This weekend, after an historic regular season (though all seasons are historic, if you think about it), the NBA Playoffs finally get started. To better prepare you for this important TV viewing, the experts at The Wounded Mosquito have hashed out some hard statistics, had some killer curry, and have come out with the following playoff forecast:
(1) Boston Celtics vs. (8) Atlanta Hawks
Analysis:The Boston Celtics have just completed the greatest one-season turnaround in league history, due almost entirely to the addition of veteran MVP power forward Kevin Garnett. They boast the best record in the NBA, an All-Star lineup of sharpshooters, one of the best lock-down defenses in the league, and play with unbridled enthusiasm. The Atlanta Hawks finished eight games under .500 at 37-45 and drafted Marvin Williams over Chris Paul and Deron Williams three years ago.
Prediction:Hawks in five.
(2) Detroit Pistons vs. (7) Philadelphia 76ers
Analysis:Expert forecasters note that the Pistons are the perfect darkhorse, lagging behind media darling Boston, yet finishing with a better record than most of the Western Conference teams that have been so prominently highlighted throughout the season. The Philadelphia 76ers traded Allen Iverson for Andre Miller and got Gordan Giricek for Kyle Korver.
Prediction:Expert forecasters also predict the weather. Sixers in seven.
(3) Orlando Magic vs. (6) Toronto Raptors
Analysis:No one really cares about this series. One team is in Florida, the other is in Canada. On the plus side, the blue Orlando uses for its uniforms these days looks much cooler than the wussie blue they used back in the day.
(4) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (5) Washington Wizards
Analysis:The Washington Wizards spent most of their season without All-Star goofball Gilbert Arenas and a good portion of it without All-Star Caron Butler, yet they finished with a winning record, which in the Eastern Conference is like distributing loaves and fishes to the five thousand. If the Cavs lost LeBron James for half the season, the team would likely be strapped to a log raft, floated out onto Lake Erie, and given a premature Viking Funeral by the citizens of Cleveland.
Prediction:Cleveland in six. Seriously, if you can lose two All-Stars and finish with that kind of record, the East must really, really suck.
(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (8) Denver Nuggets
Analysis:After one of the most competitive conference races of all time, the Los Angeles Lakers finished on top, largely due to the unselfish play of perennial pariah Kobe Bryant and the inexplicably lopsided trade the team made for Pau Gasol. Denver made a similarly lopsided trade for Allen Iverson a little over a year ago, and has been rewarded with the perfect running mate for Carmelo "Sucker Punch" Anthony, but only if you're talking about tattoo numbers.
Prediction:It has been revealed that this is the real footage from that Aston Martin-jumping stunt that came out about a week ago. But even with Kobe dead and the Lakers playing with a lookalike named Clive Odenkirk of Erie, Pennsylvania, Denver would still have to display enough chemistry to take four out of seven games in a playoff series. Lakers in five.
(2) New Orleans Hornets vs. (7) Dallas Mavericks
Analysis:The Dallas Mavericks are feeling pretty comfortable entering the playoffs without the league's best record or the pressure of having blown a 2-0 lead in the Finals. Plus Golden State didn't even make the playoffs this time. You've gotta love low expectations. Chris Paul is really short.
Prediction:Mavericks in seven, with lots of exciting blog posts from Dallas owner Mark Cuban.
(3) San Antonio Spurs vs. (6) Phoenix Suns
Analysis:The San Antonio Spurs have won three titles in this decade, but no one wants to consider them a dynasty because a: they never win two in a row, and b: they are boring. However, they still have the Eva Longoria factor working in their favor. Phoenix finally seems to have adjusted to the addition of real slow guy Shaquille O'Neal, and Grant Hill hasn't exploded all season, so this could be a pretty good series.
Prediction:Spurs in six after Robert Horry decapitates Steve Nash on a free-throw attempt, clearing both benches, and getting two-thirds of the Suns team suspended for the pivotal game, which is refereed entirely by Alamo Tour Guides.
