So there I was, innocently preparing to to make my NBA Playoff predictions without checking any of the scores of the Round 1 games in progress.
And then Twitter exploded.
As soon as I found out Rose was hurt, I broke my media blackout. I had to. Moments like that, being a fan just takes over. I needed to know immediately how bad he was hurt. Of course, that information wasn’t available until a couple hours later… when it was revealed to the horror of every Chicago Bulls fan, and really just people who are enthusiastic about basketball and want to see an entertaining postseason, that Rose had suffered a torn ACL and would miss the remainder of the playoffs and the Olympics.
And, let’s be absolutely frank about this here and now, a torn ACL is not the sort of injury you automatically return from 100% of the player you were before it. In a season plagued by nagging but comparatively minor injuries, fate saved the worst for last. Derrick Rose might never be the same again.
I believe he will, because he is bigger than this. This was a lost season for Rose, but he will be back. The thing is… I’ve been following Chicago sports for quite some time, and this is exactly the sort of thing that happens to us. Does the name Mark Prior ring any bells?
I don’t think that’s happening this time. But you just never know.
Anyway, Rose’s injury (which places an asterix on these playoffs for a lot of people) drew me out of my self-imposed media blackout, so I saw Miami go on a referee-assisted tear against New York. I can’t unsee either of these things, so I’ll fully own the fact that these picks are made with an “unfair advantage.” Fittingly enough, they should probably have an asterisk placed on them.
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
Chicago over Philadelphia in 4 Games
Yeah, you heard me. Chicago is absolutely still sweeping the 76ers. Remember: Chicago achieved the best record in the league largely without Derrick Rose, C.J. Watson has been playing unbelievable basketball in his absence (which, unfortunately, probably means he’s leaving town in the not terribly distant future), and this is the same lifeless 76ers squad that almost everyone picked to get swept.
Miami over New York in 5 Games
This should be a much longer series, but New York needs just about everything to go right to have a chance of upsetting Miami, and if Miami keeps getting major assists from the referees this series is already over.
Orlando over Indiana in 7 Games
A lot of things have to go right for the Dwight-less Magic, but can someone explain to me why we’re suddenly buying Indy as a powerhouse? Solidly built team, but I can’t escape the impression that these are two fairly evenly-matched teams, one of whom is vastly more experienced.
Boston over Atlanta in 7 Games
I know, I know. Boston is old, this is the year Atlanta finally figures it out, etc etc etc. Not that it isn’t a cool story, but Kevin Garnett’s resurgence after being moved back to the 5-spot really has everyone buzzing about this team, and justifiably so. This is a gifted team that has won a title and was a Garnett injury away from an unexpected second title, and they really ought not to be written off. (Hold that thought.)
Western Conference Quarterfinals
San Antonio over Utah Jazz in 4 Games
There’s a good chance this isn’t a sweep (even though it ought to be), but I really don’t see any reason San Antonio doesn’t beat Utah every night. Imagine, by the way, all the hype this series would’ve generated if Steve Nash had willed the Suns into the 8-spot. San Antonio being bounced in the first round last year, the Nash/Spurs thing… all of it would’ve been in play.
Oklahoma City over Dallas in 7 Games
“Did she say seven games?” Yes. She said seven games. I’m so not remotely sold on this Oklahoma City team. I understand what everyone sees in them, or wants to see in them, but I still want to see them prove it.
L.A. Lakers over Denver Nuggets in 7 Games
I’m not the first one to comment on this, but remember how pitiful the Lakers/Celtics rivalry looked a few months ago? And now suddenly they’re both showing more than a few signs of life? I’m not saying I think another Lakers/Celtics Finals is likely, I’m just saying we can’t rule it out, and that’s pretty remarkable.
Memphis Grizzlies over L.A. Clippers in 6 Games
If I had bet you a million dollars that the Clippers and Grizzlies were going to meet in a first round playoff series just a few years ago, you would’ve taken the bet regardless of your economic status. So here we are. I have to admit, I expected much bigger things for the Clippers when they appeared more than poised to dethrone the Lakers as the best team in Los Angeles. The Grizzlies are just so talented (Good gods, who ever thought I’d be saying that?), and the Clippers so one-dimensional, I think they’re just going to find themselves smothered by Memphis’s defense.
Eastern Conference Semifinals
Boston over Chicago in 7 Games
Perhaps more than anything, I’m mourning the loss of the series this could’ve been. Chicago/Boston in the 2008-09 Playoffs was quite possibly the best opening round playoff series of all time. Derrick Rose was not the player he is now (though he showed flashes of it), but his duel with Rajon Rondo elevated their rivalry to the same level as Williams/Paul. I was really, really looking forward to that rematch.
Oh, that thought you were holding earlier? Keep holding it.
Miami over Orland in 4 Games
Second-round sweeps aren’t the most common thing in the world, but whether Orlando pulls off the emotional upset without their superstar, or Indiana makes it out of the first round without having any in the first place, the second round is just going to look like a nonstop Miami highlight reel.
Western Conference Semifinals
San Antonio over Memphis in 7 Games
L.A. Lakers over Oklahoma City in 7 Games
You know, I really went back and forth on both of these series and never really felt comfortable no matter which way I picked. Oklahoma City is the “obvious favorite” despite the fact that they haven’t proven they can win at this level, Memphis is the trendy pick, the Lakers have really turned things around but are relying on the always-shaky Bynum and whatever Kobe has left in the tank, and San Antonio is lobbying to have the shot clocks replaced with sun dials so their aging superstars will be more familiar with them.
You know, with the shocking success of San Antonio and the resurgent Celtics and Lakers, we have a compelling, “I’ll show you too old,” storyline developing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help us much with the, “Who’s going to stop the Heat?” storyline. (Gulp.)
Miami over Boston in 5 Games
Remember that thought you were holding? (It was, ” This is a gifted team that has won a title and was a Garnett injury away from an unexpected second title, and they really ought not to be written off.”) Add to the mix the, “Who’s going to stop Miami?” storyline I just mentioned, and you’ve got the mix for a potentially epic series. Yes, I obviously don’t have it happening because of Miami’s overwhelming advantages (Rose’s injury destroyed their biggest legitimate competition) , but I would absolutely love it if this became the most recent entry in the LeBron James enigma/soap opera.
San Antonio over L.A. Lakers in 7 Games
The Sundial Series! I love it! Okay, I have to acknowledge the very real possibility that you’re actually going to be seeing Memphis/Oklahoma City in this series, but as long as I’m going with an oddball pick why not take one of the deepest teams in the NBA with one of the best coaches in the NBA? At least I’m familiar with all the elements, since I basically just described the Bulls.
The NBA Finals
Miami over San Antonio in 7 Games
Who’s going to stop Miami? Maybe no one. Maybe Boston. Maybe San Antonio. Maybe the Rose-less Bulls (probably not.) What do these teams have in common? Smothering defense, which was the formula San Antonio used to shut LeBron down entirely in his only Finals appearance with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
These are not the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Without their most natural enemy (Rose) in the mix, I just see all the chips falling Miami’s way this year. I hope I’m wrong, and we spend the offseason asking whether this “Super Team” will ever win a title… I’m just not sure they can be denied with everything they have going for them right now.