The 2nd round of the playoffs kick off tonight with the Celtics versus the Lebrons. Let’s take a quick look at the matchups.
(1) Cavs vs. (4) Celtics
The news is out that Lebron has won his 2nd consecutive MVP award, joining Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Moses Malone, Tim Duncan, and Steve Nash as the only back-to-back winners of the award. No surprise there. Lebron is on a mission to take home the championship this year, but first he’s got to get through the Celtics, who looked better than most people expected in their first round matchup against the Heat. This series should have all the intensity of the Celtics/Cavs series two years ago when they met in the Eastern Conference Finals. Since Britt Robson can do a much better job than myself of previewing this series, I’ll just direct you to his Cavs/Celtics Preview.
Next Game: tonight at 7:00 on TNT
(2) Magic vs. (3) Hawks/(6) Bucks winner
The Magic were the most dominant team of the 1st round. Even with Dwight Howard being a complete nonfactor and Vince Carter being either hit-or-miss, but mostly miss, the Magic took care of business and swept the Bobcats. With respect to Deron Williams, nobody raised their stock more during the 1st round than Jameer Nelson. He carried the Magic offensively agains the Bobcats, averaging 24 points per game. He did get some help from Rashard Lewis as well, who averaged 16 ppg on 52% FG and 46% 3PT shooting. If Vince Carter and Dwight Howard get it going, this team is really scary. The Hawks have not looked good in the 1st round, and the Bucks don’t have enough firepower. I expect the Magic should be able to get by either team without too much difficulty unless the Hawks catch fire and never cool off.
Next Game: Bucks @ Hawks, Sunday at 12:00 on ABC
(1) Lakers vs. (5) Jazz
In case you missed it, the Lakers closed out their series last night against the Thunder with a putback by Pau Gasol with 0.5 seconds remaining. Kevin Durant had a really bad night, and yet the Thunder still almost won that game. That team is going to be a force in the coming years. But enough about that, onto the next series that pits the Lakers against the Jazz. The Jazz took down the Nuggets in 6 games while missing two of their five starters. Kirilenko has been out for awhile now with a calf inury and Okur went down early in the 1st game against the Nuggets with a season-ending achilles injury. With that said, the Jazz have gotten huge performances out of both Carlos Boozer and Paul Milsap. Nobody has been better in the first round than Deron Williams. He was the first player in NBA playoff history to get a double-double in points and assists for the first 5 games of a series. He then did it Game 6 as well. On the other side, Kobe looked very human against the Thunder, but Gasol is going to be a difficult matchup for the Jazz. If the Jazz can find a way to split the first 2 games of the series, AK-47 is expected to be ready to play for Game 3 and will provide them with a huge boost.
Next Game: Sunday at 2:30 on ABC
(3) Suns vs. (7) Spurs
There’s no longer a Big 3 on the Spurs, it’s more like a Big Old 3 and their sidekick Geoge Hill. Those four guys took turns beating up on the Mavs in the 1st round. The Spurs have been starting George Hill and BatManu in the backcourt ever since Tony Parker first went down an injury late in the season, and even with Parker back, they’ve stuck with it. Tony Parker has taken over Manu’s old spot as super sixth man, and it’s all been very effective. The Spurs may be a 7 seed, but that doesn’t mean much of anything right now. Everyone on their team is healthy, and they look like a top seed. These are two teams that are very familiar with each other. It used to be a yearly tradition that the Spurs would knock the Suns out of the playoffs. For the Suns, Jason Richardson was a deadly scorer in the 1st round, averaging 24 points per game on 53% shooting. What’s even better is that he’s shooting 51% from 3-point land. The Suns need more of the same out of him against the Spurs if they want to take this series. The Spurs are most likely going to use their tried and true method of beating the Suns, which involves slowing down the tempo of the game to a snail’s pace and beating the crap out of them. Amare needs to step up in a big way and play like he gives a damn. It’s now or never. He’s going to have to hold his own in the paint and pull down a good share of rebounds over Duncan, Mcdyess, Blair. If he played some defense, that would go a long ways, but that may be asking too much out him. This should be a great series.
Next Game: Monday at 9:30 on TNT