The NBA Playoffs are finally here, so I reached out to Daily Trojan sports editor and NBA diehard Alex Shultz to do a back-and-forth for this week’s Trojan Fix.
This is a slightly edited transcript of a back-and-forth between the two of us that occurred during the last game of the regular season last Wednesday. Every Game 1 has already concluded, but I’ve left those untouched for your reading enjoyment.
Agree? Disagree? Want to mock me for being a homer? Leave a comment and let us know how you feel.
(1) Heat vs. (8) Bucks
Alex Shultz: Miami wins this series in four and I haven’t been so sure of something in a very long time.
Euno Lee: You know, I’ve heard somewhere that Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis wanted this matchup since they match up well against the Heat. Obviously that confidence is hopelessly misplaced here. I also have Miami winning in four.
AS: I guess Jennings matches up well with Mario Chalmers, but if he gets hot, they’ll just stick LeBron on him and Jennings will average more turnovers than assists for the rest of the series. Yeah, this matchup doesn’t require much analysis.
(2) Knicks vs. (7) Celtics
EL: Boston’s had a rough week. Do you think that emotion counts for something in a series against New York?
AS: I don’t mean this as a shot against the Celtics or their character, because I have no doubt this is weighing heavily on them, but I just don’t see that influencing the series. I’m not sold on New York, even though they’re hot and won 54 games this year, but I’m even less sold on a Boston team without Rondo. The C’s are a proud group and they’ll put up a fight, but I’ve got New York in six games.
Do you think Boston has anyone that can check Carmelo?
EL: I don’t think there’s anyone in the league who can check Carmelo right now except maybe Carmelo. Boston’s known for being one of the more mentally tough teams in the league, especially come playoff time when they really turn up the intensity. I don’t think the Garnett comments from earlier in the season have really cooled off yet, and things like that might really come to a head this series. I think it’s New York in seven.
AS: Interesting. I guess I have less faith in KG and Pierce right now than you do. But considering their respective histories, that might be dumb of me.
EL: They’re both definitely a couple steps from the glue factory, but we’ll see.
(3) Pacers vs. (6) Hawks
AS: This is going to be a brutally boring series. I have no interest in watching the Atlanta Hawks play basketball against a defensive-minded team. Indiana is far superior in my mind, even though they only won five more games. I’ve got Pacers in five.
EL: I’ve got the Pacers in a sweep. I really don’t see anyone from Atlanta producing enough to break through that Pacer defense. I also agree that this series is going to be a cure for insomnia.
Let’s move on before I fall asleep.
(4) Nets vs. (5) Bulls
AS: Ugh, another snoozer. I’ve found Chicago to be the least-fun team to watch this season without Derrick Rose. Yes, Nate Robinson is fun to watch on his thrice-a-year point explosion, but Chicago’s game plan is clunking mid-range jumpers and playing incredibly physical defense. That actually would bode well normally, but the Bulls are still sort of banged up. Still, I see them wearing down the Nets and winning in seven grueling games. Six of those will probably not be worth your time.
EL: The Bulls might be banged up, but the Nets might be even worse for the wear. You know I was really hoping the Nets would be more fun to watch this year, but their offense is surprisingly impotent despite all the talent. I feel like the slightly-banged up Nets are going to be really banged up after this series, asyou’ve got players sitting out for ticky-tack injuries and I don’t think the Nets have the mental or physical toughness to hang with a Chicago team that’s going to use every little dirty defensive trick in the book to gain an advantage. Chicago wins in the longest 5 games of Brook Lopez’s life.
AS: Five games huh? I guess I’ve got it going longer because Deron Williams is legitimately playing like an All-Star again, and assuming Derrick Rose doesn’t descend from the basketball heavens, I don’t see Chicago’s backcourt helping their cause. But I love Chi Town’s advantage in the paint and I agree on Lopez, who has played really well.
EL: Deron’s back for sure, I’m just not sure if that’s going to be enough against a Bulls squad that’s going to pretty much close off all of his passing lanes. Deron has his fans, but I think his mobility has suffered this season and I don’t see him willing his team to victory in a game with playoff-level intensity.
(1) Thunder vs. (8) Rockets
AS: I think it would be the coolest thing ever if Harden went into OKC and somehow just ripped them to shreds. But it’s not going to happen. Houston is dangerous because its offense is so streaky and the Rockets will make this series competitive-ish, but give me OKC in five.
