nba playoff predictions

It is once again that time of year when I make playoff predictions. Last year, I went 7-1 in the first round, but only picked one upset (Spurs over Mavs). I only got one series absolutely right from a scoreline perspective (the Suns 4-2 against Portland). This year is going to be significantly harder, especially in the West where the top teams are split within just a few games and there have been a lot of regular season upsets. Anyhow, let’s get going!

Eastern Conference

Chicago Bulls (1, 62-20) vs. Indian Pacers (8, 37-45)

This one’s the easiest pick, in my opinion. I’m still not quite comprehending the fact that the Bulls actually ended up with the best record in the NBA. About a month ago, one would think it would definitely be the Spurs grabbing homecourt advantage for the duration of the playoffs. Derrick Rose has been in beast mode for pretty much all of the season, and his complementary players are really stepping up. Boozer has been big for them and even Korver has stepped in nicely into a “big-Hinrich” role. This is a hard team not to like, even though it is full of ex-Jazz players. The Pacers scraped through the playoffs, 8 games below .500. They’ve got some good young talent but I just don’t see them having the firepower to stop a rampaging Bulls team. 4-0 to the Bulls.

Miami Heat (2, 58-24) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (7, 41-41)

The Heat made a good late-season push to oust the Celtics from that second spot in the East. Their livelihood in the second round may be more questionable, but they’ve set themselves up for success going into the first round of the playoffs. Barring any injuries, I don’t think this team will be stopped in this round. Even though Philly has been playing some really good basketball, in the end I think they will lose simply because they will rely a little too much on team basketball, which doesn’t work as well in the postseason. Igoudala has been good and Holiday is having a career year, but the Heat will probably take care of business. 4-1 to the Heat, with the Sixers winning one of their home games.

Boston Celtics (3, 56-26) vs. New York Knicks (6, 42-40)

This is probably the series to watch in the first round of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics will be mighty annoyed that they couldn’t take care of business the last couple of weeks and fell down to the third seed to face a challenging Knicks team that has done well to finish above .500. Amar’e has missed a couple of games in the stretch, but Carmelo has been filling in effortlessly. I still think the Knicks traded away too many assets in the Melo deal and will have a tough time closing this series down. That said, the Celtics offense has been sputtering ridiculously in the last few weeks, with Allen having lost his touch and Pierce being in a shooting slump. They’ve also lost some of their paint presence, so I expect Melo and Amar’e will have a field day in the paint and at the line. Still think the Celtics will pull it out, but they’ll have to work overtime to do it. I’m going to call it 4-2 to the Celtics but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Knicks won the series by the same margin.

Orlando Magic (4, 52-30) vs. Atlanta Hawks (5, 44-38)

The Hawks are the most underwhelming team in the playoffs, which is strange considering they’re a 5-seed. They’ve been at the wrong end of some of the worst losses this season and are in fact entering the postseason on the back of 6 straight losses. However, right before that, they also beat the Magic and Celtics in the span of 3 days. They have the players to get it done, but come on, this team lost to the Wizards by 32 points just about a week ago. They may just be one of those teams that plays to their opponent’s level. I think the Magic roll this one. 4-1 to the Magic.

Western Conference

San Antonio Spurs (1, 61-21) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (8, 46-36)

Ah, here is the fun stuff. Divisional rivals taking on each other in the first round of the playoffs. The Spurs, who have traditionally been a very defense-oriented league made a major change this season by going to the completely opposite side of the spectrum–becoming an offensive-minded team. They play with great pace and still have the ability to shut down teams in the 4th quarter. They are obviously still a contender, although the window is closing rapidly for Ginobili, Parker and Duncan. The season series between these teams was split 2-2, with the home team winning all of the games. The Grizzlies have been coping well without Rudy Gay, but I think they’ll find it tough to overcome the Spurs. I’m going slightly left-field with this scoreline, but that’s because I’ll have to see if the Spurs can slow down the pace during the playoffs, essentially re-tooling their game. 4-2 to the Spurs.

Los Angeles Lakers (2, 57-25) vs. New Orleans Hornets (7, 46-36)

Everyone has been talking about the Lakers the last few weeks as they went on a rabid run post all-star break before simmering down considerably. The Lakers would be disappointed on missing out on the top seed, as they failed to take advantage of a Spurs slump. However, I don’t think the Lakers will have too much of an issue dispatching the Hornets. Maybe with D-West, they’d have a chance, but I think they’ll fail to make an impact here. Lakers swept the season series, too. 4-1 to the Lakers.

Dallas Mavericks (3, 57-25) vs. Portland Trailblazers (6, 48-34)

This is a match-up to watch out for. I still don’t understand how the Trailblazers manage to stay competitive after going through injury after injury every season. Kinda wish the Rockets could replicate that effort. The Mavs have been blowing hot and cold the last few weeks and split the season series between these two teams 2-2, with the home team winning every game. I have a feeling Rip City could pull off an upset here, depending on if Dirk’s teammates decide to show up. Going to go with my first upset. 4-3 to the Blazers.

Oklahoma City Thunder (4, 55-27) vs. Denver Nuggets (5, 50-32)

The Denver Nuggets have been playing some solid basketball since they got rid of their whiny star. The main reason for this is that they got a massive package from the Knicks and a bunch of players who play well with each other. OKC, meanwhile, was at one point threatening to slip down into the bottom seeds, but they did a good job to revive their season and almost go up as high as the 2nd seed. The Thunder won the season series between these two teams 3-1 and I think they’ll win here, but it will be tight. 4-3 to the Thunder.

That’s it. Can’t wait for some postseason basketball, even though I wish I had a chance to cheer for the Rockets!

rockets playoff watch: march 24th

The 4 games the Rockets were interested in yesterday went 2-2 so it can be considered an okay night. Fortunately, one of the results going in our favor was a home victory over the Golden State Warriors. Unfortunately, the Grizzlies’ game was one result that went against us, as Memphis managed to pull off an improbably upset in Boston. Let’s take a look at the games one by one.

