The right to jump past the lottery

At the moment, the middle of the East standings looks like this:

# Team GB
6. Indiana 16.5
7. Chicago 17
8. Philadelphia 18

9. Orlando 19
10. New Jersey 20.5

I know they got a nice win last night after the mentioned huge efforts from Miller and Davis, but I really don't think they can keep it up without (obviously Artest and) J-O. Thus, I foresee them falling into the 9 spot and out of the playoffs. I know I said I wasn't a fan of Orlando's moves, but I still think they're better overall than New Jersey and thus, I think they'll move into the 8 spot. This will bump Philly to 7 and Chicago to 6. Thus, my picks for playoff matchups will be:

(1) Miami vs. (8) Orlando
(2) Detroit vs. (7) Philadelphia
(3) Boston vs. (6) Chicago
(4) Washington vs. (5) Cleveland

I suspect the Heat and Pistons will thrash their opponents, but the other ones will be closer when Boston cools off and Chicago warms back up.

Now, for the West's middle/lower middle:

# Team GB
8. Denver 15.5

9. Minnesota 18
10. LA Lakers 18

This one is harder to call. I thought Denver was a shoo-in for a nice spot before the season (nice being 4 or 5), but obviously things changed. Lenard went down, Carmelo shot like ass, Bzdelik finally got the axe, Nene's been dinged and Karl came in. And since Karl's come in, the team's been on fire. As is often mentioned, LA's got the roughest schedule (with numerous games against other West playoff teams, many of which are on the road) left, yet I find it hard to pick against Kobe and Odom. Nevertheless, I'll do it anyway. I'm pretty much dismissing Minnesota because at this point I see them as Utah, but with less injuries to their best player. So, this leaves Denver. They'll probably get spanked by Phoenix/San Antonio, but the bigger media story will certainly be "KOBE MISSES PLAYOFFS" rather than "NUGGETS REBOUND FROM INJURIES, SLOW START AND FIRED COACH TO MAKE PLAYOFFS". Oh well. I suspect the West first round will look something like this:

(1) San Antonio vs. (8) Denver
(2) Phoenix vs. (7) Sacramento
(3) Seattle vs. (6) Memphis
(4) Dallas vs. (5) Houston

I'd pick the Kings higher if Miller wasn't out for 4-6. I'd pick the Grizzlies higher if there was more hope that Gasol would be back. I know they're hot now (they've won 8 of 10), but I don't see them getting up to fifth for some reason. Presuming the Spaniard does return for the playoffs, I think they could give Seattle a run for their money. Memphis is one of the few teams that can match Seattle's bench AND shoot with the Sonics. So I wouldn't be shocked to see that upset.

As for my listed 4/5 matchup, it's hard to say. Houston absolutely thrashed Dallas last Sunday sans Dampier, Dirk and Finley, so that's not exactly indicative of what would happen if Dallas was healthy all over. If only the Mavericks had a competent backup centre instead of the biggest white stiff, then they wouldn't be so dinged up without the services of Dampier, the guy with the hilarious contract. 7 for $73 for a guy who clearly (see .535, 12 and 12 in 32.4 on the year, where his career averages before that year were .432, 8.3 and 6.4 in 24.5 minutes. I know it's ten more minutes a game but the upgrades of practically doubling his rebounds and adding ten percent to his FG% are pretty clear) was beefing up for contract year? Give me a break. I mean, this guy was Adonyl Foyle (another hilarious contract) with more playing time and fewer blocks before that. It hasn't killed the team or anything yet, but wait for a few years. When he's still around and doing a lot to prevent them from making certain deals, then the effects will show. But going back to the playoff thing, I'd say that Dallas will handle them, seeing as how Nowitzki and Finley are both healthy now. Dampier's still out and now Stackhouse is as well, but I don't think the latter matters much due to Dallas's excellent bench. As for Dampier, Dirk can slide up to C while they wait for him and play Van Horn at PF or vice versa, no big deal. So in conclusion, Dallas > Houston in my opinion, even without their 7 for $73 centre.


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3/11/2006 8:40 p.m.  

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