2014 NBA Finals Prediction

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By the time this is posted, it will be the day of game 1 of the finals on the east coast and are people looking forward to this rematch of the NBA Finals from last year? I think there is some excitement here, especially after last season’s series which should have ended with the Spurs hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy.  Instead the Heat won back to back and they are looking for the 3peat this season. In my opinion, the NBA playoffs are a hit or miss every season as of late, especially being that the Eastern Conference is as weak as it is. The Pacers were expected to give the Heat a run for their money before the season started and after this the Eastern Conference Finals it seems that Indiana took a step backwards. The Heat took an easy road to the NBA Finals this year after sweeping Charlotte, defeating the Nets in 5 and finishing off the Pacers in 6. The Heat were never pushed to the brink where the average fan thought, “Hmm, maybe the Heat will actually drop this series”. That has been an afterthought over the last couple of seasons and maybe this will be the last year where the big 3 are together in Miami, but only time will tell. I’ve listened to the analysts as much as I possibly could since this matchup has been finalized and I heard a few “experts” say that the Heat had a stronger team last year, than they do this year, and I respectfully disagree. I would be the first person to tell you I hate the Heat and I disliked them before it was popular to dislike them as an Orlando Magic fan. But regardless of Wade’s injury issues — those are not issues when they are four wins away from a championship. Winners will play like winners and injuries are not a concern in analyzing this year’s matchup. 

As for the Spurs, they escaped a tough matchup against Dallas in round 1 by winning in 7, they cruised to defeat the Blazers in 5, and until Ibaka came back for two OkC home games, San Antonio dominated that series and clearly looked like the stronger team even without Tony Parker on the floor. The Spurs have proven year after year they can compete for championships and they would admit they let one slip through their fingers last season. The one disadvantage if you have to pick one for this team would be they are aging, but some may even consider that an advantage. San Antonio is deep and can get production from any of their starting five along with any of their supporting bench cast. They earned the right to be in the Finals again and achieve redemption. Will Tim Duncan retire if his team wins? Time will tell with that as well. Lets jump into the analyses and final prediction of the season in regards to the NBA.

NBA Finals

1) San Antonio Spurs vs 2) Miami Heat
3rd Round Predictions: Spurs in 7, Heat in 6
3rd Round Outcomes: Spurs in 6, Heat in 6

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San Antonio Spurs Analysis: As I mentioned before, the Spurs must feel like they let them title slip between their fingers last season in the Finals and they are looking for redemption. At times during this postseason, the Spurs have looked unbeatable and they are on a mission to take it all. They have the main core to do it, but if Parker misses any time in this series, they may not be able to hang around. They will need to get production from their bench players like they have been in previous series’ this post season. Tim Duncan has also looked unstoppable in the paint and definitely had his way with the Thunder and can be a nightmare for defenses. Chris Bosh has told the media earlier this post season that he would prefer to shoot threes than to battle in the paint and sure, if you can knock them down, it’s more an efficient way to score points and to stay on the floor longer. Will Birdman Anderson be able to handle Duncan all to himself or will he need some assistance from Bosh under the rim? Last series I had picked Boris Diaw to step up and be an impact in the series against the Thunder. He got off to a slow start in the first two games of the series, but to his credit, the Spurs blew the Thunder out both games and didn’t need a lot of minutes from the Frenchman. He got stronger as the series extended and in game 6, Diaw finished with 26 points and shot 57% from the field and 50% from beyond the arch in a quality performance. Other than the big 3 having to do what they do in Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili, my player to watch for this series is Kawhi Leonard. He put up nice numbers in the last series but he still has not located his shot as he’s struggling from a percentage standpoint on the floor. If he ends up being a 4th reliable option for the Spurs and Danny Green is effective on the road like he is at home, it will be a tough series for the Heat to take.

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Miami Heat Analysis: Pat Riley’s built up Heat team is looking for the 3peat. Will it be the last hoo-rah for the Heat with the big 3 as they know it? A lot of questions that still remain to be answered in the off-season and no matter how this Finals plays out should not be the difference maker. The Heat seemed to be toying with the Pacers last round at times and there was never a time in the series where anyone thought Miami could actually fall. Chris Bosh played an exceptional series and is playing with a brand new confidence. In the last series, my player to watch was James Jones and I missed on it. He played a whopping 10 minutes in all 6 games combined so needless to say he did not make much of an impact. His services were not needed to win out in the series and the Heat didn’t need much bench help to get by Indiana. Other than the big 3 in LeBron James, D-Wade, and Chris Bosh and even Ray Allen who the Spurs will not sleep on no longer — I’m going to stick with James Jones along with Norris Cole. Cole didn’t make a large impact in the point production, but he made the hustle plays that kept him on the floor. He averaged 23 minutes in the 6 game series and any type of production when the stars need their rest gets you extra opportunities. I think the Heat will need to trust their bench performers in a hard series against the Spurs and I expect Jones and Cole to have solid games…even if it isn’t exactly putting the ball in the net.

