NBA Playoffs: Second Round Predictions

The Lakers are one of eight teams entering round two, but do they have what it takes to beat Dallas?

By Matt Noonan

Round two of the NBA Playoffs are set to begin on Sunday, so without further ado, here is our Noontime Sports preview, as well as series predictions.

Eastern Conference – Second Round Predictions:

(1) Chicago Bulls vs. (5) Atlanta Hawks – Everyone and their grandmother expected the Chicago Bulls to advance past the Indiana Pacers, which indeed happened. Now they face a very competitive, talented and youthful Atlanta Hawks team that will certainly push them to the limits.

First, the Bulls need to make sure Derrick Rose is healthy and ready to lead his teammates because otherwise Atlanta will force the ball out of his hand and attempt to score off turnovers.

Joakim Noah leads the team in the playoffs with roughly 10.6 rebounds per game, as well as 13 blocks, while Rose has taken care of the points, assists and steals.

Winning against the team from Disney World, (Orlando Magic) was certainly a statement by the Hawks, but they’ll indeed need Jamal Crawford, Al Horford and Josh Smith to be at their very best if they want to beat the Bulls. Atlanta also needs to continue to shoot well inside the paint and from the free-throw line.

If the Bulls can utilize their full-court transition game and lock down their opponent on defense, they’ll easily win this series.

As for the Hawks, they need to be smart with the ball on offense, but also get the Bulls in foul trouble. Atlanta converted 15.7 percent of their free throws against Orlando, so expect that number to increase, but by how much? Chicago wins the series, 4-3.

(2) Miami Heat vs. (3) Boston Celtics – This is the matchup that every NBA fan wanted. No matter if one is a die-hard or a casual fan, everyone wanted to see Boston and Miami meet in the playoffs.

The Celtics won three of their four regular season meetings, which may or may not give them momentum heading into this particular series. Against the New York Knicks, Boston watched their starting-5 gel, but saw their bench fail miserably. Besides the play of Glen Davis in Game 4 against the Knicks, “Big Baby” was awful. He didn’t score enough points and struggled to record rebounds. So, against the Heat, the Celtics will need Davis, Jeff Green and the rest of Boston’s bench to step up at certain times.

On the other side, the Heat enter Game 1 ready to roll, especially Chris Bosh, who actually was a major factor for Miami against the Philadelphia 76ers. Who knows what got into Bosh, but besides LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, the Celtics may want to focus their attention on the Heat’s star forward.

Neither team has a star center, but would you choose Jermaine O’Neal or Zydrunas Ilgauskas to be the anchor on your team?

This series will come down to defense and rebounds. The Celtics indeed showed flashes of great Doc Rivers defense against the Knickerbockers while the Heat limited the 76ers to offensive or defensive boards, but can they continue that against Boston? Boston wins the series, 4-2. 

Western Conference – Second Round Predictions:

(2) Los Angles Lakers vs. (3) Dallas Mavericks – Both teams had their moments during their opening round series, but now the two teams who fought for the second and third spot in the Western Conference standings will duke it out and decide who moves on and who heads home.

Dallas cannot win on the road; yet, they did manage to defeat the Trail Blazers in Game 6 in Portland miraculously. Dirk Nowitzki averaged 27.3 points per game against Portland in six games, so again, he will be a factor, but also a player the Los Angles Lakers will need to stop.

Against the New Orleans Hornets, especially through the first four games, Los Angles looked extremely tired. Their age is certainly a factor, but so is the health of Kobe Bryant too. Yet, Bryant averaged 22.5 points per game against the Hornets, so it’s an obvious that the Mavericks need to stop him.

My two players to watch in this series will certainly be Lamar Odom for the Lakers and Jason Kidd for the Mavericks.

Odom’s size, speed and quickness will be a factor against the Mavericks defense. Expect Odom to challenge Dallas’s defense in the paint, but also be a major part of Los Angel’s defensive pressure, while Kidd needs to act like a true floor general. He has a talented team that many NBA followers thought was championship bound earlier this season, so why not ask Kidd to lead the charge and continue to improve his assist average, which currently sits at 6.5 per game. Los Angles wins the series, 4-2.

