Category Archives: Other Sports

Salary Cap Schooling



When I blogged about my addiction of managing fantasy sport teams, I mentioned two of which that certainly had me at hello – Facebook’s Fantasy Football and Salary Cap Basketball (NBA). And whilst I performed considerably well in the fantasy football in my first year, the В same cannot be said about my fortunes of managing an NBA club in fantasy land.

It was kinda disappointing too because I was doing pretty well at one stage. During my first blog, I was sitting pretty in the top 1% of the global rankings. Within the next few weeks, I actually shot up to as high as the 0.8% mark. Then, things started to go downhill from there….I would eventually wind up in only the top 2%, ranked 3,221 out ofВ 221,501 teams.

So, what happened?

Read on as I share about some tips on what to look out for in FB’s Salary Cap Basketball for aspiring managers. And trust me, the learning curve is quite different from managing a fantasy football team..:-p

1. The factor that thwarted my successful rookie year as NBA Fantasy manager was the simple fact that I overlooked a key rule – position limits. Over the course of the NBA season, there are 82 games to be played. For each team, there will be the default starting 5 consisting of a center, 2 forwards and 2 guards. There will also be 3 utility players who can also score points for your club on every gameweek (unlike Fantasy Football (FF) that only scores 11 players). Position Limits essentially mean all starting positions (the 5) can play a total of 82 games. This is merely to reduce the factor of someone keeping LeBron James or Kevin Durant on the roster forever to score big points. Problem is, as the manger, we’d need to be alert as to when each position is approaching its 82-game limit, and then make necessary changes to avoid the position getting unplayable = no more points. Still following? Anyway, I was trapped in quite a bit of a jam about 3 weeks left before the end of the regular season when almost all my positions were locked up and I could barely score points in the weeks that ensued. I have to admit this rule is still kinda tough for me to understand let alone manage it.

2. Daily Trades – Since basketball is played almost on a daily basis, there are trades to be made DAILY. Yup, you read it right – DAILY. Unlike FF where the trades are made every week, giving managers more time to analyse, strategise, talk tactics on forums, etc., in NBA Salary Cap, we need to plan our team and strategies almost instantaneous when the tip off for the final game for that gameday has started, which would signal the start of the next trading day. kan cheong leh?..:-D Concept is the same – buy low, sell high to get more budget so that the team can be built on more superstars. Only challenge is to make the trades as EARLY as possible when the trade window opens. You see, since teams play almost everyday, teams that DON”T play will likely see their players dropped. When players are dropped, their value decreases, and thus the opportunity to buy them presents itself. For teams who will be playing the next day, you;d expect when teh window opens, all the superstars on those teams will be snapped up. When players are bought, their value increases.

3. Make Quick Bucks – Using the illustration above, here is the method to increase the salary cap. Identify two superstars from different teams that can usually perform for their clubs – eg. Pau Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki. Both play in power forward positions and their value typically hovers around $20M. Buy ONE of them to start off the season, say Pau. On the trading day when he is NOT playing tomorrow, quickly sell him off and buy Dirk who’s value would be lower than $20M. When the next day comes along when Pau will play, quickly sell off Dirk and buy Pau at the lower rate BEFORE his price shoots up again due to massive ‘demands’ to buy him. After a few days of ‘cross-selling and buying’, your salary cap will increase pretty fast. Problem is that I am not always in front of my PC to make those trades so I wasn’t able to really push up my salary cap last year; but I have seen several players who are really good in making those trades and increase their cap very high.

4. Injuries – Just like FF, we have to take note of all injuries to players of your team and also other teams. One of my favourite site to view such injuries is from CBS Sport’s coverage of NBA Injuries. Knowing which player is injured or when he is expected to play plays a big part in ensuring a successful fantasy team. There have also been some tips to strategically buy injured players so that they don’t get to play and thus preserving the position limit thing but I don’t think I have gone to that level of professional management yet…:-p

5. Utilise Database – make use of the stats available in the gamepage. There you can sort the players by points scored, value, games played, etc. to see which are the players who can rack up points and those who cannot. Kevin Love was one such example last season. Not many expected him to be a revelation in Minnesota but after the first few weeks, he became a regular feature on most teams for his phenomenal scoring and rebounding abilities.

