|Connelly’s Top Ten: Comebacks, Championships and Doobie Brothers||Patriots 2014-2015 Position Review: Quarterbacks||Cubs Hire Manny, Youkilis to Try to Become ’04 Red Sox…Literally||Red Sox 2015 Preview: Buchholz, Porcello, Miley, Masterson, Kelly|
It’s been a big preseason so far, with many new rosters and strategies to test out across the league. We’ve seen plenty of teams have their positions in the standing from last year shaken up, while several new faces have jumped into the fray. And we’ve seen plenty of regular season starters get regular playing time in the preseason, so we can have somewhat of a semblance as to what the regular season will be like. At this rate, we’ve even got a rematch of the NBA Finals to look forward to.
The NBA champion has rotated between the conferences ever since 2003, meaning an Eastern team could be on track this time around. Will it be the Celtics, as many people are speculating, or will the unbeaten Magic finally shine? Let’s see what might happen if the playoffs started as of Thursday, October 22 at 11:00pm (sans the late games for the night):
Here we have a rematch of last year’s Western Conference Championship, and the #1 vs. #8 seeds the year before. Sure, the Nuggets have gotten a game from LA here and there, but they would have to win four of seven, and the question is whether or not the Lakers have their number. Denver has skills and will always fight hard, but Kobe and Co. should be too much for Denver when it counts, as usual.
It’s been a while since either of these teams were serious playoff contenders. Utah’s starting well after barely squeaking in last year and losing to the Lakers, and the Suns are back in the hunt after shedding Shaq. Phoenix has the energy to do well this year, just as they hung in there until close to the end of the season last year. In the end, this should be a close match.
Dallas has plenty of talent that can rack up major points at will on any given night. The Rockets are hoping Yao Ming can return in time to keep them as a contender (though he may miss the entire year). They may have forced Game 7 against the Lakers last year, but they’ve been having trouble taking the division as of late; they could’ve finished anywhere from the 2 seed to 5 seed last year and finished 5th on the last day of the season. Without Ming, morale may be too low for the Rockets to do much of anything.
The Clippers, who managed to snag the top draft pick in the off-season, will be good once more if they keep this playing up. Meanwhile, the Spurs have been mid-carders ever since their last title in 2007. The Spurs will always be in the picture, but with a hungry opponent, with home court advantage no less, the Spurs could easily be sent packing yet again; after all, who wouldn’t want to see an all-LA series in Round 2?
Just like the West, the East is facing a conference championship rematch in the 1st round. The difference this time is, the Magic are the only unbeaten team left in the preseason. The Cavs, on the other hand, are a simple .500. Dwight Howard and the Magic are picking up right where they left off last season, while Lebron James, Shaq and the Cavs apparently have some kinks to work out. Being the favored team this time around, the Magic are all set to work some magic and take on all contenders, possibly even the Lakers this time.
After a year off, so to speak, the Wizards are trying to claw their way back into the pack. However, they’ll have to deal with the return of KG and the force of Rasheed Wallace. We’ve already seen the Celtics not take preseason games for granted, and the Wizards are just trying to shake off a bad season. If the Celtics can almost take out the Magic while injury ridden (not to mention the endurance they exhibited in their numerous overtimes with the Bulls), then there’s no way the Wizards can beat them at full strength.
Derrick Rose has his rookie season behind him, and whatever butterflies he may have had will be long gone by this point. The Bulls showed a good amount of improvement last season, and have only been looking better this year. The Knicks are another team that are trying to return to their former glory, a race in which the Bulls have a head start. Rose may not be Michael Jordan, but he’s a great player nonetheless, and it’s not like the Knicks have Patrick Ewing anymore. That should make for good news for Boston fans to gloat over to New York fans.
The Hawks have shown tremendous progress in recent years. Or perhaps opponents are too amused by the name “Bibby” to take Atlanta seriously. Either way, the 76ers aren’t expected to be much of a threat to the NBA’s resident 4 seed. Expect the Hawks to force out the 76ers in similar fashion to the Heat, then lose out to the Magic in similar fashion to the Cavaliers.
Tags: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA Playoffs, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, San Antonio Spurs, Utah Jazz, Washington Wizards