Czar’s Playoff Preview


Czar’s Playoff Preview


Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)


I’m not sure there’s been a conference number one seed that’s slipped so far in hoopheads’ expectations as this Pacers team. After stumbling to the finish line, many fear their slump will continue into the postseason. But do the 38-44 Hawks have enough talent to best this Indiana roster even if the Pacers play subpar basketball?



The Bobcats finished with the second-best record in franchise history. But they haven’t beat the three-peat seeking Heat since LeBron moved to Miami. Will Charlotte’s post-monster Al Jefferson overmatch Miami’s bigs down low and force them to alter their lock-down defense? Will D. Wade’s knees hold up in his fourth run at the Finals with the new Big 3?


Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images#6 BROOKLYN NETS VS. #3 TORONTO RAPTORS

Do the young and playoff-inexperienced Toronto squad have the savvy to upend the veteran Brooklyn side? Has first-year coach Jason Kidd’s team gelled enough to make a deep run in the Eastern Conference? This first-round series could boil down to the backcourt battle between Williams/Livingston vs. DeRozan/Lowry.



The upstart Wizards team is looking to win their first playoff series in 9 years. After losing Derrick Rose (again) for the year and trading away the versatile Luol Deng, can coach Thibodeau’s defensive schemes slow down the explosive backcourt of Wall and Beal?


 Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images-19APR2014WESTERN CONFERENCE ROUND 1



Is there any fathomable scenario in which Dirk & friends take down this machine-like, multi-style Spurs team? Outside of Duncan, Parker and Ginobili, who in the Black & Silver will step up big for coach Pop this postseason?



Soon-to-be named 2014 NBA MVP Kevin Durant will try to avenge last year’s 4-1 playoff loss to the Griz. Can Memphis’ experienced and rugged core group slow down PG Westbrook and thus the Thunder offense?


Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images#6 GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS VS. #3 LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

The league’s most lethal shooter aka Steph Curry will try to bomb the Warriors past their in-state rivals. Will MVP-candidate Black Griffin silence all the haters on the Dubs?



This will be a matchup of dynamic duos: Harden and Howard vs. Lillard and Aldridge. Which team will perform better at both ends of the court? Will Linsanity get a chance to shine or will Patrick Beverly play the majority of minutes at the 1-guard?

Czar’s Playoff Preview


Copyright 2013 NBAE - Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty ImagesNothing beats the pressure-packed excitement of a Game 7. Tonight the Indiana Pacers will try to knock off the defending champion Miami Heat in the last chapter of the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals and transform this page turner of a series into one for the ages.

The surprisingly well-matched opponents have been alternating wins since Game 1. Top seed Miami finished with the best regular season record, 16½ games ahead of the Pacers. They were better than Indiana at just about everything, except rebounding and blocking.

But in the ECF the Heat have encountered a hungry team that’s not afraid of the reigning champs or league MVP LeBron James. The Pacers stepped into the ring with an apparent belief in their ability to beat the Heat at home, and they’ve been building confidence with each win since.

On Saturday the Pacers toppled King James & Co. in a decisive 91-77 Game 6 win. Now the Pacers can taste the franchise’s first-ever finals appearance.

Roy Hibbert and David West have been the difference for Indiana. Though many have identified Miami’s small size as a chink in their armor, few teams have been able to exploit this vulnerability. But Coach Vogel has decided to stick with his bigs when the Heat have gone small with LeBron or Battier at the 4 spot. Hibbert and West have successfully defended the paint and punished the Heat at the offensive end of the court.

The Heat’s perimeter game has evaporated of late, so they must come up with one of their better shooting performances tonight. And LeBron will need his struggling teammates to step up. Though banged up, the Heat’s home court advantage should give them a significant advantage as home teams are 16-2 in Game 7′s played in the conference finals or finals since 1984.

Will Miami return to the NBA finals for the third straight season, or will it be a long, hot summer of speculation about the Big 3’s future? Marv Albert, Steve Kerr , Reggie Miller and Craig Sager will bring you TNT’s final broadcast of the 2012-13 season when Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals tips off at 8:30 PM ET. Can’t wait!

Miami Heat v Indiana Pacers  - Game Six

Czar’s Playoff Preview


Miami Heat v Indiana Pacers  - Game FourThe back-and-forth ECF return to Miami tonight for a pivotal Game 5. Tied at 2-2 this series is proving to be the most competitive and exciting of the 2013 postseason. Both sides are loaded with talent, veteran poise and clutch performers.

The only non-competitive 48 thus far was Sunday’s Game 3 in Indy, where the Heat outscored the Pacers in every quarter, shot 55% and committed only 5 turnovers. This was the Heat team that rolled through the regular season and was anointed the prohibitive favorite to repeat. They were scary good that night and had some thinking the series’ momentum had shifted unalterably.