Memphis played a tight game against Boston that, I believe, didn’t go more than 3 points in any team’s favor in the 4th quarter. The Celtics were playing from behind for most of the way. Going into the last minute, down by three points after a missed shot from the Grizzlies, Rondo ran the break and, instead of looking for a good shot, tried to finish a tough teardrop to cut the lead to 1. He failed and the Grizzlies had to foul. Marc Gasol managed to miss both free throws (just a day after his brother, Pau, made to clutch free throws to send the game into 3OT) but the Celtics were unable to convert on the other end with about 4 seconds left on the clock. Boston, as a result, fell a game behind Chicago in the Eastern Conference standings. These losses could be crucial for Boston since they will be the difference between playing Orlando and Miami in the second-round.

Next up, we had Utah in Oklahoma City. Thankfully, the Jazz were working with a depleted roster with neither Favors or Harris active and fell to the Thunder by 12 points. That loss pushes the Jazz to a .500 record and they can probably write off their playoff hopes now unless the rest of the teams competing for a spot in the Western Conference severely implode. The Jazz shouldn’t mind missing out on the playoffs too much as they have gone through wholesale changes during this season.

The Rockets took on the Warriors at the Toyota Center next and it was the exciting, high-scoring affair that was expected. Well, exciting if you are a Rockets fan, which I am. The first quarter was pretty close, with the Warriors pulling up to 57-57 at one stage, before a 9-0 run gave the Rockets a bit of a cushion going into the halftime break. The Rockets came back in the second half and totally took care of business, with Chuck Hayes recording his first career triple-double. Most of the Warriors starters sat out most of the fourth quarter as Houston pulled out an easy win 131-112, including their highest scoring output this season. Interestingly, new signees Mike Harris and Demarr Carroll got minutes yesterday, but Terrence Williams continued his accommodation at the RADHisson (that’s the Rick Adelman Dog House).

The last game of the night was Phoenix hosting the lowly Toronto Raptors. The Suns, of course, were playing on the second night of a back-to-back after their close 3OT loss in LA on Tuesday night. Their tiredness showed as they were trailing most of the way, but Aaron Brooks came off the bench fresh (he was suspended for the previous game) and drained 25 points en route to a comeback win. The win keeps the Suns hovering around that last spot.

Updated Standings

1. San Antonio Spurs
2. Los Angeles Lakers
3. Dallas Mavericks
4. Oklahoma City Thunder
5. Denver Nuggets
— already/probably qualified —
6. Portland Trailblazers
7. New Orleans Hornets (+1)
8. Memphis Grizzlies (+0.5)
9. Houston Rockets (+2)
10. Phoenix Suns (+1)
11. Utah Jazz (+1)

Today’s Games

New Orleans Hornets (40-31) @ Utah Jazz (36-36)

The Hornets should have all but locked up a playoff spot this season, but the fact of the matter is that they are still just half a game ahead of the Grizzlies and 2.5 games ahead of the Rockets with about 10-11 games remaining for all the teams competing for a spot. A win for Utah would be nice here, but the last time we wanted them to do that they went and got blown out by the Grizzlies. Nevertheless, the Jazz are back at the Energy Solutions Arena and their motivation is that a loss here will almost certainly eliminate them from the playoffs (with the 8th seed mark speculated to be 45-37). Let’s hope Harris and Favors are back today and put a pounding on the Hornets.

Other Notes

The Nuggets continued to show how awesome they have become in the post-Carmelo era by taking care of the league’s best team, minus one Tim Duncan. The Spurs were off to a hot start again, opening a double-digit lead against the Nuggets in Denver, before the home team fought back through Al Harrington, of all people. It seemed like the Spurs were reduced to mainly a jump-shooting team and were beaten at their own game (three-pointers) by a sharpshooting Nuggets offense. Even with Arron Afflalo, their self-elected closer of late, injured the Nuggets were able to pull out a 3-point victory. I’ll be keeping an eye on the Spurs the rest of the season. If they continue to struggle without Duncan, perhaps a first-round date with them wouldn’t be entirely catastrophic for whoever the the 8th seed is.

rockets playoff watch: march 23rd

There were two games that had playoff implications for the Rockets yesterday night and they went 50/50 in the Rockets favor.

First, the Blazers hosted the sinking Washington Wizards and took care of business. This was not surprising or unexpected. What is more concerning for the Rockets and the other teams grappling for playoff spot in the West is the performance of Gerald Wallace. Wallace led the Blazers to the victory scoring 28 points off 14 shot attempts and also recording 8 rebounds and 4 steals. Even while keeping in mind that this performance came against the lowly Wizards, it’s certainly demonstrating that Wallace has been fully integrated into the Portland offensive and defensive schemes. We are done with our season series against the Trailblazers and given that they’ve probably more or less confirmed their playoff spot, this event should only really be a danger sign for whomever between the Lakers and Mavericks gets that 3rd seed.

In the second game, Phoenix visited the Los Angeles Lakers and for most of the game they looked like they were up against it. However, a late rally from the Suns sent the game to overtime. In OT, Channing Frye went to the line shooting three with 1.1 seconds left and drained all of them to send the game to double-overtime. In 20T, it was this time Pau Gasol knocking down two important free throws with a little more than 2 seconds left on the clock to tie the game up. Grant Hill was unable to handle an inbound pass from Dudley to shoot for the win and the game went into an unprecedented triple-overtime. This time, Ron Artest took over (never thought I’d be typing those words in that order) with some solid defense and a ferocious left-handed dunk that probably was the last nail in the coffin for the Suns. Some very questionable play-making in the ensuing Suns possessions ensure that they fell short by 2 on the night.

Updated Standings

1. San Antonio Spurs
2. Los Angeles Lakers
3. Dallas Mavericks
4. Oklahoma City Thunder
5. Denver Nuggets
— already/probably qualified —
6. Portland Trailblazers
7. New Orleans Hornets (+1)
8. Memphis Grizzlies (+1)
9. Houston Rockets (+2)
10. Phoenix Suns (+1)
11. Utah Jazz (+0)

Today’s Games

There are many games of interest today as every one except the Hornets and Blazers are in action.

