The Lakers and Suns Will Conclude the First Round in Rousing Fashion TonightCleveland and San Antonio advanced to the second round with series clinching victories on Friday night, meaning that the first round of the playoffs will conclude on Saturday night with game seven of the Lakers-Suns series. Before the playoffs began, some analysts suggested that this could be one of the most competitive first rounds ever and that several upsets were possible. The reality is that--as I predicted in the playoff preview that I posted here--the team with the better regular season record has won every series thus far (the Nuggets were a higher seed than the Clippers but won fewer games and did not have home court advantage). The only upset that I thought was realistically possible was the Lakers beating the Suns and that series is the only one that has gone the full seven games. Sacramento made a little more noise than I expected versus San Antonio but did not come close to taking the series the distance; the Kings got blown out in games one and six and if they had not won game three at the buzzer they probably would have been swept. Still, give Ron Artest and Bonzi Wells credit for providing a spark for the Kings, who needed a late season surge to even qualify for the playoffs. Indiana gave New Jersey a tougher time than I expected but Memphis, Denver and Milwaukee went out quickly. Chicago hung tough for a while and provided a blueprint for the Nets to use to eliminate Miami (not that New Jersey did not already know how to do so--the Nets took three of four regular season games versus the Heat).
Perhaps the best two words in sports are "game seven," so NBA fans will experience a real treat before the second round commences on Sunday afternoon. The Lakers have already shown that they are capable of beating Phoenix, but winning a seventh game on the road is a very tall order in the NBA. Expect a close game--Kobe Bryant will not allow the Lakers to be blown out the way Houston was in game seven last year after the Rockets squandered a 2-0 lead against Dallas. I picked the Lakers to win the series but I have also said all along that if it went seven I liked Phoenix' chances; I guess that means that whatever happens on Saturday I will be partially right and partially wrong.
My next two posts will break down the second round pairings that were finalized on Friday: Detroit-Cleveland and San Antonio-Dallas. The L.A. Clippers will play the winner of the Lakers-Suns series, so that preview will be posted here on Sunday. Links to all of my 2006 playoff previews will also be posted on the right hand side of 20 Second Timeout, so if you missed an earlier one or simply want to reread what I predicted it is very easy to find those posts.
posted by David Friedman @ 2:20 AM