Prediction: Heat in 6

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2014 NHL Stanley Cup Finals Prediction

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The NHL playoffs have come and gone for every team, but two. The teams that remain come from two of the largest cities in the country, New York and Los Angeles. It’s also the first time a team from LA and a team from NY across all sports have played each other in a championship game/series since the Dodgers played the Yankees back in 1981. While I was watching game 1 for the Kings vs Sharks in round one, the Sharks were up 5-0 going into the 3rd and I was texting with my friend saying, what are the odds the Kings come back in this game? Down 5-0 with one period to go the chances are slim to none and any hockey fan would tell you that. Even on a day where several series’ had comebacks or had several overtimes, would there be magic in San Jose? To recap, the Kings scored the next 3 goals, but fell short 6-3. They then fell 7-2 and 4-3 to fall down 3-0 in the series. The same question then came up with my friend — what are the odds the Kings come back in this series? Not many teams have came back to win a series down 3-0 in ANY sport, but it has been done and it has been done in hockey. The Kings went on to win that series in 7 games… they also went on to beat the Ducks in 7 games… and the Blackhawks in 7 games. Did I also mention that all 3 game 7 victories came on the road? Impressive to say the least.

Meanwhile on the other coast, the Rangers also went through some adversity. The thing the Rangers and the Kings both in common while I’ve been writing my predictions is that I predicted both would lose in their first round match ups. I am not surprised either team won those series’ and even the series’ that followed. In the Rangers first round series against their rival from Philadelphia, it was a tale of two different teams within one. The Rangers won every other game and took the series in 7. The one thing that proved immediately was that they can win on the road if they need to. The next series they played Sid the Kid and the Penguins. I had predicted the Rangers to win that series and that’s what they did, however, not in the fashion I was expecting. The Rangers came back from 3-1, winning their last three, two of which in Pittsburgh. Lastly, the Rangers handled Montreal in six games. Both teams have had their share of battles, both fought back from being on the brink, both had to go to OT several times, and both played in at least two series that went the distance. 

Stanley Cup Finals

2) New York Rangers vs 3) Los Angeles Kings
3rd Round Prediction: Canadians in 6, Kings in 7
3rd Round Outcome: Rangers in 6, Kings in 7

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New York Rangers Analysis: I did not pick the Rangers to be playing in the Stanley Cup Finals, but the captain-less team has shown they can have multiple leaders offensively and defensively. Given the Rangers won the series in 6 games, they tired out Montreal and they were hanging on by a limb. After Carey Price went down, it really gave the Rangers the final edge they needed to take the series as long as King Henry was on top of his game, which he was except for game 5. My players to watch from last series for the Rangers was Brad Richards (2 points) and Rick Nash (5 points). I hit on Nash and missed on Richards, but proves the Rangers have several goal scorers that can step up at opportune times. As for this series, other than Henrik having to do what he’s expected to do and that’s to be close to lights out and Martin St. Louis do what he has been doing for the whole postseason, my player to watch in this series is Ryan McDonagh. The defenseman came out of nowhere against the Habs by recording 10 points (2G, 8A) and he will need to do just about the same against a strong offensive team with the Kings. Another player on the Rangers that may make a difference is Chris Kreider. Kreider had 8 points in their last series (3G, 5A), but he may be more of a force on the power play and just getting the puck in the Kings zone in general. He’s a speed guy and if he gets the right match ups, he may be overlooked. This is the first time the Rangers have been playing for the Cup since 1994 when they defeated the Canucks. 

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Los Angeles Kings Analysis: I had predicted the Kings to win their series in 7 games and they did just that. As a hockey fan, it was one of the most exciting, even-matched, great all around series that I’ve seen in quite some time. In the Kings last Cup series win, Jonathan Quick was a strong case as to why they won it. This year, he’s been good when he’s had to be, but he’s patchy at best. The reason why they’ve gotten to this point is their offensive game and make no mistake, Quick plays well on the brink. The Kings led 3-1 and couldn’t wrap it up. They played as the “underdog” by trailing 2-0 early in game 7 and that’s where the Kings seem to be most comfortable. The players I picked to watch last series (aside from Kopitar and Gaborik) were Justin Williams and Alec Martinez. I can’t pass up talking about how great Kopitar has been this whole postseason so he has 24 points (5G, 19A) in 21 games. Justin Williams simply doesn’t lose in a seventh game and he had a goal and an assist to help his team win. Alec Martinez was pretty quiet until game 7.. he only scored the game winning goal in OT. Gaborik wouldn’t want it any other way to dominate the Rangers after his nightmares from his past at MSG and I’m sure the fans won’t let him forget it either. But my players to watch other than the normal players to mention in Kopitar, Quick, and Carter, I’m picking Drew Doughty and Jarret Stoll. Doughty played an unbelievable series and ultimately one of the more consistent players in the post season. He always seems to be around the puck, he’s an excellent defenseman on the poke check, he’s great on special teams, and he also has a sharp shot. He is almost guaranteed to make a difference in at least one game. As for Jarret Stoll, he isn’t a flashy player and won’t record a lot of points, but he’s one of the unsung heroes on the ice. The one thing that doesn’t get a lot of discussion or notice is face-off wins. In the post season, Stoll has won 57% of his face-offs and if he stays around the same average, the Kings will carry the momentum.

