With the utter insanity of the Chicago Bulls – Boston Celtics match up out East it is easy to forget just how good the first round series have been elsewhere. Even the ones with consistent blowouts offered something wildly entertaining.
Man it was ugly, but watching the Denver Nuggets humiliate the New Orleans Hornets was sure fun. Same goes for the Atlanta – Miami series where both teams have shared a powerful commitment to blowing out the other on alternate nights.
Watching Dwayne Wade and Joe Johnson go to work makes the 30 point loss kind of redundant. It’s just good.
So while Derrick Rose and Ben Gordon plot the downfall of Paul Pierce and his Celts, and Miami and Atlanta decide whose turn it is to get blown out in their game 7, the 6 teams who have already secured progress are busily preparing for what promises to be monumental semi final match ups.
Only 4 teams, all out West, know for sure who lies between them and the Conference Finals.
The Los Angeles Lakers are undoubtedly a little more troubled by their second round opponents than they may have been.
Houston’s progress means that LA face a team of hungry veterans with a splash of youthful arrogance thrown in that promises more problems than a Portland team who would have been far more likely to succumb to the flashing lights of Hollywood than Yao and Co.
You can bet all the tea in China that Yao Ming is not just happy with finally getting out of the First Round. Tasting post season success for the first time will have given the man from the Orient the impetus to drive his team even deeper, toward the Finals.
Yao is the major problem for the Lakers. 7 feet 6 is just hard to guard. Andrew Bynum, the Laker big man, was perhaps unwise to call for a match up with Houston so that he can take down Mr Ming.
If Yao discovers a new ‘domination’ level of play that his stature should make possible, the Laker frontcourt will have their work cut out to stop themselves getting steam rolled.
The problems do not stop with Yao. On paper, the Houston Rockets are one of, if not the, best defensive team in the League. With Ron Artest and Shane Battier locking down the LA perimeter players and Luis Scola’s hustle providing the perfect accompaniement to Yao’s length inside, the rockets are tough.
Kobe going at it with Battier promises to be a lot of fun. As does Bynum/Yao and Scola/Gasol. So many key match ups.
As good as the Rockets might be defensively, no other team in the NBA possess the same amount of fire power as the Lake Show. Kobe, Pau, Lamar, ‘Drew, Fisher, Ariza, Shannon Brown, Vujacic, Farmar.
Pick. Your. Poison.
There is no way that the Rockets can outswcore the Lakers, but the fact that giving up leads is sort of what LA does, Houston have a chance. Especially with Aaron Brooks on point.
Of all the men on the floor, Brooks poses the most problems for Phil Jackson. He is a match up nightmare. Too fast. Too dangerous. Too confident?
The speed that he has to burn will cause Derrick Fisher all kinds of trouble. 30 year old ankles are not designed to withstand Texas Tornadoes.
The Lakers may have to sacrifice the steady hand of the Fish Man for the zippier Jordan Farmar. Although his lack of minutes recently hardly prepares him too well for going toe to toe with one of the quickest players in the game.
Defense meets Offense. Grit meets Finesse.
Such a summary would ordinarily point toward a dead lock. A 7 game slog. The Lakers do however have an ace up their collective sleeve.