A truly exciting first round, the likes of which we haven't seen maybe since the round expanded to seven game series's, has finally finished and the match ups for round two are set to begin (today at 1:00ET). The following is my thoughts on what to expect from the upcoming games:
#1 San Antonio Spurs vs. #4 Dallas Mavericks - I wont get into the ridiculousness that is the seedings and will just focus on how amazing this series will be. If the Mavericks' plan has worked this team should be built to beat the Spurs. With the Spurs looking slightly injured and coming off a brutal battle with the Kings the Mavs should be in a good position to win this series. I expect the Mavs to win today, and then the other three home games for them. That gives the Mavs a win in six games. The x factors for each team will be Avery Johnson's ability to surprise the Spurs with something new, and which Manu Ginobili decides to show up.
#2 Phoenix Suns vs. #6 Los Angeles Clippers - This is another interesting series like the Suns/Lakers series because the Clips can give the Suns trouble. Mike Dunleavy said his team is built for the playoffs with their ability to play many different styles. That will be put to the test against the super uptempo suns. The Suns will try as hard as possible to score as many points as possible. The Clippers must do what the Lakers did at first, slow it down and abuse the Suns down low. With Kaman and Brand the Clips should outrebound the Suns badly. If they can couple that with a consistent inside scoring plan they should stop the Suns from running and methodically beat them. X factors, Sam Cassell's attitude must stay arrogant for the Clips to believe they can win and the Suns need Tim Thomas to neutralize Kaman by beating him on the outside and make the Clips go small. The Clips should win in 6 games taking game 2 at Phoenix and all three home games.
#1 Detroit Pistons vs. #4 Cleveland Cavaliers - National media predicts a four game sweep which I think is too generous to the Pistons, lets say five games is more realistic, I mean even the Bucks took a game off the Pistons. And don't forget LeBron is capable of winning a game by himself at any time. This series should come down to a frontcourt battle between the Wallaces & McDyess vs. Big Z, Gooden, Varejao. Unlike the series against the Wizards i think the teams will not go small at any time. Again whoever rebounds will win the games. Pistons in five. X Factors are mental resiliency in the face of the LeBron hype for Detroit and Larry Hughes' shooting for the Cavs.
#2 Miami Heat vs. #4 New Jersey Nets - Vince Carter torched the Heat all year but the questions are not about the Nets. Which Shaq shows up? Unlike against the Bulls the Heat can't dawdle against the highly capable Nets. This should be interesting although not necessarily good basketball. The teams are so dramatically different in styles that blowouts could be a coming. Look for the Heat to try and go to Shaq early and often and look for the Nets to try and run run run. Prediction Heat in seven with home teams winning every game. X Factors are the Heat's abilities on defense and the Nenad Kristic for the Nets. If they are to win he will need to dominate the paint when Shaq is out of the game. Heat in seven.
A great first round has set up a pretty good second round. Some games should be great some not so great all highly interesting. Best series: Spurs - Mavericks.
Conference Finals should be Spurs - Clippers and Pistons - Heat.