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Celtics to Win NBA Playoffs; Hell Reporting Record Lows

By Bo Light
sports columnist

Hello and welcome once again to EA Sports. If you're looking for insightful commentary, bold predictions, and quality information, well, go read Will McDonough. If you want entertainment, however, you've come to the right place!

Apology, part one

Oops! Because of space restrictions, last week's NHL playoff preview had to be cut. In hindsight, there were probably some other bits which should have been dropped instead, but then again, it wasn't that great a preview anyway.

Here's the gist of it: Colorado overcomes injuries and a bloodbath conference final with Detroit to take the Cup from New Jersey in seven games. This, of course, assumes Colorado and Detroit make it through the first round.

Hoops report

Now, rather than risk writing too much and losing another big preview, let us devote the rest of our time to the EA Sports NBA Playoff Extravaganza. After six grueling months of basketball, almost half of the field has been eliminated from title contention, leaving us with 16 teams that we can watch until mid-June, or longer if the league decides it can make more money.

Almost everyone with more than a passing interest in the sport has already given this year's title to the Chicago Bulls, who fell just short of the 70-win platform. But are the playoffs just a formality? Can the Jordan Juggernaut be stopped? The answer is, shockingly enough, yes. Here we present the keys to beating the Bulls.

Defending Jordan. In the late 1980s and early '90s, when Chicago still lost regularly, there were two schools of thought on how to stop MJ.

The Detroit Pistons method involved relentlessly harassing Jordan, limiting his ability not only to score, but to create points. This method, however requires several excellent defenders, and a detailed system for defending one man; few teams in today's NBA would be able to pull it off.

Far easier is the Boston method: let Jordan score as many points as he wants, and prevent the rest of the team from scoring at all. This is especially effective against easily frustrated members of the Bulls (i.e., Scottie Pippen). Look for the Bullets to employ this method in the first round.

Dennis Rodman. Rodman is the best rebounder in the NBA, one of the best defenders in the league, and excels at getting under people's skin. However, he has a downside (duh): He's not a scorer, he doesn't get along with equally egocentric teammates (i.e., Scottie Pippen), and he has been known to disrupt team chemistry at times (can you say San Antonio?).

A team would do well to assign one man to defend Rodman at all times, not to keep him from scoring, but to box him out. Keep Dennis from rebounding, and you might just get under his skin.

One Game at a Time. The Bulls come into an arena with an aura. They've been the best team in the league for a while, and have blown out a lot of teams a lot of times. This tends to be intimidating.

If a team can stay focused on the current game, rather than dwell on their 30-point loss in game one, their chances of victory improve greatly. So, does this mean that someone will stop Chicago?

Doubtful. First, it's unlikely that NBA coaches listen to the advice of MIT newspapers. Second, all of these things are easy to do on paper, but you try boxing out Dennis Rodman. In any case, here's the quick and dirty preview of how things should go.

Eastern Conference

If any team is going to stop Chicago, it will be Washington in the first round. The Bullets have a couple of things going for them: They have the raw talent to beat the Bulls, they only have to win three games, and Rodman and Kukoc are less than healthy.

Unfortunately, the Bullets are also inconsistent and not particularly well-coached. Don't be too shocked if Washington takes this one, but don't put money on it, either.

Miami looks to have a fairly easy first round against Orlando. The Magic haven't done a whole lot without Shaq this year, and didn't get a whole lot better after the players had Brian Hill fired as coach. Have you noticed the Li'l Penny commercials aren't playing anymore?

Charlotte lost to the Knicks on the last day of the season to set up their first round matchup. Not a good sign for the Hornets. Glen Rice is hot, but he can't do it alone. Knicks in four.

Detroit won on the last day of the season to make it into the fourth spot against Atlanta. It was a great sigh of relief for the Pistons, who beat the Hawks three times this year but had won a total of two games combined against Chicago, Miami, and New York.

Atlanta was great at home this season, but lousy on the road; if Detroit can take a game in the Omni, the series is theirs.

Two weeks ago, the Pistons beat the Bulls for the first time in twenty years. Unfortunately, they are not likely to continue their winning streak. Detroit is a good team, but they too often have to rely on Grant Hill and Joe Dumars, much like Chicago relied on Jordan in his early seasons.

The Miami-New York series could be the best series in the playoffs, if it didn't feature the Knicks, the most brutally dull team in basketball. This isn't a knock on the Knicks (knock on the Knicks, that's catchy); they win by being brutally dull. They'll beat the Heat, too (supply your own joke here).

The Knicks seem to meet the Bulls in the playoffs every year, with the same result. New York should be able to have their way with Chicago; they have scorers and defenders, and no one in Chicago has ever been able to match up with Patrick Ewing.

Yet every year, Ewing scores six points in the entire series, and the Knicks go golfing. This year is no different. Let's head West.

Go West, young man

For the nth year in a row, the Utah Jazz heads into the playoffs behind John Stockton and Karl Malone. This year, the Mailman and the Stock Boy have a bit of a supporting cast, certainly enough to carry them past the Clippers in the first round.

The Sonics are the defending West champs, and should easily make it by Phoenix in the first round. That's too bad for the Suns, who rebounded from a horrible start to make the playoffs under Danny Ainge. Well, better luck next year.

Speaking of horrible teams, the Timberwolves are in the playoffs this year. Kudos to Kevin Garnett, Stephon Marbury, etc. Hope they're happy to be here, because they won't last long against the Rockets.

The current theory floating around the league is that Shaquille O'Neal's injuries have helped the Lakers, because he'll be fresh going into the playoffs. Sure, rehab is a real picnic, that probably didn't tire him out at all. Look for the well-rested O'Neal to cruise past the Blazers.

Utah gets the Lakers in the second round. Shaq must be getting tired by now. The games should be close, but L.A. has a huge disadvantage in any close game; fouling O'Neal is usually as good as a turnover. Jazz in five.

Meanwhile, Houston should be able to upset Seattle and head to the next round. The Sonics are a tremendously talented team, but are classic playoff underachievers. If Shawn Kemp can keep his game together, Seattle can advance, but don't count on it.

Well, the Jazz are in the West finals again. Houston is in the West finals for the third time in four years. This one's tough to call, but it looks like Utah's aging veterans might finally be better than Houston's aging veterans. Michael, Scottie, Dennis, see you in Salt Lake City.

The Finals

Can the Jazz end decades of playoff disappointment and defeat Chicago for the NBA title? Is the Pope Russian? (Hint for our non-Catholic readers: He's Polish.) Okay, so the outcome was a foregone conclusion. You want unpredictability, study physics.

Trivia Question

The last non-Chicago team to win the NBA title was the Houston Rockets, which accomplished the feat in 1994 and 1995. Assuming the Bulls repeat this year, name the last NBA champ not to win at least two titles in a row.

Send your answers, comments, and the exact date when Joe Torre will be fired to easports@the-tech.mit.edu.

Answer to last week's question: The Bruins have won two Stanley Cups in the past 30 years, in 1970 and 1972. Correct answers were sent in by Jonathan Kossuth G, Josh Kattef '98, John Rae '99, and Mike McCarthy of the Property Office.

All of our trivia winners also pointed out that Ray Borque used to wear Phil Esposito's number, not Bobby Orr's. In an obvious attempt to cover for this blunder, EA Sports introduces a new feature: Find the Major Factual Error. Can you spot this week's glaring mistake? Good luck!