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 A-Train Rant 20th Edition!

Ranting-Homer

 

It’s not really the 20th edition of the “Rant,” I’ve done a lot of special rants for this blog as well. So there is more but this is my regular rant and I’ve done 20 of them. May not mean much to you but it means something to me. I’ve been able to break out and do this. So ladies and gentlemen…the 20th…A-TRAIN RANT!

  1. We may have seen the last of Stephen A. Smith on ESPN. It’s a shame too. Plus it goes to show you that we can’t speak our minds.
  2. The NFL will only protect the stars…if a bench player done this, he’s gone automatically.
  3. Women in media are not happy with the NFL.
  4. With that previous statement, Roger Goodell is officially the worst commissioner in sports.
  5. As a Bulls fan, I’m scared for Derrick Rose. Plus he needs to shut up and just play basketball.
  6. The Cardinals, Tigers and Athletics are the winners of the July 31st trade deadline.
  7. Dustin Johnson needs help.
  8. The NFL season is just around the corner.
  9. Shoutout to Aeneas Williams, well deserved member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Also to the other inductees going in on Saturday.
  10. Who do you get when they holdout, get no new deal, return to camp and still not get a new deal: Marshawn Lynch. (UPDATE: He finally got a bump in pay)
  11. This is why people don’t watch baseball…the game is watered down.
  12. Dallas Cowboys continue to be the laughingstock of the NFL.
  13. Brady Quinn knows when to say, “I’m done.” Tim Tebow does not.
  14. Damn shame there will not be an EA college football game this season.
  15. The San Antonio Spurs will be back in the Finals next season.

The A-Train

THE A-TRAIN RANT 3.0!!

It’s time for another great rant coming from the A-Train…you should love this one. Here we go.

  1. Josh Morgan…you are “The A-Train Rant” DUMMY OF THE WEEK, WEEK, WEEK! Hope and pray that Mike Shanahan give you the pink slip and tell you, “Today is your last day as a Redskin, please turn in your playbook.”
  2. Speaking of football, good win for the Jeff Fisher and the St. Louis Rams. Got that first win and RGIII took his first loss, also means that you shut up John Madden…at least for this week.
  3. Andrew Luck is a beast? Too soon???
  4. Good Sunday to have Cardinals at the end of it. The St. Louis baseball team beat the Dodgers keep a one game lead for the second wild card spot (may have meaning after all). Shoutout to the Arizona football team (too young to really remember the team being in St. Louis), going into Foxboro and knocking off the New England Patriots in their home opener. 1st time any team has beaten the Pats on their home field for their opener. Tom Brady still wondering, “We lost to Arizona? In our home opener?” Yeah, Tom. You did.
  5. Mizzou will be get the tar and feathers beaten off them for the next two weeks. They are about to learn what the SEC really feels like.
  6. Speaking of the SEC, one of those teams will be in the national championship, again. If not careful…it’s LSU/Bama part 2. People will hate that for life! I for one, would love it all over again. Just keep showing how flawed the NCAA system really is.
  7. After watching Peyton Manning against the Falcons, (BOLD STATEMENT TO MAKE) I think Eli Manning will be better than his brother. At least he’s got one thing on Peyton…more Super Bowls.
  8. The New Orleans Saints need some serious help. But thanks Roger, you screwed up not only them but the NFL as well with your patty cake approach to protect your precious golden-arm quarterbacks. In the illustrious words of Tia and Tamera, “GO HOME ROGER!” I know it was bad. So what!
  9. Back to the NFL, these replacement refs have got to go. I tried to support them last time and now I can’ t take it anymore. I think it was FoxSports.com columnist Jason Whitlock that said on Twitter…”the refs don’t understand the NFL philosophy.”
  10. LA Lakers center Dwight Howard had stated through “a source” on ESPN.com that he never wanted to be hated…Brother, that’s all you did was cause hate. People will hate you regardless. If you are successful or better yet, just because you are black. Yeah I said it. The race card still plays in this world that you and I live in. It’s sad, but true.
  11. Speaking of LA Lakers, Ron Artest (I refuse to call him Metta World Peace) said that he believes the Lakers can go 73-9. Hey Ron, why don’t you just say 82-0? I mean you got the right coach to do it, right? You got Phil…eh…Mike Brown to do it. Plus all those injury-plagued players on your team like Pau Gasol and hell, even Kobe Bryant. What other bums, I mean players do they have…well there is Steve Blake, Jordan Hill, and my favorites Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. Looks like you got all the right pieces in place. All you have to do now is get past the Spurs and Thunder and the Miami Heat (paper champs) and you’re in. Well, that was a good dream to not see unfold. I know we have a season coming up but that damn sure won’t happen. Sorry Laker fans. Keep dreaming!
  12. Oh yes…this is a must. After watching Night of Champions I have come to the conclusion that the WWE wants CM Punk to fight The Rock at Wrestlemania. Just to give this idiot the main event he deserves. Otherwise, he’ll lose the belt at Hell In A Cell. (SIDEBAR NOTE) Good to know that Jerry Lawler is OK and released from the hospital. It would have been a sad day if it was more severe. Now lay off the ropes and just commentate.

ONE LAST THING…SHOUTOUT TO MY HOMEY Twillie Cottingham celebrating a birthday today! Make sure you follow her @MissESPN34…fellas, if  you looking for a lady who knows her sports…she’s one of them. Die-hard fan! (She’s going to hurt me for this)

I’m done. More to come soon. Hopefully a radio show soon. Stay tuned.

