Monday, May 17, 2010

Conference Finals Preview Bonanza

After weeks, nay, months of nothing from me, it’s all Graham all the time right now. Good news for you, bad news for Chris, who is once again exposed as the second best writer here at RTS.

Of course, like the tv show Jericho, all good things must come to an end before their time. With the wife due to give birth to our second child any day now, it won’t be long before I once again disappear for extended stretches.

Until then, I continue with a series of playoff previews that come after the series have already started. But today you get a bonus: two sports for the price of one. That’s right, I’m previewing both the NHL and NBA Conference Finals. Why? Because I’m hoping the volume will overshadow the lack of real analysis. To the picks!

NHL Western Conference Finals: San Jose vs. Chicago
Chicago took Game 1 yesterday to take home ice advantage from San Jose. A few weeks ago people would have assumed that to be a death knell for the fragile Sharks, but improbably, the Sharks grew some playoff cojones this year and haven’t choked.

Watching them battle back from the own goal in the first round and becoming a playoff juggernaut has been the hockey equivalent to what it might be like if Shia LaBoeuf starred in a critically acclaimed drama that got him Oscar buzz.

That said, it’s starting to feel like Chicago’s year. When an undrafted free agent goaltender like Antti Niemi can carry a team for long stretches, then something’s going on. I think it keeps up. Chicago in 6.

NHL Eastern Conference Finals: Philadelphia vs. Montreal
Let’s take a step back for a second to appreciate how it came to pass that the Eastern Finals is a 7 vs. 8 matchup.

Philadelphia had to win their final regular season game just to qualify for the playoffs, then knocked off the veteran Devils in Round 1. They went down to Boston 3-0, then rallied to win three straight to send it to Game 7. They promptly pooped their pants, going down 3-0 in that game. Except, that didn’t seem to bother them too much as they came back and won.

As for Montreal, by now everyone knows that they pulled off the rare eighth seed over first seed first round upset, then knocked off Sidney Crosby and the defending champs in the second round. But most impressive is that their best offensive player is Jewish. So Mazel Tov, Montreal.

At any rate, how do you pick a 7-8 conference finals? How ridiculous is it that we’re at this point? And with Michael Cammalleri and Jordan Farmar both in the conference finals, is this the best year for Jewish professional athletes in history? Even though Philly took Game 1, I think the Habs continue their ride. Montreal in 7.

NBA Eastern Conference Finals: Orlando vs. Boston
I really hate the idea of picking Boston. I don’t need any more Kevin Garnett in my life. I’m sick of his act. But having said that, unless Doc Rivers screws it up for them, and he very well could, I don’t see Orlando beating them.

All the Celtics have to do is foul Dwight Howard every time he touches the ball. If Orlando can’t get Howard going, who’s carrying them? Vince Carter? Jameer Nelson? JJ Redick? If I’m Boston, I’d take my chances with any of those guys. Boston in 6.

NBA Western Conference Finals: L.A. vs. Phoenix
I’ve barely watched any NBA this season. I still follow it, still have an idea of what’s going on, still won my fantasy league, but I barely watch the games anymore. Horrible officiating, games that end with 17 straight timeouts in the last two minutes and watching Nate McMillan get Coach of the Year votes despite being a terrible coach have turned me off of the games themselves.

But not for this series.

This is the first time in a long time I count myself being legitimately excited about watching the NBA.

I have no idea who to pick. I mean Christ, I don’t want Kobe to win the series and play for another title, especially since the winner of this series will be the favorite in the finals. Phoenix can throw enough bodies at him to give him trouble, and the Suns hold a huge point guard advantage with Nash over Fisher. With Robin Lopez supposedly coming back, it gives them another big body to contend with Pau Gasol, an especially big advantage if Andrew Bynum isn’t 100%. And with a week off, the geriatric Suns should have their legs.

But the Lakers are still the Lakers. They destroyed a very good Utah team, and I hate betting against them. And a big part of the Suns relies on Jason Richardson getting hot, never a sure thing. And did I just type a minute ago that Robin Lopez needs to be a factor in this series? Oh sweet lord. You know what? Screw it. Phoenix in 7.

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