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10 Things I Loved About the 2011 NBA Playoffs June 14, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Basketball, Indiana Pacers, NBA, Sport.
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Ahh…it’s finally all over. The Dallas Mavericks just defeated the Miami Heat in 6 games to capture the 2011 NBA Championship in what has been the most enjoyable NBA Playoffs in recent memory. Dirk Nowitzki was named Finals MVP, elevating the big silky German to all-time great status and denying Miami’s much-maligned ‘Big Three’ of Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh a chance at a title in their first year together. Loved it, loved it, loved it.

Here are the 10 things that I thought made these Playoffs one of the best ever.

(to read on, click on ‘more…’)


The pain of an unproductive day May 16, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Misc, Novel, On Writing, Study.
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I got a reprieve this week because I managed to postpone my next meeting with my writing supervisor, and it was a much needed one because I hadn’t done nearly as much over the last couple of weeks as I would have liked for various reasons, including household stuff, getting the flu, general laziness, Fight Night Champion, the NBA Playoffs, and a battle with the worst food poisoning I’ve ever had (thanks to a cafe at Potts Point) where I actually passed out for the first time in my life!

This week needs to be the week where stuff happens, but I got off to a horrible start yesterday.  It was just one of those days where nothing seemed to go right (write).  I had nothing.  A whole day of trying to write and I ended up with barely over 2000 words — of first draft quality or worse!  My mind raced but no words came out.  Pain.

I think it may have something to do with what I discussed with my supervisor last time, being that it’s time for me to start rewriting and shaping each chapter into the best it can be.  I had so much success earlier on because I was just pouring out my thoughts onto the page (screen) without thinking about anything else.  Now, even though I’m still working on new chapters, shaping the narrative is always stuck in the back of my mind, and it has really handcuffed the free-flowing style I captured earlier.

So today (and possibly tomorrow) I will head back to basics.  Not think so much and just write (type), and see where it takes me.  The fixing up always needs to come later.

2009 NBA Playoff Predictions: Conference Finals May 19, 2009

Posted by pacejmiller in Basketball, NBA.
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Can’t believe there are only 4 teams left still battling it out for the 2009 NBA Championship – Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic, LA Lakers and Denver Nuggets.  The majority of people probably picked these 4 teams to be here when the playoffs first started, but the dynamics and expectations have changed somewhat.

So, what do I expect to happen?


(1) Cleveland Cavaliers (66-16) vs (3) Orlando Magic (59-23)

Can Dwight Howard and the Magic give Lebron and the Cavs more than a tickle this series?

Can Dwight Howard and the Magic give Lebron and the Cavs more than a tickle this series?

Cleveland has been cruising these playoffs, sweeping Detroit and then Atlanta.  Both opponents had issues but neither were strolls in the park, and yet Cleveland crushed them with ease, not one game coming within single digits.  With newly crowned MVP Lebron James leading the way and playing better than ever and the supporting cast stepping up, right now the Cavs are the clear favourites to make the finals, if not win it.

On the other hand, Orlando has been up and down, first going through an uneven 6-game series against Philadelphia and then coming back from 3-2 down to overcome the defending champs Boston in 7.  Many say they should have disposed of the ailing Celtics (missing both Kevin Garnett and Leon Powe) much earlier, but I think they deserve a lot of credit for pulling through (because I picked against them!) in a game 7, in Boston, against the resilient defending champions.

Further, Orlando matches up well with Cleveland as well as any other team in the East.  The Cavs can probably contain Dwight Howard to some degree with their bigs, but I think the Cavs’ perimeter defense will be tested by the shooters camping out by the 3-point line.  Turkoglu and Lewis both pose matchup problems for the Cavs.  The big game 7 win against the Celtics will give them more confidence that they can upset the favourites.

Nevertheless, the Cavs have the biggest mismatch in the league in Lebron, so it’s hard to bet against them.  If Orlando wants to stand a chance they have to steal at least one of the first 2 games in Cleveland, where the Cavs have only lost twice all season.  As much as I want to see the Cavs tested in these playoffs, I just can’t see that happening.  Despite Orlando winning the season series 2-1, I still say Cleveland in 5.


