Let’s Hoop – NBA First Round Playoff Preview

The A-Train here…I want to bring on our NBA contributor Robyn Browning and she has your preview for the upcoming first round of the NBA Playoffs.

Robyn, the floor is yours.Larry O'Brien Trophy

ROBYN:

The regular season ended on a historic and spectacular note with Golden State setting the record for most wins in the season (73) and Kobe Bryant ending his career with a 60 point effort to defeat the Utah Jazz, thus securing his name as a basketball legend. Now, the playoffs are here and hopefully the NBA will build off the energy of Wednesday night and extend it through the playoffs. Here are my predictions for the first-round series in order of seeding.

Golden State Warriors (1) vs. Houston Rockets (8)

Golden State wins if they keep applying pressure on offense with quick ball movement, pressure defense with closeout double teams, and aggressive rebounding.

Houston wins if they take the red pill from the Matrix and become the team in an alternate reality in which Harden plays defense, more plays are run for Trevor Ariza, and Dwight Howard becomes a 70% free throw shooter.

Players to Watch: Harrison Barnes and Trevor Ariza

My Pick: Golden State in 4

Cleveland Cavaliers (1) vs. Detroit Pistons (8)

Cleveland wins if they become the playoff team we expect them to be. LeBron James will run the point, be efficient from the field, and open up spot-up shooters. Kyrie Irving must contain Reggie Jackson in pick and roll situations.

Detroit wins if they wear down Cleveland through offensive rebounding and pick and roll play with Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond. They must play with the same confidence and fire that led them to defeat Cleveland during the regular season.

Players to Watch: Andre Drummond and Cleveland’s three-point shooters (JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Kevin Love)

My Pick: Cleveland in 5

San Antonio Spurs (2) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (7)

San Antonio wins if they control the tempo and no one gets hurt.

Memphis wins if they transform into the Monstars from Space Jam.

Players to Watch: Danny Green, Spurs bench, and Jordan Farmar vs. Spurs point guards

My pick: San Antonio in 5

Toronto Raptors (2) vs. Indiana Pacers (7)

Toronto wins if they shoot well from the perimeter, drive to the basket, and get to the foul line a lot.

Indiana wins if they win Game 1 and fluster Toronto’s confidence. Indiana’s front court must get Luis Scola and Jonas Valaciunas in foul trouble.

Players to Watch: Toronto’s backcourt vs. Indiana’s frontcourt and DeMarre Carroll (Is he healthy?)

My Pick: Toronto in 5

Oklahoma City Thunder (3) vs. Dallas Mavericks (6)

Oklahoma City wins on talent alone. Russell Westbrook is too much for Deron Williams to handle and Kevin Durant can pour in points by the handful.

Dallas wins if they can contain the Thunder—not outright stop them defensively, outscore them, and coach Rick Carlisle changes the lineup so much that the Thunder stay off balance.

Players to Watch: Wesley Matthews (Can he keep up with Kevin Durant?) and Russell Westbrook (watch for a triple-double game or two)

My Pick: Oklahoma City in 5

Miami Heat (3) vs. Charlotte Hornets (6)

Miami wins if their veterans will use their post-season experience to their advantage and Hassan Whiteside can defend the rim, keep fouls to under control, and wear down Al Jefferson.

Charlotte wins if they forget about the 2013-2014 playoffs when they were swept by the Heat, Kemba Walker’s mid-range game stays great, and Jefferson, Nick Batum, and Marvin Williams lock down Miami defensively.

Players to Watch: Charlotte’s defense and Jeremy Lin and his hair

My Pick: Miami in 6

Los Angeles Clippers (4) vs. Portland Trailblazers (5)

Los Angeles wins if they continue to play with confidence and overpower the Blazers in the post.

Portland wins if Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum break down the Clippers defensively to score inside and outside the paint and set up their teammates for easy shots.

Players to Watch: Lillard vs. Chris Paul (top-notch NBA point guard play) and Clippers bench

My Pick: Clippers in 6

Atlanta Hawks (4) vs. Boston Celtics (5)

Atlanta wins if Paul Millsap takes advantage of the Celtic’s frontcourt, especially on pick and roll plays and make the Celtics run half-court offense.

Boston wins if Isaiah Thomas continues to score as he has for over a month, get Atlanta to turn the ball over, and have more points in transition than half-court.

Players to Watch: Isaiah Thomas vs. Jeff Teague/Dennis Schroder (Teague/Schroder turnover-prone & Thomas can capitalize in a major way)

My Pick: Atlanta in 7

 

You can follow Robyn on Twitter. Her handle is @robynbirdfly.

THE ASSOCIATION REPORT: First Edition

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Getting the new year started (yeah it’s 3 weeks in, SO WHAT) with The Association Report: First Edition.

While there may not be an NBA team here in St. Louis, the fans here definitely have something to cheer for. Three Missouri collegiate teams are playing some real good basketball.

You can definitely check out the hometown Billikens, who are currently undefeated in Atlantic-10 play and ranked in the Top 25 in the country. The Billikens are trying to prove to not only St. Louis, but to the rest of the country that this team is not a fluke after last season’s great success. A matter of fact, dating back to the 2011-2012 season, the Billikens are an astonishing 71-17 overall with a conference record of 29-7 (as of this blog date), 1 conference championship (also regular season title) and 2 straight NCAA tournament appearances. The play of Jordair Jett and Dwayne Evans indicate that this team could surprise people in the tourney. Definitely no fluke here.