Please post your comments below. Greatly appreciate it. Bad comments (that will depend on how I feel) will get the boot.

The A-Train

MIZZOU PLAYERS GET DRAFTED

Even though it wasn’t the biggest shock of that night…it still is worthy to note that two Missouri players were drafted in Thursday night’s NBA Draft. BIG UPS to guards Kim English and Marcus Denmon, as both were selected in the second round. English was chosen as the 44th pick by the Detroit Pistons. Denmon was chosen 59th by the San Antonio Spurs.

English should be a good fit for the Pistons, I think he can be a great role player turned to an eventual starter. Remembering how he came off terrible in his junior season, he (for the most part) redeemed himself in his senior season averaging close to 15 points/game and knocking down 46% of his 3-point shots. If he is able to create his own shot, he will have a great future in this league, even if it doesn’t work out in Detroit. The last Mizzou player to be selected by Detroit was Rickey Paulding back in 2004 when Paulding was selected 54th by the Pistons.

Denmon, on the other hand could be like Ben Gordon of the Charlotte Bobcats. The former 1st teamer of the Big 12, averaged close to 18 points and 5 rebounds a night for Mizzou in his senior season. It may be tougher for Denmon to make the squad as San Antonio that’s crowded with shooters like Stephen Jackson, Danny Green, Gary Neal, Matt Bonner and super reserve Manu GINOBLI!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (In my Charles Barkley voice).

My hope is that both Mizzou players can make their respective rosters and be dynamic players in the NBA.

The A-Train

AS A WINNER…LEBRON STILL LOSES

The Miami Heat knocked off the Oklahoma City Thunder in 5 games to win their 2nd NBA title, the topic will always go around one man…LeBron James. LeBrick, who I love to call, played much better than he did in last year’s Finals. The primary purpose for this is to shut up his critics. Well…I got news for him. THEY WON’T and I WON’T! As a matter of fact, winning this “tainted” title (don’t thank me, thank the “god of basketball” David Stern), he still loses. LeBron haters will remain “the king” and not him. While Heat and LeBron fans will celebrate the title and proceed to try and shut up every hater. Some friendships will end when this happens. Just saying.

Switching to something every LeBron fan dislikes hearing…

THE DECISION: YES I’M STILL ON THIS!! I will not get over that. So what! You will live just like I will. Sorry. But for this man to be the BEST player in the NBA, he surely came off cocky for that ESPN program. People, understand why I’m upset at LeBron for this. LeBron and his agents (mostly his friends) milked the idea of putting together a one-hour special on ESPN just for 2 seconds of announcing his decision to play for the Miami Heat and run away from the Cleveland Cavaliers because he felt that he wasn’t going to get anywhere with them. FOR WHAT? That sounds like pure cockiness coming from an athlete. Now you know without shadow of a doubt this could have been handled much differently. YOU KNOW THAT! He didn’t need the ESPN cameras, he didn’t need Jim Gray, he didn’t need Mike Wilbon and whatever ESPN analysts to ANALYZE this decision. It wasn’t needed. I lost a lot of respect for this guy. POINT BLANK

He won a title…with an asterisk. The same way, the San Antonio Spurs did back in that shortened 1999 season. Look who they played in the Finals. They played an 8th seeded New York Knicks team with “I’ll Choke Your Coach” Latrell Sprewell, Larry Johnson and Allan Houston. I still wondered how they got there after beating the #1 seed, (the pre-LeBron) Miami Heat. But I respect them now because of them winning back in 2003, playing in an 82-game season.

Now, why did I see with asterisk? Oh, the A-Train is on something? He needs help. He needs to lay off the meds.

No, that’s not the case at all. This could lead to another thing but. LeBron played a 66-game schedule and won a title. Last season, played in an 82-game season and lost in the championship. So, it takes for him to play shortened seasons and win titles? It looks like it. In his 9 seasons, only this season he won a title.

WELL, THAT’S NOT FAIR. Sure it is. In his first 8 seasons, he has played in 82-game seasons and has come up short. Even last year, when he practically had the same team. LeBRON WAS DIFFERENT LAST SEASON. He wasn’t any different this season, just put up more statistics. There was nothing impressive about LeBron. He didn’t take over the last 2 minutes of a game like he’s supposed to do. HE DOESN’T HAVE TO DO THAT WITH THIS TEAM. But this is LeBron’s team now, right? Dwyane Wade has given it up.  Critical moments during these 2012 playoffs, he hasn’t shown up. Sorry.

However he did get some help from the black and white. Something about referees and their ways of calling games just boggles my mind. From Tim Donaghy’s nutty scandal some years ago to the old refs like Danny Crawford, Dick Bavetta, and Joey Crawford. The game that once was a game has now been tarnished. Once again, I thank the “god of basketball” David Stern.

Once last thing…stop with the comparisons of Michael with LeBron. They don’t match. MJ still is the GOAT. MJ won 6 titles and didn’t lose a single one of them. LeBron has been in 3 Finals and won 1. Tough luck for the kid. You not Jordan, never will be. Greater than he, forget it. HAPPY FAKE TITLE TO YOU, LEBRON! IT’S WELL DESERVED!

A-Train