Prediction: Kings in 6

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2014 NBA Playoffs Predictions – Conference Finals

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The second round of the playoffs were a lot less dramatic than the first round as expected and nothing too out of the ordinary as the top 2 seeds in both conferences advance to their respective conference championship. None of the series in the second round went to a final and seventh game and for the most part the better team clearly won each of their series. The Eastern Conference Final opens up tomorrow afternoon, so lets jump right in.

Eastern Conference

1) Indiana Pacers vs 2) Miami Heat
2nd Round Predictions: Wizards in 6, Heat in 7
2nd Round Outcome: Pacers in 6, Heat in 5

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Indiana Pacers Analysis: Well this is clearly the series everyone wanted from the beginning for the eastern conference finals match up, even though the way the Pacers got here wasn’t exactly how it was drawn up. The Pacers lost 6 games at home all season, however they have already lost 4 home games in the playoffs by Atlanta and Washington. In fact, even in most of those home losses in the playoffs it has been ugly. Are the Pacers just tripping over their feet because they were looking ahead to this series? Now is the time we will find that out. To me, it’s clear which player on the Pacers has to step up in order for them to win this series and it’s Roy Hibbert. Paul George is going to be an obvious factor as well, but Hibbert is the key to the Pacers success. The Pacers have proven in the past they can keep up with Miami and challenge the big 3, but several doubts have weighed in over the last month. Indiana barely found a way to grab the 1 seed in the East during the regular season for this reason, but their struggles at home in the playoffs may burn them. The Pacers are looking to get back to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2000 (pictured) where they lost in 6 games to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Pacers are looking for their first NBA championship.

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Miami Heat Analysis: There was no question going into the playoffs that Miami would be playing for the eastern conference championship once again and little to no question that they would be playing the Pacers. The Pacers are really the only other competition for the Heat in the underwhelming Eastern Conference. I felt that the Nets could give the Heat some issues last round, but the Heat took care of them in five and they are playing a number 1 seed who struggled to get to this point. I don’t believe home court advantage exists in this series and Miami will be quick to turn that around. It would also be easy to say that the player to watch would be LeBron James or Wade or Bosh, but I’ll go with a supporting role player for who to watch other than the big 3. James Jones. This guy is a three-point specialist and though he won’t play a lot of minutes he may make an impact by grabbing momentum or making a big shot out of a timeout. The Heat have a lot of reliable supporting players like Ray Allen, Birdman, and Chalmers, but I think the Pacers should keep their eye on Jones when he’s on the court. The Miami Heat are looking to get back to the NBA Finals after winning it last year (pictured) and in the year prior. Miami is looking to be back-to-back-to-back champions. 
Prediction: Heat in 6

Western Conference

1) San Antonio Spurs vs 2) Oklahoma City Thunder
2nd Round Predictions: Blazers in 6, Clippers in 6
2nd Round Outcome: Spurs in 5, Thunder in 6

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San Antonio Spurs Analysis: Well I certainly missed on my predictions in the Western Conference when I went for two upsets. The Blazers may have used up all their energy and adrenaline in their first round series with the Houston Rockets, because they had the potential of getting swept and swept pretty easily. The Spurs look to have had just a tough matchup in their first round series with Dallas, because they rolled through Portland. The Spurs look like a team on a mission to get back the NBA Finals and no team can stand in their way. Well…. the NBA MVP stands in his way for this series. Over the past decade, you know exactly what you are going to get with San Antonio. Solid guard play, Duncan to make play after play in the paint, and role players no one has heard of coming off the bench performing at the highest level. Coach Pop knows how to coach this team during the regular season for moments like this and one of their advantages in this series is their playoff/big game experience. I also trust Coach Pop in a series like this over Coach Brooks, but who wouldn’t? There are loads of players I can pick to keep an eye on for this series and last year it was Danny Green that lit it up, but for this series I’m going with Boris Diaw. Diaw had a fantastic series against Portland and he may not put up 20 points or have countless double-doubles, but he will be a difference maker in at least one game. The San Antonio Spurs are looking to win their first NBA championship since 2007 (pictured) where they swept the Cleveland Cavs. The Spurs fell to the Miami Heat in the Finals last season.

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Oklahoma City Thunder Analysis: I also thought this team would fall in the second round, but to the LA Clippers in 6 games. Clippers fans would probably say they had the opportunity to do that where they lost game 5 after leading by 7 points going into the last minute. A few questionable calls got them to lose that game going back home down 3-2 and the rest is history. The two players in the spotlight at all times for this team is this year’s MVP, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Westbrook struggled scoring in game 6, but it’s nice to struggle when you have Durant and other role players that make it a habit of stepping up. In the last series, the Thunder led games by a lot and blew the lead late and they also did the opposite, but I’m not so sure if they fall behind against the Spurs, that they would let up at all. A big note to mention for this series is that Ibaka will miss the remainder of the playoffs after injuring his calf in game 6 versus the Clippers. Ibaka is a huge loss every way you look at it. He is a major presence in the paint with shot blocking, rebounding, and just being disruptive defensively. Can OkC replace that? They may have to get close in replacing that if they stand a chance. Other than the two obvious players to watch in Durant and Westbrook, I think it’s going to be key that Steven Adams and Nick Collison step up to have a good series. If you hear those names consistently, then you may see the Thunder steal this series. The Oklahoma City Thunder are looking to win their first NBA championship since 1979 (as the Seattle Supersonics, pictured) defeating the Washington Bullets in 7 games. The Thunder lost in the NBA Finals in 2012 to the Miami Heat. 
Prediction: Spurs in 7