(1) Los Angeles Lakers (65-17) vs (2) Denver Nuggets (54-28)

LA vs Denver is shaping up to be an intiguing series

LA vs Denver is shaping up to be an intiguing series

The Lakers were supposed to be the Cavs of the West, annihilating all opposition on their way to a finals the majority believe they will win.  Many people thought after last year’s collapse against the Celtics the Lakers would have learned their lesson and developed the toughness and killer instinct lacking before, but it doesn’t appear as though they’ve quite gotten there yet.  Instead, after disposing of Utah in 5, the Lakers were taken to 7 games by a hobbling Houston Rockets squad that didn’t have Yao Ming for half the series (and Tracy McGrady for the entire series).  I had predicted that the Rockets would give the Lakers a tougher test than most anticipated, but even I didn’t expect them to be that tough, especially after losing their big man.  So now, instead of everyone thinking the Lakers are the sure thing to win the championship this year, people are starting to wonder again whether they have what it takes.  And despite known as a clutch performer almost all his career, Kobe’s 14-point performance in the game 7 against the Rockets also raises questions about his ability to deliver when it matters most.

Conversely, the Nuggets have been a revelation for me.  I honestly didn’t think they were that good, and for most of the regular season they flew under my radar.  Denver was one of 3 teams that finished with a 54-28 record, but they have now established themselves as the clear No.2 team in the West.  They brushed aside both New Orleans and Dallas in 5 games (while I thought both would go to 7), never appearing to be in danger of losing either series.  Carmelo ‘Carmelengo’ Anthony (sorry, couldn’t help it) has been in sublime form, and Chauncey Billups is playing even better than his championship days in Detroit.  Guys like JR Smith, K-Mart and Nene are also contributing in significant ways.  Confidence-wise, you could even say they may have an edge on the Lakers right now.

Consequently, a series that pundits initially thought would be just another formality in the Lakers’ ascension to the NBA throne has become a toss up.  I don’t care much for either squad but I would prefer to see the Nuggets win, simply because the Lakers have, at times, acted like it’s their God-given right to win the championship this season.  However, the things I can’t ignore are the facts that: (1) LA has home-court advantage; (2) they won the season series 3-1; (3) they won 9 more games than the Nuggets during the regular season; and (4) the media went overboard with the Lakers’ premature demise just because the Rockets took them to 7.  Perhaps the Rockets series was the final wake-up call this team needed.  Lakers in 7.

Bring on Lebron vs Kobe!

Recapping my 2nd Round predictions

I sucked.  I got the winner correct 3 out of 4 series (the exception being my prediction of the Celtics over the Magic), but I got the number of games all messed up.  I said Cavs in 5 (they won in 4), Lakers in 6 (they won in 7) and Nuggets in 7 (they won in 5).  I was right that the Celtics and Magic would go 7, but I got the winner wrong!

2009 NBA Playoff Predictions: Second Round May 3, 2009

Posted by pacejmiller in Basketball, NBA.
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Shortly after Round 1 of the 2009 NBA playoffs ended with the Atlanta Hawk’s game 7 thrashing of the Miami Heat (thereby ending the possibility of a dream matchup between Lebron James and Dwayne Wade), Round 2 began with game 1 between the Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks.

So I better get my picks for the Conference Semi-Finals in before that game finishes!

Eastern Conference

Will the Hawks stand a chance against Lebron and the Cavs?

Will the Hawks stand a chance against Lebron and the Cavs?

1 Cleveland Cavaliers (66-16) vs 4 Atlanta Hawks (47-35)

The Cavs finished the first round in style, blowing out a weary Detroit Pistons squad in 4 straight games.  The Hawks, on the other hand, came out on top after a grueling, seesawing 7-game series against the Miami Heat.  Seeing that the Cavs have home-court advantage and won the season series 3-1, it’ll be outrageous to bet against them in this series.  Plus I don’t see anyone on the Hawk’s squad (or in the NBA, for that matter) that can stop Lebron the way he’s playing right now.  The question really should be whether the Hawks can win a game or two against them.  My guess is that they can, but just one.  Cleveland in 5.

