Thursday , Apr , 20 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Looking to the First Round

It’s about that time. The regular season has wound down, the playoff picture has been painted, and the losers have gone home. Let’s take a look at the first-round match-ups.

East

(1) Detroit Pistons vs. (8) Milwaukee Bucks
(2) Miami Heat vs. (7) Chicago Bulls
(3) New Jersey Nets vs. (6) Indiana Pacers
(4) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (5) Washington Wizards

West

(1) San Antonio Spurs vs. (8) Sacramento Kings
(2) Phoenix Suns vs. (7) Los Angeles Lakers
(3) Denver Nuggets vs. (6) Los Angeles Clippers
(4) Dallas Mavericks vs. (5) Memphis Grizzlies

It looks as if we have an entertaining first round on our hands this year. While you can expect the Pistons, Spurs and Mavs to send their opponents packing with little difficulty, just about every other series has the potential to go either way. Of course, the Suns probably will spank the Lakers, but Kobe is almost guaranteed to pull out a few absurd performances that could lead to a victory or two. Similarly, it would be a surprise if the Bulls seriously challenged the Heat, but all it would take is an injury to Shaq or Dwyane and Miami’s house of cards could come tumbling down in an instant.

The other series should prove to be just as interesting, in particular the Wiz-Cavs match-up. While it would take a fair amount of balls and/or stupidity to bet against LeBron James in his first playoff appearance, it’s worth bearing in mind that Washington took the season series 3-1. Cleveland may have the best big man of either franchise in Z, but with the Gilbert Arenas running riot, Jamison scoring and boarding, and Larry Hughes looking to prove himself against his former team, the Wizards aren’t exactly going to lie down and die.

Looking to the First Round

Likewise, New Jersey may seem to have the advantage over Indiana despite that they came out losers in two of their three meetings this season.  It would have been more of a series with Ron-Ron involved, but a return to form for Sky Peja would even things up somewhat.  The Nets’ big three (you’re not there yet, Nenad) are certainly going to pose problems for the Pacers, but they themselves have Jermaine O’Neal, whose interior dominance will be especially apparent against a team whose leading rebounder is also their point guard.
 
Do you want to call the Nuggets-Clippers series?  Neither do I.  I will say this, though: Get your popcorn out.
 
Let me know your thoughts on which teams will make it to the second round by posting a comment at the end of this entry.
 
CYE