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NBA Western Conference Playoff PreviewWESTERN CONFERENCE

  1. San Antonio Spurs – The defending NBA Champs have it all as they can play tight defense, score inside and out, and most of all, they have done it before.  Experience in the playoffs goes a long way.  Tim Duncan is great and Tony Parker stepped up his game this season, but this is when Manu Ginobili shows that he’s one of the best players on the planet.
  2. Phoenix Suns – The injury and loss of Amare Stoudemire before the season was supposed to weaken the Suns in a big way, but they stuck together thanks to the reigning MVP, Steve Nash, the excellent play of Shawn Marion, and improved production from Boris Diaw and Raja Bell. They’ll be able to outrun any team in the league, but slow them down and it’ll be a different story as they do not have a legitimate low-post scorer, which is where they’ll miss Stoudemire.
  3. Denver Nuggets – A major key to their playoff success is having Marcus Camby stay healthy and for Carmelo Anthony to prove that he’s the superstar he believes he is. Andre Miller has the ability to take over a game, but seems disinterested a lot of the time.  Head coach George Karl can only hope the Nuggets don’t rest on their laurels and get inflated heads because they’re a number three seed. 
  4. Dallas Mavericks – Unfortunately they’re in the same division as the Spurs and gets a lower seed than the Suns and Nuggets despite having a better won-loss record than both.  In any case, this season the Mavs put the “D” back in Dallas thanks to the gritty attitude head coach Avery Johnson instilled. Look for Dirk Nowitzki to elevate his MVP-type play from the regular season.
  5. Memphis Grizzlies – Their best player is Pau Gasol and to the casual NBA fan, reading that name would make them scratch their head.  The Grizzlies are the epitome of team in the NBA as there is no superstar as opposed to five players on the court at any time working as one.  Yes, that sounds corny, but it’s true and it may enable the Grizzlies to surprise in the playoffs. 
  6. Los Angeles Clippers – Wait, is this the right Los Angeles team that performed at a suprisingly very good level and can legitimately put a championship team on the floor?  Believe it or not, the Clip Joint has become a Clip Mansion.  Thanks to the stellar play of Elton Brand, who deservedly makes his first NBA playoff appearance, the veteran leadership of Sam Cassell, and Chris Kaman elevating his game, the Clips can get out of the shadow of that “other” Los Angeles team.
  7. Los Angeles Lakers – Speaking of… the Lakers make the playoffs despite being a perceived one-man team.  Kobe, Kobe, Kobe - the first, second, and third option on offense.  Bryant is lucky that the other players pretty much have deferred to him.  Bryant is even luckier that he’s performed as well as he’s ever had in his career.  However, the playoffs are on a different level and playing one of the top teams in the first round will be tough for the Lakers as their opponents will surely have a game plan to contain Bryant.  Can Lamar Odom, Smush Parker, Kwame Brown, et al. step up?
  8. Sacramento Kings – Ron Artest really is a difference-maker and arguably one of the ten best players in the NBA.  Don’t think so?  If it wasn’t for him, the Kings would probably be where they were before he joined the team after a trade with the Pacers that jettisoned Peja Stojakovic out of Sacremento, and that would be out of the playoffs.  Mike Bibby continues to play at a high level, Kevin Martin was a revelation, Kenny Thomas had a revival, and if the Kings have a healthy Bonzi Wells and Shareef Abdur-Rahim, as well as solid bench play from guys such as Francisco Garcia, the Kings should do well.


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NBA Eastern Conference
EASTERN CONFERENCE

