Its two days before tipoff and teams are putting up their A game going to the playoffs. Two expansion teams will have a baptism of fire the Charlotte Bobcats and the Oklahoma Thunders as they tackle the Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers respectively. Let’s try to examine each conference and evaluate teams on their respective first round playoff series.
1st Cleveland Cavaliers (61-21) – 8th Chicago Bulls (41-41)
The Bulls are happy to pull this out grabbing the 8th spot ahead of Toronto in a 3 game winning streak but they will have to face a bigger problem against the talented and deep Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs are the much hungrier and loaded with superb talent compared to the Bulls. With Shaq back in the lineup the question would be how many minutes will coach Brown give to Shaq? I think the Bulls magical season will end in the first round good thing the Del Negro-Paxson matchup will keep people interested.
2nd Orlando Magic (59-23) – 7th Charlotte Bobcats (44-38)
Captain Jack and the Bobcats will be on for a thrilling series. Going to their first franchise playoff the Bobcats can easily matchup with any of Orlando’s guards. Vince Carter will have a hard time with Gerard Wallace and Stephen Jackson but the Bobcats will have to find a bigger solution to Dwight Howard. Tyson Chandler might slow down Howard but he definitely needs help down low.
3rd Atlanta Hawks (53-29) – 6th Milwaukee Bucks (46-36)
If Andrew Bogut was still on the Bucks lineup this could have been a competitive series but unfortunately the Bucks will have to rely mostly on Brandon Jennings and John Salmons offense. The Hawks are just too talented and had numerous weapons on their arsenal but nevertheless the Bucks took a giant step this season.
4th Boston Celtics (50-32) – 5th Miami Heat (47-35)
The Celtics have their lineup intact but the Celtics luster is slowly fading but still I think they could move on to the next round. Wade can score at will but he needs his teammates to contribute. This would be a close battle but I give this round to the Celtics.
1st Los Angeles Lakers (57-25) – 8th Oklahoma Thunders (50-32)
The Thunders are a legit spoiler for the champion Lakers. They have the length and versatility to match up with the Lakers but with a rested Kobe and Andrew Bynum back in the lineup the Thunders will be in for an early exit. This series would be a Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook’s coming out but like they say the Playoffs is the time to separate the men from the boys and being inexperience would prove to be the biggest factor for Oklahoma
Los Angeles (4-1)
2nd Dallas Mavericks (55-27) – 7th San Antonio Spurs (50-32)
The Dallas Mavericks have learned their lesson well after being number 1, years before then ousted by the no.8 seed Golden State Warriors. They are just too deep to falter against an aging Spurs. Tony Parker is still nursing an injury and backup point guard George Hill is not 100 percent after re-aggravating his sprained right ankle. Dirk Nowitzki will be too much for San Antonio but this might be competitive than we think.
3rd Phoenix Suns (54-28) – 6th Portland Trail Blazers (50-32)
I could have given Portland a bigger chance in defeating Phoenix if Brandon Roy wasn’t injured. He is the heart of the team and losing him was a big blow to the Blazers. The Suns are playing inspired basketball with Amare playing superbly well and Steve Nash orchestrating the offense. Winning 50 games is already a feat for the Blazers so at least they go out with heads up high.
4th Denver Nuggets (53-29) – 5th Utah Jazz (53-29)
This is the much anticipated matchup for the first round playoffs. Either teams could win it and go a step higher to the second round. The Jazz could have cruised their way to the next level if they could have won against Phoenix putting them against the Portland Trail Blazers but instead they will have to face the hungrier Nuggets. It seems like the Jazz haven’t found the answer for Carmelo Anthony and even without Anthony and Billups the Nuggets manage a win against the Jazz on their season meeting last Jan.2 but having no George Karl in the bench can prove to be critical for the Nuggets. This is a toss coin for both teams but I like the Nuggets chances