NBA Playoffs: Conference Semi Finals

By Jack Maidment

The Playoffs are firmly under way and have already thrown up more than enough surprises.

The Lakers are too big and too long to be troubled by the Jazz. Every shot that Carlos Boozer takes is a fade away jumpshot over the outstretched hand of either Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom or Andrew Bynum. The Jazz is too small and have too many injuries, but the money they spent on Paul Milsap is starting to look like a pretty good investment. He has carried them for whole quarters at a time.

Deron Williams may well be the best point guard in the game today but he can onoly do so much.

The Lakers bench has been positively woeful so far this postseason and getting called out by Kobe Bryant seems to have had little effect.

Their sloppy play is only manageable as long as the Los Angeles starting 5 keep playing so well and Kobe keeps closing games.

Lakers in 5 after the Jazz sneak one in Utah.

The othermatch up out West is the best Conference semi. It has history, grudges and a little hint of politics. 

Could this finally be the year when the Phoenix Suns break the curse of San Antonio and advance to the promised land of a Conference final?

The way that Steve Nash and Amare Stoudamire are playing the pick and roll suggests they will. Quite simply it is perfect. It is a work of art. The question for Gregg Popovich is how do you stop something as precise and as finely tuned as the Phoenix offense?

Keep the ball out of the hands of the best passer in basketball. Easier said than done.

The Spurs are savvy and far from down and of all the teams to go in a 2-0 hole they would be the one to back to come out fighting and get the wins they need.

Suns in 6.

In the East the Cleveland Cavaliers are proving once again that they are not built for the post season.

They have the League MVP but a sore elbow and a supporting cast who cannot make shots is not going to get it done. Anthony Parker, Mo Williams, Delonte West and Jamario Moon made 4 shots in Game 2. Between them.

The Celtics certainly smell blood and they are the only team that has been able to flip the switch from regular season mediocrity to post season intensity.

LeBron or no, the Cavaliers are on the ropes. If they support doesn’t show there is no way LeBron can beat a team as defensively imposing as the Celtics.

And they hate each other. Anderson Varejao versus Kendrick Perkins? Antone who saw that little pushing match knows that the Brazillian should walk away. Perkins is a scowl machine.

Celtics in 6.

The final Conference Semi threatens to be a lesson in playground etiquette with the bigger, stronger and generally more impressive Orlando Magic punishing the under whelming Atlanta Hawks.

They were disappointing against a Milwaukee Bucks team who simply shouldn’t have taken a team as good as the Hawks are supposed to be to 7 games. The Bucks essentially had two players, Brandon Jennings and John Salmons with snippets of contributions from their team mates and yet that was enough to push an Atlanta team vaunted as a contender.

By themselves anyway.

Orlando in 5.

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