WRITTEN BY: STEPHEN A. KELLERMAN
I went 4-0 last week for the final matchups of the round of 16 (7-1 overall in the playoffs). Tough luck for the Jazz as they were hit with Covid and injuries but hopefully they will comeback stronger next season! Now we are at the critical stages of the playoffs where some of the best teams will be battling each other. Why waste any more time...let's get down to business.
7:00PM BOBCATS vs GRIZZLIES
BOBCATS + 21 – This match up features the #1 seed Bobcats facing the #8 seed in the Grizzlies. What a fairy-tale season for the Grizzlies...a strong regular season...a dominate MVP type season from Ben and a fanbase that has the entire league rooting for them. Unfortunately, I must pick against them as I think one man cannot take down a juggernaut of a team in the Bobcats. The match up of Ben vs Christian should be a marquee showdown and I expect two MVP level players to duel it out. I expect the entire league to cheer against the Bobcats and make some noise for the Grizzlies and that should provide them some much needed energy. The attention and focus will be on Ben and that is why the supporting cast of the Grizz need to have one hell of a game. It doesn't even have to be scoring the ball...just the 50/50 rebounds...the hustle rebounds...all those plays have to be primarily won by the Grizz in order to upset the orange squad. Vishnu needs to be a sniper...Abdul needs to help contain their wings...Zanoon/Yogi will have to make plays either for themselves or for their teammates...and most importantly Jesse will have to not only control the rebound game but also make the right decisions on offence. There is alot that has to go right and that is why I have the Bobcats winning pretty easily. Their size, skill and experience top to bottom will be too much for the Grizz.
8:00PM CLIPPERS vs THUNDER
THUNDER + 5 – Ladies and gentlemen, this will be the match of the night! In one corner you have the reigning, defending, undisputed ETBL world champions in the Clippers. In the other corner, you have the new, talented, methodical, and dangerous Thunder. It is only fitting that this match up happens in the primetime slot of 8:00pm. As a fan of the game, this match up features some premier talented players. GM Randy will have his work cut-out for him in this one. The Clippers have not faced a team such as the Thunder led by MVP candidate Janath. In the regular season these two teams did not do battle and so I am glad we are able to finally witness it in such a big moment. Both teams added marquee players during the season to improve each of their rosters. The Clippers added James Forrester to replace an injured Kris while the Thunder added a marquee star player in Hashi to replace Puvi. Both Kris and Puvi are still with each team’s ball club in a coaching/mentoring capacity and this will come down to the guys in uniform. I expect the Clippers to get transition points and be excellent in that area but the Thunder team have the ability to imposing their brand of basketball and make adjustments during the game. The Thunder bench may not be as deep as the Clippers bench, but the Thunder will not need to use their entire bench. I expect the big four of Janath, Camren, Tristan and Hashi to take down the Clippers big four of James, Javed, Archu and Anson. The Thunder have the chemistry, the individual specialists, the coaching, and the ability to play at different speeds and to run different defensive schemes. The Clippers have this as well but I feel some of that has been reduced with the addition of James over Kris. They take a hit on chemistry...not as much consistent defence ...and the ability to run all game is also reduced. The Champs will have to dig deep and prove me wrong.
9:00PM BULLS vs HEAT
BULLS +3 – What a matchup we have here. Lots of familiarity between the two clubs and this will be a dogfight to the finish. Let's just compare the big 3's on both teams. Shang, Tes, and Davion for the Bulls is a great offensive trio who can all bring something to the table. If Davion has his trigger on lock in this one...it will be an easy win for the Bulls as the Heat do not have a killer shooter like that who can get buckets in multiple ways. Shoot way back from the volleyball line...check...get to the line and knock down freethrows (83.7%)...check...pull up midrange...check...one legged fades to the right...check...dude's shooting bag is rediculous and he is going to be a handful for the Heat guards. He is not going to have great success going at Nidun and Markshun in the paint and so he might have to live outside a little more and you never know if shots are falling or not on a particular night. If the Heat can make him a volume shooter from deep and not give him much space to work with...GM Nitharshan (aka Witness) will take that. Whenever he does drive, if they can funnel him into Markshun and Nidun...they will also take that. If Shang, Tes, Viji and others beat me from the outside...f*ck it. Shang is capable for sure but he is such a problem when he gets inside and collapses the defence and then finds Davion on the outside. That drive and kick game is the best in the league hands down. For the Heat...it will come down to how much offence they can muster. Can Nidun knock some shots down? Can Markshun provide some complimentary scoring? Can Anthony heat up from 3? Their defence will be excellent and they can always rely on that but as we saw in the Hawks matchup...their offence dissapears at times for long stretches. I believe the Bulls have enough on defence and alot more on offence and that is why I am picking them in what should be a great game.
10:00PM PISTONS vs ROCKETS
PISTONS + 9 – Pistons are going to end the Rockets championship hopes. Both teams had great seasons. Both teams ended the season with the a 7-3 record. The Rockets earned the 4th seed with a 2 point higher point differential and as a result the Pistons got the 5th seed. Multiple sources have confirmed that the Rockets have been taking this match up seriously and been putting in work practicing as they should. But the size and skill of the Pistons I believe will give GM Lemo and company too much trouble. They can only hope the Pistons are rusty but they play in another leagues as a team and so they should be good to go. GM Shaun has made it clear he wants to win the chip and he will look to make a statement against the Rockets. GM Lemo needs to figure out how to maximize the usage of his players or else this Rockets team will be going home. What is the right combination in terms of lineup? Do you play the bigs more cuz you need the size but what if they are struggling? Roshane will have to light up the zone defence of the Pistons as well as the other guards on the team. They can't fall in love with the 3 ball too much but they will have to make enough to take this tough Pistons squad down. I give the Rockets as punchers chance but not much more than that.