  1. Detroit Pistons - Former NBA champs are consistent performers thanks to the starting five who definitely play like they five separate fingers on the same hand.  Not only playing defense, but have upped their offense thanks to head coach Flip Saunders new offensive scheme.
  2. Miami Heat - Dwyane Wade is a monster player that is as smooth as silk taking it to the rack.  The role players that they brought in (Antoine Walker, Jason Williams, and James Posey) need to step up and play their roles to the max for the Heat to go all the way.  And, of course, Shaquille O’Neal needs to stay healthy.
  3. New Jersey Nets - They have a great trio in Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson, and Vince Carter.  The first two have playoff pedigrees, but VC does not.  The X-Factor will be the emerging Nenad Krstic.
  4. Cleveland Cavaliers - Let’s be honest, LeBron James carries this team.  And in my opinion IS the MVP.  If he’s gone, the Cavs will be too.  However, LBJ is still there and he should make some noise in the playoffs before his inexperienced team falters against one of the above teams.
  5. Washington Wizards - Gilbert Arenas can score from anywhere and upped his profile this season.  Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler are excellent sidekicks that can turn it up and be the main man at any point during the game.
  6. Indiana Pacers - Thanks to Jermaine O’Neal being a warrior and Stephen Jackson for the most part keeping the team floating amongst the Ron Artest debacle, O’Neal injury woes (as well as Jamaal Tinsley), and general sense of gloom the Pacers make it in.  But how long will they stick around?
  7. Milwaukee Bucks - The underrated Michael Redd, along with the comeback play of T.J. Ford, consistency of rookie Andrew Bogut, and offseason acquisition of Brian Simmons, will lead the Bucks to a 1st round playoff exit.  They can steal one game, but that will be it against any of the East’s top teams.
  8. Chicago Bulls - This is a young team that can make this season’s playoff appearance a yearly thing for the next few years as Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, and Tyson Chandler have some excellent talent and will only get better taking their lumps in the playoffs.

New York Rangers have their sights on a division titleWith the Rangers losing three straight games, they could end the season by losing out on being division champs with Philadelphia and New Jersey just 3 points behind and two games left to play.  The Rangers will face off against the Philadelphia Flyers today at 2 p.m. on NBC.  With a win, they can clinch the division and head to the playoffs back with some confidence.  Hopefully this game will deliver and help the casual NHL fan to tune in.  This would be the first division title in twelve years, the first since the magical ‘94 season when the Rangers broke their Stanley Cup curse.


LeBron James New Jersey Nets win streakNew Jersey Nets win streak meet LeBron James.  He’s a pretty good baller, isn’t he?  The Nets came into their matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers on a franchise-high (tie) 14 game winning streak, which is not a bad way going into the playoffs that start in a couple of weeks.  However, any plans for 15 consecutive wins were derailed by a surging Cavs team that won 9 of their last 10 games and recently clinched a playoff spot themselves.  And have I mentioned that that LeBron guy is pretty good?  Going into the fourth quarter, the Nets were leading the Cavs 78-72, but then that LeBron person decided to score 18 of his 37 points in the final quarter, effectively putting his team on his back for a 108-102 victory.  Yeah… that LeBron guy is pretty good.  Don’t be surprised if these two teams meet again during the playoffs because they’re both peaking at the right time.


NFL Week 15 Reminder

Posted by Jeff Chan Categories: NFL, Playoffs,

Hey NFL fans, just a friendly reminder that three games on the schedule this week is slated for Saturday.  With playoff implications on the line, you won’t want to miss the results.  Plus, fantasy players might miss their chance to correctly insert the right lineup.

The matchups on Saturday are:

Tampa Bay at New England
Kansas City at New York Giants
Denver at Buffalo

Giants will miss middle-linebacker Antonio Pierce, so this could play into the hands for the Chiefs who are desperate for a win after a devastating loss last week in Dallas.  If you just caught the replays of last week’s matchup between the Chiefs and the Cowboys, you might think K Lawrence Tynes blew the chance to tie the game at the end of regulation.  What most highlight shows didn’t point out was the terrible snap by the center that caused Tynes to mistime the kick.

ESPN analyst Sean Salisbury’s predicts that with the AFC West (Denver, San Diego, Kansas City) fighting each other off for the division and a wildcard spot, the Pittsburgh Steelers might run the table the next three games and should make it in the playoffs with a record of 11-5.  Pittsburgh will head to Minnesota this week, followed by a game on the road @Cleveland, and the finale at home versus Detroit.  Jacksonville, with three weak opponents left on the schedule, San Francisco, @Houston, and Tennessee, they seem to be in good shape to hold on for a wildcard spot also.

The NFC South will also be tricky, with Tampa Bay and Carolina tied, and Atlanta just one game out, but we’ll get a clearer picture after Saturday.  Tampa Bay will head into New England, but so far have been solid at on the road with a 5-2 record.  The two loses come from the lowly Jets and 49ers.  The 49er lost came after a QB switch to Chris Simms, and he has been progressing since.

Confused by the tiebreaker scenarios?  I sure am, here is a helpful guide to answer your questions.


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