So there were no upsets after all in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
2008 NBA playoffs
- Pistons take Game 2 in Boston
- Lakers storm back to shock Spurs
- Goodman: Boston in big trouble
- Kriegel: Kobe's Lakers turn it on
- Kahn: KG is heart of the Celtics
- Kahn: Fisher a big factor for Lakers
- Western Conference playoff central
- Eastern Conference playoff central
- Complete NBA playoff coverage
- Best shots from the conference finals
- Hamilton rips through Celts in Boston
- Analysis: How did the Lakers rally?
The Celtics nipped that in the bud on Sunday afternoon with a 99-65 win over the Hawks in what was the most interesting and unlikely series to go seven games. Elsewhere in the East, the Pistons shouldn't have needed six to take care of the Sixers, but blew them out in the final two games. The Magic had no trouble with the Raptors, disposing of them in five. The Cavaliers had slightly more difficulty with the Wizards, who never lived up to their own vibrato, but did their best to beat up LeBron James however unsuccessful they were at that, too.
About that incredible Western Conference, where upsets happen (allegedly) ... nothing came of the billing as everything pretty much went according to form. Sure, there were some dreams about the Suns knocking off the aging and staid Spurs; but only the first two games were really in question and the Suns' only win was virtually meaningless in the five-game romp for the defending champs. The dreamers also thought the Mavericks had suddenly found toughness after Dirk Nowitzki's ankle sprain brought them together, and with Dirk back, they could roll the inexperienced Hornets. Not with Chris Paul and David West leading the Hornets, they couldn't. Instead, another five-game blowout, the second year in a row the Mavs have been eliminated in the first round, one year too many for now ex-coach Avery Johnson.
Both series ended up being drags.
The Jazz beating the Rockets in six was never boring really, as the Rockets hung tough, especially when point guard Rafer Alston was healthy. Of course, Alston only lasted two full games, but at least they made it a series, while the defenseless Nuggets never did as the Lakers swept them off the floor.
Will it be different in the second round? Well, let's take a peek.
(1) Celtics (66-16) vs. (4) Cavs (45-37)
The two teams split the four-game regular season series, and the general perception of the Celtics has to be different now after their first-round series with the Hawks went seven games. If they couldn't deal with Joe Johnson, what are they going to do with LeBron James, who willed the Cavs to the Eastern Conference championship last year? Actually, this series will be a simple read: If Wally Szczerbiak and Daniel Gibson shoot the ball well for the Cavs, they've got a good chance to win. If they don't, the Celtics will roll. It will be somewhere in between.
Pick: Celtics in seven.
(2) Pistons (59-23) vs. (3) Magic (52-30)
These two teams also split the season series, but the Pistons already beat them up pretty badly in Game 1, 91-72, and now have beaten the Magic in eight consecutive playoff games. They even tied up budding superstar center Dwight Howard, who was so dominant in the first round against Toronto with a trio of 20-20 games. The Magic would seem to have the edge up front with Howard, Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu, but the Pistons' depth and frontcourt experience will neutralize it, while the Detroit backcourt of Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton will dominate. The best thing that could have happened to the Pistons overall was losing a couple of games to the Sixers. Now they're focused and seem destined for their sixth consecutive trip to the conference finals.
Pick: Pistons in five.
(1) Lakers (57-25) vs. (4) Jazz (54-28)
The tough defense, offensive execution and depth of the Jazz creates the popular notion that they will make this a great series. There's only one problem. Player for player, except Jazz point guard Deron Williams, the Lakers' matchups cause the Jazz just too many problems, as was evidenced in their 109-98 win in Game 1. Sure, the Jazz can beat the Lakers, as they did just once in their four regular season meetings this season. But Sunday's game now makes the season series 4-1, with the Lakers winning by an average of 11 points. The Jazz can't do anything with Kobe Bryant or Lamar Odom, and they can only hope to rough up Pau Gasol enough to throw him a little off his game. The Lakers aren't as physical as the Jazz or the Rockets, but it won't matter enough.
Pick: Lakers in five.
(2) Hornets (56-26) vs. (3) Spurs (56-26)
This should be the best series of the semifinals, with the two teams splitting the regular season matchup. Nonetheless, the way the Hornets blew out the Spurs going away 101-82 in Game 1 was shocking. Of course, so was Spurs star Tim Duncan's line of 5 points on 1-of-9 shooting and 3 rebounds. That isn't likely to happen again, while Tony Parker should match up better with Chris Paul in Game 2. The Spurs do not match up well with Hornets All-Star David West, though, and he responded with 30 points and 9 rebounds in Game 1. Essentially, the Spurs just didn't show up in Game 1 but as defending champs, they're not about to lay down. It's hard to fathom a team with so many youngsters knocking off the well-weathered champs in a seven-game series, unless Paul and West play at an extraordinary level. Can they do it? Well, why not?
Pick: Hornets in seven.