2 Boston Celtics (62-20) vs 3 Orlando Magic (59-23)

The Celtics just came off possibly the greatest first round series of all time by finally disposing of the resilient Chicago Bulls in 7 amazing games.  The Magic toppled the Philadelphia 76ers in an uneven, inconsistent 6-game series.

This will be a tough one to call.  Without Kevin Garnett, stopping Dwight Howard will be that much tougher than it already is, but on the other hand, the Celtics do have the championship experience.  Further, they have the big-time players in Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, plus Rajon Rondo demonstrated just how good he can be.  Rafer Alston will no doubt have his hands full.  In my opinion, this series will come down to whether Howard’s supporting cast can step up and hit the shots when called upon.

If I was calling this series at the beginning of the playoffs, I would have said the Magic in 6 against a KG-less Celtics.  But after seeing how the Magic played against the 76ers in the first round, my gut instinct is to go with the defending champs.  Boston in 7.

Western Conference

Artest will do his best to ruffle Kobe's feathers

Artest will do his best to ruffle Kobe's feathers

1 Los Angeles Lakers (65-17) vs 5 Houston Rockets (53-29)

Yao Ming finally got out of the first round – but he’s going to find out just how hard it is to get past the second.  After overcoming the inexperienced Portland Trailblazers in 6, the Houston Rockets will face last year’s Western Conference Champions, the LA Lakers, who defeated the Utah Jazz in 5.

The season series wasn’t even close, with LA sweeping it 4-0.  However, with Andrew Bynum at less than 100%, Yao Ming will have opportunities to dominate.  For the Rockets to have a chance, Yao really needs to be more than just a 20-10 guy this series.  If he doesn’t assert himself and start having big games (and I mean 30+ points a night), it could be a short series.

On the other hand, no one can stop Kobe Bryant, but Ron Artest and Shane Battier are just about the best anyone could hope for.  They also need to make Kobe work hard on the defensive end.  If Artest can rough up Kobe a little bit then things could get interesting.   The real question is whether the Rockets can stop the likes of Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol or have the firepower to stay with the Lakers’ high octane offense.

In the end, I think Houston will give LA a tougher test than most Lakers fans are willing to imagine, but they won’t be able to beat them.  Los Angeles in 6.

2 Denver Nuggets (54-28) vs 6 Dallas Mavericks (50-32)

Denver was so much more impressive than I thought they would be against the New Orleans Hornets, whom they eliminated in 5 games.  Dallas also did well to knock off perennial contender San Antonio in 6 games, though the Spurs were clearly operating at less than full capacity.

Another difficult series to pick.  Jason Kidd is lucky that they are facing the Nuggets instead of the Hornets, because he would have been burnt even worse by Chris Paul than he did by Tony Parker.  Chauncey Billups is great, but as he’s not the speedy type, it’s a good matchup for Kidd.  Dirk will no doubt have a big series, but I see the X-factor for the Mavs being newly crowned 6th Man of the Year Jason Terry.  He’s the type of player that can catch fire and turn a game around in a hurry.  For the Nuggets, JR Smith and Nene are their keys to victory.  Smith is also a guy that can light it up real quick, and Nene can make a difference in the middle with his defensive presence.

The two teams appear to be pretty evenly matched on paper.  However, I think home-court advantage will play a factor here, so I will say Denver in 7.

PS: How my Round 1 predictions stacked up

I am an admittedly bad predictor when it comes to sports, but I don’t think I did too bad in the first round (full analysis here).  The only series I got wrong was Atlanta vs Miami, where I declared that the Heat would prevail in 6 games (I was probably blinded by my desire to see Lebron vs D-Wade).

In terms of guessing the number of games per series, I correctly guessed that the Rockets would beat the Trailblazers and the Magic would beat the 76ers, both in 6 games, but that was it.  I gave too much credit to Detroit, New Orleans and San Antonio, but not enough to Chicago and Utah.