I have to admit there is still much to learn about NBA Salary Cap – how to make use of the utility players, managing the position limits, making the trade within the opening few minutes, etc. It is also tougher since this game requires DAILY attention and there are days when I do not go online so I would expect some cruel points would be lost there.

Anyway, if the NBA ever sorts out its current lockout, I would most certainly play again – if not to improve from my score from last season, but just cause I’m a basketball fan. 😀

Facing Failures

There will be times in our life when we will be faced with some form of failure. What usually results from that, if the failure was an epic one, is the million dollar question is how are we gonna deal with it?

Typical answers given would be to forget about it and move on with life! Start afresh! Or something along those lines.

So, when I chanced upon this intriguing article in the by Eric AdelsonВ where a psychologist explains what happens to most athletes when they choke or fail, and offers some unorthodox method on how to move on from failure. The article used LeBron James recent ‘tanking’ in the NBA Finals as reference point of discussion. Here are some relevant extracts from that article:


Why do great athletes sometimes fail to show up in important situations? Why did James, so dominant in fourth quarters leading up to the NBA Finals — don’t forget his incredible finish against the Pistons in the ’07 playoffs — start making high school mistakes when it counted most?

And is there a way he can confront this problem and overcome it?

There are answers, and they go all the way back to the 1989 Stanley Cup Final. One of the Calgary Flames, coming back to the dressing room right before the opening faceoff in Game 1, turned to the team’s sport psychologist and made a confession:

“I’m scared.”

The psychologist was named Hap Davis, and he has spent more than a generation examining why athletes succumb to pressure. He thinks he’s found an answer, and it sheds light on both LeBron James’ poor play in and Dirk Nowitzki’s emotional response to winning in a whole new way.


In moments of fear, the human body produces cortisol, which helps its fight-or-flight mechanism. When you hear a story about a mother lifting a stalled car off her child to save his life, that’s cortisol at work. But cortisol is not what a great athlete needs in a defining moment. In fact, cortisol may get in the way of an essential ingredient for athletic performance: Testosterone.

“That’s what comes with ability to stay in the moment — frontal cortex activation, motor cortex activation and elevation in testosterone,” Davis says.

Translation: Athletes who “stay focused” (to use a clichГ©) keep producing testosterone, which stimulates the part of the brain wired for motor skills such as shooting or dribbling.


“What we’ve seen in winners is huge testosterone-to-cortisol balance,” Davis says. “When they’re on their game, we see evidence that there may be an elevation of testosterone. When people are losing, they are overwhelmed with emotion. That’s cortisol.”

Now here’s the twist: Davis has found that when top athletes have a traumatic experience in a game or event, and then return to a similar moment (such as the fourth quarter of the NBA Finals), they often start producing cortisol. Davis has worked for years with the Canadian Olympic team, and he’s seen swimmers do perfectly well for years, in every competition, and then fall apart when they get to a scenario reminiscent of one where they struggled four or eight years earlier. It’s the exact same stroke or race, but it’s a completely different moment. The athlete responds not to the event, but to the moment.

In fact, whenever athletes start thinking about the pride or pain of winning or losing, they can become overwhelmed with emotion and unable to perform the basic duties of playing in the present.

“The moment someone thinks about the reward,” Davis says, “they are in a whole different space.”

So you see the brilliance of what Dirk Nowitzki did in Game 6. He held his emotions back until the second the game ended and the title was won. Then he hustled to the locker room to cry. He was completely unemotional and then he was completely emotional. It was the opposite of what so-called “chokers” do.

So what’s the best way to overcome this? How can LeBron James turn back into the fourth-quarter beast he used to be? Move on and forget the 2011 NBA Finals ever happened?

Nope. Davis says the best way to erase the past is to dwell on it. Watch the failure again and again and again on tape until it evokes zero emotional response. Watch the disaster until you’re so numb to it that it feels like someone else is doing the failing.

“I’ve worked with too many athletes who say, ‘Screw it, it’s a bad game,’ ” Davis says. “Some people will get away with ‘Forget about it.’ But most athletes will find that’s a bad idea. They haven’t got past the emotional experience.”


