This year, as has been the norm since the Bulls's last championship in 1998, the playoff's are once again threatening to become the feifdom of the teams from the West. The Lakers, the Spurs, the T-Wolves and the Kings all have more or less equal chances to win it all. For the east, if there is one team to win it all, it seems to be the Pacers, the only team with 60 plus wins in the regular season. The Nets seem to be on a roll, but with K-Mart and the ever-ready Kidd, both coming off injury layoffs, I would place my money on the West, particularly the Lakers. I am however watching the Pacers carefully cos, quietly they have gone about their business and seem to be a long way ahead of all the other Eastern Conference teams. Awwww, if only the Cavs's final run had started much earlier! We might have seen LeBron do his thing in the playoff - perhaps becoming the most remarkable thing since Michael Jordan himself. Sadly that has to wait for another year, though the "Rookie of the Year" award seems to be a lock!
IMHO, the NBA has one of the stupidest methods of finding a national champion (though the media sometimes uses "World Champion" in the same breath). So if a team like the Pacers, after having a bad game or two loses to a lesser team, the national finals becomes farcial, because with 4 equally strong teams from the West, a rout from one of team is more or less certain.
Anyways, the race started yesterday with the Nets, Spurs and the Pacers all having easy runs over the Knicks, Grizzlies and the Celtics respectively. The Lakers had a ugly one point victory over the Rockets.
To sum it up, here are the scores in all the match-ups in the first round of the playoffs.
Note: The number in the brackets refer to the seedings in their conference.
The Western Conference
L.A. LAKERS (2) vs. HOUSTON (7) [current 1-0]
Gm 1: Los Angeles 72, Houston 71
SAN ANTONIO (3) vs. MEMPHIS (6) [current 1-0]
Gm 1: San Antonio 98, Memphis 74
The Eastern Conference
INDIANA (1) vs. BOSTON (8) [current 1-0]
Gm 1: Indiana 104, Boston 88
NEW JERSEY (2) vs. NEW YORK (7) [current 1-0]
Gm 1: New Jersey 107, New York 83
MINNESOTA (1) vs. DENVER (8) [current 1-0]
Gm1: Minnesota 106, Denver 92
SACRAMENTO (4) vs. DALLAS (5) [current 1-0]
Gm 1: Sacramento 116, Dallas 105
DETROIT (3) vs. MILWAUKEE (6) [current 1-0]
Gm 1: Detroit 108, Milwaukee 82
MIAMI (4) vs. NEW ORLEANS (5) [current 1-0]
Gm 1: Miami 81, New Orleans 79
Summary: No upsets in any of the games, though the Lakers ran into some rough weather against the Rockets till Shaq put the lock on the Shaq vs Yao matchup (at least for this 1st game) when he bludgeoned around Yao with just 17 seconds to go to give the Lakers the one point lead and ultimately the game. The rat race is yet to begin, but it's too early.