May 1, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; A general view of the court during the second half of game two in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena. The Boston Celtics defeated the Atlanta Hawks 87 - 80. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-US PRESSWIRE

NBA Playoffs: First Round - Day 4

 

Today was a whirlwind! I had to cover a local baseball game (one that took over two and a half hours to complete) and didn’t get a chance to check out any playoff games. (Oh the agony!) Thank goodness for smart phones which allowed me to follow the action with a simple touch of the button (insert catchy jingle here). Nothing miraculous happened, so I didn’t miss much … in fact, looking back on the night’s events, all three games offered little drama in a first round sorely in need of something dramatic!

Game 1:

Bulls vs. 76ers

Final Score: 109-92 (76ers)

Series: 1-1

How said is it to be a Bulls fan right now? I feel for them because I absolutely love D. Rose and really felt Coach Thibb’s squad had a solid chance of going all the way this season.

What a difference a few seconds makes, eh? One minute you’re standing atop the world, carrying a double digit lead with a little over a minute remaining in the contest … and then, quite literally, hope snaps in the form of a basic jump shot.

Credit Philly for taking full advantage of Rose’s absence. They stuck with the Bulls until the third quarter, but then exploded on a 36-14 run that promptly halted any and all chances Chicago (and Scottie Pippen) felt they had at taking the crown without their numero uno scorer.

Jrue Holiday exploded with 26 points (his second highest scoring production this season behind a 30-point outing against, you guessed it, Chicago that resulted in a loss back in March), Lou Williams added 20 off the bench while Evan Turner chipped in 19. It was a decent all-around effort for our rag-tag-boys in the east. They must feel the same way Utah did back when number one seeded Dallas got ousted by a much-too-easy Golden State Warrior squad, thus resulting in a rare second round Utah victory.

A word of caution to the 76ers: you must next face either Boston or Atlanta (it’ll be Boston), who you probably wont beat. Enjoy your win, but realize it came at great expense.

 

Game 2:

Atlanta vs. Boston

Final Score: 87-80 (Boston)

Series: 1-1

OK, this game offered some nifty drama. Sometimes we seem to forget just how good Paul Pierce can be in the right situation, when the stars have aligned, and all the chips are on the table. Tonight Pierce dropped 36 points (don’t worry Atlanta, he did the same to my Pacers last night in 2K12) and led the heavily depleted Boston Celtics to a much needed playoff victory (all without Ray Allen or Rajon Rondo – which either speaks of Boston’s depth, or Atlanta’s ineptitude).

I figured Boston would take one game in Atlanta. I just didn’t expect it to be Game 2! I still see this series going seven games, but not if Pierce plays the way he did tonight – then it’ll only go five. (Keep in mind that Boston has shot horribly from beyond the arc – 0-for-11 in Game 1, and just 3-for-14 tonight. Those shots will drop in the Garden.)

Atlanta continues to both dazzle and frustrate. When Josh Smith and co. click, they run the floor better than 90-percent of the league. Except they cannot close out games – which has been their problem for nearly four years now. They got lucky in Game 1 – the Celtics were chucking bricks – but the problem with playing against a team like Boston is that Doc Rivers’ squads tend to adapt and improve throughout the course of the series. Atlanta regressed tonight. That wont due against Boston.

Game 3:

Lakers vs. Nuggets

Final Score: 104-100 (Lakers)

Series: 2-0 Lakers

Denver will win Game 3, mark my words. That’s neither high praise towards Denver, nor an insult towards LA – the losing team almost ALWAYS comes home and wins Game 3, but then usually drops Games 4 and 5 in quick fashion (the same will prob happen with the Jazz this season).

LA looked like a ragged version of their once powerful self all season long, but suddenly looks quite formidable. They have length, good shooters and the always reliable (and cranky) Kobe Bryant.

Or maybe Denver really isn’t that good. They lack size in the middle, and carry a depleted roster that (like Orlando) thrives on outside shooting (when those bombs drop … look out). I’m curious to see if (and when) LA eventually matches up with either Dallas or OKC (still undecided about that one), how Bynum and Gasol play against a much more formidable front court (IE Ibaka, Perkins, Collison; Dirk, Haywood, Mahinmi). I still don’t find LA’s bench that impressive (they only posted eight points tonight, although Coach Brown currently only leans on eight total players …), but Kobe, Bynum and Gasol are making that a mute point.

I really don’t want another LA championship (I’d probably even root for Miami over them), but I gotta say: I’m impressed with Brown’s Lakers.

 

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Tags: 76ers Boston Bulls Hawks Kobe Lakers NBA Nuggets Pierce Playoffs Rose

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