Second Round has been Completely Unpredictable
The second round of the 2006 NBA Playoffs has been all it was hyped to be. With the exception of the Miami vs. New Jersey series, all the games have been very close. Upsets have been scattered throughout this round, and Lebron has stepped up big time. One of the biggest surprises has the defending champions on the ropes and clinging to their playoff lives. If you picked your teams wisely, you could have taken your sportsbook to the cleaners this week. Let’s take a look at what has transpired over the past few days.
#1 Spurs vs. #4 Mavericks
The Mavericks lead this series 3-1 heading into Wednesday night’s game 5 in San Antonio. They have really stepped up their game, and now look like the favorites to win the Western Conference. Their 123-118 overtime victory in game four showed heart and resilience, especially coming back from a five-point deficit in the closing seconds to send the game into overtime. It’s hard to pick the Spurs in this series when Duncan and Parker both scored 31 and 33 respectively, and still lost game four. Mavericks guard Devin Harris has been the sparkplug for Dallas, and the team is 3-0 since inserting him into the starting line-up in game two. I can only hope you have been taking the team getting the points, like I recommended, because in three of the four games, the total differential has been 8 points. This might change in game five, with the Spurs heading home and their backs against the wall. I think the Spurs will have a breakout game, but winning three in a row is a lot to ask. Mavericks in six.
#2 Suns vs. #6 Clippers
The Suns just won’t die. After pulling off a three-game comeback against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Suns won a wild one Tuesday night to take a 3-2 games advantage over the Clippers. Shawn Marion was absolutely gigantic in the Suns’ 125-118 double overtime victory, with 36 points and a mind-blowing 20 rebounds. The league’s MVP, Steve Nash, also chipped in with 17 points and 13 assists. This series has been to the Suns’ liking, with at least one team scoring 100 points in four of the five games. The Clippers travel back to Los Angeles Thursday, and look for the Clippers to try to slow the pace down and feed the ball to their big man, Elton Brand. He has also been huge in this series, averaging 30 points per game and 10.4 rebounds. Take the Clippers in game six, Phoenix in game seven.
#1 Pistons vs. #4 Cleveland
To me, this is the biggest shock of the playoffs. Not because the Cavaliers even have a slim chance of upsetting the Pistons and winning the series, because they don’t. No, this has been a huge shock because of the way they have played, and the fact that this series will now go six games. Don’t get me started on Lebron, because I think he is turning into one of the greatest ever, right before our eyes. Mr. James recorded his second triple-double of the playoffs in game three with 21 points, 10 assists and 10 boards, and almost repeated the feat in game four. As great as he is and will be, this cannot last. The Pistons will return home for game five with a huge chip on their shoulders. This is a championship team and will prove it Wednesday night. The Pistons are not giving up too many points for game five at -10.5, because of the last two losses. Therefore, take Detroit in game five with a comeback and to win the series in six.
#2 Heat vs. #3 Nets
This one had the makings of a great series, but looks can often be very deceiving. After being blown out 100-88 in game one, the Heat came surging back to win four in a row, including two in New Jersey. The Heat closed out the series Tuesday night 106-105 in game five. The story of the series was not Shaq or Dwane Wade, but the supporting cast. Antoine Walker was electric for the Heat in games four and five, putting up 20 and 23 points in the two victories. Udonis Haslem was also a key factor in game four, with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Shaq is just not getting the calls and is consistently in foul trouble, but if this supporting cast can continue to play at a high level, the Heat will be a force to reckon with in the Conference Finals.
Well, there you have it. It has been a wild, wild week in the NBA, but if you play your cards right, there is money to be made. Overall, taking the points has been a smart decision, with most of the games coming down to the wire. Make sure to check back next week, because I will have a complete analysis of the Eastern and Western Conference Finals.