Czar’s Playoff Preview

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Czar’s Playoff Preview

EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS

Copyright 2014 NBAE - Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty ImagesBrooklyn Nets vs. Miami Heat

The Heat, led by the All-Universe LeBron James, hold a solid 3-1 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinals series over the veteran-heavy Nets squad.

Even as Brooklyn swept the regular season series 4-0 against Miami, most hoops-heads predicted the Heat in 5 or 6 games. Miami took Game 1 by 21 points and a closer Game 2 by 12 points. In the opening 48, Kevin Garnett failed to score a single point, while in Game 2 heavily-scrutinized PG Deron Williams put up a glaring goose egg.

For Game 3 back in Brooklyn, the Nets splashed 15 three-bombs to hand Miami its first postseason L this year.

And then came LeBron in Game 4. Hard. Assassin-style. He poured in 49 points and essentially willed his side to a tough, 6-point victory. The Heatles could very well finish this series tonight in the Sunshine State.

 

Washington Wizards vs. Indiana Pacers

If ever a team in the 2014 postseason needed a psychiatrist or a detective, it is this Indiana roster. After securing the East’s number 1 seed, the up-and-down Pacers were forced to a Game 7 by the 38-44 Atlanta Hawks in Round 1. And now they find themselves in a battle with the hungry and young Wizards. Although they lead the series 3-2, they were embarrassed last night at home by 23 points, and it wasn’t even that close. As the Polish Hammer Marcin Gortat dominated inside with 31 points and 16 boards, Indiana grabbed a meager 23 rebounds, a playoff franchise low. After the Wiz took Game 1 in Indy, the Pacers rallied behind a rejuvenated Roy Hibbert (28 points, 9 rebounds) and won a close Game 2 to knot the series. In Game 3 Indiana crushed the Wizards 85-63 on their home court. And in a backbreaking loss, the Pacers came back from a 19-point deficit to take Game 4. Paul George exploded for 39 points and 12 boards in the demoralizing defeat. Indiana has two games to win one, but with a collective fragile psyche, who knows how this series plays out.

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS

Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE - Photo by Richard Rowe/NBAE via Getty Images

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

In what is undecidedly the most exciting series this round, the Thunder hold a 3-2 lead by the slimmest of margins over the Lob City Clips. After both teams were taken to the 7th game in the first round, few prognosticators knew what to expect from these superstar-laden sides. In Game 1, LA routed OKC 122-105, largely fueled by CP3’s 32 points and 8 three-pointers. Coach Doc Rivers’ guys led by 14 after one quarter and 26 at the end of three. In Game 2, on the night KD accepted his first NBA MVP award, the league’s top scorer went for 32, 12 boards and 9 dimes and the Thunder prevailed. Assisting the Slim Reaper was Russell Westbrook, who tallied a triple double with 31, 10 & 10. Back in SoCal for Game 3, OKC’s dynamic duo did it again in a 118-112 victory. Between the two of them they combined for 59 points, 16 rebounds and 19 dimes.

In Game 4, the Clippers rallied from a 15-point, 4th quarter hole and came out on top 101-99 to even the series. Reserve guard Darren Collison led LA’s improbable comeback, adding 8 points in the final 3 minutes. OKC was outscored 38-24 in the final frame. Which brings us to last evening’s Game 5 back in Oklahoma. In an even more outrageous finish than Game 4, the Thunder erased a 7-point deficit in the final 50 seconds to snatch a controversial 105-104 victory. Russell Westbrook scored a career playoff-high 38 points and hit 3 crucial free throws with just seconds remaining to eke out the W. After the game Doc Rivers and his players were furious over a late out-of-bounds call that gave possession to OKC. They believed the ball went out off of the Thunder. Either way, Game 5 will go down as a playoff classic. The Thunder can close out this grueling series on Thursday night in LA, but look for the Clippers to defend home court and send it to 7.

 

Portland Trailblazers vs. San Antonio Spurs

In Game 1 the NBA’s number one overall seed won by 24 points. In Game 2, the Spurs defeated the Blazers by 17. Back in Rip City for Game 3, the machine-like San Antonio team scored a 15-point W. Up an insurmountable 3-0 in this Western Conference semifinals, NBA Coach of the Year Gregg Popovich’s guys were denied the sweep in Game 4, 102-93. As a team San Antonio shot 3-18 from deep ,and Manu Ginobili had just 2 points. Neither side performed particularly well. However, the proud Blazer squad played hard with the backing of one of the league’s most loyal fan bases. After a tough seven-game opening round against Dallas, look for the Spurs to end this series tonight at home where they were 32-9 in the regular 82.