Just a ways down Interstate 70 are the Mizzou Tigers, who currently sitting at 14-3 overall; you can overlook the 2-2 mark in conference play right now because it’s early. To me, it looks like an entirely different Tigers team. This team is led by three transfers in Jordan Clarkson, Earnest Ross and Jabari Brown. The good thing about this team, they can all shoot the rock, and they look at bit bigger than past Missouri teams, especially in the backcourt. My biggest hope is that they can get some in-state recruits. That has been Mizzou’s biggest heel. Many top recruits in the state go on to bigger programs and play. Current NBA players David Lee, Otto Porter and Bradley Beal come to mind about those that were not heavily recruited  enough by Mizzou. Send the house to these guys, especially if they fit what’s best for the school. But if it the transfers are what’s getting the job done, use that ploy as well. It really looks like Frank Haith knows what he’s doing, and is the right man for this job.

Not to forget, the Washington University Bears. Yes, that’s right. The Washington University Bears. This Division III powerhouse is 9-0 at home, with an 11-2 record and ranked 7th in the nation. I remember seeing the school on CBS for the Division III National Championship a few years back, apparently those coaches know what it takes to make a champion having won it, twice. Had to show love to these guys as well.

If college isn’t your sport than there are at least four other NBA teams that one fan can cheer for…whether it’s the Bulls, Thunder, Grizzlies or Pacers. Speaking of the Pacers, I had a feeling this team would be successful…but not THIS successful. Indiana currently sits at #1 overall in the NBA with a 32-7 record, with a home mark of 21-1. Of course, their biggest challenge is knocking off the defending champion…the Miami Heat.

Speaking of the Heat, recently LeBron James mentioned about that he’s “upset” about not taking as many shots as Kevin Durant. I have come to dislike LeBron again for his constant flopping (aka LeBroning) and getting away with lots of calls (most superstars get calls anyway). But besides that, his game is fine and he doesn’t need adjustments. Period. This guy can shoot 10-15 times a game and still score 20-30 points a game. The reason? He gets to the stripe. He shoots a lot of free throws and that can definitely add up. Plus, he can do this with ease. With a reliable post game, he can be even deadlier. He can be motivated by what Durant is doing, but he doesn’t need to. That’s the journalist in me and not the fan.

A-Train

The A-Train Rant 15.0!!!

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Time for another edition of the A-Train Rant…now at 15.0!!

PRE-RANT: First off, Happy Birthday to game show host Bob Barker. Today he turned 90 years of age…90! The reason I rant about him is because if you watched today’s episode of “The Price Is Right” they were celebrating his 90th birthday. One of the trips in the show was a trip to St. Louis. Yes, that’s right…St. Louis. I found it funny. I wondered if the producers did their research on St. Louis. They did. They kept it in downtown mostly. The prize included a stay at the Four Seasons Hotel and 2 tickets to a Cardinals game next season. Why? All because Bob had a dream years ago (before being host of the world’s greatest game show) of pitching for the Redbirds. Well it didn’t happen. Whitey Herzog made sure of that. Glad that he’s a huge Redbirds fan though.

Now…to the real rants.

  1. Injuries have truly impacted sports for years…especially when your favorite player goes down and costs nearly a whole season to recover. I can’t remember where an impact injury on the team would later in the season win the whole thing. But then again, the biggest debate has been the safety of sports…is it needed or is it not? Sorry, I can’t answer that. I’m 50-50. With that…the next few rants will pertain to players that have impacted a particular team in some way. NOTE: Scratch that, the St. Louis Rams did it in 1999 when Trent Green went down. Who knows if he was a superstar though?
  2. Kobe and Jim Brown both need to chill. Their “war of words” were both not needed. Kobe needs to focus on how he can get Mike D’Antoni out of L.A.
  3. RGIII being benched is a risky move on Shanahan. I like the move though. I know the game is about money and sacking a franchise player is not the way to go. But he is not getting the job done (given that it’s just his 2nd year) then he has to sit down. Kirk Cousins is a good QB, it was shown in the game where RGIII was down…which proves that he should NOT been the NFL Rookie Of The Year…AT ALL.
  4. Stephen Curry is a beast.
  5. The Knicks beating up my Bulls was great for them…what else do they have going good for them these days? They need a point guard in the meantime.
  6. LeBron is hilarious saying that the Pacers are not a rival…yeah they haven’t beaten you in a 7-game series yet but they continue to bring the best out of you…just remember if the Pacers play the Heat…watch who does the crying during that series and get away with stuff too.
  7. I guess Josh McCown gets no love from Marc Trestman…despite their 2-2 record since Jay Cutler has been out, McCown has averaged 300+ yards per start with 10 TDs and yet you feel that Cutler is the man right now. #CrybabyStatusAlert
  8. This Nick Saban drama is giving me a headache. I hate it when big-time coaches have to be so damn secretive about their next move. Then get all kind of representatives from nowhere to say whether he is staying or going. For all we know, his ass could be lying too. Just have got to love media nowadays.
  9. The baseball winter meetings are getting real. Fights breaking out in parking lots. Stupid funny.
  10. Matt Elam will learn who Megatron really is. You don’t make comments about a superstar if you can’t back it up. Elam’s stat: 2 passes deflected, 0 interceptions…GOOD LUCK SIR! I actually agreed with Skip Bayless on this one.

That’s all I have for today. More to come. Actual blog coming up.

The A-Train

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