Memphis Grizzlies (39-32) @ Boston Celtics (50-19)

This is a very important game for the Rockets, who themselves beat the Celtics just about a week ago. The Grizzlies open a tough stretch of games, playing on the road at Boston and then Chicago on Friday before coming back home to face the Spurs on Sunday. If they go 0-3 in that stretch, they will end up with 35 losses, which is one more than the Rockets have now. That would be the ideal scenario for Houston. This is the last difficult stretch of games remaining for the Grizzlies and, in fact, their only remaining opponents above .600. If they swing even one of these three games, I would wager that the Grizzlies will lock up the 8th seed.

Utah Jazz (36-35) @ Oklahoma City Thunder (45-24)

Oklahoma City is in a strange position where they don’t really have too much room for improvement with regards to playoff positioning. A rough last couple of weeks, however, could mean that they surrender home-court advantage in Round 1 to the Nuggets. Hopefully that is motivation enough for them to take care of business against the Jazz. Devin Harris is listed as a game-time decision for the Jazz and Derrick Favors is currently questionable. Given that a loss here would push the Jazz to 36 losses, I would say it is extremely likely that they try to get both to play to give them the best shot at victory. A victory here for the Thunder would be perfect and probably push the Jazz one game away from playoff elimination.

Golden State Warriors (30-41) @ Houston Rockets (37-34)

This is the final game in the homestand for the Rockets before they head on an Eastern Conference road trip including a match-up against the Heat. A victory here for Houston coupled with a loss for Memphis would put the Rockets just 1 game out of the 8th seed. The Warriors are a team that depends heavily on their offense and I’m hoping that Houston’s improved defense of late will be able to counter them. The Rockets will be missing Budinger, however, which means that Courtney Lee will be starting, so the team chemistry may be affected slightly. This is a must-win game for Houston–a loss in a game like this most certainly eliminates us from playoff contention.

Toronto Raptors (20-50) @ Phoenix Suns (35-34)

After a chaotic game last night against the Lakers, the Phoenix suns head home for the second-night of a back-to-back. The Suns are likely going to be very tired–not only is their core made up of veterans (Nash, Hill, Carter) but they played a 3OT game last night. The Raptors have had a torrid season after Chris Bosh took his talents to Miami and our statistically eliminated from the playoffs, I believe. They have nothing to lose at the moment. A win here for Toronto against a tired and drained Suns team would push the Suns over the Rockets in terms of losses, as long as we win our game.

rockets playoff watch: march 22nd

Not too many updates since yesterday. There was one game of importance for the Rockets: Utah vs. Memphis. We needed Utah to win this one so that we’d pull closer to the Grizzlies in terms of losses but unfortunately the Jazz were still smarting from their loss against Houston on Sunday. Or perhaps it was just that they lost Devin Harris in the first quarter, apparently. I don’t know how serious his injury is but if he is out long term then we can probably comfortably eliminate Utah from the playoff race.

Updated Standings

1. San Antonio Spurs
2. Los Angeles Lakers
3. Dallas Mavericks
4. Oklahoma City Thunder
5. Denver Nuggets
— already/probably qualified —
6. Portland Trailblazers
7. New Orleans Hornets (+0.5)
8. Memphis Grizzlies (+1)
9. Houston Rockets (+2)
10. Phoenix Suns (+0.5)
11. Utah Jazz (+0.5)

Today’s Games

There are two games of interest today as both the Phoenix Suns and Portland Trailblazers are in action.

Washington Wizards (17-51) @ Portland Trailblazers (40-30)

This should be a pretty simple walkthrough for the Blazers, who have managed to integrate Gerald Wallace into their line-up pretty quickly. The Wizards are having a season to forget. With Portland probably out of reach for the Rockets, a victory here for them wouldn’t hurt our playoff chances all that much. So while I’ll be cheering for John Wall and the Washington Wizards, I don’t really care what the outcome of this game is all that much.

Phoenix Suns (35-33) @ Los Angeles Lakers (50-20)

This is an important game for the Rockets because if Phoenix wins these types of games, they will jump ahead of Houston in that push for the 8th playoff spot. This is the first of 6 remaining games on the Suns’ schedule against teams above .700. LA has their playoff participation locked up, but the Mavs are close on their back for what would be homecourt in the second round of the playoffs, so I don’t expect the Lakers to take it easy. They also need to get Kobe into some rhythm heading into the April.

If the Suns lose here, like they’re supposed to, they’ll slip another half a game down from the Rockets and, more importantly, will have the same number of losses as Houston. This would mean that Houston would have to win more games down the stretch than Phoenix, which should be easier considering we have an easier remaining schedule. I’m sure Steve Nash is not going to go down easily, so this will probably be a good game to watch. Go LA!

Other Notes

Just saw the news on Tim Duncan’s injury this morning. Apparently the Spurs were still able to take care of business against the Warriors. Unfortunately, it seems like a pretty minor injury in the context of things, and Duncan is expected to be out only a couple of weeks. I don’t expect the Spurs record to deflect much as a result of it but it could present itself as a ray of hope for whoever ends up getting 8th seed in the West, although in reality Duncan’s usage has been so low this season that it probably won’t mean much in the opening rounds.

playoffs, round 2

Round 2 of the NBA playoffs have now begun with a couple of teams I was supporting having crashed out. To start off with, let’s see how I did with my predictions:

Eastern Conference
Cleveland (1) vs. Chicago (8): Cavs 4-1 (Prediction: Cavs 4-0)
Orlando (2) vs. Charlotte (7): Magic 4-0 (Prediction: Magic 4-1)
Atlanta (3) vs. Milwaukee (6): Series tied 3-3 (Prediction: Hawks 4-2)
Boston (4) vs. Miami (5): Celtics 4-1 (Prediction: Celtics 4-2)

So I’ve got 3 of the 4 series winners right (and could get the Hawks-Bucks match-up as well). Unfortunately, I didn’t get any of the scorelines right! Apart from the Hawks-Bucks tussle, everything really went as planned. Which is not really a surprise since the East was pretty segmented in terms of strong teams and weak teams.

