It’s that time of year again. Here are my first-round predictions for the NBA playoffs 2010 with some comments, along with some musings at the end.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Chicago Bulls
Lebron James is too good, but the Chicago Bulls fought hard to earn their playoff spot. I expect some close games, at least with Cleveland on the road, but I don’t expect the same first round series that the Chicago Bulls had with the Boston Celtics in 2009.
Verdict: Cleveland in five.
Orlando Magic vs. Charlotte Bobcats
I think the Orlando Magic present the strongest opposition to Team Lebron, but I think Charlotte Bobcats are a dangerous, yet streaky team. The Charlotte Bobcat defense is excellent and I expect Stephen Jackson to play well. The Orlando Magic will definitely be in trouble if Gerald Wallace plays well on both ends of the court.
Verdict: Orlando in six.
Atlanta Hawks vs. Milwaukee Bucks
The Atlanta Hawks have too many weapons for the Milwaukee Bucks to pose much of a threat, especially with the absence of Andrew Bogut. I expect Salmons to play well, but Brandon Jennings is the real question mark in this series. If he can silence the skeptics (I for one, am one) and carry the Milwaukee Bucks over the hump I will be very impressed.
Verdict: Atlanta in five.
Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat
This is the most interesting Eastern Conference match-up. The Boston Celtics stumbled into the playoffs while the Miami Heat played well toward the end of the season. Dwayne Wade will always be a factor, but if he doesn’t get much help, I can’t see this series going long even with the Boston Celtic’s problems. Boston has a lot of playoff experience and veteran players and if Wade can be contained, then the Miami Heat will be in a world of hurt.
Verdict: Boston in six.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Los Angeles Lakers and their often pompous fans ought to be scared, but not in despair with their match-up with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Lakers have some questions to deal with concerning the health of their stars, while the OKC Thunder have no such concerns. The difference in experience brings to mind the cliché of being “worlds apart,” an often underestimated factor. On paper, this series is pretty even and both sides have star power. I am very interested to see what the Lakers do with Russell Westbrook.
Verdict: Los Angeles in six.
Dallas Mavericks vs. San Antonio Spurs
I am biased. I love the San Antonio Spurs, not because of their winning ways, but because the team and organization have character. I would elaborate more, but that would warrant a post of its own. The Dallas Mavericks look great on paper and have the most potential to be a Los Angeles Laker killer, but the San Antonio Spurs have experience and an explosive Manu Ginobli (my second favorite player in the league). I can not tell if this series will be close or not. I am not biased for the San Antonio Spurs because they are a winning organization, but character cannot always account for wins. Dallas has the center it always needed and many current or ex-All Stars.
Verdict: Dallas in seven.
Phoenix Suns vs. Portland Trailblazers
I am not a Phoenix Suns fan, but I know they are dangerous. I have a lot of respect for Steve Nash as a basketball player and he works well with Amare Stoudemire. The Phoenix Suns have played well all season when many counted them out and I don’t see any reason for that to change in the playoffs. The Portland Trailblazers are beat up, and I think the high-octane offense of the Phoenix Suns will overwhelm them.
Verdict: Phoenix in five.
Denver Nuggets vs. Utah Jazz
Again, I am biased toward the Utah Jazz for many of the same reasons as I am toward the San Antonio Spurs. I love how they pass the ball so well and play as a team, and though there is a fair amount of star power, there usually are a bunch of players with double digit scoring. Looking at the series, the Denver Nuggets are dealing with the injury to Kenyon Martin and the temporary loss of their coach. Although Chauncy Billups and Carmelo Anthony are talented, I like the odds of Derron Williams running the show for the Utah Jazz.
Verdict: Utah in six.
On a more important note, the NBA playoffs are a good reminder for me in light of the things I have been learning by and through the grace of God. Here are a couple of thoughts I want to share and remind myself constantly through the tournament. I apologize for I often write like I’m talking to myself.
- All is vanity if not done to the glory of God. The Bible speaks often about how the wise and the mighty share the same fate as the layman or the casual participant. The NBA features many of the best basketball players from around the world – it is a gathering of incredible athletic talent that achieves nothing of eternal value. They are competing for a perishable wreath, for idols such as fame, glory and money. They are boxing without aim, chasing the wind which cannot be caught. I don’t believe it is wrong to enjoy the talent and hard work of men, but there is no reason to exalt people who do not find their purpose in Christ. Does not Paul say that physical discipline is of little value? He doesn’t say it is of no value and often refers to sport analogies to convey a spiritual point. Anthony, you ought to look at the physically hard work of men and apply them first to your pursuit of an imperishable wreath, and second to your own basketball game.
- Playing is exponentially more valuable than watching. You were called to live, not to play spectator. The day you find yourself watching more tennis or basketball than you play or listening to more music than you practice is a sad day indeed. Too often do people live vicariously through some figure on a television. As mentioned earlier, the attention directed toward great athletes ought to spur you on in your spiritual and physical pursuits. If watching or entertainment is the end, then you are not living – someone else is living for you. This is certainly applicable to our spiritual lives. It is one thing to read about the personal holiness of a Charles Spurgeon or Jonathan Edwards, but it is quite another to pursue that for yourself. People don’t become what they are, whether an NBA player or a man of God overnight, but it is a daily process of living with a goal in mind. If you want a mid-range jumper, you better practice and practice well. If you want to read your Bible, you ought to discipline yourself and set aside the time to immerse yourself in the Word. Consider the phrase “perfect practice makes perfect,” for half-hearted practice hardly accomplishes anything – anything short of your best will cripple your dedication toward your goal and prevent you from doing all things excellently as unto the Lord. I figure this is why television is not very appealing to me, aside from the fact that it is often produced by a “crooked and perverse generation.” I don’t want to find meaning or drama in another’s life. I don’t want to feel the drama of being a counter-terrorist or a doctor that sleeps around because that is not who I am nor who I want to be. If it isn’t something I want for myself then I have no business setting it before my eyes. There is much more joy and excitement to be found in Christ or in the lives of those around you – those whom you can encourage and be spurred on by. Anthony, it is not wrong for you to observe and delight in the work of others, but check your heart and know that true living comes from striving daily rather than wishful thinking brought on by often mindless watching. To live is Christ. That is not some phrase to be thrown around lightly.
- Don’t let playoffs consume your conversation. You ought to follow the lives of your friends more intently than some trifle tournament. Yes, that is easier said that done, but if you truly set your mind on things above and fill your mind with the things of God rather than box scores and recaps, you will find much more delight in that. It will be hard, and you will look at box scores, recaps, and watch fourth quarters, but examine why. Test all things, even something as mundane as this.
I always look forward to seeing how wrong my predictions are. It makes life a bit more interesting.