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News » John Smallwood: No 76ers, but plenty of entertainment for fans in NBA playoffs

John Smallwood: No 76ers, but plenty of entertainment for fans in NBA playoffs

John Smallwood: No 76ers, but plenty of entertainment for fans in NBA playoffs
IN PHILADELPHIA, we like to think of the famous prediction of "Fo, fo, fo," by Moses

Malone as representative of the most dominating run in NBA playoff history.

Back in 1983, Malone's prediction of the 76ers sweeping their way to the NBA title came up one game short as they lost, 100-94, in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Still, 12-1 with a championship wasn't a bad way to finish things off.

Back in 2001, the Los Angeles Lakers with Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant had powered their way through the Western Conference playoffs and took an 11-0 mark into Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

But led by a 48-point effort by the mercurial Allen Iverson, the Sixers upset the Lakers, 107-101, in overtime in Game 1 to crush LA's dream of a sweep. Still, the Lakers' 15-1 postseason record officially stands as the most dominating run in NBA history.

Frankly, considering how difficult it has become for teams to sweep a single series, much less four, it seemed like a mark that would not be challenged, certainly never surpassed.

Philadelphia tends to be parochial when it comes to interest in the playoffs, after the local team has been eliminated. With the exception of the NFL, the postseason almost ceases to exist if the Phillies, Flyers or Sixers are not involved.

In the eyes of a lot of Basketball fans, the city's interest in the NBA playoffs ended 2 weeks ago, when the Sixers bowed out to the Orlando Magic in Game 6.

And if you're one of those fans, you're missing out on what could end up being the most dominating run in league history.

Led by Most Valuable Player LeBron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers are almost halfway through the NBA playoffs and are still undefeated at 7-0.

On Saturday, with James scoring 47 points, pulling down 12 rebounds and dishing out eight assists, Cleveland crushed the Hawks in Atlanta, 97-82.

After dusting off the Detroit Pistons in the opening round, the Cavaliers can advance to the Eastern Conference final with a victory over the Hawks tonight in Atlanta.

Cleveland has won its seven playoff games by a point-differential of 17.71 per game. James is averaging 33.7 points, 10.0 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 2.14 steals.

I don't want to overstate things because I covered Michael Jordan during his playoff prime, witnessed O'Neal sap the will of opponents with his power, and know there are hundreds of playoff performances I have not seen.

Still, the closest I can personally come to another player making a team so much more than the sum of its parts like James has with the Cavaliers is when Iverson willed a rag-tag bunch of Sixers to the 2001 Finals.

James knows how important titles will be in the ultimate evaluation of his legacy. He appears to be completely focused on winning his first.

But James and the Cavaliers are just one of several intriguing story lines still in the NBA playoffs.

Love them or loathe them, it is impossible not to be impressed by the character the Boston Celtics have displayed while trying to defend their title without Kevin Garnett.

It took the Celtics seven games to beat the Chicago Bulls in a series that featured four overtime games and is being touted as one of the best in NBA history.

Now Boston is trying to survive the Orlando Magic, which is experiencing its own renaissance with the postseason emergence of center Dwight Howard, who is averaging 20.9 points, 16.0 rebounds and 2.8 blocked shots.

Out West, the Denver Nuggets are still proving how one key addition can change the fortunes of a franchise.

The Nuggets' trading of Iverson to the Pistons for veteran point guard Chauncey Billups is paying even more dividends in the playoffs. With the steady leadership of Billups, the Nuggets, who tied their NBA -franchise record with 54 victories, beat New Orleans, 4-1, to win their first playoff series since 1994.

The Nuggets currently lead the Dallas Mavericks, 3-0, and are one win away from their first trip to the Western Conference finals since 1985.

Nearly lost in the story lines concerning James, Howard and Billups is how vulnerable the Lakers, the team that was most favored to make the NBA Finals, have looked.

Perhaps Kobe Bryant & Co. are the victims of increased expectations. After eliminating the Utah Jazz in five games, the Lakers are now life-and-death with the Rockets after yesterday's 99-87 loss in Houston, which was playing its first game without Yao Ming. The Lakers do not look like a squad primed to steamroll its way into the Finals.

And let's be honest, an NBA Finals between James and the Cavaliers and Bryant and the Lakers is what most fans are salivating for.

It would be the biggest individual matchup of superstars since Jordan announced his championship arrival by leading the Bulls over Magic Johnson and the Lakers in 1991.

The NBA keeps asking, "Where will Amazing happen this year?"

It's happening in lots of places, if you're paying attention. *

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Author: Fox Sports
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Added: May 11, 2009


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