Davis assisted on an experiment in which athletes were asked to watch a video of themselves in a game, and then perform squat jumps. Athletes who watched themselves doing well jumped significantly higher than those who watched themselves do poorly.

So according to this theory, LeBron should spend the summer watching the fourth quarter of every Finals game. At some point, he’ll be able to break down that wretched film just like a coach would. Then, when he returns to the waning minutes of a Finals game, he’ll be driven more by the desire to correct the mistakes than the fear of reliving them.

And what happens if an athlete finds himself coming undone in a game? Well, that’s what happened to the unnamed Calgary Flames player in 1989. Davis pulled him off the bench and told him to get on the exercise bike and race like mad for a couple of minutes. That got the testosterone flowing and stimulated the motor cortex. The player took the ice and did fine. The Flames won the Cup.

LeBron James will probably get back to the Finals, maybe within a year. The sports world will be watching to see how he reacts at crunch time. But how he reacts this summer might make the difference between “choker” and “champion.”


Pretty scary huh? Sounds like we need to be mindless like robots to be able to forget our failures and move on for greater glory in the future. Do you think this method would work? Or, how do you handle failures?


Remembering Victorious Vindications!

It has been 4 days and I am still basking in the celebrations of Dallas securing their first ever franchise NBA Championship. You would really need to follow the struggles of this franchise to truly feel and understand (a little) of what they are really feeling right now.

A bunch of battle-hardened, ageing veterans which had been collectively carried around the ‘no-hoper’, ‘choker’ tag for half a decade, had finally exorcised the ghosts of 2006 and are now Champions. I’m just tearfully happy for Dirk and Kidd who are both now officially OFF the ‘list of NBA’s best who have never won a Championship’. Everything still feels unreal at times, and I must admit I shivered in anxiety in the final 12 minutes of Game 6, listening to the play-by-play being streamed over online radio.

In remembering the incredible classic of a Finals that Dallas and Miami served up over six games, where both teams had a very even chance to win every single game going into the 4Q, here are the recaps:


Game 1


Game 2

Game 3

Game 4

Game 5

Game 6


All Video Credits/Source

Simply MAV-ellous!

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Two of them were the only survivors of their last appearance on the grandest stage where they were a part of anВ embarrassing meltdown and lost. One of led his previous team to the biggest stage twice, and still lost. Two others came one step short of the NBA Finals. They also had a coach who took two different teams into the Finals, but still fell short. No one else on the current team had won it before.

Individually, they are talented and experienced, but have always come up short. Collectively, they have put together an incredible run this season, despite all criticisms, ending it with a sensational first-ever Championship.

Sounds like a fairytale Hollywood script? Not anymore. The Dallas Mavericks achieved just that a few hours ago when they beat the Miami Heat 105-95 in Game 6 on their own floor to win the series 4-2. Ironically, it was the Heat who beat the Mavericks 4-2 in 2006, clinching win no. 4 on Dallas’ home court, the last time both of these teams landed in the NBA Finals. I guess I was right when I said it before Game 1 began…this is the NBA: Where Redemption Happens…

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This entire season was about resilience. And the Mavs sure had plenty of it, especially in the playoffs. When they were matched up against the Miami Heat in the Finals, they were clearly the underdogs. The Heat is a team that was customised to win it all this season. When LeBron James and Chris Bosh made that decision to join Dwayne Wade to pursue Championship rings, the world of basketball shivered with fear. Seriously.

Many were expecting the ageing legs of the veteran Dallas team would not be able to keep up with Miami, but boy did they do it. And then some. After dominating Game 1 in Miami, the Heat began to think this would actually be their season.The in Game 2, with 7 mins remaining in the 4Q, Miami took a 15 point lead, and things were looking gloomy for Dallas. Then Dirk happened. Leading the way, the Mavs furiously rallied to win 95-93 and the series was tied.

