Monday, May 23, 2005

Eastern Conference Finals

There is no question that the Eastern Conference Finals is an ESPN instant classic and it hasn’t even begun yet. Game one is tonight in South Florida and it can’t get here soon enough! Obviously the series hinges on Shaq’s knee. However, some of the Pistons don’t believe that there is anything wrong with the big guy. Ben Wallace said, “Shaq is going to be ready to play. Don't keep feeding into that. There's nothing wrong with Shaq."

I believe that there is most definitely something wrong with him. Shaq has been motivated this season like no other. He has played like a man possessed in an effort to prove that the Lakers made a huge mistake by letting him go. I don’t believe he takes two games off in the play-offs unless it is necessary. Mark it down, Shaq is hurt.

That said, I see no scenario in which he doesn’t play tonight. The Pistons were able to frustrate and limit Shaq in the Finals last year on their way to a sweep of the Lakers. I don’t see a sweep coming for either team in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Heat are a better team than the Lakers were last season, and the Pistons have that Championship swagger to them. So, what’s going to happen when they throw down tonight?

First, Ben and Rasheed Wallace are going to put the brakes on Shaq. They have already proven they can, and even if Shaq is healthy I expect the lay-off to affect his game. Morning and Wade will have to carry the team through the first two games of this series until Shaq is back in full force. If he can’t make it back 100% then the Heat can’t advance to the NBA Finals.

Second, I look for Tayshaun Prince to take over in the frontcourt. He has a big size advantage over Eddie Jones and this could possibly be the mismatch that the Pistons exploit to win the series.

Third, Miami’s bench will continue to be productive. At least they will have to for the Heat to advance. I do believe this is an advantage that the Heat has over the Pistons and like the Prince/Jones mismatch, Miami could exploit this one.

Fourth, Larry Brown will out coach Stan Van Gundy. I think no one will disagree which bench has the better coach. Brown is a proven leader and winner. He has a definite edge over his counterpart.

Anyway you size it up this is going to be a great series that should go the full seven games. It all boils down to who has the most intangibles in their favor in that seventh game. I’ll take the Pistons to advance to the NBA Finals.

Play-Off Update:

To date My Opinion on Sports is 11-1 on play off picks.

In the first round I gave you Miami, Phoenix, Detroit, San Antonio, Indiana, Seattle, Washington, and Dallas as winners.

In the second round I gave you Detroit, Phoenix, and Miami as winners, with the Spurs as the team we missed.