2014 NHL Playoffs Predictions – Conference Finals

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One of the great traditions of the NHL playoffs include teams getting in a line for respectable handshake with each of the players, coaches, and staff. After short or long series’ of strong hits, pucks to the face, chest, and all over the body, and loads of verbal abuse, the players respect one another for a simple handshake. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case for some players (pictured). However, the semi-finals did have its share of great games, upsets, overtime, game winners, and game 7′s, but I would hardly argue it was better than the first round of series. The conference finals will highlight a few teams that were not favorites going into the playoffs and there may be one “new” favorite to win the Cup. The Final 4 also includes teams that all have won the Cup at least once in their franchise histories, so this will be a fight to regain the championship. As game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals approaches, lets jump right on in.

Eastern Conference

2) New York Rangers vs 3) Montreal Canadians
2nd Round Prediction: Rangers in 6, Bruins in 6
2nd Round Outcome: Rangers in 7, Canadians in 7

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New York Rangers Analysis: I knew the Rangers would give the Penguins fits in the series, but my analysis before that series started included a few tips that the Rangers would have to accomplish in order to complete the upset bid. The Rangers had to take advantage of Fleury’s mishaps in goal, which they did. They also had to show they can win games on the road which they accomplished in game 1. They then did fall down 3-1 and came back to win 3 straight games, including game 7 in Pittsburgh. Over recent years, Pittsburgh has gotten in a habit of falling apart in playoff series’ and that will most likely change in the near future. The Rangers grab home ice in this series with the Bruins falling in the second round, but I don’t believe they will win this series without winning at least one game in Montreal. Montreal has also proved they can win big games on the road and did it several times in their first two rounds. The key to the Rangers success always starts with goaltending, but second to that will be their penalty kill. They need to stay aggressive against the Canadians and may take some untimely penalties. As long as they are successful on the penalty kill, I see good things coming from the Rangers in this series. Other than the obvious player to watch of Martin St. Louis, I would say look out for Brad Richards and Rick Nash to have a good series. New York is looking to get back into the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1994, when they hoisted the Cup against the Vancouver Canucks.

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Montreal Canadians Analysis: I also figured the Bruins would have their hands full with the Canadians and wouldn’t be an easy series by any means. Especially with the long lasting rivalry between these two teams in playoff past, it was definitely going to throw in a little extra flare. I had Boston taking this series in 6 games and they had the opportunity to do so, but couldn’t close Montreal out in Canada in game 6. The Canadians showed up with strong play from Price all series and he will need to do much of the same in the series against New York in order to advance to the Finals. They were also highly successful against Boston by playing aggressive and winning battles on the boards. They were led by P.K. Subban and he will need to continue to lead if Montreal has any chance of winning this series. Other than Subban, the player to look for to make an impact is Thomas Vanek. As I noted in the Rangers analysis for them to be successful in this series would be the penalty kill, which leads into the Canadians will be successful if they make an impact on the advantage. They have been good in the playoffs on the power play, even when they don’t put the puck in the back of the net. They put a lot of pressure on the goaltender by taking a lot of shots on net, winning face-offs, winning board battles, and more importantly getting that traffic in front of the net. Montreal is looking to get back into the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1993, when they hoisted the Cup against the Los Angeles Kings. Also, the last time a Canadian hockey team had won the Cup.
Prediction: Canadians in 6

Western Conference

3) Chicago Blackhawks vs 3) Los Angeles Kings
2nd Round Prediction: Blackhawks in 6, Kings in 5
2nd Round Outcome: Blackhawks in 6, Kings in 7

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Chicago Blackhawks Analysis: I hit the Blackhawks/Wild series on the head and even though I wish Chicago had beaten down Minnesota after taking care of my team (the Avalanche) in the first round, I was being realistic that the Wild had a strong team and would play Chicago hard. Chicago won both of their rounds in 6 games, but the series against Minnesota was a lot different in regards to scoring, patterns, and overtime games. Crawford struggled in their only two losses (both in Minnesota) where Minnesota was undefeated in the playoffs at home, until the final game. Jonathan Toews dominated in this series and he has the clear hot hand. They will need everything they can get scoring wise when they match up against the Kings. Over years past, Chicago has had the Kings number, but this series will not be an easy one. Crawford has proven he can perform when his team needs him to most and they are after all the defending champions. On a team that has so many playmakers, how can anyone pick who to watch for to make a big impact, but I’ll go with Bryan Bickell. He had a tremendous playoff last season and I think he has a good series to lead Chicago. The Blackhawks will have to play an aggressive game and try and jump on the Kings early. Other than game 7 against Anaheim, the Kings have shown to start off slow in first periods and that’s the best time for the Hawks to take the lead in many ways. Chicago is looking to get back into the Stanley Cup Finals after hoisting the Cup last year by beating the Boston Bruins. They are also looking to win their third Cup in the last five seasons.