The classic went back to Dallas for Games 3-5 and Game 3 seemed to take off where Game 2 ended. Miami dominated again in 3Qs, but allowed Dallas to shine in the 4Q again, but this time the Mavs fell short as the Heat squeak out a 88-86 victory. Down 1-2, Dallas managed to manufacture yet another rally in the 4Q to win 86-83, capping one of the closest 3 consecutive games in the finals EVER. And to top it off, Dirk actually played with a high fever throughout the game. Series tied again 2-2

The it came down to Game 5, where stats showed how important this game was. The winning team in Game 5 had quite a good wining percentage to win it. Although LeBron scored a triple double, it was Nowitzki taking over in the fourth…again! Securing a 112-103 shootout, the Mavs were suddenly one game away from the Championship, but they still had to travel back to Miami to finish the job. Dallas leads 3-2.

Game 6 was such nailbiter everyone expected. Both teams held leads and lost them. Miami started to crack under pressure as they missed shot after shot, be it free throws or 3PT shooting. Although Dirk started poorly, it was the deep, deep Dallas bench that kept the game tight and close. The Mavs silently pulled away and eventually prevailed 105-95. Incredible stuff.

Dirk Nowitzki deservedly won the Finals MVP, remarkably so since he performed extraordinarily in all 4Qs, scoring an almost impossibleВ 62 points only in all 4Qs for the all 6 games. I don’t think I have seen anyone scoring double digit 4Q points in all Final games. Hail Dirk…Mr Clutch, for finally winning it. Jason Kidd finally got one too. After coming up short with New Jersey, this 38-year old veteran wil become the oldest starting point guard to win a championship. As with Jason Terry, another veteran who was part of the disastrous Miami team in 2006, showed much heart in stepping up his game and carried the team in the decisive Game 6 for 3Qs before Dirk took over again.

At the end of it, I believe Dallas won it all simply because they had more hunger after their previous failures and also more experienced in handling the pressure of the Finals. Even before the Finals, Dallas has shown they had been resilient in beating the young and athletic Portland Trailblazers, ruthless in dismantling the Lakers and steady in overcoming the young Oklahoma City Thunder.

There were so many games throughout the Mavs’ playoff run that they rallied and rallied and eventually pulling out a victory. And if there was one turning point of Dallas’ championship run, I would pick Game 4 vs Portland where the Trailblazers overcame a 23-point 3Q deficit to beat the Mavs 84-82 to tie the series 2-2, sowing more doubts in the hearts of Dallas and accentuating their choker tag further. Not the Mavs of this season. They bounced back to win the next two games to beat Portland 4-2. The way the Mavs bounced back from that heartbreaking game 4 vs Portland gave me confidence that the Mavs were definitely for real this time round.

In my parting shot, all I wanna say to Dirk, Kidd, Terry, Marion, Chandler, Barea, coach Carlisle and the rest of the Mavs team – THANK YOU for an unforgettable and amazing season and congrats on winning that elusive NBA Championship. I’m just so happy for everyone on the Mavs roster who finally won a Championship ring. Your journey here has been nothing short of inspirational to me.

Here’s the mini movie of Game 6 that I will forever remember…


Go Mavs!

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Where Redemption Happens…

In true fairytale fashion, the NBA Finals will pit two teams who last arrived in this same position 5 years ago, when they also met – who else, but each other. In 2006, Dallas took a 2-0 lead and was heading for victory in Game 3 when the epic collapse happened. Dirk and Co. never recovered and the Mavericks wilted in the next 4 games to give the Championship to Wade’s Heat.

Fast-forward to the present, Wade has recruited two other superstars in LeBron James and Chris Bosh to help them cement themselves as a legacy for years to come. Dallas only features two stalwarts from their 2006 ‘epic fail’ in Dirk and Jason Terry. Since then, they have built their team around a host of veterans in Kidd, Stojakovic and Marion who have all come close but have never won the coveted ring. They even brought onboard a coach in Rick Carlise who has also been to the Finals twice but again fell at the final hurdle.

In the Eastern conference Finals, the Heat’s big trio proved too much for league MVP Derrick Rose to handle, and proved too dominant in manhandling the Bulls 4-1. Bosh was the surprise star for at least two of the 5 games, and it remains to be seen if Chandler can handle his hot form in the Finals.

