2005 NBA Second Round Playoff Preview: Miami versus Washington and San Antonio versus SeattleThis article was originally published at Suite101.com on May 7, 2005.
At this point--pending the results of Saturday night's two seventh games--I have correctly predicted the winner of four out of six NBA first round playoff series; in three cases I was also right about the length of the series. Of course, it should be pointed out that there was a typographical error in my Seattle-Sacramento analysis. The passage about Seattle's post players should have read, "Jerome James, who entered this season with career averages of 4.9 ppg and 3.7 rpg (3.8 ppg and 2.3 rpg in six postseason contests), is poised to become a double-double threat on a nightly basis. Sacramento's frontline will have no answer for him." OK, OK, I admit--I did not see that coming. What's next--Darko Milicic replaces Ben Wallace in the starting lineup for Detroit? James deserves much credit for his dominant performance against Sacramento--17.2 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 2.2 bpg, .581 shooting from the field and .824 free throw accuracy. My other miss so far is picking the Chicago Bulls over the Washington Wizards in seven games, when in fact Washington won in six games. The Bulls joined a short list of teams that lost a playoff series after winning the first two games. Phoenix, Miami and Detroit performed exactly as I projected, while San Antonio stumbled in its first home game and then actually had a slightly easier time than I expected, knocking off Denver in five games instead of six. I picked Boston and Houston to win the two series that are still going, but thought that both teams would win in six; in fact, both teams actually did win game six, but those wins did not close out the series.
The second round of the NBA playoffs will begin on Sunday with Miami facing Washington and San Antonio squaring off against Seattle. Here are previews of both matchups:
Eastern Conference Semifinals
Miami (1) vs. Washington (5)
Regular season records: Miami, 59-23; Washington, 45-37
First Round Result: Miami def. New Jersey, 4-0; Washington def. Chicago, 4-2
Head to Head: Miami, 4-0
Team Playoff Leaders:
Scoring--Miami: Dwyane Wade (26.3 ppg); Washington: Gilbert Arenas (23.0 ppg)
Rebounding--Miami: Udonis Haslem (11.8 rpg); Washington: Antawn Jamison (7.3 rpg)
Assists--Miami: Wade (8.8 apg); Washington: Arenas (6.5 apg)
Analysis/Prediction: Despite the fact that injuries reduced Shaquille O'Neal to pedestrian first round statistics (18.3 ppg, 8.8 rpg, .75 bpg), Miami dispatched New Jersey in four straight games. Three top perimeter players plus Nenad Krstic is clearly not a recipe to stop the Heat. Washington's high scoring trio of Gilbert Arenas, Larry Hughes and Antawn Jamison is younger and healthier than the Nets' Vince Carter, Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson but also less playoff tested and more erratic. Washington does not have a big man as good as Krstic but has more overall frontcourt depth than New Jersey, with Brendan Haywood, Etan Thomas and Jared Jeffries platooning effectively against Chicago. Of course, going against the Bulls, who were missing Eddy Curry, is a lot different than trying to put a roadblock in front of Shaq Diesel. Dwyane Wade performed at an amazingly high level against New Jersey, joining Oscar Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain, Bob Cousy, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan as the only players in NBA history to average at least 25 ppg, 8 apg and 6 rpg in a playoff series while shooting at least 50 percent from the field. Read that list of names again and you will note that basketball fans are on a "one name" basis with each of those players: nobody asks "Who are you talking about"?" if you mention Oscar, Wilt, Cooz, Bird, Magic or Michael. Shaq still requires double-teaming even in his present condition and containing Wade may require supernatural assistance, which means that Damon Jones and Eddie Jones are shooting a lot of wide open three pointers--17-34 for Damon and 13-25 for Eddie. As ESPN football analyst Sean Salisbury likes to say, "That's like shooting fish in a barrel--I've never done it before, but it looks easy."Unless Shaq or Wade miss significant playing time, Washington has no chance to win this series. Shaq figures to be rejuvenated after having a week off between games and is sure to be out to make a statement in light of the preliminary reports that he lost a close MVP race to Phoenix point guard Steve Nash. However, as New Jersey showed, it is possible to compete against Miami, at least in short stretches, particularly if Shaq is still less than 100% healthy. Miami will win this series in five games.
Western Conference Semifinals
San Antonio (2) vs. Seattle (3)
Regular season records: San Antonio, 59-23; Seattle, 52-30
First Round Result: San Antonio def. Denver, 4-1; Seattle def. Sacramento, 4-1
Head to Head: Tied, 2-2
Team Playoff Leaders:
Scoring--San Antonio: Manu Ginobili (22.8 ppg); Seattle: Ray Allen (32.4 ppg)
Rebounding--San Antonio: Tim Duncan (11.2 rpg); Seattle: Jerome James (9.4 rpg)
Assists--San Antonio: Tony Parker (5.8 apg); Seattle: Allen (5.2 apg)
Analysis/Prediction: While Jerome James' first round performance was most impressive, it is highly unlikely that he will maintain that level of production against a Spurs' frontline anchored by Tim Duncan. Ray Allen was magnificent in the first round, but will not find the going so easy against either Bruce Bowen or Manu Ginobili. While both teams won 4-1 in the first round, San Antonio knocked off a hot Denver Nuggets team by a dominant 10.2 ppg differential while Seattle won by a much less convincing 4.4 ppg. Without James' surreal numbers Seattle would have been in big trouble against Sacramento. The Spurs seemed to lock in to what it takes to shut down Seattle as the season progressed; Seattle scored 113 points in its first game versus San Antonio and has put up fewer points in each successive contest, culminating in an 89-76 loss on March 30 (neither Duncan nor Seattle All-Star Rashard Lewis played in that game). The Spurs may have started the postseason one game late and Duncan may still not be at 100% but the Spurs will defeat Seattle in six games.
posted by David Friedman @ 12:43 AM