Western Conference:
L.A. (1) vs. Oklahama City (8): Lakers 4-2 (Prediction: Lakers 4-1)
Dallas (2) vs. San Antonio (7): Spurs 4-2 (Prediction: Spurs 4-3)
Phoenix (3) vs. Portland (6): Suns 4-2 (Prediction: Suns 4-2)
Denver (4) vs. Utah (5): Jazz 4-2 (Prediction: Nuggets 4-1)

My predictions here were kind of all over the place. While I nailed down 3 of the series winners and even one scoreline, I predicted pretty badly on the Nuggets-Jazz match up. To my credit, the 4-5 seed match-up is always a bit harder to predict! But seriously, the Jazz surprised me with their performance. Boozer looked unstoppable and Nuggets were missing George Karl a lot more than I expected. Not particularly happy, either, since I hate the Jazz (and the Spurs).

Let’s take a look at Round 2, now, the conference semi-finals. These are a lot harder to predict, but I’ll take a swing, anyway.

Eastern Conference

Cleveland Cavaliers (1) vs. Boston Celtics (4) — Cleveland leads 1-0

Game 1 was pretty hotly contested with the Celtics leading most of the way before the Cavs took over down the stretch. LeBron had another good performance and the Cavs have taken the lead and maintained home-court advantage. This series is difficult to call because you never know how well the Celtics’ veterans are going to play. Ray Allen had an okay night and has had only an okay playoffs with bursts. LeBron, the regular-season MVP, has being gunning at full power. I think the Cavs will win this one and it won’t go the stretch, but I’m not sure how many games it will take.

PREDICTION: Cavaliers 4-2

Orlando Magic (2) vs. Atlanta Hawks (3)/Milwaukee Bucks (4) — TBD

Hard to call a series that hasn’t even had the opponents determined yet! The Bucks are challenging the Hawks well, and it seems that Atlanta has been suffering from at least some level of complacency. Brandon Jennings is aiming for a fairy-tale finish in his rookie playoff series. I think Orlando will win the series to set up an EC final clash with the Cavaliers, but the scoreline depends on who they are facing.

PREDICTION: Magic 4-2 (vs. Hawks); Magic 4-1 (vs. Bucks)

Now, the Western Conference…

Western Conference

L.A. Lakers (1) vs. Utah Jazz (5)

The Lakers are coming off a harder-than-expected battle against the inspiring Oklahoma City Thunder whereas the Jazz have polished up the Nuggets in the first round pretty easily. The Lakers bench has finally began to show signs of life, punching in 30 points in Game 6 against the Thunder. However, they are still dependent on their starters and with Bynum injured for potentially a few games, they could be in a bit of a hole. The Jazz have learned to play well without a few of their regulars, but I think the Lakers play far too good team basketball to be outdone in similar fashion to the Nuggets. Boozer will find it harder to score against the likes of Gasol and Bynum (provided he’s back). Deron Williams is likely to draw Artest as his defender and we all saw how poorly KD shot during the first-round match-up. I’m going with the Lakers in 6.

PREDICTION: Lakers 4-2

Phoenix Suns (3) vs. San Antonio Spurs (7)

The Suns will be happy to have landed home-court advantage here, since at the beginning of the playoffs they would have undoubtedly been preparing for a second-round match-up with the hot Dallas Mavericks. The Suns ended up cleaning the heavily-injured Trailblazers in 6, probably a game or two longer than they would have liked. Phoenix cannot afford to lose home-court advantage to the Spurs in this series, especially not as early as the Mavericks lost it. The Spurs are playing some really hot basketball right now with George Hill on absolute fire. The big three of Ginobili, Parker and Duncan haven’t really been firing on all cylinders, either, so it would be scary to think of the possibilities if all four of those guys are playing well. I’m supporting the Suns, as usual, but I think the Spurs will take this. I will be very disappointed if they do so, since they would effectively have taken out 3 of the teams I do support in the West (Houston couldn’t make a playoff spot, Dallas in the first round and now, Phoenix).

PREDICTION: Spurs 4-3

Bring on the second round!

it’s playoff time

Finally the only playoffs I actually care about have started–the NBA Playoffs. This weekend featured 8 games in two sets of quadruple-header action. Interestingly, there were no upsets whatsoever, with all the higher seeds getting the victory except for Phoenix. It will be interesting to see if this will continue being the case as we progress through the playoffs. I’m going to take a look at each of the series and give a slight prediction as to what I expect to happen, as well as who I’d rather see winning:

Eastern Conference

Cleveland (1) vs. Chicago (8) — Cleveland leads 1-0

This one’s a no-brainer for me. The Cavs have far too much offense for the Bulls to be anything more than a blip on their radar. This showed in Game 1, where Derrick Rose was the only guy who could really put up points for the Bulls, and even he scored 28 points off 28 shot attempts. The Bulls will need Hinrich to score to cause any upsets in this series. Personally, I want to see the Cavaliers win because I think a Kobe vs. LeBron final would be interesting.

PREDICTION: Cavaliers 4-0

Orlando (2) vs. Charlotte (7) — Orlando leads 1-0

Again, this seems to be a competition between high-powered versus low-octane offense. In Game 1, Orlando got off to a huge lead before Charlotte clawed back. The Magic hung on for the win, however. I’m pretty neutral about this match-up–I don’t care for either team. Charlotte is a mix between young, inexperienced players (like Gerald Wallace) and veterans (like Stephen Jackson). Jackson sat out a portion of the game due to injury, though, so it’s probably going to be a Magic roll. I’ll go ahead and give the Bobcats a game, but that is a very optimistic prediction.

PREDICTION: Orlando 4-1

Atlanta (3) vs. Milwaukee (6) — Atlanta leads 1-0

This is a match-up that I think could get really close, especially if Brandon Jennings gets some help from his team. Both these teams are young and inexperienced, relatively speaking. If Andrew Bogut wasn’t injured, I wouldn’t be surprised if this went down to 7 games. Atlanta has secured their highest playoff seed in the last few seasons (right?) so they can consider themselves a tad unlucky for drawing a relatively hot Bucks team. I think the Hawks will hang on, though. I’m supporting them.