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Los Angeles Kings Analysis: I felt that the Kings should have had an easier time in the last round against the Ducks. As I noted in my previous posts, I thought the Ducks had one soft spot and it is very important to have this spot being solid in the playoffs and thats at goaltending. The Ducks played their hand in starting Gibson in the middle of the series and though he shut out the Kings, the Kings put a ton of pressure on and eventually figured out the young goalie. The Kings have played with a ton of confidence when their backs were against the wall and I have no other thoughts that it wouldn’t continue to be that way. The Kings have also proved they can win big games and big games on the road. They will need to win at least 2 games on the road in this series to take it in my opinion which is a tough task in any matter, let alone against the defending champs. Jonathan Quick will have to continue to do what he’s done in years past to be a success in this series. The Kings have a lot of point scorers during the playoffs like Kopitar and Gaborik, but my players to watch are Justin Williams and Alec Martinez. Defense is going to be a key for the Kings who have been slow starters in some of their games and play lazy defense. They may not have the opportunity to play catch up against a team like Chicago. Los Angeles is looking to get back into the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 2012, when they hoisted the Cup over the New Jersey Devils. They are trying to win their second cup in the last three seasons.
Prediction: Kings in 7

2014 NBA Playoffs Predictions – Conference Semi-Finals

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Very similar to the NHL first round playoff games where it was thrilling and a lot of games played down to wire, into OT, stars breaking out with huge games, a lot of series that went the full 7 games, and one that ended as a sweep. The first round games in the Western Conference lived up to the expectations and plus some. Honestly, I didn’t watch many of the Eastern Conference games and from the looks of it, that is pretty okay. Lets jump into the predictions for this next round and hope it’s as good as the first!

Eastern Conference

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1) Indiana Pacers vs. 5) Washington Wizards
1st Round Prediction: Pacers in 4, Wizards in 7
1st Round Outcome: Pacers in 7, Wizards in 5
Analysis: So I had my prediction for both of these teams swapped for the most part. I thought the Pacers would handle the Hawks in the first round and go for the sweep, however it turns out they may have overlooked a sub-40 team and almost fell out of the playoffs. They were down 3-2 in the series and came back to take it in game 7. Hibbert looked weak for most of the series, but seemed to gain some confidence in game 7. On the other side, the Wizards handled the Bulls and showed they have a stacked, young talented team. The Wizards in fact match up quite well with Indiana and they are led by John Wall and Bradley Beal. If the Pacers had trouble with Teague in the first round, they are going to have fits with Wall. Hibbert and West will match up with Gortat and Nene and I believe that’s another match up Washington is going to win. I may be determining my prediction off the disappointment I had in Indiana after the first round, but I’m sticking with my gut.
Prediction: Wizards in 6

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2) Miami Heat vs 6) Brooklyn Nets
1st Round Prediction: Heat in 4, Nets in 6
1st Round Outcome: Heat in 4, Nets in 7
Analysis: For these two previous series’, I basically saw the outcome to perfection. Predicting the Heat would man-handle the Bobcats didn’t take a genius, especially after years past knowing the Heat rests their big 3 going into the playoffs, they are ready for the playoff competition, especially when they have a greatly favored match up. The Nets battled with Toronto and finished them off on the road in game 7, by 1 point. I figured the Nets would win the deciding game at home and didn’t think they could go into Toronto for a game 7 and take it, so color me impressed. This series interests me and it should interest most NBA fans. Brooklyn swept the Heat during the regular season going 4-0. If memory serves, the biggest win they had was 9 points, but was an overtime played game. The other 3 wins were all decided by 1 point. Saying the Heat got swept should be said lightly, since it could have easily gone the other way. LeBron, Wade, and Bosh will all come to play when its the playoffs, especially when they meet their old friends, Pierce and Garnett. There’s a lot of back story and history with these players and I hope the passion and aggression reflects in this series. I for one hopes this series goes the distance, but not sure if the age of the Nets will catch up to them.
Prediction: Heat in 7

Western Conference

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1) San Antonio Spurs vs 5) Portland Trailblazers
1st Round Prediction: Spurs in 5, Rockets in 7
1st Round Outcome: Spurs in 7, Blazers in 6
Analysis: The Spurs had a much tougher series in the first round than I anticipated and maybe it was just that classic Texas rivalry type of match up that spurred the Mavericks. The Mavs played a tight series with them, aside from game 7 where they may have ran out of gas, but those same San Antonio veterans led them to a victory like every year. The Blazers on the other end played a doozy of a series with the Rockets and it was a shame it was a first round match up. The game was filled with last second shots, big points by big stars, buzzer beaters, and overtime games. I picked the Rockets to win in 7, and whose to say it wouldn’t have happened if Lillard didn’t drain a buzzer beater 3 pointer to win the game and series in game 6. The Rockets were 0.9 seconds away from playing a game 7 in front of their home crowd. The Blazers youth should be their advantage in this series and to remain dominant with Aldridge and Lillard. They have a ton of role-players and should make for another exciting series.
Prediction: Blazers in 6