EL: I also want Harden to go into OKC and basically rip the Thunder a new one. I see this team with their two wings in Lin and Harden stirring up trouble, but I don’t think OKC trails at any meaningful juncture in any game the whole series en route to a sweep. OKC is just too deep and has talent in the frontcourt that Houston just can’t match. Also, if Steve Blake can score 24 points on your defense, I shudder to think what Russell Westbrook will do.
AS: The thing with Houston is they’re going to let up 100 points in all of these games, but they’ll score 115 in one of them. But I mean we’re picking at straws here, we basically agree. Here we go, Lakers/Spurs. Euno “Homer Mode”, activate.
(2) Spurs vs. (7) Lakers
EL: Alright first of all, for transparency’s sake, I’m being as objective as I can when I say the Lakers are going to win this series. It’s going to take 6 games, but is anyone else wondering what this team looks like when a healthy Dwight Howard has the ball in his hand? With Pau Gasol passing the way he is right now? With Steve Nash back and running this system?
I feel like Howard outmuscles Duncan in the post. Steve Nash can’t play defense to save his life and Tony Parker is going to torch us, )I mean the Lakers), but if Dwight Howard can minimize Tim Duncan’s impact off the ball and be a menace in the paint, I see the Lakers winning hard fought games en route to a huge first round upset.
AS: I am wondering what this team looks like when healthy. Want to know why? Because they’re never healthy! Steve Nash is going to be way less than 100%, and the Lakers haven’t used that lineup all season.
I love the way Gasol is playing. It’s a talented squad and it’ll give a struggling Spurs team some trouble, but the Lakers without Bryant won’t be able to muster an upset.
But let’s be real. Tony Parker is one of the three or four best players in basketball not named LeBron James. Duncan can’t outmuscle Howard, but he doesn’t need to. Duncan might be the smartest player in the NBA. The Spurs have wings that can eat up the Lakers’ wings. I just don’t trust LA to put it together for a complete series against a really tough team. Spurs in six.
(3) Nuggets vs. (6) Warriors
AS: Denver-Golden State is so much better than any Eastern Conference matchup. So many fast break points will be scored.
EL: Denver and Golden State is going to be a track meet.
AS: The Warriors are a confounding team, because if they played like they did in the first half of the season I’d actually give them a legitimate shot to beat Denver. But I don’t think they’re the same team anymore. The Nuggets will move past the loss of Gallinari better than most people think they will. I’ve got Denver in five close games. That sounds like a slight against Golden State, but I really think every game will be competitive. They’ve got a bright future. Just not this year.
EL: I think Golden State’s is of hearing “not this year.” This postseason might be the one where they get over the hump. Andrew Bogut is on track to be back in the playoffs for the first time in seven years, and while I don’t think he makes a giant impact, I think people are underrating his potential to contribute. Also, losing Gallinari, who was having a career season, is actually pretty big. It’s hard to guard a guy like him, and it makes the Nuggets a bit easier to figure out offensively when you can contract the floor. I have the Warriors winning this one in six very entertaining games.
AS: I think Gallinari is valuable in the fourth quarter when you need to turn to a scorer and that will hurt Denver against better teams, but Golden State is a pretty average defensive team (that’s probably being generous) and I think Wilson Chandler/Corey Brewer are enough on the wing to allow Denver to win this series quickly.
(4) Clippers vs. (5) Grizzlies
EL: I’m taking the Grizz here in six games. To paraphrase my favorite center ever, the Clippers offense is like a Corvette and the Grizzlies’ defense is like a brick wall.
AS: So for the sake of transparency, I’m a die-hard Wizards fan (laugh it up) but I also unabashedly root for the Clippers come playoff time because my actual team never makes it this far. With that being said, I feel like you could’ve made that brick wall comparison last season and the Clippers still prevailed in seven.
I LOVE watching Marc Gasol play and he’s going to eat Deandre Jordan alive, but Memphis can only grind it out for so long. The Clippers are too deep and I think they’ll eventually wear Memphis down. When in doubt, choose Chris Paul. I’ve got Clips in six.
EL: I’m actually rooting for the Clippers to lose in the first round, so that Chris Paul becomes disgusted with the state of affairs in Clipperland and signs with the Lakers after Mitch Kupchak gets his arm twisted by Dwight Howard to amnesty Kobe and sign CP3. Just saying.