NBA Playoffs begin second weekend
By: Corby Yarbrough | 4/22/11, 5:00 PM EDT
The NBA playoffs are heading into their second weekend and most of the series are going as expected in the pre-playoff predictions.
Four things that have really stood out so far have been:
• Indiana's resiliency as a No. 8 seed.
• New York's ability to cotinually hang with Boston, but like Indiana, its inability to close a game.
• New Orleans getting a win in the series opener against the defending champion Lakers.
• Denver getting throttled early in Game 2 with Oklahoma City.
No. 1 CHICAGO vs. No. 8 INDIANA
As of Friday: Chicago up 2-0
Before the Playoffs Prediction: BULLS in 4
I predicted the Bulls would sweep their way into the second round and it appears they are going to do that. I'm sure Chicago, as the No. 1 seed, would liked to have had more than a seven-point lead at any time during this series but it hasn't and it is still going to pull off the sweep. The Pacers certainly have the makeup to become a solid team in a weak Eastern Conference, and they could use this series to take the next step just as the Bulls did as the No. 8 seed each of the last two seasons.
No. 2 MIAMI vs. No. 7 PHILADELPHIA
As of Friday: Miami up 3-0
Before the Playoffs Prediction: HEAT in 5
Doug Collins being candid is about the only thing I've taken from this series so far. The 76ers have hung close in two of the three games but the superior talent of the Heat has won out all three times. I still think Philadelphia gets one home victory out of this series before it returns to Miami and is finished off in five games.
No. 3 BOSTON vs. No. 6 NEW YORK
As of Friday: Boston up 2-0
Before the Playoffs Prediction: CELTICS in 6
No Chauncey and no Amar'e and the Knicks still hung in there in the second game. That's got to say something for the Knicks. The Celtics lost just eight times at home this season and the undermanned Knicks have made a series out of it on the road. New York taking two at MSG would not come as a shock, and if the Knicks do that I think all bets are off for the rest of the series. Boston is starting to look its age — outside of Rondo being able to run through the paint seemingly untouched in Game 2.
No. 4 ORLANDO vs. No. 5 ATLANTA
As of Friday: Series tied
Before the Playoffs Prediction: MAGIC in 7
Dwight Howard is shooting 71 percent from the floor for the series and the rest of the Magic are shooting 30 percent. The Hawks should stick with the plan to let Dwight get his and make the other Orlando players beat them. Atlanta managed to take a game on the road, and I still think the series goes seven games. About the only question I have from this series is: If it goes seven games does that benefit the Bulls with the time they will have off after their sweep or would they rather keep the winning momentum going immediately?
Western Conference First-Round Matchups
No. 1 SAN ANTONIO vs. No. 8 MEMPHIS
As of Friday: Series tied
Before the Playoffs Prediction: SPURS in 5
Not surprised was the reaction after Memphis finally got the first playoff victory for the franchise — on the road, against the No. 1 seed. This is the matchup the Grizzlies wanted and they are giving all they have to the Spurs. I know ifs and buts ... but Zach Randolph stays out of foul trouble in Game 2 and the Spurs might be traveling to Memphis down 0-2. Saturday's game at FedEx Forum should be another good one in what is easily the best series of the eight going on so far.
No. 2 LOS ANGELES vs. No. 7 NEW ORLEANS
As of Friday: Series tied
Before the Playoffs Prediction: LAKERS in 4
Surprised was certainly the reaction after the Hornets took Game 1. Of course it seems like the first game of the first series can always be a toss up because you just never know what to expect from regular-season games to playoff games. Chris Paul did it all for New Orleans and if you saw his dribbling clinic he put on in Game 2, he was doing all he could to facilitate another road victory. But the Lakers are two-time defending champs for a reason and two of those big reasons are 7-footers Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. The sweep is not possible, but this series should get done in five after the wake-up call the Lakers got in the first game.
No. 3 DALLAS vs. No. 6 PORTLAND
As of Friday: Dallas up 2-1
Before the Playoffs Prediction: BLAZERS in 7
Dallas wins two at home. Not a shock. Portland wins as soon as it gets back home. Also not a shock. For this series to go seven as predicted all of this is going to happen. If the Blazers can put together the team effort they got in Game 3 into the rest of the series then they will pull off the upset. The Blazers are like the Magic in this regard: LaMarcus Aldridge, like Dwight Howard, is going to get his. The question is: Who is going to step up around him. For Aldridge, the rest of his lineup did in Game 3. For Howard, he is still waiting.
No. 4 OKLAHOMA CITY vs. No. 5 DENVER
As of Friday: OKC up 2-0
Before the Playoffs Prediction: THUNDER in 6
Were the Nuggets really down by 19 with 47 seconds left in the FIRST quarter in Game 2? Yes. Can they recover from a performance like they had in Game 2? Because Denver returns home I will say yes. The Nuggets have the second-best home record (33-8) of the eight Western Conference teams, and their already league-best offense (107.5 ppg) for the season jumped up to 111.8 points a game at home this season.
— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter
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