Celtics in 5
Both teams were at the bottom of the Eastern Conference in recent years, but they are a mile apart now even though they begin the playoffs together. For the Hawks the 8th seed and the first sniff of the playoffs in nine years is a success, but after a 66-16 season, the Celtics won’t be a success unless they get to the NBA Finals. Look for them to start strong by beating the Hawks in five games.
Lakers in 5
The Wild Wild West saw all eight playoff teams achieve 50 wins, with the Lakers emerging as the number one seed, with Kobe Bryant having an MVP season. In the regular season the Lakers won all three meetings with Denver, and that should not change much in the playoffs, as the Nuggets don’t have the defense to stop the Lakers, don’t be shocked if Kobe averages 40 ppg, as the Lakers win the series in five.
Pistons in 5
These two teams split in the regular season, as the 76ers surprised even their most optimistic fans by making the playoffs in the first full season without Allen Iverson. However, the playoffs are a whole different kettle of fish. In the playoffs the Pistons who posted a 59-23 record will be focused on playing hard and getting past the early rounds as quickly as possible as they focus on the Celtics, look for them to get off to a fast start here as they 86 the 76ers in five.
Mavericks in 6
Last year the Mavericks were the best team in the NBA all season, and fell apart in the playoffs as they were stunned by the eight seed. This year they struggled just to reach the playoffs as they are the seven seed playing a Division Champion. Look for the tables to turn, as the Mavs who have been through the playoffs battles, will have a few extra tricks in their bag for the Hornets led by Chris Paul who is making his first postseason appearance, winning in six.
Magic in 7
Although the Raptors ended the season in a bit of a slump that dropped their record to 41-41, they match up well with the young Magic. Look for this series to be a long one as Chris Bosh is the type of big man that usually does well in the postseason. Dwight Howard also is going to be a big time playoff performer as these two teams are more even the records show. In the end the Magic will advance but they will have to go through seven tough games to reach the second round.
Suns in 6
The ultimate success of the Shaquille O’Neal trade will be on how the Suns do in the playoffs, especially how they do against the Spurs. The winner of the series once again could be primed to win it all if they don’t kill each other first that is. Look for the Suns desire for revenge from last year’s controversial series to give them an extra edge, as the Spurs often take a few games to get on a roll in the playoffs that will give the Suns the opening they need to win in six.
Wizards in 7
These two teams are facing off in the NBA Playoffs for the third year in a row, two years ago the Cavs won a close series in six games, and last year they swept the injured Wiz. Now it’s the Cavaliers who are limping as LeBron James back is acting up, no surprise there he carried the team on his own for 82 games. The Wizards are peaking at the right time, and will finally get the last laugh against the LeBrons winning in seven.
Jazz in 7
The Rockets made the playoffs fueled by a 22-game winning streak, despite losing Yao Ming for most of the second half, while the Jazz played a sweet tune on their home court. Last year when these two teams met, home court was big with the Jazz winning all three games at home, before stunning the Rockets in Houston in Game 7. The Rockets enter the playoffs limping as Rafer Alston could miss a few games, and that will put them a big hole as the Jazz using the home court edge win in seven again.