Ah, predictions. You're damned if you do and damned if you don't. But let's do. Here's how BDL sees things unfolding in the Pistons-Magic Eastern Conference Semifinals ...
Kelly Dwyer: This is going to be a first quarter series. Not only that, but I have this weird feeling that — though I have this thing going seven — the average victory margin in all seven games will be in the double-digits. I see a lot of semi-blowouts (scores like 97-84), and a tone that is set in the first quarter sustaining throughout the rest of the game.
NBA commentators love to talk about the fourth quarter as if it's some magical place where everything you do counts for twice as much. It makes them feel better, and tougher, to talk about acting "clutch" and getting the job done "when it counts." And they're right, partially, but points are points are points are points, whenever they happen.
And it takes a real pro to come out of the gate dominating, before the sweat builds up, before the stadium fills up, and before a lot of fair-weather fans deign to turn the game on. Because the Magic and Pistons are so pell-mell, and because the team's last two regular season games (the teams split the season series 2-2) were decided this way, it just makes sense to me. Now we sit back and see how wrong I am.
The Magic tend to turn the ball over a lot, and though the Pistons are incredibly tough defensively, causing miscues isn't their strength. The Pistons just hound, contest shots, and get the rebound.
Here's the trick: will Orlando's turnovers (let's say they’re inevitable) add to an already staunch defensive night for the Pistons? Or will Orlando’s offense be nearly enough to mitigate the Piston D, and with the team’s newfound ability to hang onto the ball (because Detroit won’t cause the cough-ups) would that be enough to put the Magic over the top? The choice between either one of those realities might swing the series.
I'm picking the Pistons in seven not because I think Detroit will take some games off, but because the Magic are that good. I'm treating the Pistons like a robot here, mainly because the team's effort-level is so damned impossible to predict. You can never tell if they'll mope through a series, play incredibly inspired ball (like they did over the last 120 minutes of the Sixers series, when Detroit outscored Philly by 59 points), or if the two realities (as it went in the first round) sort of canceled each other out.
You can't expect a normal brand of basketball from these guys. They're either completely on or completely off. Assuming those two conflicting brands collide and cancel-out, "a normal brand" usually results. And that should be enough to down Orlando in seven.
Pistons in seven.
J.E. Skeets: You'll have to believe me when I say this (or at least go back and listen to old Basketball Jones' episodes), but I've been high on this Orlando Magic team's chances since day one. (Note: not Matt Goukas, Nick Anderson day one-day one. More like good riddance Brian Hill, hello Stan Van Gundy day one-day one. I'm pretty sure podcasting didn't exist in 1989.)
So, since I was one of those rare cats to say the Magic were going to win 50-plus games and the Southeast Division crown way back in October, it pains me greatly to have to pull over the wagon, hand the keys to someone else, and walk slowly away into the friscalating dusklight. But that's what I'm doing. It's been a good ride, Orlando.
Yeah, I'm sorry, but Detroit is going to be too much for this Orlando squad. Not only are the Pistons finally "awake" on the offensive end — man, shooting with your eyes open really helps, eh — but I believe they have the muscle inside (Maxiell and Ratliff) to slow down Dwight Howard, mixed with the wits and speed outside to stay in front and at home on the three-point shooters.
And that's what it's going to come down to: the Magic three-ball. They're going to need a lot of them to fall in order to keep pace with the Pistons offense (which is actually running on all, ahem, cylinders right now). Unfortunately, if someone gets hot for ORL (mainly Hedo or Rashard), Tayshaun Prince is going to be there to quickly extinguish the flames. Safety first.
Pistons in six.
But what do you guys think? Let's hear your predictions in the comments.