However, coach Frank Vogel’s guys flipped the script in Game 4 on Tuesday, winning 99-92 behind C Roy Hibbert’s 23 points and 12 rebounds. All five Pacer starters scored in double figures, and they shot 50% as a team. Most importantly they outrebounded Miami 49 to 30 and outscored them 50 to 32 in the paint.

Miami had the lead at 86-83 before Indy went on a 16-6 run to close out the game. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined to shoot only 6 for 21, and LeBron James fouled out for only the fifth time in his NBA career.

Miami Heat v Indiana Pacers  - Game FourAll of the Big 3 are banged up. LeBron tweaked his ankle in Game 4 and may not be 100% tonight, so Bosh will need to bring his A-game, as will some of the bench guys who have struggled.

After Game 4 there was grumbling and mumbling among some of the Heat players and fans about the officiating, but give Indiana credit for showing great resiliency and making believers out of many who didn’t think they stood a chance against the reigning champs.

In last year’s Eastern Conference Semis, Miami and Indiana were in this exact same position – knotted up at 2-2 with Game 5 back in south Florida. The Heat administered a true beat down, 115-83, and went on to win the series in six. The 32-point loss was the worst in Pacers postseason history.

Tonight’s Game 5 will be a tighter affair than last year’s. The Pacers aren’t afraid of the Heat’s homecourt advantage. They took Miami to OT before losing a nip and tuck Game 1, and then showed their character and heart by coming back strong and taking Game 2 in South Beach. Indiana is confident that they can win on the road.

Ultimately the team that focuses on their game plan, executes at a very high level and demonstrates poise under pressure will come out on top. Tune in to TNT at 8:30 PM ET to see if the brunt force of Hibbert and PF David West own the inside, or if Miami’s Big 3 do what they have done so many times over the past three seasons and grab the all important Game 5 W.

Czar’s Playoff Review


Memphis Grizzlies v San Antonio Spurs - Game TwoThe Spurs are up 2-0 on the Grizzlies in the WCF. But nobody in Gregg Popovich’s locker room is breathing easy given that they got a 2-0 jump on the Thunder in last year’s WCF before losing 4 straight.

In Game 1 San Antonio destroyed the Griz 105-83 in Memphis’s first ever Conference Finals appearance. Though 4-time NBA champion Tim Duncan scored only 6 points, the Silver & Black shot 14 for 29 from 3-land (the most 3’s given up by Memphis this season) and held the monstrous Zach Randolph to a shocking 2 points.

What first appeared to be another runaway victory for San Antonio in Game 2 turned into an overtime nail-biter. Randolph bounced back with a big 15-points, 18-rebound performance. But the Spurs ultimately prevailed 93-89 in OT after blowing a 13-point, 4th quarter lead. Tony Parker (the MVP of this series so far) went for 15 points and a career playoff-high 18 dimes.

As the phenomenal Frenchman began to wear down late in the contest, Duncan, who missed most of the 2nd half after getting into foul trouble, began hitting crucial shots, including the Spurs’ first 6 points of OT. The 2013 First Team All-NBA veteran finished with 17 points, 9 boards and 4 blocks.

This series will really get going when Game 3 tips off in Tennessee on Saturday. After all, the Griz were down 0-2 to the caffeinated Clippers in the first round and stormed back to claim the series.  And they play outstanding ball at The Grindhouse.

Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat - Game OneIn a rematch of last year’s ECF, star-laden Miami took Game 1 103-102 in OT at home against the workman-like Pacers on a last-second LeBron drive to the hoop. This 53 minutes of roundball was nip and tuck the entire way with 18 ties and 17 lead changes.

23-year-old Paul George, the 2013 MIP and All-Star, saved the Pacers twice in the final minutes. He splashed a 32-foot bomb at the end of regulation to tie the game and then hit three straight free throws with 2.2 seconds left to give Indy a 1-point cushion in OT.

George matched up with LeBron most of the night and did a solid job overall, but it wasn’t enough to stop the 4-time league MVP. In the end King James was King James. He had a 30-10-10 triple-double and came through in the clutch again. Dwyane Wade, a game-time concern due to his bum knee, played 41 minutes and finished with 19 points on 9 for 15 from the field.

Coach Vogel sparked a lightening storm of controversy with his decision to take 7’2” C Roy Hibbert out at the very end of the game, leaving the rim unprotected for two LeBron layups. Using their length advantage, Indiana did win the battle of the boards 43-38. They’ll need to widen this disparity if they want to get back in the series. How the Pacers respond in Game 2 will show whether they have what it takes to compete with the formidable Miami squad and turn this into an epic series.