Spurs-Mavericks Playoff Preview: Five Key Factors

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benched spursWell, we might as well start things by reminding everyone how the Spurs should be the team calling themselves the defending champions, except for the part where Gregg Popovich had his three best players on the bench at the end of Game 6 in Miami.

That’s when we stopped calling him “genius” and vowed to never do so again.

So this spring, we will laud Pop with congratulations for finishing with the league’s best record, for putting together a 19-game winning streak, for replacing a top reserve (Gary Neal) with an even better reserve (Marco Belinelli) and for having so much balance on his team that not one single player merited a mention on my postseason individual awards ballot.

Blazers-Rockets Playoff Preview: Five Key Factors

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CarlesimoI was listening to P.J. Carlesimo on the radio yesterday morning (how many of y’all remember that he guided the Brooklyn Nets last season?), and he made a good point. Almost never is there an upset in a 4 vs. 5 series. The teams are usually too evenly matched.

In this case,  we have two teams that finished with identical 54-28 records.

Houston gets the home court by virtue of winning the season series 3-1. And if they get past the Blazers, they move into the second round against the San Antonio Spurs (baring a major upset by Dallas) knowing they had the Spurs’ number this season, sweeping them 4-0.

Heat-Bobcats Playoff Preview: Five Key Factors

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oppositesWell, this series brings together two polar opposites.

On the one hand we have the Miami Heat going for their three-peat, striving to get as close to perfection as possible before they move on to the second round. On the other hand we have the “just happy to be here” Bobcats, who have never won a playoff series in their existence and aren’t about to start now.

The Bobcats are listed at 250-1 to win the championship, the same odds as the sad sack Atlanta Hawks.

We all know that Charlotte will be lucky to win even a single game, don’t we?

Bulls-Wizards Playoff Preview: Five Key Factors

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Joakim NoahThe Wizards made us really, really upset on the final night of the regular season by moving up from sixth place to fifth place, denying us a rematch of last year’s Bulls-Nets series that went seven games and was won by Joakim Noah in his old home borough.

Well, I guess it wasn’t the Wizards’ fault. All the Nets needed to do to lock up that matchup (and avoid the Heat in the second round) was beat Cleveland. Instead, they lost by 29.

Hmmm. When you think about it, that might have been the signature moment of this Tankapalooza season.

Pacers-Hawks Playoff Preview: Five Key Factors

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yawnDo they have to play this series? Do we really have to watch it and pay close attention?

Look, we all know how bad the Leastern Conference was this season, and we all knew that there would be at least one bad team crashing the party. And the one we ended up with is an Atlanta Hawks team whose general manager, Danny Ferry, said a few weeks back that it really didn’t matter if the Hawks qualified for the postseason or not.

Way to set the bar high, Danny.

So the Hawks come in after having gone 38-44 in the regular season, although they did finish with a flourish by defeating Indiana, Brooklyn and Miami during April. They go up against an Indiana Pacers team that has been going through such a crisis over the past month that coach Frank Vogel benched all of his starters a week ago for a game against the Milwaukee Bucks that the Pacers needed to have to stay in contention for the No. 1 seed.