NBA Playoff Capsules
THE NBA PLAYOFFS ARE FINALLY SET!!!
WE TAKE A QUICK-HITTER LOOK AT ALL 16 POST-SEASON TEAMS …
PLUS IT’S OUR NFL DRAFT REPORT: HERE’S THE TOP OFFENSIVE TACKLES
By Jim Hurley
Folks, our Jim Sez NBA Playoffs series-by-series previews will fill up the next two columns here — remember the “Second Season” gets underway on Saturday afternoon with four games on both Saturday/Sunday this weekend — but right now we wanted to take a few moments to give y’all an overview of the teams in this year’s post-season with a line or two about each one … enjoy.
EASTERN CONFERENCE —
#1 INDIANA (56-26) — The Pacers’ infighting could cripple this club’s playoff run even before it gets started and we want to know if sulking C Roy Hibbert is gonna “come to play” or is he gonna ride Frank Vogel’s bench for much of Round One?
#2 MIAMI (54-28) — Maybe there is some major truth to the fact that the Heat is a tired bunch after playing in back-to-back-to-back NBA Finals the past three years and so gut feeling is the oft-overlooked Miami reserves must help rescue four-time MVP LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and mates here.
#3 TORONTO (48-34) — Now that we’ve anointed relative unknown Dwane Casey as our "Jim Sez" NBA Coach of the Year, let’s see if he can get his one-two tandem of DeMar DeRozan and PG Kyle Lowry to play at an even higher level these playoffs. Early-bird feeling is this upcoming best-of-seven playoff set versus Brooklyn will produce a handful of uber-close games.
#4 CHICAGO (48-34) — The Bulls’ blue-collar, lunch-pail style can often wear down a team in a playoff series (see last year’s seven-game series win against Brooklyn) and so keep this in mind should Chitown go six or seven games in Round One against Washington. P.S., the forecast here is the Bulls will win any/all games in which they hold foes to the sub-90-point mark. Got it?
#5 WASHINGTON (44-38) — The Wizards are counting on this hot finish to carry ‘em forward, but will this club be as effective in a half-court, grind-‘em-out game that often takes center stage come playoff time? If point guard John Wall shows patience/smarts, then the Wiz could be a wow this post-season.
#6 BROOKLYN (44-38) — No doubt we agree with the notion that the Nets are deeper and more talented than the team kayoed in opening-round action last year, but something tells us PG Deron Williams has to play like an All-Star while Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson need to be close-to-20 ppg scorers on a nightly basis. Nice end-of-season tank job, guys, just to avoid Da Bulls!
#7 CHARLOTTE (43-39) — It says here than big man Al Jefferson could be a 25-point, 12-board game every night in this upcoming playoff round versus Miami and that could send shock waves through the East. Stay tuned.
#8 ATLANTA (38-44) — Hey, the Hawks really revved it up when they had to late in the regular season as they fended off the bumbling New York Knicks, but does anyone expect this rag-tag Atlanta group to win more than one playoff game in Round I?
Now hear this …
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WESTERN CONFERENCE —
#1 SAN ANTONIO (62-20) — It’s amazing that this “elderly” team won an NBA-high 62 games this year but the numbers we’ll be paying special attention to in Round I is “minutes played” as Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili would like to play 30 minutes or less per game here against old pal Dallas, so there’s lots left in the tank the rest of the way.
#2 OKLAHOMA CITY (59-23) — It may be a slam dunk that Kevin Durant is this year’s NBA MVP, but if the scoring machine is gonna get his first-ever NBA championship, then PG Russell Westbrook can’t be attempting more field-goal tries than K.D. Think head coach Scott Brooks has passed that thought along?
#3 LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (57-25) — The Doc Rivers effect could work wonders with this uber-talented team, but now let’s see how often playoff teams allow Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and mates can get-out-and-go as our crystal ball suggests the Clips need to score loads of fast-break points if they have designs on winning the West this spring.
#4 HOUSTON (54-28) — There’s better-than-you-think chemistry on this Rockets team but might it all come down to whether or not big man Dwight Howard can sink his late-game free throws against Portland … or might Houston head coach Kevin McHale sit Howard at crunch time when his team is holding a slim lead?
#5 PORTLAND (54-28) — The Blazers have put it into overdrive the past couple of weeks, but the key to winning a couple of rounds is getting all-star numbers from LaMarcus Aldridge and gotta-have-it shots from dudes such as Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews. Are T-Blazers the real sleeper team out West?