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2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs 3) Los Angeles Clippers
1st Round Predictions: Thunder in 5, Clippers in 7
1st Round Outcome: Thunder in 7, Clippers in 7
Analysis: OkC struggled with Memphis once again in the playoffs and game 7 was a lot easier for them if Memphis didn’t lose Randolph to a suspension and if Conley wasn’t shaken up. Memphis had them on the ropes, but couldn’t close the deal. During the series, someone named Durant as Mr. Unreliable. Yikes. Not a good thing to come out during the playoff series. He looked very reliable in the last two games of that series. The Thunder has struggled with the style of play Memphis brings to the table, but this next round fits more of their style. The Clippers fought through a tough 7 games as I predicted. Game 7 was evident that the Clippers had a major advantage in the paint when Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan completely took over and there is no way any team should be giving up easy dunks late in the 4th quarter. The Clippers also went through a lot during this series with the whole Donald Sterling thing and I’ll keep this post to the minimum about that. The Doc Rivers led team allowed his team to put that in the back of their minds and advance to the next round. This series should be fun and if the Clippers advance they will need CP3 to be the old CP3. In my opinion, he’s the main point in this series in whether the Clippers advance or fall short for another season.
Prediction: Clippers in 6

2014 NHL Playoffs Predictions – Conference Semi-Finals

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Well this is a very quick turnaround from one of the most exciting first rounds that I can remember or at least in recent memory. The first round contained three series that went the full seven games, one sweep, a few player suspensions, 1, 2, 3 goal leads blown several times, and a team that came back from down 3-0 to win the series.  The second round starts tomorrow, so lets jump right in!

Eastern Conference

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1) Boston Bruins vs. 3) Montreal Canadians
1st Round Prediction: Bruins in 5, Canadians in 6
1st Round Conclusion: Bruins in 5, Canadians in 4
Analysis: My first round prediction for Boston was pretty dead on even though they lost the first game of the series in a shocker in Boston, they came back and won the next four. Though, the series only went five games, most of those games were tight throughout. The Canadians breezed past the Lightning with a little help from their friends (the refs). I’m usually not one to blame losses on the officiating crew, especially in the NHL where the referees are usually pretty good more than they are awful. That being said, they made a lot of crucial bad calls that really sided with Montreal in several games. Montreal and Boston are long time divisional rivals and the series is going to be heated. The long, long break may be hard for the Canadians to get off to a strong start on the road, but the rivalry may get them ready. I expect a stronger series from Rask than Price and I just think the fire power Boston has is too strong for the Habs to overcome.
Prediction: Bruins in 6

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1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 2) New York Rangers
1st Round Prediction: Penguins in 5, Flyers in 7
1st Round Conclusion: Penguins in 6, Rangers in 7
Analysis: The Penguins had a tough series on their hands against Columbus and I for one didn’t think it would be that close. I headlined Malkin in my last posting in the first round and I was thinking he was going to have a big series. He had a big game 6 with a hat trick. The series had a lot of big leads and a lot of big blown leads. In fact, the Penguins were up 4 goals in game 6 at one point and only one by a goal. Fleury may be on the brink and that worries me in this upcoming series. The Rangers/Flyers series I was a bit disappointed in even though it was one of three series that went to that final game 7. The Flyers only played like their classic Philly selves at home and they really struggled in MSG. The Rangers aren’t much better outside of the City and if they struggle on the road against Pittsburgh, it may cost them a chance of moving on. I had picked the Flyers in 7 thinking they would at least win one or two games on the road, but even going into game 7 I wasn’t too confident my pick would pan out. The Rangers have a strong team and a strong goaltender and as do the Penguins, if Fleury struggles, it may kill their chances. I’m going with an upset.
Prediction: Rangers in 6

Western Conference

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1) Anaheim Ducks vs. 3) Los Angeles Kings
1st Round Prediction: Ducks in 6, Sharks in 7
1st Round Conclusion: Ducks in 6, Kings in 7
Analysis: For the series with the Ducks against the Stars I knew it would be a tougher series than most of the analysts were predicting. The Stars are a tough team at home and they played the Ducks well during the course of the season as well. It’s clear that Anaheim has a strong offensive team, but the struggles of their two goalies in the first round concerns me for their advancement. Part of my worries for the Ducks is also the team they will be playing, the Kings. The Kings did what only three teams before them did, come back from 3 games to zero down and win the series. I had picked the Sharks in 7 and it did go into 7, but not how I was thinking at all. Going into the game tonight, I had no confidence in the Sharks pulling it out. The Kings have all the momentum and even though the Ducks usually have their number, the momentum and strong play over the last four games by their offensive playmakers, defense, and most importantly Jonathan Quick; that’s the way I’m swinging.
Prediction: Kings in 5

