Friday, April 30, 2010

NBA Playoffs have been great so far

At least in the Western Conference they have. Three of the four series in the East ended in five games or less and if it wasn't for Dwayne Wade's awesome 46-point performance in a Game 4 win, there would have been two sweeps (Magic-Bobcats being the other). Unless something drastic happens in Miami, expect Wade to leave for greener pastures and a supporting cast that can get him out of the first round.

Everybody knew the West would be closely contested and so far it has been. The Lakers and Thunder have traded home wins and made for a very interesting 1-8 series while the Spurs stole homecourt from the Mavericks in Game 2, which was the beginning of the end in that series.

San Antonio is finally healthy and getting contributions outside of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. George Hill was awesome in their four wins and his breakout season has been a big part of the Spurs' success.

Phoenix needed six games to dispose of Portland, but that doesn't take anything away from Brandon Roy's heroics. He was back on the court just a week after knee surgery and while he wasn't his usual self, his presence was definitely a huge lift for the Blazers. Roy is a warrior and his appearance in this series just makes me like and respect him that much more as a player and a person.

The Jazz will look to close out the Nuggets tonight at home, which they will need to do to avoid going into the thin air of Denver for a decisive Game 7. The lack of George Karl on the bench has seemed to affect the Nuggets, who gave up homecourt against a Jazz team playing without two of their best players, Mehmet Okur and Andrei Kirilenko. But they still have Deron Williams.

Williams seems to always elevate his game in the playoffs, averaging 10 more points per game in the NBA's second season. Part of this is because his team is shorthanded, but more of it is his leadership ability to do whatever his team needs him to do to win.

With Okur and Kirilenko in the lineup he can be more unselfish, but without them he has turned it on without a problem when his team has needed it the most. Anyone who denies him a spot in the top 10 players in the NBA is a fool.

The Bucks need a Game 6 win at home to down the underachieving Hawks, who struggle miserably on the road and just lost their home playoff win streak. I didn't even think the Bucks could win a game in this series without Andrew Bogut in the middle, but Brandon Jennings has proven that he fears nobody with his performance this series.

If Milwaukee wins this series, Jennings deserves even heavier consideration for Rookie of the Year and it looks like he will be a 25-point, 7-assist, 5-rebound player very soon. But Jordan Hill was definitely the right choice for the Knicks over Jennings in this year's draft.

Either way, the Magic should easily dispose of whoever wins this series setting up a Conference Finals matchup with MVP LeBron James and the Cavs, who should handle Boston in six games.

The Lakers and Thunder play tonight as well, and that's the only series I expect to reach a Game 7. If the Lakers can survive the series I think they will beat the Jazz as well, setting up a matchup with the Spurs, who I think have the guns to take out the Suns.

The East probably won't be too interesting until Cavs-Magic, but all the great teams in the West have made the conference intriguing from the start. The playoff intensity I've seen so far has been great, and it should continue into the next round.

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