#6 GOLDEN STATE (51-31) — Don’t doubt for a single minute two things here: That G Stephen Curry can indeed carry a team through a best-of-seven series with 35-point-or-more games or that the Warriors want to show management that they have head coach Mark Jackson’s back. The grudge match series with the Clips should be a barrel of fun.
#7 MEMPHIS (50-32) — Three cheers for the Grizzlies for not only wresting away a playoff spot late in the year but also jumping into this seventh spot, and this team will go as far as PG Michael Conley’s stat line, plus this lefty must make some late-game noise when Zach Randolph is double-teamed in the post.
#8 DALLAS (49-33) — If you tell us right now that Dirk Nowitzki’s main sidekick — that’s G Monta Ellis who had a brilliant-but-not-good-enough-finish against Memphis on Wednesday night — will be a 20-plus ppg scorer than we’ll believe there’s a shot for a first-round scare of San Ant after all.
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THE NFL DRAFT REPORT
Our extensive "Jim Sez" NFL Draft coverage rolls on with a look at the top incoming Offensive Tackles:
GREG ROBINSON, AUBURN — Most NFL Draft boards list this 6-foot-5, 333-pounder as the second- or third-best overall talent out there among this rookie class and the real intrigue remains whether or not the St. Louis Rams at pick #2 trade down/out of this slot or will they stay put and make Robinson their man? A great run-blocker who showed steady strides as a pass blocker last year and NFL scouts believe he owns all the traits/skills to be a 12-to-15-year Pro Bowl player. Gut feeling is the Rams either get ‘em at #2 or trade with Atlanta and still get ‘em at #6.
JAKE MATTHEWS, TEXAS A&M — Johnny Manziel’s most important “bodyguard” the past two years at College Station, the 6-foot-6, 310-pound Matthews ranks as a top five talent in this draft — take note there are five or six OTs that should go in the draft’s top 50 picks but Robinson and Matthews far-and-away stand alone as the cream of the proverbial crop. Best attribute may be his long/strong arms that absolutely neutralizes enemy defenders. If Atlanta stays put at #6 and Robinson’s gone, than Matthews is their man but there’s a chance he could wind up with a playoff-type team should Denver or San Francisco trade up for ‘em in bombshell move.
TAYLOR LEWAN, MICHIGAN — This monstrous 6-foot-7, 310-pounder from Cave Creek (AZ) is top 15 draft material that sports great feet and an agile body but there’s still some fine-tuning to do here and some question as to whether or not he allows defenders to push him back into the pile too often. We’ve seen reports that claim the Baltimore Ravens like him at pick #17 but early feel here is gets scooped up sooner than that … how about the New York Giants at #12?
MORGAN MOSES, VIRGINIA — Good chance that this 6-foot-6, 315-pounder will pop into the first round as he sports great feet and truly envelopes opposing defenders with his long reach. Could be a real sleeper who doesn’t make it past the 25th overall pick — Kansas City at pick #23 could snatch ‘em up.
CYRUS KOUANDJIO, ALABAMA — Many draft board list this 6-foot-7, 322-pounder ahead of Moses but it’s a true flip-of-the-coin the way we see it although this former Crimson Tide star could wind up out of Round I. Kouandjio did have some shaky moments in big games for ‘Bama this past year but overall he is nimble and often was asked to pull from his left tackles spot. Right now we’ll forecast him as a high second-round pick with Jacksonville.
JAWUAN JAMES, TENNESSEE — One draft board we eyeballed listed him as the 44th-best talent in this draft and thus expect a second-round pick here with any number NFL teams on the look-out including the aforementioned NY Giants, Jacksonville and Denver. Note that James — who is listed at 6-foot-6, 312 pounds — probably is a career right tackle after playing that position for some 37 starts with Vols.
Note: Catch our NBA Playoff Previews beginning in tomorrow’s edition of Jim Sez as we’ll offer up Previews of the Four (4) Playoff Series that begin on Saturday — that’s Brooklyn vs. Toronto, Golden State vs. Los Angeles Clippers, Atlanta vs. Indiana and Memphis at Oklahoma City -- and then in the next Jim Sez we’ll post the Four (4) Sunday playoff matchups including Dallas vs. San Antonio, Charlotte vs. Miami, Washington vs. Chicago and Portland vs. Houston.
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