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3) Chicago Blackhawks vs 4) Minnesota Wild
1st Round Prediction: Blackhawks in 4, Avalanche in 5
1st Round Conclusion: Blackhawks in 6, Wild in 7
Analysis: I was a little off in predicting the first round match ups of these two teams. Chicago was playing a St. Louis team who limped into the playoffs but they played a very physical series and both teams wore each other down. Essentially, Chicago was the stronger team and as defending champions, they have a ton of experience to carry them through such a tough, physical series. Again, I may have been a little bias in picking the Avalanche in 5 games as they are my team, but they noticeably struggled on the road and they had issues putting shots on net for long stretches of time. The Wild played fearless and they are a no quit team. I’m not too certain they have what it takes to beat Chicago, but the momentum for winning game 7 on the road in front of a hostile crowd may give them all the confidence they need. I’ll try and not be too bias since I understandably dislike Minnesota after this series, but I think Chicago has an overall stronger and more experienced team and has no issues winning big games on the road.
Prediction: Blackhawks in 6 

2014 NBA Playoffs Predictions – Round 1

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This is always a fun time of year for an all around sports fan with baseball season underway, the NHL playoffs starting up, and now the NBA playoffs starting on Saturday. As always, I made my predictions for the NBA season division by division in my posting on October 29th, 2013. For a quick recap of what my predictions were back in October and how the divisions finished up, keep on reading for the Eastern Conference recap and first round predictions:

Atlantic Division (October 2013)
1) Brooklyn Nets
2) New York Knicks
3) Toronto Raptors
4) Boston Celtics
5) Philadelphia 76ers
Atlantic Division (April 2014)
1) Toronto Raptors
2) Brooklyn Nets
3) New York Knicks
4) Boston Celtics
5) Philadelphia 76ers

Recap: I did have a feeling that Toronto may squeak into the playoffs and they did that and more by actually taking the division. Regardless, the division as a whole was pretty weak as Toronto and Brooklyn are the only teams that finished above .500, though the Knicks competed for the last playoff spot into the last week of the regular season. 

Central Division (October 2013)
1) Chicago Bulls
2) Detroit Pistons
3) Indiana Pacers
4) Milwaukee Bucks
5) Cleveland Cavs
Central Division (April 2014)

1) Indiana Pacers
2) Chicago Bulls
3) Cleveland Cavs
4) Detroit Pistons
5) Milwaukee Bucks

Recap: This division was a bit messy for me. I didn’t feel that Indiana would win their division, nor did I see them grabbing the #1 seed in the East. Detroit was my surprise team and maybe I was a little too confident with that. Chicago still finished second even without Derrick Rose for most of the season again.

Southeast Division (October 2013)
1) Miami Heat
2) Washington Wizards
3) Charlotte Bobcats
4) Atlanta Hawks
5) Orlando Magic
Southeast Division (April 2014)
1) Miami Heat
2) Washington Wizards
3) Charlotte Bobcats
4) Atlanta Hawks
5) Orlando Magic

Recap: As you can see, for every bad prediction there is a good one. I struggled with the Central, but went perfect for this division. I also picked the Wizards to reach the post season they did. Picking Miami for #1 was an obvious no brainer and I don’t need to receive credit for that!

Eastern Conference Top 8 (October 2013)
1) Miami Heat
2) Chicago Bulls
3) Brooklyn Nets
4) New York Knicks
5) Toronto Raptors
6) Detroit Pistons
7) Indiana Pacers
8) Washington Wizards
Eastern Conference Top 8 (April 2014)
1) Indiana Pacers
2) Miami Heat
3) Toronto Raptors
4) Chicago Bulls
5) Washington Wizards
6) Brooklyn Nets
7) Charlotte Bobcats
8) Atlanta Hawks

Lets get to those Eastern Conference first round predictions:

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1) Indiana Pacers vs 8) Atlanta Hawks

Analysis: Indiana finished the season 30 games over .500 and the Hawks finished 6 games under .500. Indiana won the first 2 games during the regular season and the Hawks won the last 2 games. Indiana struggled a bit down the stretch, but still captured the #1 seed in the East. I don’t see Atlanta competing very much with Indiana even after splitting the regular season series.
Pick: Pacers in 4

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2) Miami Heat vs 7) Charlotte Bobcats
Analysis: The Heat are known to pretty much put the brakes on during the regular season to rest guys like Wade, James, and Bosh for when the post season rolls around. Even by maybe doing that (though, grabbing the #2 seed in the East), they still beat Charlotte all four times they squared off this season. I like Charlotte and their young roster and it’s good for the game that they made the playoffs, but it’s a tough matchup for them and I may see them winning a game, but that’s not how I’m picking it.
Pick: Heat in 4

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3) Toronto Raptors vs 6) Brooklyn Nets

Analysis: There is no secret that the Nets started off extremely slow and fans were calling for Kidd’s head. The Nets inevitably figured things out with veterans on the team. I think the experience the Nets have with guys like Williams, Garnett, and Pierce is enough to at least get them past the Raptors. Toronto had themselves a good season and I think they can make the series a little interesting, but I don’t see them advancing in a seven game set.
Pick: Nets in 6