It was the familiar story in the West when Dallas once again relied to Dirk Nowitzki to carry them into the finals. After exploding for 48 points in Game 1 where he only took 15 shots and made 12 (talk about efficiency), Dirk continued to relish in the Mr Clutch tag by scoring in double digits in the 4Q of all 5 games! The series clincher perhaps was the “5 minute miracle” in Game 4 when Dallas rallied back from 15 points in the final 5 minutes to beat OKC and take a 3-1 lead back home.

Whilst Dallas has an impressive record against Miami overall, this matchup would simply be intense based on the fact that both teams are the hottest heading into the Finals. Both teams have posted a near-excellent 12-3 post season records and both teams have managed to transfer their league leading road form into the playoffs. With Games 1 & 2 to be played in Miami, Dallas would have to steal one of these to stand any chance. In the history of NBA Finals, the team hosting Games 3-5 have never held home court before, and with Miami’s impressive road form, the Mavs would more than likely to drop one here, which means they would have to clinch the Championship on Miami soil – either in Game 6 or 7.

I’m boldly predicting this one to be a classic. LeBron and Dirk would typically cancel each other out. So I figured the key to the series would be how deep the bench is if the series is going to be a long one. Kidd and Barea may own the matchup at point guard but it is in the positions of shooting guard that the Heat have Wade. Miami can clinch it with a short series, but Dallas will have a chance if they can wear down Miami’s all-star trio with their ever-reliable bench. With that, I see the Mavericks redeeming themselves from the ghosts of 2006 with a tense 4-3 victory. Game 1 starts TODAY (US time). Woo Hoo!

Playoff Prediction Record:

Playoff Prediction Stats for Conference Finals: 2/2 (100%); Dead-on: 1/2 (50%)

Overall: 11/14 (79%); Dead-on: 3/14 (21%)


Playoff Predictions: Conference Finals

Wow! The Conference finals are already into Game 1s as I write this, so I better pick up gears and post up my predictions.

I was spot on with all of my R2 predictions, but I never predicted the way some of the series went. Most unbelievable was Dallas’ impressive dismantling of two-time champions LA Lakers. That rewarded them with plenty of days rest ahead of their Conference finals, which started this morning. Their opponents – young and dangerous Oklahoma, with superstar Keven Durant at helm, survived a 7-game thriller of a series with Memphis. In the East, I was surprised at how easily Miami picked apart Boston 4-1 whilst Chicago battled through in six games over Atlanta.

Although Chicago holds the league record in the regular season, I predict they will face problems winning 4 games with Miami. The Heat has this knack of playing great one-off games and their away record has been really good this year. В I do not see Chicago sustaining the form during their Game 1 win. Besides, the number of 2nd chance points for the Bulls in that game is seriously ridiculous. I predict Miami to steal at least 2 games in Chicago for the remainder of the series and win it 4-2.

In the West, it’s a simple young vs old (and very hungry). A Dallas roster filled with Championship-starved 30-something veterans vs a Oklahoma team of young and rising stars. Personally, I felt the 9 days of rest after the LA sweep did Dallas some good as their offense clicked into the right gears in Game 1 as they rolled to a 121-112 victory. Dirk performed phenomenally this morning, scoring a В whopping 48 points and going for a NBA playoff record 24-24 from the FT line. He only missed 3 field goal attempts in the game. Incredible. I do have concerns that if this series were to drag on beyond 5 games, the Mavericks would tire out. My pick is for the Mavs to clinch it 4-1.if they don’t, they might run into serious trouble because the speed at which the Thunder play is pretty scary at times.

Conference Finals Predictions:


Miami 4 Chicago 2


Dallas 4 Oklahoma 1


Playoff Prediction Stats for R2: 4/4 (100%); Dead-on: 0/4 (0%)

Overall: 9/12 (75%); Dead-on: 2/12 (17%)


Sweeping Pride Away

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When the two-time defending champions LA Lakers were paired up with playoff underachievers Dallas Mavericks in Round 2 of the NBA Western Conference playoffs, almost everyone gave Dallas no ghost of a chance at all. After all, this is the Dallas team that has consistently finished the regular season with 50+ wins and yet fail to translate that into playoff success, getting eliminated in the first round on most occasions. In fact, when the regular season was nearing it’s end about a month ago, many of the teams scrambling for 5-8 spots in the West would have been secretly hoping to draw these sorry Mavs..