PREDICTION: Atlanta 4-2

Boston (4) vs. Miami (5) — Boston leads 1-0

The 4-5 match-up is always the one most likely to throw up an upset, but it seems Miami’s offense has been a bit stagnant of late. This is probably going to be a pretty low-scoring series, with an emphasis on defense. Ray Allen continued to struggle in Game 1 as the Celtics hung on to a scrappy victory. D-Wade was sublime and questionable in equal measures in the first game. For example, I couldn’t understand why he picked up his dribble outside the three point line over and over again in the 4th quarter whereas he had been getting to the hoop at will in the previous 3 periods. With Garnett’s suspension, Miami has a chance to steal one on the road. I want to see this series go down to 7 and for Miami to win, but I think Boston will hold on–as they’ve managed to in the last couple of seasons.

PREDICTION: Boston 4-2

Now for the conference that matters… the Western Conference. 🙂

Western Conference

L.A. Lakers (1) vs. Oklahoma City (8) — Lakers lead 1-0

OkC would be disappointed with falling to the 8th seed in the West after having such a strong season and drawing a match-up with the Lakers. Luckily for them, the Lakers have been in questionable form for the last month or so. In their first playoff appearance, the Thunder, led by Kevin Durant, seemed overawed by the occasion. KD never really got going and the Thunder followed suit. They pulled close to the Lakers a couple of time, but even with Bryant shooting horribly, weren’t able to pull out the rare win in Lakerland. The Lakers will benefit mightily from having Bynum back and Odom will bolster up a very shallow and weak bench. If a Laker starter gets injured over the course of this series, I think the Thunder may get close, but as it stands, I think L.A.’s post presence is going to be enough to pull off the win. I’ll give the Thunder 1 win at home. I’m supporting the Lakers in this one.

PREDICTION: Los Angeles 4-1

Dallas (2) vs. San Antonio (7) — Mavericks lead 1-0

The Spurs are playing with their worst playoff seed since the 90’s or something like that. With many of their key players injured this season, I suppose they’ll take a low playoff spot rather than none. In Game 1, the game stayed tight for a long time but the Mavericks managed to hold on. Dirk Nowitzki was nearly perfect, yesterday, missing just 3 shots from the field and making all his free throws. Caron Butler provided a spark that was much-needed given Jason Terry’s lackluster performance off the bench (though Terry did nail some clutch jumpers at the end). The Mavericks have had a propensity to choke in the playoffs, though. Parker is still working his way into the rotation (he’s lost his starting job to Ginobili) and Duncan is still consistent but not phenomenal. I’m going to predict an upset here and say San Antonio will win in 7. I hope to hell that I’m wrong because there isn’t a team I despise more than the Spurs.

PREDICTION: San Antonio 4-3

Phoenix (3) vs. Portland (6) — Blazers lead 1-0

Phoenix were the only home team to lose on opening weekend and hence squandered their homecourt advantage to the perennially-injured Trail Blazers. With Brandon Roy recovering from injury for at least 2 weeks, the Suns were probably expecting a first round walkover. The Blazers have learned to play without their best players throughout the season, though, going through a bizarre sequence of injuries that affected everyone from Greg Oden to Pryzbilla to Aldridge to Roy over the regular season. They managed to get healthy to secure up a playoff spot, but lost Roy almost immediately. Andre Miller has played some inspired basketball of late, and the Blazers have snapped up the homecourt advantage to set up an intriguing contest. I’m supporting Phoenix in this match-up and I think Nash and Amare will eventually be able to get the away game back. In fact, unless Roy returns earlier than scheduled, I think the Suns will win with a game to spare.

PREDICTION: Phoenix 4-2

Denver (4) vs. Utah (5) — Nuggets lead 1-0

Denver would be disappointed at falling down to the fourth seed and possibly meeting the Lakers as early as the 2nd round. However, they’ve got to concentrate on the series at hand. Unfortunately for the Jazz, it looks like they’ve been hit by the injury bug at the worst possible time. Their offense has been severely dented by the loss of Kirilenko leading into the playoffs and now Okur, whose out of the rest of the postseason following Game 1. Boozer is not at 100% either, so that puts the burden of offense squarely on the shoulders of Deron Williams, with some help from the likes of Korver and Brewer. The Nuggets looked pretty strong on Saturday night, with Carmelo looking in great rhythm. I actually think that the Nuggs will take this series pretty easily. If the Jazz had been a bit healthier, my money was on them causing the upset, but this is just too many chips to overcome.

PREDICTION: Nuggets 4-1

enjoying the hot heat

It has been a while since I updated this blog, but that does not mean I have not been eating mangoes in plentiful proportions (not that there is any direct connection between those two events). The last few days have been quite “busy” where business contains large expanses of time where I’m lazing around doing nothing in front of the television.

First and foremost, I want to give a shout out to the gym here at my parent’s new apartment. It is quite possibly better than the gym at Rice, though probably containing a fewer number of equipment. This is probably because the gym just opened and hence all the equipment is in mint condition! Anyhow, what this means is that I’m working out pretty much 4-5 days a week (the gym is closed on Mondays). What this also means is that I’m waking up at an unreasonable hour for a vacation (between 8.30am and 9.30am). Oops. Need to work on that and maybe workout in the evening.

I also played basketball at school last Tuesday, and am planning to go tomorrow, as well. ASB has changed a hell of a lot, but my performance in the MPH was torrid as usual. I don’t think I scoerd a single point on offense, although I did have the most number of layup opportunities (and I missed all of them). My jump shooting was poor. I’m hoping it’ll have improved by tomorrow! Not only was I playing basketball after a couple of weeks, but the conditions were alien as well (shut up, Shulmith!). Hopefully I’ll cab it tomorrow so I can stay later.

Another thing I have been doing the last few days is trying to get a decent grounding on the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF). One of those summer-projects of mine is a cricket simulator for an online cricket community I’m a part of, and I’m trying to work the UI through WPF instead of WinForms, since I have limited knowledge of both. It has been a steep learning curve, especially compared to the fun world of web UI programming. I’ve managed to find a few solid resources, though, so hopefully I should have a first version of the UI up later this week.

