Denver and Memphis Are the First Playoff Teams to "Go Fishing"TNT's Kenny Smith likes to say that teams that have been eliminated from the playoffs have gone fishing. The first 2006 playoff squads to accompany Smith in digitally altered vacation photos are Denver and Memphis. The L.A. Clippers easily dispatched the Nuggets in five games and the Dallas Mavericks accomplished the only first round sweep this year, defeating the Grizzlies in four straight. Dallas-Memphis was a matchup between the fourth and fifth seeds but, as I noted in my playoff preview, Dallas won 60 games and is not an ordinary fourth seed; the Mavericks dropped to that position because of the NBA's wacky playoff format. L.A.-Denver was a six-three pairing but sixth seeded L.A. had the better record and thus enjoyed home court advantage--thanks again to the NBA's wacky playoff format, which granted Denver the third seed in recognition of winning the Northwest Division title despite the Nuggets' pedestrian 44-38 record, one game worse than the seventh seeded L.A. Lakers. Speaking of the Lakers, they are one win away from eliminating the second seeded Phoenix Suns.
The thing that has surprised me the most so far is Sacramento beating the Spurs twice. San Antonio had game three all but sewn up before a turnover allowed the Kings to win at the buzzer. If the Spurs had won that game they probably take the series in a sweep. That just shows how fragile competition is--you can be dominating one minute and in a fight for your life the next. The Spurs will still win the series, but now they will have to work for it, while Dallas rests up for the next round. I thought that Miami would beat Chicago in five but I realized that they are vulnerable to dribble penetration; that's one reason why I picked New Jersey to oust them in round two. Miami will regroup just enough to get by the Bulls but a talented Nets team will fully expose the Heat's flaws. New Jersey has had some shaky moments versus the Pacers but I expect the Nets to win the next two games and close out the series. Cleveland and Washington are exactly where I expected them to be: tied 2-2. Look for Cleveland to win close contests in games five and six. I am not surprised that Milwaukee beat Detroit once, although the margin of victory was a little eye opening. The Bucks avoided a sweep by splitting their home games and figure to join Denver and Memphis after their next game. Miami is clearly vulnerable and Detroit is more vulnerable than people think; it will just take a team that is more talented than Chicago or Milwaukee to prove this. Don't sleep on the New Jersey Nets.
posted by David Friedman @ 2:08 AM