 

Gameday Dish

Miami Heat v Brooklyn NetsWhen the 2013-14 season kicked off in autumn, many orbiting the hoopshere predicted that the Brooklyn Nets would battle the Miami Heat for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

After all, adding the Big Ticket, The Truth, AK-47 and JET to the formidable triumvirate of Lopez, Johnson and Williams would surely get the Nets somewhere close to the East’s pole position. Whispers of the first NBA Championship in Metro NY since 1973 were heard on subway platforms from Brooklyn Heights to Bensonhurst.

However, the realities of age, injuries, team chemistry and new roles took their collective toll on first-year coach Jason Kidd’s squad. Brooklyn stumbled out of the gate, going 5-14 in the first quarter of the season.

But with the new year came a revitalized and more tenacious group. Despite losing All-Star center Lopez for the season, Brooklyn is 22-9 in 2014, better than every other team in the East during this 2.5 month period.

And with 75% of the schedule behind them, the Nets have climbed above .500 to 32-30, good for a solid 6th seed. Though nowhere near where they thought they’d be at this juncture, Brooklyn is starting to resemble a scary, poised opponent.

Miami Heat v Brooklyn NetsTonight the Nets and Heat will battle in the third of four 48’s this season. Brooklyn bested LeBron and friends in the prior two meetings, once in the Orange State and once in the Empire State.

At 44-17 Miami is second in the East, 1.5 games behind Indiana. On Monday night at home they ended a 3-game losing streak, topping the upstart Wizards 99-90. MVP James led his team with 23 points, 8 dimes, 7 boards and 3 steals.

With 21 games remaining in the regular season, Miami has time to catch the Pacers and will try to make a statement on their homecourt. The Heat have the league’s second-best home mark at 25-4, while Brooklyn is just 12-19 away from Barclays this season.

19th-year veteran Garnett has missed the past six games for the Nets and will also miss tonight’s big test. Andrei Kirilenko was ruled out due to a sprained right ankle and will miss his second straight game.

Tune in to the YES Network at 7PM ET to see if the Nets can be the rare team to win the season series against this Miami juggernaut. Ian Eagle and I will be back in the booth, and Sarah Kustok will join us from the sidelines!

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Gameday Dish

Miami Heat v New York KnicksAfter 35 games the 14-21 Brooklyn Nets are currently slotted in the 8th spot in the tortuous Eastern Conference.

While this record may not seem playoff-worthy, it looks a lot better after a season-high, four-game winning streak, which coach Jason Kidd’s guys hope to extend tonight at home against the 27-9 Miami Heat.

LeBron and company played the other New York City league affiliate last night in Manhattan. Surprisingly they came out on the losing side to the 13-22 Knicks by a score of 102-92.

The Heat were without PG Mario Chalmers, who missed the last two games with a right Achilles strain. League MVP James led his team with 32 points, and Wade chipped in 23.

Both sides shot around 54% from the field. However, NY pounded the Heat on the offensive glass, which led to 14 more field goal attempts. Miami’s 52.4% shooting from the charity stripe was also a factor, and Flash was chippy after the 48 when asked about his 0-6 free throw struggles.

Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty ImagesBrooklyn kicked off their recent win streak with their best coup of the season on January 2nd at OKC.

The Nets have since dispatched Cleveland, Atlanta and Golden State at Barclays. In fact, in their impressive take-down of the Warriors on Wednesday night, the Nets ended the Dubs’ 10-game winning streak.

Playing without C Brook Lopez and PG Deron Williams, Brooklyn’s 102-98 victory was helped by having five players in double figures, led by Joe Johnson’s 27. In addition, C Andray Blatche contributed 17 points off the bench.

Tonight’s game will be the second of four meetings between these squads this season. The first, also in the borough, was on November 1st. That night the Nets prevailed 101-100 with both Lopez and Williams in the lineup. Coach Kidd relied on 11 players’ contributions in the true team win.

Tune in to tonight’s “nickname game” on YES at 8PM ET to see if Brooklyn can continue their winning ways against the scary, 2X defending NBA Champs.