So, when the Mavs sensationally rallied from 16 points down in the 3Q of Game 1 to beat LA and win the series opener, the entire LA crew dismissed it as a game which was given away. In Game 2, LA couldn’t keep up with the deep Mavs bench and lost, the Lakers still kept insisting that they were the ones who controlled the pace and Dallas were just lucky, etc. There was so much talk about Lakers could reverse their fortunes in Dallas in the next two games and the basketballing universe that centred around the purple and gold would find itsВ equilibrium again.

In another tight 3rd game, LA led like some 7 points in mid 4Q and then apparently went to sleep. Dallas shooters would take over and conjure up (yet) another improbable fightback to push the champs to the brink in a 0-3 hole! And yet, the Lakers were stubbornly denying they were being beat by the better team, kept insisting they had been the better side, blaming luck, not enough stops, etc.

If any NBA team could be beaten when leading a series 3-0, it has to be the sorry Mavs. Perhaps that’s why LA still projected the overconfidence and swagger like they still had a chance to overturn the series and rewrite record books. For the record, no team has ever come back from 0-3 down to win an NBA playoff series. Personally, I have never seen a team trailing 0-3 that oozed so much self-belief, pride (and probably delusional too) in themselves. At the other extreme, Dallas coach Rick Carlise remained firmly on the ground and said that although the score shows 3-0, the Mavs still need to remain humble, but hungry.

In Game 4, Dallas put on a three point clinic, making 20 treys (tying NBA playoff record), whilst dismantling LA 122-86. They didn’t even need superstar Dirk Nowitzki to perform anything extra. Two LA players, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom were ejected for flagrant fouls flaring up from frustrations that their team was being embarassed. After the dust had settled, LA were shockingly swept 4-0. Not even Kobe could save them this time. Go Mavs!

This series made me reflect on whether or not there were times in our life that we felt we were so good or confident in something? To the point that it had made us too proud or cocky? Humility can somethings be such a tough virtue to project in today’s world.

Seeing how Dallas stayed focussed and humble throughout the series echoes the words found in Proverbs 3:34, which says, “He mocks proud mockersВ but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.”

Have you checked your heart today?

R2 Outlook

Predictability of the NBA Playoffs? Not quite. Almost two weeks gone into Round 1 of the NBA playoffs and we are only one more team away from getting the complete picture. Current playoff bracket stands as follows:

The East served up some upsets, most noticeably Atlanta knocking off early contenders Orlando in 6 games. The other surprising series was the Celtics sweeping the Knicks. I actually thought this series would go the distance. Anyway, both favourites Miami and Chicago kept their bargain and coasted rather comfortably past their first round opponents in five games.

For the next round’s match-ups, I would think Chicago would be much too strong for the Atlanta, unless the Hawks can maintained their newly discovered form again. Much of this series would also depend on the extent of Rose’s minor injury sustained in Chicago’s R1 series. I’m predicting an easy run-out for the Bulls.

The other series is the more highly anticipated one with Miami taking on the Boston. I believe Boston’s chance to beat Miami was gone the moment they surrendered the No. 2 seed to Miami late on in the East. By doing so, they have lost home advantage, which should be pivotal in this series. The Heat co-shares the league’s best away record (with Dallas) so that should give them the confidence to steal one in Boston too. A very tight series which might go the distance.

Over in the West, Dallas finally got a big monkey of their back when they battled past Portland to survive R1 – something they have failed to do in a long, long time. Their reward, a classic match up with defending champs LA Lakers, who also struggled past the pesky Hornets 4-2. My gut (and bias) feel is that the R1 win has brought back the much needed confidence for Dallas to really trouble the Lakers, who do not seem to be in max gear yet. Definitely a good time to play them. With an excellent road record in the league, I foresee the Mavericks being able to steal one or two games in LA. A tight series which should go down the wire.

While the other matchup has Oklahoma awaiting either Memphis or San Antonio to join them.

UPDATE: Memphis shocked San Antonio over the weekend to win the series 4-2 and move on to R2 to meet the Thunder. The Thunder are the more rested team and Durant has been admirably consistent in scoring in the playoffs. Both teams also lack playoff experience so it should boil down to who wants the series more. As I write this, the Grizzlies have created an upset by stealing Game 1, but I still think Oklahoma should prevail 4-2 in the end.