Our family went through the 2 dozen mangoes we purchased in little under a week, and we then purchased something like 2-3 dozen more. So there are a plethora of mangoes available for efficient consumption from the fridge. I’ve taken a few photos, but the camera and all the supportive cabling is too far away so that’ll have to wait for another day. Meanwhile, you can just trust me for telling you that the mangoes are, indeed, deliciously tasty.

Oh, I also watched a lot of the Indian Premier League (IPL) including the semifinals and finals. I didn’t really support any team after the Mumbai Indians crashed out, but I didn’t mind the Deccan Chargers, the eventual winners of the tournament. The thing that concerned me, though, is the fact that throughout the finals weekend, it was evident that the teams/players haven’t adjusted to playing after losing early wickets, yet. In all three games, the team batting first lost a few early wickets and then went into their shell and set substandard targets. In the semis, Deccan and Bangalore made short work of the targets set by their superior opponents, but in the final, Deccan managed to defend a small target thanks to a bit of luck. In the second semifinal, MS Dhoni was the key culprit after slowing down the scoring in the middle overs and being unable to accelerate towards the end. The man will have to do some thinking before going into the Twenty20 World Cup in a couple of weeks.

Also, a note on the NBA Playoffs–what the hell is going on? The commisioner must be in a frenzy as his Kobe-LeBron championship appears to be in jeopardy at the moment as the Magic have stepped it up. Although the Cavs still have homecourt advantage, the Magic look pretty good. Of course, the NBA Eastern Conference finals are not important enough to be screened on ESPN/Star here. The Western Conference games are shown… live. Go figure? Sure the Eastern Conference is usually boring thanks to teams like Detroit (=P) but still… Kobe and the Lakers have wrested back homecourt advantage after the Nuggets stole one in L.A. Game 4 is tomorrow and I’m contemplating waking up at 7AM to watch it.

I think that’s all for now. I’m just going to go back to my WPF self-training. Cheerios.

back in mangoland

A lot has happened since my last post. In particular, I’ve graduated. Wheeeee. But let me go through all the events in approximate order.

Graduation

It has been exactly one week since I graduated (except if you are anal enough to look at time differences, in which case I’m probably about 11.5 hours short). Graduation was fun. Although I discovered new sweat glands in my body thanks to the beautiful Houston heat and humidity, it was worth it. The speaker was quite interesting although the choice of topic was kind of questionable given the event that the was going on. I’m all for gender equality, but I’m not sure how it was the most relevant topic to be giving at a commencement, where there are people of both sexes graduating. Additionally, given the current world climate economically, politically and environmentally, I feel like a much more appropriate speaker could have been chosen. Anyways, I’m not one to sulk abotu who spoke at my graduation so that’s that.

After graduation I participated minorly in the photo-taking dealio and then had to rush back to my room to pack. I pretty much had to pack all the clothes I was going to be bringing back to Bombay as well as all the little remaining things that hadn’t been packed (such as toiletries, etc.). Once packing was done, my uncle drove me to my storage room and I put everything in there. Finally I dropped off my guitar at Alice’s apartment and said bye for the first time (haha).

Post-Graduation Festivities

Post-graduation dinner was had with Tweety’s family at a Thai restaurant near the hotel my family was staying at. The food and wine was pretty good and it was a fun dinner as we recounted not only our days at Rice, but our parents’ days at college together. After dinner we went our separate ways and I fell asleep around 11:00pm out of pure exhaustion of the days activities! Also we were going to wake up the next day to leave for Canyon Lake at 8am, so we needed to go to sleep early.

The drive out to Canyon Lake took about 3 and a half hours. The four “kids” ended up housing up at the Holiday Lodge, which was about a 3-minute incline walk away from where my parents and uncle and Aunt were staying, at a treehouse of some sort. The first day, after all the driving, did not feature any non-lazy activities as everyone pretty much crashed and napped. We did go out to dinner to a BBQ restaurant called Cooper’s Old-Time BBQ, which was about 25 minutes away from our lodging. The food was delicious, but I think I preferred the Rudy’s we had when we went tubing a couple of weeks back. The rest of that Sunday was pretty nondescript.

On Saturday it was decided to sleep in late and then head out tubing on the Comal River. Luckily I had done this with my friends a couple of weeks back, since without my “expertise” we would have been quite lost. We rented the tubes out from Corner Tubes again and then went on the river. It took most people quite a lot of time to figure out how to maneuvre the tubes. I think my mom still doesn’t know how to do it. =P Once we finally got a hang of it, we went down the first chute. That is where the first problems began. My cousin went down the chute without his tube because he fell out of it just before going there. Luckily he was not (too) injured from that, and someone had held on to his tube at the other end. I got stuck in that current again and had to climb out and walk myself past the current which kept pulling me back.

The next issue was the second chute (the one near the dam). My mom ended up going over the dam instead of through the chute, just as the guy at Corner Tubes had told us not to do. So she fell out of her tube and waded her way to the side, while someone managed to recover her tube. Meanwhile, a bunch of the others were around the side waiting before entering that second chute because the first one had been so aggressive. I quelled those fears and we finally went through the second chute, although my cousin ended up ramming his foot into the poorly placed rock in the middle of that chute. Thankfully it wasn’t anything really bad.

The current was a lot faster than it had been last time I was there, so our group ended up becoming quite split up. My mom and uncle ended up taking the lead without wanting to. There were a few sour feelings there, but they managed to hang on to a few trees and wait for us. After the third chute, and waiting for Sunil to catch up with us, we finally floated the last 45-odd minutes of the river together. That was most relaxing and as my aunt said, it would have been nice if the whole river had been like that. Hope you’re taking notes, Mother Nature! 😛

The next, and possibly worst, issue was at the end. The current was pretty fast and the designers of the floating system were probably not using their heads when they decided to put the last public exit in one of the deeper sections of the river. What ends up happening is people need to hope to float to the left to take the exit, and if they miss it, they are at the mercy of the river, since they can’t walk back given that the river is so deep at that point. Only 4 of our group of 8 managed to hit the actual exit. I had to swim after Sunil and push him to the side and then do the same thing with my cousin. My uncle, meanwhile, had meandered off to the other side of the river and his tube had overturned. I swam across the river and against the current to get to him, at which point he had recovered his tube and I was nearly out of breath. We then waited for our shuttle driver to swing in to business. He swam against the current and recovered the people who had over-floated to the left and he then swam across the river and pushed my uncle’s tube (with him in it) to the other side. I swam across, having swum a lot more than I have this whole year! I guess the important thing to remember is that we all survived. 🙂 It was kind of an adventurous trip in the end, and we have the battle scars to show for it (mine are in the form of sunburns :().

