May 9 - Juicy NBA Matchups
The second round of the NBA Playoffs kicked off yesterday with two blowouts – Miami squashed
Washington, while San Antonio blew out Seattle. And while those two series should remain fairly
lopsided the rest of the way (if either goes longer than five, consider me shocked), the other two series
contain enough intrigue to draw viewers in, regardless of what actually happens on the court. Couple
last night’s two stinkers with the two Game Seven bombs on Saturday night and the NBA probably can’t
wait for the marquee matchups to get going.
First, let’s take a quick look at the two aforementioned in progress romps, since if we don’t in the next 48
minutes, they will be over. There really isn’t much to say about them, though—
Miami (#1 East) vs. Washington (#5 East): A Miami sweep is forthcoming. Shaq still isn’t 100%, but that
means nothing in this matchup. The Wizards aren’t on the same planet as the Heat.
San Antonio (#2 West) vs. Seattle (#3 West): I’ve long though Seattle was overrated and this series will
show the league that this is the case. And if Ray Allen and Vladimir Radmanovic don’t recover from their
Game One injuries quickly, this will be the second sweep of the second round. The Spurs will cruise.
Now on to the headliners – two series that are guaranteed to entertain, although not necessarily for the
Detroit (#2 East) vs. Indiana (#6 East): All of the hype in this rematch of last year's Eastern Conference
Finals will be focused on that dark, fateful Friday night in November.
We will see countless clips of the brawl that took place in Auburn Hills. Ron Artest will receive more on
camera time from that video than he would have if he was actually playing in the series. And
unfortunately for the Pacers, he isn’t, which will make the difference in this series between the most
bitter rivals in the NBA. Indiana will continue using Reggie Miller’s impending retirement as their rallying
point. But the emotional lift from playing for the greatest to ever don a Pacer uniform just won’t be
enough. Detroit is the defending champs for a reason. They are deeper, tougher and, most importantly,
are a better team. It is as simple as that. The Pacers are tough and will put up a valiant effort, but Larry
Brown’s team is on a collision course with the Heat for a wonderful Eastern Conference Finals pairing.
And anyone waiting for Brawl Part 2? Get a life. It ain’t happening. Do you really think the fans will be that
stupid, even in Detroit? Security in this series will be tighter than a Speedo on David Stern.
It may be a war on the floor, and some outside the league hope it extends into the stands. But either
way, Detroit takes this in six, tops.
Phoenix (#1 West) vs. Dallas (#4 West): You want an intriguing matchup? Here you go. There are a two
very interesting points to this one.
This will be fast paced basketball at its finest. The Mavericks ushered run and gun play back into the
NBA a few years back and the Suns have perfected it this season. There won’t be much defense on
display, so expect some high-scoring shootouts, which most basketball fans will tell you is exactly what
they want to see. Of course, this heavily favors the Suns, since any time they want to outscore you, not
hold you to fewer points than they score.
More than that, however, is the Steve Nash factor. The newly-minted NBA MVP gets to face the team that
let him go after last season. Dallas gets to see the man they shunned for a seven game set. How’s that
for an underlying story? Actually, no one will allow it be underlying – figure this story to be spread-eagled
across the top of the bedspread. How much revenge does Nash want? Does he care about that or
about winning? How will the Dallas fans react to his appearance (it isn’t his first game back, but it is his
first as league MVP)? All of the other players in this series, even Dirk Nowitzki, who took his game to a
new level this season, will be secondary to the Canadian point guard.
Phoenix should win this one handily given how well they match up with the Mavs, say in five games. But
we will need to wait and see how much emotion factor into it. I’ll stick to my Phoenix in five pick for now.
So we are looking at Detroit and Miami in the East Finals and San Antonio versus Phoenix out West. In a
Playoffs without Kobe, LeBron or Kevin Garnett, the NBA really can’t be too upset with the way things are