R2 Predictions:


Chicago 4 Atlanta 1

Miami 4 Boston 3


Dallas 4 LA 3

Oklahoma 4 Memphis 2

Playoff Prediction Stats for R1 (to-date): 5/8 (63%); Dead-on: 2/8 (25%)



Playoff Predictions: Round One

Whew….after theВ gruelingВ marathonic 82 regular season games, the NBA Playoffs is finally ready to begin! More often than usual, this season’s NBA provided some nice surprises like the Bulls getting the overall best record, the Spurs possibly being one of the more consistent teams even with their old guards, the struggles of the Heat and Lakers, etc.

Anyhoo, here is how the playoff bracket stacks up and my bold (and biased) predictions..

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Eastern Conference

Bulls (1) vs Pacers (8): Chicago’s form has been sparkling (9-0) heading into the playoffs. They even managed to steal the overall top-seed ranking from San Antonio on the very last day of the regular season. Not since the Jordan era has Chicago been this excited. I expect no surprises here with Derrick Rose (leading candidate for regular season MVP) guiding his club to an easy 4-1 victory.

Heat (2) vs 76ers (7): Miami has been tuning up well for the playoffs too. They have seem to have settled down after a mid-season turmoil and I don’t forsee Le Bron and co. having any difficulties with Philly, with only their bench being the strong point. Miami to sweep the series 4-0.

Celtics (3) vs Knicks (6): Arguably the marquee matchup of the first round. Boston’s failure to hand on to the 2nd seed may cost them dear as they have been thrown into a battle with the new-look Knicks, who can get hot on any given day. if the Amare-Carmelo tandem starts clicking, it could be a shock of Boston, who have been beset with recent injuries. On formbook, I will predict a Knicks upset in Game 7.

Magic (4) vs Hawks (5): After some mid-season trades, Orlando seems to have gathered enough momentum to make a strong charge in the playoffs. With Howard complemented with reliable wingmen, their potent 3-point arsenal could prove crucial as they take on the dangerous Hawks, who hopes to discover their early season form. May be a battle but Orlando should prevail 4-2

Western Conference

Spurs (1) vs. Grizzlies (8): The top seeded Spurs were limping into the playoffs with Ginobli injuring himself in the final game. Duncan has only just recovered, so I guess they would really need their deep deep bench to step it up. Luckily for them, they are paired with Memphis, which I think do not have the playoff pedigree to trouble San Antonio. Spurs to coast through this one 4-1

Lakers (2) vs Hornets (7): LA were the other team that was limping into the playoffs, after a sensational winning streak after the All-Star weekend. In their second last game, they just barely beat a makeshift San Antonio team and in the final game, they needed Kobe to knock in a late 3-pointer to force OT and eventually winning to snatch the 2nd seed from Dallas. Luckily for them, they will face up with a New Orleans team that has dramatically slumped over the final weeks. Both very tired looking teams but I do not expect any upsets here. Lakers to win this one comfortably 4-1

Mavericks (3) vs. Trailblazers (6): This could turn out to be the toughest first round draw in the West. As in previous WC playoffs, the seedings are a bit deceiving with all 8 teams almost equally strong on every other night. Just compare East’s 8th seed, Indiana (37-45) and its West counterpart, Memphis (46-36). Anyway, Dallas have always known to choke in the playoffs and Portland presents a very possible banana skin. Tied 2-2 during the regular season, Dallas’ veteran players may find it difficult to cope with the speedy youth from Portland. However, i would believe the inclusion of Tyson Chandler this season has made Dallas more formidable, and with the league’s best road-team (together with Miami), they should be able to cope with this first round threat. Dallas to win В a grueling test 4-2.

Thunder (4) vs. Nuggets (5):В Oklahoma has been pretty consistent throughout the season and with on-form Kevin Durant on its side, they can be pretty confident of going far and posing a threat to the rest of the Conference. Although the Nuggets earned the 5th seed, I do not see them going far after Melo left, but Oklahoma’s playoff inexperience will result in a close contest. Thunder to steal this one 4-3.