God, I love the playoffs

It’s time for me to call the cable company. And I couldn’t be happier about it. You see, the NBA playoffs start Sunday, and to watch 40 games in the next 40 nights would be really expensive to do at the bars.

It’s time for me to call the cable company. And I couldn’t be happier about it.

You see, the NBA playoffs start Sunday, and to watch 40 games in the next 40 nights would be really expensive to do at the bars.

Plus, I need to be able to focus here. I want the volume cranked. I don’t want to listen to any armchair idiots cheering for the Lakers. And I need to hear Charles and Kenny at halftime.

It’s as if the whole staff of Inside the NBA come to visit once a year, as the spring fades into summer to take a proverbial road-trip to the NBA title.

And thank God we’re almost there, because the regular season was a little slow this time around. But the playoffs, woooooh boy, we’ve got some excellent matchups slated for the first round. Take a look.


(1) Dallas vs. (8) Golden State. Coach Don Nelson gets the Warriors into the playoffs for the first time in 12 years, only to face his former team. Oakland has been whipped into a frenzy and figures to be tough on their home court. And though Dallas should take this series (I’ll say in six games), the Warriors are not to be taken lightly. Four of their five starters are legitimate three-point threats. Plus, Golden State can run, and more importantly, Nelson knows his old team well.

(2) Phoenix vs. (7) L.A. Lakers. A rematch of last year’s first-round series that went seven games. This one is a little different, however, as Phoenix’s Amare Stoudemire is back from injury. If they are truly title contenders, the Suns will need to do away with L.A. in fewer than seven games this time around. The exciting over-under bet is how many 40- or 50-point games Kobe Bryant will have. Phoenix should win in five (or six if the refs give Kobe a game or two), but for the most part they should be close.

(3) San Antonio vs. (6) Denver. It hasn’t gotten a whole lot of attention, but Carmello Anthony and Allen Iverson finally figured out how to co-exist in the season’s final month, largely due to Iverson’s abilities as a playmaker. The Nuggets won nine of their last 10 games, yet enter the playoffs quietly, which ought to suit them well. What doesn’t fit so nicely is that they’ll again deal with the battle-tested Spurs. You know exactly what Duncan and Co. are capable of, and you know they’ll deliver-especially since referee Joey Crawford won’t be around to toss Duncan out of the game. If this series were in Denver, you could almost say it was even. But then again, guys like Iverson and Anthony have beaten teams single-handedly throughout their careers. If they play out of their heads an upset is a real possibility here. Expect Iverson to show another gear once the series begins, as the aging superstar knows he doesn’t have a whole lot of chances left. You know what, I’m going to go out on a cracking limb here and say it: Denver in seven.

(4) Utah vs. (5) Houston. These two teams are going to flat out beat the crap out of each other. Phoenix and L.A. are like two dancing, technical fighters, like De La Hoya and Mayweather, where the Rockets/Jazz are like heavyweight Shannon Briggs thumping away at some 6-foot-7 Russian brick wall of a man. This one should see some serious defense, some tight, grinding games, and maybe even a brawl. The Jazz have a number of big bodies to throw at Yao, but no answer for Tracy McGrady, who will push Houston over the top with difficult shots in the clutch. With McGrady and Yao healthy, fans may finally get to see if the duo can put together an extended playoff run. Rockets in six.


(1) Detroit vs. (8) Orlando. I’d like to say this one will be closer, but I’m afraid it won’t. Of all the first-round matchups, this is the only one that could end in a sweep. But that doesn’t matter. What makes this series interesting is we finally get to watch Dwight Howard play a few games, as Orlando never gets much national coverage. And who knows, it could be a coming-out party for the young monster. A 30 and 20 game from Howard, along with lots of help from his teammates, might be enough to slow Detroit for a game. Oh, and of all the first-round matchups, this is the only one that could see a backboard broken or a rim ripped off its hinges. Go Dwight, but Pistons take it in four.

(2) Cleveland vs. (7) Washington. I’m a little upset about this one. You see, no Gilbert Arenas (knee injury) means no hope for Washington. It means no fun on or off the court. Now, you never know what Agent Zero might do in order to get back on the court, but right now it looks doubtful that he’ll be well enough to make an impact. Arenas’ teammate and fellow all-star Caron Butler is out as well. Damn. This could’ve been a good one. Last year’s matchup between these two teams was phenomenal. Arenas and LeBron traded basket after insane basket, and in overtime LeBron snuck to the hoop (perhaps getting away with a travel) and won it all. This time it appears Mr. James is getting a free ticket to the second round…but like I said, you never know what Gilbert is going to do. Cavs wrap this one up in five.

(3) Toronto vs. (6) New Jersey. This is a fun one for two reasons. First, just like the Dwight Howard situation, we get to see Chris Bosh and the Raptors play. Bosh is going to be a big star in this league for years to come and you’ve got to give him a lot of credit for turning around Toronto. Second, because that limp noodle Vince Carter will be playing against the team he ran into the ground. It doesn’t stop there: It’s a great matchup between youth (Toronto) and veterans (Jersey). Does Kidd still have it, or will Bosh take the flame? I choose the latter, as New Jersey has nothing going inside. Raptors in six.

(4) Miami vs. (5) Chicago. Drama-this one is brimming with it. It’s the daytime soap opera of this year’s playoffs. The defending champs, stung by injuries, stumble out of the gates. Most importantly, how badly is Dwyane Wade hurting? Can he make a difference? And what about Shaq, is there any gas left? What about Gary Payton, Antoine Walker and Alonzo Mourning? And how good are the Bulls, anyway? Miami needs to be thanking their lucky stars that they’ve got home-court (Heat won division, though Bulls have better overall record). It’s the only thing that gives them a chance here. This series definitely goes to game seven, with the Heat’s experience getting them through to the next round.