Cleveland Cavaliers vs Boston Celtics
The Cavs are the better team. But the Celtics are no slouch either. They can't seem to maintain their championship defensive intensity over a course of several games. But they are certainly capable of it for stretches. If the Celtics can somehow neutralize Lebron James as they did with Kobe 2 years ago, they'll have a chance to pull off the upset. There's a lot of good players in this matchup so it'll be interesting to see how each responds.
Cav's shooters will have to be effective because Celtics will collapse their defense on James.
Jamison needs to be able to step up his game to relieve pressure on James.
Mo Williams and Z will need to help draw out the defense to create spacing for James and Jamison.
Celtics like to pack the paint so I don't see Shaq having much impact in this series. But it would make a huge difference if he can get Perkens and KG into foul trouble.
Ray Allen needs to keep doing what he does best. Play without the ball and use screens to set himself up for that sweet stroke of his.
Pierce needs to force James to check him. If James is not on him, he needs to post his defender to score or draw the foul. Anything to put James back on him.
If James is on Pierce, then that means James isn't checking Rondo. Just as we saw with Derrick Rose, the Cavs have no answer for quick PG's. Rondo should be able to carve up everyone else on the Cavs team off the dribble to create shots for himself or opportunities for others.
I'll take the Cavs in 7.
Orlando Magic vs Atlanta Hawks
The Magic are hitting their stride in the playoffs. Vince Carter is once again attacking the rim, either finishing or getting to the line. Jameer Nelson is playing like he was before his injury that forced him to miss his first all-star game. Rashard Lewis is sinking shots from deep again. And of course, they have Dwight Howard. He's not been effective in the postseason because of foul trouble. But the Hawks can't count on that to keep Superman off the court against them.
It's well documented that this Hawks team has issues playing on the road. It certainly doesn't help that this series starts off with 2 games at Orlando. The Magic are not going to have any problems dispatching Atlanta.
Magic in 5.
Los Angeles Lakers vs Utah Jazz
The Jazz are severely undersized at all positions except point guard compared to the Lakers. Ball movement is the Jazz's bread and butter. But the Lakers' size and length will bother them. Besides, these 2 teams are meeting for the 3rd consecutive time in the playoffs. The Lakers won the previous 2 series so they've shown, they know how to beat this team. Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsap are good interior players but they'll have their hands full trying with defending and scoring over three 7-footers. Deron Williams is spectacular but he no longer has the size advantage if Kobe or Artest is on him. They'll play his shot and if he chooses to drive, he'll have to deal with the Lakers' bigs. This will be an easier out than the Thunder.
Lakers in 5
San Antonio Spurs vs Phoenix Suns
These 2 teams can't have more contrasting styles of play. Spurs will need to control the pace to have a chance. The older Spurs team would not be able to keep up if the Suns start their running game. Steve Nash is the engine that makes the Suns go. The Spurs would be wise to try to score on him on the other end to tire him out. Their combination of George Hill and Tony Parker have the ability to do just that. Amare Stoudemire and Jason Richardson needs to continue their strong play against Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.
Again, pace is the key in this series. The lower the final score, the higher the chance for the Spurs to win. Look for the Spurs to lead at halftime, only to have it squandered because of of the Sun's breakneck speed getting up and down the court.
Suns in 6