seems to be taking his embarrassment pretty well but I would advise him to stay off social media for a good while.

What else in the NBA will get social media going this weekend? Well, tons of action once again tonight. 26 teams in action but i’m looking at three specific games. Hey Moe, can your Knicks snag that last playoff spot in the eastern conference from the Hawks? Tonight will be a good test for a Knicks team that is desperate to salvage whatever they can from a disappointing season. While the Hawks go into Brooklyn tonight, the Knicks are in Toronto, against the a Raptors team that is currently in 3rd place. Should be a nice test for New York to prove that they belong. The Pacers are in Miami tonight, only 1/2 a game separating them, to square off for the top spot in the conference. People around the league are doubting this game will live up to the expectations, primarily because neither team has been jumping off the page lately. But maybe it’s for that very same season that both teams will play more free and with a little less pressure. The best game will feature the Suns in San Antonio tonight. Will the Spurs clinch? Can Phoenix continue to surprise? There’s no doubt that i’ll be watching this game very closely. Saturday’s action isn’t too crazy overall but it does feature the Suns in Dallas. This will be the biggest game of the season for both teams as it will strongly influence whether or not they make the playoffs and what seed they’re going to be. If you have NBA TV, tune into that game. Sunday’s ABC showcase features a nice battle between Indiana and OKC, two teams that could very well meet in the Finals. Lots of action and lots left to decide as we head into the final season.

If, for whatever reason, you haven’t seen Iguodala’s crossover, here it is. I almost enjoyed the Warriors’ bench reaction more than the move itself.

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Thunder and Mavs get big wins; key NBA games for tonight

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder

For the past three weeks or so, anytime two teams in the top 9 of the western conference square-off, it’s much watch television for all basketball fans. That’s just the kind of season we’re having in the west. I know the eastern conference looks like it will be bit more competitive (especially as of late) this postseason but the west will be a bloodbath every single round. I’m getting a little ahead of myself, as usual, but at least we got a little preview of what we could see in a couple of week during last night’s games. Both the Thunder and Mavericks got big wins over the Spurs and Clippers (respectively), two of the best teams in the conference as of late. What does that tell us? Well, for one, no team is invincible in the conference. At least for one night. I still wouldn’t bet against the Spurs but at least we can see that they won’t completely roll over every other team. Especially the Thunder, because after last night’s win over their I-35 rival, they have swept the season series 4-0. Are the Thunder just a match-up nightmare for San Antonio? A little bit but don’t forget that the Spurs were playing their 5th game in just over a week’s time. It was still an impressive by OKC, who used their superior length and speed to counter the Spurs’ ball-movement. Conference finals preview?

Once again, not getting ahead of myself. Especially if the Clippers or Mavs, who squared off last night, have anything to say about not being included in the conference finals discussion. Now, my Mavericks are a bit of a long-shot to make it that far into the playoffs but they would at the very least give any opponent in the west a well-fought series. But that’s the western conference in general and that’s why it’s so great. The Clippers have been playing excellent basketball for over a month now, led by Blake Griffin, who posted his first triple-double of the season. Dallas was able to survive Griffin’s performance but it wasn’t easy, as the Mavericks continue to fight with the Warriors, Grizzlies and Suns for those final three spots in the conference. The Mavs, with their barrage of shooters, have one of the best offenses in the league but it’s going to have to be their defense that makes sure they have a position in the postseason. Right now it’s spotty but if they can fix their late-game mistakes, Dallas can do some real damage. The Clippers on the other hand are pretty much locked into the #3 seed, barring anything crazy happening in the final stretch of the season. Right now they’re set to face the Warriors, and man oh man, would that be a juicy first-round match up. At lot left to happen before we get to that point so let’s see what games will affect both conferences as we begin the final week and a half of the season.

Lots and lots of games tonight. In fact, the only teams that aren’t in action tonight are the Spurs and Clippers. But don’t worry because we’re still going to get some great games tonight, some of which have big implications. As stated previously, any game involving two western conference playoffs contenders is a great watch. Especially 6 through 9 because at any time, those teams can switch in a variety of ways. The biggest games among the western teams tonight are the Thunder in Houston and the Suns in Portland, both games should be great. The east isn’t as intense but there’s still a lot to learn from various teams and some shuffling that will happen among the non-Pacer and non-Heat teams. The Raptors are fighting to stay in the 3rd position and what do you know, they’re going up against Indiana tonight. The Pacers need to get back into the form and getting a win over the team one spot beneath them is the right direction. You can also tune into Boston-Philly for tanking reasons. But let’s focus on the Wizards, in New York tonight to take on Moe’s Knicks, who are all of a sudden in the 8th spot in the eastern conference. Washington is trying to move up a spot in the standings while New York is trying to fight off the Hawks and Cavaliers for the final spot in the postseason. Should be a good game and a good Friday of basketball to get the weekend started.

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