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4) Chicago Bulls vs 5) Washington Wizards
Analysis: This may be the more entertaining game of the Eastern Conference first round. It would be even more exciting if Rose was healthy, but we haven’t seen that in some time. These teams only played three times during the regular season and the Wizards won 2 of 3. I foresee a lower scoring type of series, built on defense and good guard play. John Wall and Joakim Noah will be the players to watch and this series can go either way depending on either of their production level.
Pick: Wizards in 7

That’s all for the Eastern Conference, now for the Western Conference starting with the season divisional recaps:

Northwest Division (October 2013)
1) Oklahoma City Thunder
2) Portland Trailblazers
3) Minnesota Timberwolves
4) Denver Nuggets
5) Utah Jazz
Northwest Division (April 2014)
1) Oklahoma City Thunder
2) Portland Trailblazers
3) Minnesota Timberwolves
4) Denver Nuggets
5) Utah Jazz

Recap: As you can see, I started off strong with my predictions with this division. I didn’t take a lot of risks with my picks on this one, but some would say Portland was a risk and so was Minnesota based on what they did in the previous season. OkC was the obvious pick for winning the division.

Pacific Division (October 2013)

1) Los Angeles Clippers
2) Golden State Warriors
3) Los Angeles Lakers
4) Phoenix Suns
5) Sacramento Kings
Pacific Division (April 2014)
1) Los Angeles Clippers
2) Golden State Warriors
3) Phoenix Suns
4) Sacramento Kings
5) Los Angeles Lakers

Recap: I thought the growing divisional rivals between the Warriors and the Clippers finishing 1 and 2 was the obvious pick, especially with stacked teams by both. The rest of the division was more of a guessing game. Phoenix proved they can win games with their young talent, but just missed the playoffs. The Lakers were far worse than anyone could have seen, even without Kobe Bryant.

Southwest Division (October 2013)

1) San Antonio Spurs
2) Houston Rockets
3) Dallas Mavericks
4) New Orleans Pelicans
5) Memphis Grizzlies
Southwest Division (April 2014)
1) San Antonio Spurs
2) Houston Rockets
3) Memphis Grizzlies
4) Dallas Mavericks
5) New Orleans Pelicans

Recap: The popular pick going into the season was the Rockets by having guys like Howard, Harden, and Lin. I stuck with my gut and went with the Spurs, who continue to age and continue to be one of the best, winning 62 this season. I thought the Pelicans would be a surprise team for this division and make the playoffs. Can’t always be right.

Western Conference Top 8 (October 2013)
1) Los Angeles Clippers
2) Oklahoma City Thunder
3) San Antonio Spurs
4) Golden State Warriors
5) Houston Rockets
6) Dallas Mavericks
7) New Orleans Pelicans
8) Portland Trailblazers
Western Conference Top 8 (April 2014)
1) San Antonio Spurs
2) Oklahoma City Thunder
3) Los Angeles Clippers
4) Houston Rockets
5) Portland Trailblazers
6) Golden State Warriors
7) Memphis Grizzlies
8) Dallas Mavericks

Jumping right into the predictions for the Western Conference first round:

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1) San Antonio Spurs vs 8) Dallas Mavericks
Analysis: Like I said previously, the Spurs won 62 games this season and out of those 62, they won all four meetings against Dallas this season. Additionally, in all four wins, the Spurs scored over 100 points and averaged 112 points in those games. Dallas may win a game or two in a long series, but I don’t see them coming out victorious unless some major injury for the Spurs occurs.
Pick: Spurs in 5

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2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs 7) Memphis Grizzlies
Analysis: The Thunder lead the season series 3 games to 1 against Memphis and the Grizz had a better season this year than I was expecting. Memphis has been inconsistent throughout the year in scoring, which may not be great for them in this series. The only way they win this series is if they can stop Kevin Durant and I don’t think they still have enough firepower to beat the supporting athletes like Westbrook and Ibaka.
Pick: Thunder in 5

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3) Los Angeles Clippers vs 6) Golden State Warriors
Analysis: It’s a shame that these two teams have to play in the first round of the playoffs because both are very good and have the potential of making it to the finals. Other than that, it’s great for NBA fans because these teams hate each other and a long series will only solidify that. The amount of talent on each of these teams are insane and the rivalry will only continue to grow. The key players in this series are the normal ones: Chris Paul and Blake Griffin for LA and Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson for Golden State. The injury to Andrew Bogut may hurt their presence in the paint. The Warriors are tough to beat at home, but will it be enough? This series can go either way, like it did during the season as they split the season series 2-2, but I’m going with my gut.
Pick: Clippers in 7

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4) Houston Rockets vs 5) Portland Trailblazers
Analysis: This is yet another shame of a matchup for the first round of games, but not for the typical NBA fan who may enjoy this series going deep. In the pre-season, I picked the Rockets to make the finals and I still believe they can do it, even in a very tough Western Conference. I have no doubt Portland can pull the “upset”, if you want to call it that. They have young talent and they have shown they can put up points against Houston. The Rockets took 3 of 4 during the regular season as they averaged 116 points against Portland, but on the contrary, Portland averaged 110 against Houston. It will be a high scoring, up-tempo type of series and this is another one that can go either way. The difference in this series is on Dwight Howard. In my mind, he is still the x-factor on whether the Rockets fail or succeed.
Pick: Rockets in 7