Well, the Boston Celtics are the first team to advance to the second round, sweeping the New York Knicks. This series was closer than what the broom indicates. Even so, many people are calling for a new coach in New York, and I can’t say I blame them. D’Antoni’s offense-only approach, in my opinion, will never make a title contender. Some people are also saying the Melo move wasn’t good, but I think an Amare/Melo combo will only get better with more time. The supporting cast is pretty good, but with just a little more tweaking and a more defensive-minded coach, Knicks fans could be in for a treat in the next few years.
The Thunder may be on their way to sweeping the Nuggets as well, but don’t be surprised if Denver pulls out game four at the Pepsi Center. Like the Boston/New York matchup, this is a series that’s been much closer than a typical sweep series. Parity is definitely on display in these playoffs where no team is getting absolutely embarrassed.
The Bulls and Heat will almost certainly win their respective series, but it’s nice to see the Pacers and Sixers put up a good fight. Miami seemed to have momentum heading into game four, but we once again saw 1) a pathetic supporting cast fail to chip in, and 2) the superstars botch it up in the clutch when they could have pulled away with a sweep. That game was a prime example of why I don’t see the so-called “Big Three” winning a title.
I’m totally shocked by the Magic/Hawks series. Dwight Howard is a one-man show right now, and we all know that one-man shows don’t go anywhere. I remember thinking for awhile after the trades that Orlando had what it took, but aside from Howard, they are getting completely outplayed by the Atlanta Hawks. The Atlanta Hawks! Not that the Hawks are bad, but some people were picking the Magic to make the Finals, or at least advance ONE round at the minimum. Now they have to win three straight to do just that. Magic fans have to be incredibly disappointed with how badly this series has gone.
Another surprising series has been Memphis and San Antonio. I was slightly surprised when Memphis took the first game, but I figured it was mostly because Manu was out for that one. Manu’s back, though, and Memphis is up 2-1 now. I still see San Antonio pulling out the series, but their age is really showing, and I think it’ll prevent them from getting another ring.
Shock number three? The Hornets and Lakers series. I predicted the Lakers would dominate and go 4-0, but we’re seeing their huge weak spot: the point guard position. Chris Paul is downright EMBARRASSING ancient Derek Fisher and his lackluster backups. Before the series, a Lakers fan on a message board tried to tell me that Kobe could cover point guards when needed, and that Steve Blake and Shannon Brown could step in for Fisher, but I didn’t believe him then and I certainly don’t believe him now. I’ve said for quite some time that the key to beating L.A. is running circles around their point guards (remember when Rondo first became notable in the 2008 Finals?), and any team that faces them needs to take advantage of that as much as possible like New Orleans and Paul are doing.
I’d comment on the Blazers and Mavericks series, but pretty much everyone knew that would be tough.
I’m enjoying these competitive playoffs and hope you are too.