We decided to then drive down to the closest winery since it was almost time for them to close. The winery we selected was the Dry Comal Creek Winery and Vineyard, and it was tended to by a sweet, old woman. Unfortunately winery tours were only held on the weekend (we were there on a Monday) so instead we decided to do a wine tasting. My dad and I tasted all 12 of their wines and their sangria whereas other members of our party tasted subsets of those. We ended up buying a bottle of their Unoaked Cabernet Sauvignon, which has made its way back to India because of full stomachs!

Dinner that night was home-made pork burgers courtesy of my uncle and aunt (and garden burgers for the vegetarians courtesy of the supermarket that prepared them). My uncle grilled the burgers and we ended up eating indoors in the treehouse because the mosquitoes scared us away. After dinner we talked and finally the four “kids” headed down to the Lodge for the night. My sister and her husband finished their packing (they were driving to San Antonio to fly out early next morning).

On Tuesday, we drove to San Marcos to complete the shopping portion of the trip. I didn’t buy much so I don’t have much to say. But my cousin and mother went a little bit crazy, since my cousin was buying stuff for his wife’s family and had to make a good impression. 🙂 I hung out with my uncle and dad, who ended up window-shopping in some of the more expensive stores, hence the lack of wallet-opening. After San Marcos we drove back to Houston and had a very delicious dinner at Pappadeaux. I then watched parts of the Rockets being blown out by the Lakers (we ended up losing by 40 points) and trying to make plans with my friends for the next day.

My aunt and uncle and parents left the next day. For dinner I met up with a few friends at Two Rows in the Rice Village. We took advantage of the $1 beers and I had a scrumptious grilled tilapia for dinner. Afterwards we drove to Amy’s Ice Cream for dessert and finally I was dropped off to my hotel near the airport by Tweety. It was nice seeing my close friends before leaving, one last time.

Traveling

Thursday was travel day for me. I, surprisingly, managed to wake up just in time for the free breakfast and helped myself to some cereal and juice. After that I went back to my room and showered and completed all final packing. At 11 am I checked out of the hotel and took the shuttle to the airport. There, I checked in and got past security relatively quickly and camped out at my gate for about 2 and a half hours. I spent the time listening to music and watching Pyar Ke Side Effects on my iPod since I had forgotten how the movie went. The flight was about 15-20 minutes late because of “maintenance” but it took off eventually and reached just a bit behind schedule in Paris. The Houston-Paris flight was pretty packed and did not feature a video-on-demand system. I ended up watching 3 episodes of House and The Tale of Desperaux during my flight. Apart from that I napped and listened to music.

We then reached Paris and I was exposed for the first time to the confusion that is the Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Airport. After seeing the mess of organization that is somewhat characteristically French (:P), I realized why it is that while flying through Paris my bags always get lost (sample size = 1). There are something like 7 terminals and they are named as follows: 1, 2A, 2B, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F. I don’t know why terminal 1 got shafted as such. Must be a French thing. The only way to travel between terminals is by a shuttle bus that does not seem to operate on any specific schedule or order. You would think that if you got on the bus at Terminal 2A, it would circuit through the airport in order (2B, 2C, …). Instead, this bus went to 2C, then 2F, then skipped 2D and went to 2E, then to 2B and finally to 2C. I only assume that it visited 2D after.

Once we finally reached the terminal, the airport was pretty busy and messy. I didn’t have that much time to spend at the gate, luckily, since the shuttle bus took so long to operate. By the time I used the bathroom and came back out, the flight had “boarded”. Boarding involved stuffing everyone on the flight into one more of the shuttle buses, this time commissioned to take us to our flight. They stuffed and stuffed and stuffed the bus until we were packed so tightly like sardines that even if the bus braked abruptly, no one would fall. As it happened, the bus did brake abruptly on the trip and the theory checked out okay. What was even more ludicrous is that the ground staff realized, finally, that 2 buses would be needed. The second bus brought something like 10 people.

The bus then proceeded to drive to our flight, which seemed to be parked outside the airport or something. It took a good 20 minutes to reach it. I think it was parked near what would be the soon-to-cause-even-more-confusion Terminal 2G. Or maybe they would create a Terminal 3 or something. Who knows how these French people make decisions?!

I complain a lot but once we finally got on the plane (it was a really old Airbus A320) things improved. The flight was at something like 30% capacity, probably because the rest of the world realizes CDG isn’t the best airport to transit through and because of Air France’s poor reputation. I didn’t complain, though, and thought the service was actually a LOT better than airlines such as Continental and Air India. We actually got a menu card asking us to choose what we wanted to eat! We were served complimentary beverages, including wine, beer and even champagne. Take notes, Continental! Although I suppose that is why Air France is probably going out of business…

I took the liberty to occupy one of the middle rows of 4 seats since they were empty and hence was able to stretch out quite a bit. While eating dinner I watched Dostana on the video-on-demand system and then started reading the book I bought, Persuader by Lee Child. Still haven’t finished that up so I will discuss it in a separate entry. After that I slept for about 6 hours straight and woke up just in time to eat “breakfast”. The flight landed about 30 minutes behind schedule at about 12:15am. I breezed through swine flu checkup, immigration and customs since the airport wasn’t busy yet and also because my parents had flown with my checked baggage so I was traveling with just a backpack. By the time I got home it was about 1:15am and the TV wasn’t working so I entertained myself online by checking email and Facebook and the like. I finally fell asleep around 2:30 or 3:00am and slept lightly till about 8:30am. Let’s see how I tackle the jetlag today!