(4) Utah Jazz vs. (5) Houston Rockets
Analysis:Honestly, it seems like these teams face each other in the playoffs every year. After a decade of scoring titles and ESPN highlights, Tracey McGrady still hasn't made it past the first round, and no one seems to care that the Rockets pulled off the third-longest winning streak in league history earlier in the season. Jerry Sloan has the longest coaching tenure of any major professional sport by at least three decades, and could probably beat up any NBA player in a fistfight.
Prediction:Jazz in seven in a pound-for-pound repeat of last season, complete with another riveting crying session from AK-47.
Atlanta Hawks vs. Philadelphia 76ers
Analysis:Atlanta has some good players but is not a really good team. Philadelphia also has some good players, and their fans can be really mean sometimes.
Prediction:This is the series that finally convinces David Stern to dissolve the Eastern Conference and convert the playoffs to a 16-team seeded tournament. Atlanta wins in seven after two scoreless ties, mostly because of divine pity on the citizens of Atlanta after having to go through the whole Michael Vick thing.
Token Magic-Raptors Winner vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
Analysis:Nike has put a lot of money behind LeBron James. I'm just saying.
Prediction:Cavaliers in five, largely on the strength of Ben Wallace's ever expanding afro haircut.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Utah Jazz
Analysis:This is one of the most underrated rivalries in professional sports, mostly because the Lakers aren't aware that there is a rivalry.
Prediction:Going into game four with a 2-1 lead in the series, Kobe and the Lakers are beset by 20,000 enraged Mormons at EnergySolutions Arena. In the carnage that follows, 300 people are killed, including Kobe, Derek Fisher, Jack Nicholson, and Greg Ostertag. Ultimately the referees give the game and the series to the Jazz because of a three-point shooting demonstration Kyle Korver puts on for the young ladies of Salt Lake City in a post-riot shootaround.
Dallas Mavericks vs. San Antonio Spurs
Analysis:Dallas mortgaged its future by trading for veteran point guard Jason Kidd, who they actually drafted years and years ago but let get away to Phoenix for some reason. San Antonio mortgaged its future by continuing to play a lineup with no one under the age of forty--save for Tony Parker, who is responsible for the Eva Longoria Factor.
Prediction:San Antonio wins in six, Dirk takes another walkabout tour of Australia, and Mark Cuban sells the Mavericks to the People's Republic of China in time for them to represent the waving banner of pseudo-Communism in the Summer Olympics.
Atlanta Hawks vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
Analysis:I am totally serious about this Nike thing.
Prediction:Cavs in five.
Utah Jazz vs. San Antonio Spurs
Analysis:Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is a slightly less mean version of Jerry Sloan. The Jazz and the Spurs are two of the NBA's smallest market teams, which means there is a good chance the national media will forget to send crews to cover half the series games. The Jazz haven't won in San Antonio since Clinton-Lewinski jokes were still fresh.
Prediction:Marital strife between Andre Kirilenko and Russian Pop-Star wife Masha leads to another public emotional breakdown, which distracts the feminine sensitivities of Eva Longoria long enough to enable the Jazz to squeak out a one-point game seven victory. "Desperate Housewives" is immediately cancelled, and the Spurs are dismissed as a flash-in-the pan champion.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Utah Jazz
Analysis:Two of the perennial underdog pro sports cities, Cleveland fans still reel at the mention of "The Drive", "The Fumble", and "The Drew Carey Show". Jazz fans are from Utah, a state that was founded by a population that had been driven out of three states and sent out into the middle of the desert back in the 1800's. So it's fair to say there are some inferiority complexes in play here. But there's also that Nike thing.
Prediction:In a deciding game seven in Salt Lake City, LeBron James pushes off of Ronnie Brewer to hit a mid-range jumper that puts Cleveland up by two. But before Carlos Boozer can inbound the ball to Deron Williams, an enraged arena once again storms the court, and two guys from Orem steal the Larry O'Brien Trophy, which is eventually engraved with the phrase, "Utah Jazz--NBA Champions 1997-98, 2007-08" and stored in the LDS church's Granite Vault next to Elvis' copy of the Book of Mormon. LeBron James winds up signing with the New York Knicks for an unheard-of 1.7 billion dollars, and sees his career go to pot under the tutelage of coach Isiah Thomas. The city of Cleveland sinks into Lake Erie.