(4) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (8) Memphis Grizzlies – Both squads have very little playoff experienced between them, so consider this matchup the equivalent of two March Madness teams who weren’t supposed to make the “elite eight.” Memphis indeed shocked the NBA world by beating the San Antonio Spurs and becoming the fourth team in league history to beat a number one seed.

The major factor Oklahoma City will need to shut down is the tandem of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. If the Thunder’s defense can stop those two, then expect the series to favor Oklahoma City. Although, don’t underestimate the power of Shane Battier, who has blossomed with Memphis since being traded in February.

Oklahoma City is young and talented, as well as likes to play an up tempo game. Between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Memphis will certainly have their hands full. Oklahoma City wins the series 4-2. 

Yellow Jackets Sting Eagles Softball in Doubleheader

By Stacey Kilpatrick 

CHESTNUT Hill, MA – The Boston College softball team succumbed to No. 1 ACC squad Georgia Tech in a doubleheader on Saturday at Boston College’s Shea Softball Field.

The Eagles [14-29, 5-12] led the Yellow Jackets [41-8, 15-1] in game one, but never in game two, and ultimately lost, 2-1 and 11-2.

“Coming into this [series], obviously we were facing the number one team in the conference, so we had our work cut out for us,” said Jill Karwoski, Boston College associate head coach. “And we showed up with intensity and we put the ball in play the first game and scored first.”

In game one, junior Lizzy Ploen scored the Eagles’ lone run against Georgia Tech’s senior pitcher Kristen Adkins [7.0 innings, 1 hit, 5 walks, 5 strikeouts]. In the bottom of the second inning, Ploen made it home from second base off sophomore Maria Pandolfo’s double into left field.

“First game was a lot better than the second game,” Boston College head coach Jennifer Finley said.

“First game we came out hard – it could have been anybody’s ball game. Yes, [Georgia Tech] out hit us, but I think we played very good defense [and] had solid pitching.”

But the Yellow Jackets came back with two runs to win game one.

In the fourth inning, against Eagle senior pitcher Allison Gage [6.1 innings, 10 hits, 2 walks and 3 strikeouts), sophomore Kelly Delashmit, pinch running for senior Kristine Priebe, tied it 1-all on freshman Alysha Rudnik’s sacrifice fly deep into left.

Two innings later, the Yellow Jackets took the 2-1 lead when Priebe hit her 13th home run of the season.

“A one-run ball game against the number one team in the [ACC] conference, you know not too shabby,” Finley said.

Game two saw Georgia Tech out hit Boston College, 11-3 and out score them, 11-2 through a five-inning game.

Freshman pitcher Lindsey Anderson [5 innings, 3 hits, 3 walks and 7 strikeouts] was on the mound the entire game for Georgia Tech, while Boston College had three pitching changes between freshman Amanda Horowitz, junior Morgan Kidd and sophomore Nicole D’Argento.

“We put Amanda in just trying to keep the momentum away from Georgia Tech. That was really the objective of making so many pitching changes,” said Karwoski.

“We expected pitchers to come out and set the tone. That didn’t happen today,” Finley said. “And I think we played sloppy defense in the second game. Hit the ball a little bit better in the second game, but didn’t matter with how many runs [Georgia Tech] scored.”

Georgia Tech got on board in the top of the second inning, scoring six runs against Horowitz [1.2 innings, 4 hits and 5 earned run] and Kidd [1.2 innings, 3 hits and 2 earned runs].

Against Horozwitz, sophomore Caitlin Jordan smacked a home run that landed in the football practice facility, brining in junior Kate Kuzma from second. Freshman Ashley Thomas then banged a triple into center scoring Rudnik and junior Danielle Dike, putting the Yellow Jackets up 4-0.

Horowitz was relieved on the mound by Kidd, but the junior got bases loaded with two outs.

Kuzma had a two-run single into right field, bringing home Thomas and junior Kelsi Weseman, adding Georgia Tech’s fifth and sixth runs.

Boston College freshman Tory Speer broke Georgia Tech’s momentum as she blasted a home run into left, her eighth of the season, putting the Eagles on the board in the bottom of the second. Then freshman Nicole Koszowski made it 6-2, scoring from second when senior Alison Kooistra bolted a double, hitting against the left field wall.

In the fourth inning, Georgia Tech nabbed four more runs against Kidd and D’Argento.