2009 NBA Playoff Predictions: First Round April 17, 2009

Posted by pacejmiller in Basketball, NBA.
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Here are my predictions for the first round of the 2009 NBA Playoff (set to kick off on Saturday18 April 2009).  This is one of the most intriguing first rounds in years, where almost every lower seed at least has a chance of pulling off the upset (in my opinion anyway).  Each series is first to 4 wins (max of 7 games).

Eastern Conference

1 Cleveland Cavaliers (66-16) vs 8 Detroit Pistons (39-43)

Prediction: Cavs in 5

With the likely MVP Lebron James leading Cleveland to the best record in the NBA, it’s hard to pick against them.  Their confidence is sky high and they’ve played with a swagger (s0me say arrogance) all year.  Detroit, on the other hand, has been in complete disarray since the Allen Iversion trade, looking nothing like the perrenial 50-win team they had been for the last 6 or 7 years.  I was close to calling this series a sweep, but I think the Pistons have too much pride for that to happen, and perhaps might be able to catch the Cavs off-guard in one of the games, but no more than that.

2 Boston Celtics (62-20) vs 7 Chicago Bulls (41-41)

Prediction: Celtics in 6

This is a hard one to call.  Boston hasn’t looked so vulnerable all season, with emotional leader Kevin Garnett possibly out for the entire playoffs.  Conversely, the Bulls have streaked to the 7th seed and with exciting rookie Derrick Rose leading the way, they must be feeling good about their chances.  However, it’s difficult to deny the 21 game gap between the two teams and the fact that the Celtics are the defending champs.  There’s no doubt they’ll be playing their hearts out until KG gets back (if he does), and in any event, their record without KG has still been pretty impressive.

3 Orlando Magic (59-23) vs 6 Philadephia 76ers (41-41)

Prediction: Magic in 6

I was tempted to say Orlando in 4 or 5 because I think they are that much better than the 76ers,  but their play to close out the season hasn’t been particularly inspiring.  However, Philly hasn’t been playing particularly strong lately themselves, so the outcome is a bit up in the air.  On top of that, Orlando has been nursing some injuries, so I don’t think it will be as easy as some think.

4 Atlanta Hawks (47-35) vs 5 Miami Heat (43-39)

Prediction: Heat in 6

Going with gut instinct on this one.  The two teams have similar records though Atlanta has home court advantage – but Miami has Dwayne Wade.  I’m expecting a spectacular series from him and I don’t think anyone on the Hawks can stop him.

Western Conference

1 LA Lakers (65-17) vs 8 Utah Jazz (48-34)

Prediction: Lakers in 4

I want to believe that Utah can pull out a game or two, but I think the Lakers are just too strong and too confident.  Carlos Boozer hasn’t seemed right all season and the Jazz haven’t played well to end the season.  The Lakers will be looking to come out and make a statement in the first round so they can intimidate the other teams they’ll meet later.

2 Denver Nuggets (54-28) vs 7 New Orleans (49-33)

Prediction: Nuggets in 7

There’s only 5 games separating the 2nd and 7th seeds, so I think home court advantage will play a big factor.  I’m think Chris Paul will be sensational but Denver will prevail in the end.

3 San Antonio (54-28) vs 6 Dallas Mavericks (50-32)

Prediction: Mavericks in 6

I feel a little sorry for the Spurs, because they’ll have their hands full without Manu Ginobili and with Duncan only at half-strength.  No doubt Tony Parker will absolutely burn Jason Kidd this series but I don’t think he win this series alone.

4 Portland Trailblazers (54-28) vs Houston Rockets (53-29)

Prediction: Rockets in 6

Even though these Rockets don’t have much playoff experience beyond the first round, they at least have more experience than the Blazers, and I think ultimately that will be a factor.  If Yao has a big series I can’t see Houston losing.  Portland doesn’t have anyone that can stop him, and they have rugged defenders such as Ron Artest and Shane Battier to throw at Brandon Roy.

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