Monday, May 2, 2011

Western Conference Semi-Finals Preview

Yesterday Obama kills Bin Laden. Today Guest Contributor Ryan Mahanna predicts that the Lakers will lose in six games to the Mavericks. Tough week for evil.  The real question is: Has Ryan overcompensated for his first round predictions by riding the Mavs and Grizz all the way to the Conference Finals? You make the call.

Before I begin my Western Conference Semi-Finals preview, I would like to extend an apology to two of my favorite players in the NBA, Dirk Nowitzki and Zach Randolph. Diggler and Z-Bo, I am sorry. First, I would like to say to Dirk that I felt dirty predicting that Portland would take you to seven games and then I felt even worse after much of the media was making the same prediction. Portland stinks, you are the man and I am stupid. After receiving my Western Conference First-Round preview, my RFH Collective editor and legal counsel John Hendrie immediately responded back "this looks great, but Dirk hates you." Ouch. I will do everything in my power to make it up to you in this round Dirk, I just hope it is enough.
Ich werde Sie unter verknallt Hammer.

Zach Randolph, I have stuck with you for the past decade and have never jumped off the Z-Bo train but I am feeling terrible sense of guilt for not having the guts to be the conductor. For that, I am sorry. I am a sucker for lefties and guys who are natural low-post scorers, yet I didn't even think about you for the All-Time Lefty team. I am glad you are getting media love now but I should have been way ahead of the pack on that. The lesson I have learned here is to never go against your favorite players under any circumstances. In the end, you'll be happy you didn't.

(2) Los Angles Lakers vs. (3) Dallas Mavericks (Regular Season; LA 2-1)
If the Mavs win, Fisher will have to take his flopping somewhere else.

The Lakers/Hornets first-round series was a classic arrogant Lakers performance. LA knew they were better than the Hornets and only came to compete when they really had too. When the Lakers were locked in it was shocking to see how much more talent they had the New Orleans. We did see some vintage Chris Paul but that wasn't enough to make up for massive talent disparity between the two rosters. The LA/NO series was very similar to last years OKC/LA series, where as soon as LA felt annoyed by the lesser team they completely stomped them out.

However, that will not be case in this series. Dallas and Los Angles have the top two 4/5 combos in the league in Gasol/ Bynum and Nowitzki/Chandler. I will begin my quest to gain Dirk's love back by saying the Mavericks are going to win that battle over the course of the series (Germans > Spaniards). I am particularly looking forward Andrew Bynum and Brendan Haywood playing the most awkward games of one-on-one in the history of basketball. I do not buy into the argument that the Mavericks are well equipped to defend Kobe because of the different kinds of players they can throw on him. If Kobe is going to go off, it is going to happen no matter what. Dallas needs to focus on the what they can control and that is keeping the Lakers off the offensive glass and winning the bench battle. I am sure there is statistical data out there to prove me wrong, but aren't the Lakers the perfect team for Dallas to go huge on and put Haywood/Chandler/Dirk/Marion/Kidd on the floor and exploit Dirk's match-up? LA would have to choose between going big with Lamar Odom at the 3 or taking their chance with Ron-Ron giving up 6 inches. The only issue Dallas would have with that would be Dirk trying to guard Artest/Odom off the dribble but even if they struggle with that, every Artest/Odom shot means one less for Kobe/Pau. No matter what, the Lakers have to bring their best to the floor every night to beat this Dallas team and I don't think they can anymore. Dallas in 6 at home in front of a hysterical Marc Cuban.

(4) Oklahoma City Thunder vs (8) Memphis Grizzlies (Regular Season; 3-1 Grizz)
Z-Bo wants you OKC.

Obviously the Grizz can win this series. They dominated the Thunder in Oklahoma on Sunday less than two days after dismantling the Spurs in Memphis. Before I discuss this series any further I have to address my horribly incorrect assessment of the Spurs. After Friday night's win in Memphis, Western New York's own Jeff VanGundy said the NBA regular season reveals your basketball character (toughness, professionalism, etc.) and the playoffs reveal your actual basketball talent. I mistook character for talent and overrated the Spurs without actually looking at how good they were. What is even worse, the only person in the media I never question and follow blindly is Jackie MacMullan and she said the Spurs were impostors months ago. I believe her actual quote was "it is easy being Gary Neal in the regular season but not in the playoffs." So true.

The bright spot about me being terribly wrong is that the result is Memphis playing my second least favorite team and having a great chance at beating them. I am in all-out Zach Randolph for President mode in an attempt to try to make up for the last couple weeks and I can watch this series with a real sense that Memphis can win, unlike the OKC-Denver series. As a fan, both of these playoff series are extremely important to me. If two weeks from now the Western Conference Finals features the Los Angeles Lakers vs Oklahoma City Thunder I will be playing "Who Shot Ya" around my town house and you won't read the word "West" from this guest contributor unless I am talking about Delonte.

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