After the first week of the playoffs, a few things seem clear. One is that Dwayne Wade has in no shape or form, any kind of roster in Miami that can can compete in playoff basketball with anybody. If they get swept, this goes one of two ways: The Heat clean house, get 9 or 10 new players, some of whom named Stoudemire or Bosh; or Wade is playing for the Knicks next year. I’m betting it’s choice two. Boston, meanwhile, could really use the sweep and the time off before a sure-to-be battle with Cleveland. Don’t sleep on the Celtics. Say what you want about Garnett, Piece and the gang, but they won’t fall easily.
The Spurs are who I thought they were. Dallas, as I said, can win it all but they need to get past San Antonio first. This is a seven game series won in the last two minutes if I’ve ever seen one, similar to the one Dallas won a couple years back when they got to the Finals.
Last season, in the second round, the Lakers got blown out not once but twice by the game Houston Rockets, and still won the series en route to the title. So, getting blown out on the road in OKC isn’t the end of the world for the champs. Or is it? Unlike last year, L.A. hasn’t blown out the Thunder in any game like they did Houston. In fact, it’s likely that the ease of the Laker wins in that series led to a lack of focus that allowed the Rockets to sneak in with the big wins. In this series, after a miserable first quarter of game one, OKC has gotten better and better while the Lakers have all the look of a team collapsing. Because of the broken finger, Kobe can’t shoot a high percentage, no matter how many he chucks up there, and that’s not going to magically heal. Plus, did you catch his act in game four? This is precisely why I’ve never really believed Kobe was the best player in the league. Coach Phil Jackson called him out before the game for taking too many shots–justifiably so, I think, as Kobe was 28 for 76 (a putrid 37%) in the first three games. So how does Kobe respond? He tanks it, not taking his first shot until 3 minutes into the second quarter, and only 10 shots for the game, pouting the entire time. Grow up. Can anyone envision Michael Jordan pulling that in a key playoff game? Or Lebron James, for that matter? The Lakers are in legit trouble, and Kobe’s attitude and injuries may not allow him to save the day this time.
I thought Charlotte would be more of a challenge for Orlando, but they don’t really have that go-to scorer to close out games, and that’s killing them. They could have won two of these games if they had that kind of player, but they don’t.
Milwaukee’s putting up a decent fight, despite no Andrew Bogut, but I get the feeling that game 3 win was the only one they ultimately get. Same goes for the Bulls. They’ve played hard and been more competitive than I’d thought they’d be, but the Cavs just have too much. Next year, though, with an influx of talent sure to come through free agency, Chicago is going to be very difficult to beat.
In Portland, Brandon Roy has some seriously good doctors. Phoenix still should win this series, but it just got a whole lot harder. Still, this team is second round fodder for the Spurs/Mavs winner before Amare finds a new home.
Utah is playing way over their head, especially after losing Mehmet Okur to injury. Denver is in dangerous territory. George Karl’s not there to light a fire under this team, and if they don’t win game four on the road, you can pack this season away, as well as Chauncey Billups’ streak of Conference Finals appearances. At best, the Nuggets are looking at a six or seven game series win that is longer than it should have been, and a second round matchup with a battered Lakers team or a hot, confident OKC club. If they beat Utah, I’d bet they’re actually hoping to meet the Lakers. How the mighty have fallen.