Weseman had a RBI double and scored senior Christy Jones and Thomas.

Then D’Argento [1.2 innings, 4 hits and 2 runs] moved from first base to replace Kidd on the mound, and Boston College freshman Bree Tanke took position at first.

Kuzma nabbed her second RBI double, bringing home Weseman from second. Boston College freshman Alana Dimaso fumbled the ball at short shop, unable to get Weseman out. Kuzma then scored from Jordan’s RBI single into right field, putting the Yellow Jackets up 10-2.

Georgia Tech’s final run was scored in the top of the fifth against D’Argento. Thomas had a deep double into center, scoring Delashmit from second.

“We just got to come out and be aggressive tomorrow and get all aspects of the game going,” Finley said regarding the team’s final game on Sunday.

“If pitching comes out and sets the tone and we have aggressive defense it’s going to take a lot of pressure off our backs,” Finley continued.

“Tomorrow will be nice to come out on senior day and take the number one team in the conference,” said Karwoski.

Boston College and Georgia Tech will play their third and final game of the series on Sunday at 12:00pm eastern.

Noontime Sports the Radio Show (4/30/11)

Noontime Sports closed out the month of April with Matt Noonan, Dan Libon and Dan Rubin talking about the Boston Bruins-Philadelphia Flyers NHL Stanley Cup playoff series, as well as sprinkled in some Boston Celtics and NFL Draft talk too. Also, the guys were joined by WEEI’s Sports Saturday Host, Matt Perrault to discuss college football and the New England Patriots draft selections. 

Hour 1: 

Hour 2 : 

Boston Beats Up Philadelphia in Game 1, 7-3

Tim Thomas played yet another exceptional playoff game and kept the Bruins in contention to beat Philadelphia on Saturday!

By Matt Noonan

It was one of those performances where fans walked away baffled by what they had witnessed. For those wearing black and gold, they were definitely content, but the ones sporting the orange and white were not happy one bit.

The Boston Bruins not only beat the to the Philadelphia Flyers 7-3 on Saturday, but also made Brian Boucher look incredibly vulnerable in net. The Bruins sent five pucks passed Boucher before he was pulled in the second period for Sergei Bobrovsky who allowed two goals himself. Both goaltenders seemed incredibly out of sync and saved 26 shots combined.

Although, would Philadelphia consider their goaltending a weak part of their team, especially after allowing seven goals to Boston? Absolutely, but the blame should also be shared by the Flyers defense for allowing the Bruins into their zone quite frequently.

Boston got on the board early, as David Krejci recorded his first of two goals at 1:52 in the first period. Boston celebrated their first point of the day, but those cheers were silenced 10 minutes later after Danny Briere recorded scored and tied the game, 1-1.

The Bruins though rebounded during the final minute of the opening period when Nathan Horton beat Boucher to give Boston a 2-1 advantage prior to the first intermission.

The Black and Gold never relinquished their lead during the second or third periods, as Krejci, Mark Recchi, Brad Marchand and Gregory Campbell goals helped keep Boston’s lead safe and secure.

“I don’t think there was ever any doubt before we started the series that we couldn’t skate with them,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said to the media via NHL.com.

“I don’t think that was an issue and the bottom line is this is a big strong, physical team that really does a pretty good job once they get in your own in end. They do a pretty good job of finding ways to score goals, so we just had to be strong, we had to be smart and skating and fore-checking was part of our game plan and I thought our guys did a pretty good job”

Philadelphia scored during both the second and third periods, as James van Riemsdyk and Mike Richards prompted somewhat of a comeback that was certainly short lived.

Tim Thomas played tremendous and saved 31-of-34 shots between the pipes, but also, Boston struggled on the power play again and finished the game 0-for-5. Will the power play unit bounce back in Game 2 on Monday? We’ll see, but for the second year in a row, Boston came away victorious in Game 1 against Philadelphia.

Jeff Howe (NESN) on Noontime Sports the Podcast (4/30/11)

Jeff Howe from NESN.com joined Noontime Sports the Podcast on Saturday morning to discuss the NFL Draft, as well as talk about the picks made by the New England Patriots. 

Make sure to follow Jeff on Twitter (@JeffPHowe).