When handicapping the NBA playoffs, it is important to go beyond the stats and take a hard look at each team's identity as indicated by the real-life representation of its name.
In other words, what if their mascots fought it out?
Let's start in the East with the Miami-Milwaukee series. Devastating heat can cause exhaustion, starvation and death. Meanwhile a male deer is relatively docile. If you've ever driven the dark, winding roads of the Great North Woods, you've probably felt your heart stop when spotting a deer in your headlights, though believe me, the deer was much more frightened. Like Monta Ellis catching fire, a deer in the road is a nuisance, not a threat.
And because deer prefer cold weather, a smothering heat wave should make a pack of bucks cower. Miami in four.
New York-Boston offers an interesting dynamic. Both "Knickerbocker" and "Celtic" refer to centuries-old Europeans, but it is significant that the Celtics are a nod to the winning tradition of the New York Celtics team that won ABL championships in 1927 and 1928. Meanwhile, the New York Knickerbockers were named after the original New York-area Dutch settlers despite being founded by a man named Ned Irish.
In basketball terms, the 2013 Knicks are a better version of the 2013 Celtics. Carmelo Anthony is a better Paul Pierce, Tyson Chandler is a younger Kevin Garnett, Raymond Felton is a non-injured Rajon Rondo. Knicks in five.
The Hawks are self-explanatory, though the Pacers are more complex, named as an ode to "harness racing pacers" (a trot-speed horse race) and the Indy 500 "pace car" (a safety-minded car employed to bring caution to a race). Basically, the Pacers are named after a cautious horse and a cautious car, and hence I predict they will never win an NBA championship while named after lame versions of fast and attacking beasts.
Could a hawk kill a horse? Yes, but only if it sunk its talons into the horse's neck. Could it damage a car? Probably not without damaging itself much more. Pacers in seven.
Which brings us to the Bulls and the Nets. Brooklyn's best-case scenario is they represent one of those huge nets that used to trap Scooby Doo villains by falling from a ceiling. Or even better, that they represent a metaphorical net that law enforcement agents say is "closing in" on a perpetrator.
More likely, though, they represent a regulation basketball net, and while that might briefly entangle a charging bull, eventually the bull—with its strength and horns—will tear that net to shreds.
Bulls in six.
Jack M Silverstein is a RedEye special contributor. @readjack
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