Today my mom and I went and ordered a pair of glasses (since she lost my old pair in the packing and moving confusion). We also stopped by at a grocery store on the way back and bought MANGOES! I am happy and am looking forward to sinking my teeth into that tasty deliciousness. We also bought ingredients for tiramisu. Well, kind of. We couldn’t locate ladyfingers so we substituted it with an Italian Puff Pastry biscuit thing of some sort. If it doesn’t work we may attempt to make ladyfingers from scratch. But at some point I’ll be making tiramisu again. Hopefully it’ll go well! (I’ll take photos for you, Alice. :))

That’s all for now. I think I’m about to inherit two used cameras (one digital and one really old Canon) from my parents so I’m going to go play with them now. And proceed to take photos of my mangoes. Mmmmmmmmmmmm.

power to drive

Today, I finally achieved my New Year’s goal of obtaining a Texas Driver’s License, approximately 2-3 months after I had originally planned to. Oh well, I will not gripe about the delay as I have finally got it! The ZipCar has stood by as a good friend (although a somewhat expensive one). I was able to pass my road test this morning but had to come back later in the day to complete the license process since the computers at the DPS were down. However, I made it back at around 4pm courtesy of Johanna and the process took only about 10-15 minutes. I was actually surprised by the speed and friendliness of the staff.

The rest of the day was kind of stretched out because of traffic on both the road as well as the KFC where I had dinner. Ended up watching the newest episode of Lost at J&J’s place. I felt kind of meh about it. It seems to be dragging on the story very slowly and the whole time travel past-future nonsense is seriously making my head hurt a bit.

To ease the pain I focused in on the Rockets-Lakers game. Kobe came out fired up and shooting the lights out. The Lakers hit almost 40 points in the first quarter itself but only managed 18 in the second and at half-time the score was tied up at 57-57. Then the second-half blues hit the Rockets (again) and Kobe kept it going in a dirty, rough game with ample help from Gasol’s uncontested shots and Odom’s rebounding. Our defense in the paint has left a bit to be desired, although I suppose that comes from having to defend several long players (Gasol, Bynum, Odom) concurrently. The Rockets ended up losing but they still have the home-court advantage at the moment.

I spent the evening concurrently packing my belongings. I have managed to pack all my old textbooks away (hopefully the first step in the process of selling them off on eBay or Amazon). I also packed up my printer, so hopefully I won’t need anything from that soon… It appears that I do not have that much to pack. Packing clothes will take a long time, obviously, but I cannot really do that immediately. I hope to wake up tomorrow at around 10am and pack the rest of my non-cloth belongings away into my boxes. I have booked the ZipCar at a bit after noon tomorrow (since we have a Baker seniors lunch) and hope to sign up for my room and transfer a fair few boxes, then. It will also be my first time driving alone!

That’s all for now. Going to continue packing (or at least mentally organizing the packing).

inefficient dizzle

I had great hopes that today would be a very productive day for me. I woke up at around 6.15am to get ready for my driving test, which I was hoping to take pretty early after getting to the DPS at around 7.30am. I was at the Zipcar by 7am and drove along with TGJ to the DPS only to find a pretty decent line outside already. Luckily we only had to chill for about 15 minutes and then were let in. I stood in the main line, not realizing that since I have my instruction permit, I don’t need to apply again for a driving license (apparently–this may still change, of course, because of the way bureaucracy works). After standing in that main line for about 15 more minutes I went up to the counter and was told I had to go to station 10 to schedule my road test and I did not actually have to apply for a DL.

So I went to that station and of course there were no spots available today. So I scheduled an appointment for tomorrow at 9am. On the way back there was a lot of traffic on main so I suppose in retrospect the result was good because I didn’t have to pay a late fee. Now I have one more day to worry about my road test! Humph. Came back today and could have started packing and stuff but instead I just bummed around on the internet, checking results from last night’s game (the Rockets won!!). By around lunch time I started feeling sick and coughing regularly. I hope I didn’t catch something at the DPS. 🙁 I was already a little sickly with coughs over the last couple of days. I decided to take a 30-minute nap after lunch to sleep it off but that ended up becoming more like a 90 minute nap. And I didn’t feel much better when I woke up either. So I popped another Alerid Cold (I had one in the morning) and decided to take off work and nap again.

Now I feel a bit better but still not 100%. I’m thinking of going and working out so that I don’t feel completely sedated. I may even catch a bit of the baseball game after that. Let’s see…

So something else interesting happened today. At around 11am there were huge roars of helicopters going around. I didn’t think much of it but then Paul came in and told me that apparently a shooting had happened on the Outer Loop (the jogging track that surrounds the Rice campus). At that point news was bare but it is a little clearer now. You can read up on various articles on Google News. The gist of it was that some guy with a knife attacked a woman at the Light Rail station across from Rice and that officers followed this man. They then attempted to taser him without much success and as he approached them with a knife, they started shooting at him. He was dead on the spot, but apparently a bullet went through/ricocheted off of him and hit a bystander. There is no news about the status of the other guys.

Yesterday, I had a pretty awesome day, as well. I woke up around 10.30am and bummed around till lunch. I then worked from 1-4pm and worked out afterwards till about 5.30pm. Then, Alice and I went to dark room at the Rice Gallery since I was interested in seeing how the process of developing photos is. It’s pretty intense. And dark. There was a glow-in-the-dark clock in the room that developers are supposed to use to count the time in the various different liquids. After about 5 minutes of staring at the clock, the numbers start disappearing… But it was a cool insight into how exactly that process works.

After that we had dinner at South Servery and then we went over to her place to celebrate our shared love for tiramisu. Yup, we tried to make it. I don’t know yet how it turned out since it had to be chilled, but it was definitely not the 25-minute preparation time that was speculated by the recipe off of Food Network! You live and you learn, I suppose, and I guess the next time either of us have to make tiramisu we will have learned something (don’t know what yet, though, haha). I then came back on campus and managed to catch the last quarter of the Rockets-Lakers game.

Everyone and their grandmom has written off the Rockets in this series but Houston played great basketball yesterday (with a brave game from Yao Ming) to “upset” the Lakers and wrest away homecourt advantage. Kobe drilled in 32 points but he took some very bad shots and was not at all in rhythm (at least in the fourth quarter). Let’s hope him and Gasol stay in that groove!

That’s all for now.