Armstrong: Breaking down each first round series

Jack Armstrong
4/27/2009 10:27:30 AM
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It's been a mixed (some good/some bad) schedule of games so far in the NBA Playoffs.

As the stakes get higher and as each game moves along in a series and the teams become that much more familiar with each other, the games get a bit more heated as well.

Let's take a quick look at each series and see how they're shaping up.     


1. Cavs vs. 8. Pistons: Over in four. Cavs simply dominated with their defensive intensity. LeBron & Co are on a mission. Pistons look like a team that never recovered from the loss of Chauncey Billups to the Nuggets for Allen Iverson. Pistons didn't play with a lot of fire and their offense looked like it regressed big-time. Time to change the dynamics of their organization around this offseason.                         

2. Celtics vs. 7. Bulls: What a series! I know the Celts are banged up but don't forget the Bulls are missing Lou Deng too. The passion, intensity and focus has been awesome here. Ben Gordon and Derrick Rose have put incredible pressure on the Celts defense and Rajon Rondo has grown by leaps and bounds as a point guard. Those vets Paul Pierce and Ray Allen can play a bit. This baby is going 7 games.                   

3. Magic vs. 6. 76ers: Tight games and late game scenarios winning for both sides. Evenly matched series. The 76ers' quickness and athleticism has given the Magic issues. The Sixers depth has helped out big-time (Donyell Marshall/Lou Williams). Magic need to do a much better job with there ball movement and stick with Dwight Howard as the focal point for 48 minutes. Sixers need to prevent the Magic's threes, which is a big part of their philosophy.                      

4. Hawks vs. 5. Heat: That Dwyane Wade guy can flat out play - can't he??  The Hawks need to find a way to win on the road in the playoffs (0-5 including last year vs. Celtics). The Hawks defense needs to be stronger inside vs. Jermaine O'Neal and limit penetration. The Heat has to continue to find ways to get Wade in open space so he can slice/dice folks off the bounce. Still like this going seven games. Too evenly matched a series.                            


1. Lakers vs.  8. Jazz: Jazz should set up their Tee Times. They got their one win in the series (Barely) and it's going to end. Kobe is the Man! Took over in Game 4 at Utah and that's what the great ones do when the series needs to be won. Jazz Defense can't stop the size and athleticism of the Lakers. Lakers have gotten better this year with their defence - when they need to turn the screws and get a stop they find a way.                    

2. Nuggets vs. 7. Hornets: Fun match up of Point Guards with Billups vs. Paul. Boy,the game has changed so much thru the years. Your lead guard impacts the game and the outcome late a whole lot more than the big fellas do. The Nuggets looked like world beaters at home. They have better depth and are guarding better at key moments.                    

3. Spurs vs. 6. Mavs: Rick Carlisle can flat out coach. Not a charismatic guy at all but look what he's done this year in a very competitive conference with a team in my opinion is not that talented/deep speaks volume about his ability. Sum is more important than the parts here. Spurs look old and very guard able. Tony Parker is a game changer but without Manu Ginobli they don't have that wind impact player. Don't count them out but it doesn't look good for the Spurs.                   

4. Blazers vs. 5. Rockets: What a fabulous level of passion in Game 4 last night!  Shane Battier with some clutch shots and defensive plays. A gritty bunch that has developed nicely under Rick Adelman. They guard you and have excellent role definition as a team. I picked the Blazers in this series in 7 but I'm having my doubts. Beyond Brandon Roy they don't seem to have another perimeter guy who can consistently make plays off the bounce when they need it. Greg Oden and La Marcus Aldridge are learning what playoff grit/toughness is all about.          

It ain't over til it's over but it's getting closer in a lot of the series. Enjoy!    

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