Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Hey, it's the playoffs! We'll miss the bad teams, but let's talk about the good ones. Today, the Eastern Conference, tomorrow the West. Let's NBA!

What Up?

This could get ugly.

It will be ugly, because, very quietly, the Miami Heat finished the season ranked sixth in defensive efficiency. That ranking is a credit to overachieving players and the sterling zone put in by coach Erik Spoelstra, and while you can't always count on players to give every ounce every night (sometimes it isn't there), sound defense is something the Heat can rely on. Everyone's in shape, everybody's talking, everyone's moving and covering.

And even a complicated offensive system like Boston's runs out of options, especially when it had to overachieve so much just to rank 15th in the NBA. That's a "15th" earned by squeezing the life out of the tired legs of Paul Pierce(notes) and Kevin Garnett(notes). And while Ray Allen's(notes) stroke is still as pretty as ever, overall he's just another guy at this point in his career. The thing the C's have going for them is a fifth-ranked defense, down from first or second for most of the season, due to bounce back up as the playoffs and a potential seven games in 14 days hit. Right?

So what you have is a Boston team that is slightly better defensively and slightly better offensively, a squad with more potential than Miami, a team that has been extracting every ounce since the season's first week. I see low-scoring games, physical contests that might not result in many free throws and a whole lot of national TV viewers wishing that this were the series on NBA TV.

It'll be fun, though. Playoffs are good. — Kelly Dwyer

An Important Matchup
Rajon Rondo(notes) vs. Dwyane Wade(notes)

Dwyane Wade is a destroyer. He lives on scoring and breathes made shots. I don't really get how his digestive or respiratory systems work, but he's an elite offensive player and I like convoluted metaphors. If the Heat are going to beat the Celtics, it starts with D-Wade. And if the Celtics want to prove to people they aren't too old to win, it's their youngest player who matters the most.

Rondo has turned in an All-Defensive Team kind of season thus far, and while he has trouble with quick guards, the Celtics might be needed to help slow down Miami's superstar. If he can't, or if he's wasted on Mario Chalmers(notes) and Carlos Arroyo(notes), the Celtics might be looking at their earliest exit in three seasons. — Trey Kerby

An Unimportant Matchup
Shelden Williams'(notes) forehead vs. Jermaine O'Neal's(notes) forehead

Have either of these guys ever been able to wear a hat successfully? Or do they just eschew them outright, knowing it's a waste of time even trying to find one that fits.

But I think in this showdown, you have to give the advantage to Shelden Williams' facial protuberance. While O'Neal's is clearly more experienced, Shelden has never tried to disguise his with cornrows or a headband. He's embraced his melon, and it won him a pretty excellent wife. — Trey Kerby

Mark Eaton says...
Made-up thoughts on "going for it" in the NBA playoffs and in life, from the 7-foot-4 former Utah Jazz center and current celebrity motivational speaker.

Look, any motivational speaker who knows his onions makes sure to work one crucial principle into every one of his lectures at every one of the Holiday Inn Expresses: If you want to achieve, you have to believe. And whatever 3,664 words you want to say about Rasheed Wallace(notes), the bottom line is that he believes in things. He believes in shooting 30 more 3-pointers than Paul Pierce this season and in casting aside outdated concepts of basket specificity. He believes in letting Kwame Brown know he stinks and in looking scary like a ghostmonster. He believes so hard, which is why he will achieve so hard against Jermaine O'Neal, Joel Anthony(notes) and Udonis Haslem(notes) in this series.

Now, you might be saying to yourself, "That powerful, successful Mark Eaton — he's just biased toward big men whose beards, hair and general appearance often appear somewhat sub-ruly. That bias is blocking him from seeing Sheed's glaring flaws like he once blocked so many basketball shots. Well, friends, it's time to convert that cynicism into winnicism. Believe in Sheed like Sheed believes in Tim Donaghy. Then grab your heavyweight title and enjoy the ride. — Dan Devine

The Picks

BDL playoff previews
Eastern Conference: Cavs vs. Bulls | Magic vs. Bobcats | Hawks vs. Bucks
Western Conference: Lakers vs. Thunder | Mavericks vs. Spurs | Suns vs. Trailblazers | Nuggets vs. Jazz

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