One round down, three to go.
Now that we’re in the thick of the NBA Playoff’s 40 games in 40 nights, it seems like an appropriate time to take a look back at the opening round. Fans were so consumed by the apparent parity of the Western Conference – seeds one through six were separated by just three games – that they might have over-dramatized the potential excitement of those matchups because the East actually had more surprises. In my humble opinion, many weaknesses were exposed in the West and many coaches have paid the price as a result. Here’s how it all played out.
Lakers def. Nuggets, 4-0
It seems KB24 may finally be in line for the league’s top honor, and that really came from his ability to score at will and make 6.3 assists per game in this series. Denver may want to rename its club the “Whiners” because of all the technical fouls and frustrated faces this sweep saw. Simply put, the Lakers have yet to be tested in the postseason.
Hornets def. Mavericks, 4-1
Chris Paul has arrived. His work in this series makes me think there should be co-MVPs this season. Right now, no team is hotter than New Orleans, and their variety of weapons continues to baffle teams. I continue to believe that Mark Cuban should just put on a damn jersey and play for the team he obsesses over. And don’t worry, the “Little General” will find soldiers soon enough. There is one silver lining for the Mavs, though: Josh Howard has more of the summer to fill with the “high life.”
Spurs def. Suns, 4-1
To those of you who have jumped on the “Spurs are a bunch of old guys” bandwagon, do you perhaps have four-day amnesia? When Tony Parker throttled Phoenix for 31 and 8 in Game 5, he certainly didn’t look aged to me. Yes, the average number of years of playing pro on San Antonio’s starting lineup is 10.12, but any team needs fresh legs when they’re chasing after Brazilian Blurs and such. Needless to say, this series really disappointed and that’s probably because the Suns only cracked 100 points once.
Jazz def. Rockets, 4-2
What a difference Yao would have made here, huh? Tracy McGrady played his heart out, but Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer really are just too darn reliable. Utah’s home dominance took a serious blow in Game 3, which does not bode well for the Lakers pairing. And did the Jazz really only score 69 in Game 5? That’ll gray Jerry Sloan’s hair.
Celtics def. Hawks, 4-3
I’m not sure if anyone actually sat down and thought about this but the Celtics were actually on the brink of elimination in the first round. Lacking the athleticism and “nothing-to-lose” attitude that Atlanta possessed, Boston showed that the Big Three aren’t always locked in. An inspired performance came from them in Game 7, but that was good because Las Vegas would have probably exploded otherwise.
Pistons def. 76ers, 4-2
Considering the Sixers were this year’s Golden State Warriors, this was an exciting series that no one really expected. It definitely woke up the Pistons, but also reiterated how complacent both the first and second Eastern seeds can become. “Big Shot” Billups didn’t have a great opening round shooting 40 percent from the field, so it may have just been a hiccup.
Magic def. Raptors, 4-1
Although D-Howard ran all over Toronto in this one, Superman’s kryptonite was revealed: foul trouble. After averaging four fouls per game in this series, it seems Dwight might be a little too prone to calls because of his enormous size. The league’s most improved player, Hedo Turkoglu, carried the load otherwise, making Orlando’s off-season acquisitions seem that much more “magical.”
Cavaliers vs. Wizards, 4-2
The close-fisted approach Washington took when guarding Bron Bron ended up being pretty disgraceful. DeShawn Stevenson should learn to treat the NBA’s “king” with a little bit more respect, and maybe Arenas’ absence in the last two games was karma. This marks the third straight season the Cavs have disposed of the Wizz in Round One. Some things never change.