Monday, April 26, 2004

Playoff updates – 2

(Every Sunday, till the last team alone stands, this blog shall try to clear the murkiness that rules the NBA just about this time every year - The playoff race)

This week saw some upsets and we know of at least six teams whose paths have been defined much better now than the same time last week

Last year these two teams were the 3rd and the 6th seeds in the Eastern Conference playoff race and this years they were the 1st and the 8th respectively. And as expected, the Pacers made short work of the down and out Celtics to win their first round series by a 4-0 margin. Pacers now meet the either the Heat or the Hornets whose series is poised at 2 – 1 in favor of the former. The Nets (who might move from their East Rutherford stadium to probably one in Brooklyn next year, after a consortium that incl. rapper Jay-Z bought majority stake) won the battle of the Hudson and swept the Knicks by the same margin (4-0) as did the Spurs who showed the Grizzlies their moves. The Nets wait for the winner of the series between the Pistons and the Bucks whose series score the Pistons lead by a 2 – 1 margin. As for the Spurs, the second round promises to be a repeat of their last year’s conference finals encounter against the Lakers.

Speaking of the Lakers, they are locked in what promises to be the best and the closest match-up this year. Though the scoreline leads 3-1 in the Lakers’s favor, it has been much closer than that. After the Lakers moved to a 2 – 0 lead, the Rockets bounced back and gave the Lakers a solid drubbing before being pulverized by Karl Malone (with some 4th quarter hiccups on the way. If the Rockets win at the Staples center on Wednesday, it is going to be anybody’s game over the next 7 days.

Elsewhere, the Timberwolves, gave discerning fans a glimpse of what they do best – choke in the playoffs. After jumping to a 2 – 0 lead, the Wolves went into choke mode and let the Nuggets, powered by a double-double from Melo, thump them by a 21 point margin. A similar capitulation by the Kings, saw them lose to the Mavericks by 25 points with Peja Stojakovic being held to just 7 points just as Shaq was by the Rockets in game three.

Here are the standings so far

The Western Conference
L.A. LAKERS (2) vs. HOUSTON (7) [current 3 - 1]
Gm 1: Los Angeles 72, Houston 71
Gm 2: Los Angeles 98, Houston 84
Gm 3: Houston 102, Los Angeles 91
Gm 4: Los Angeles 92, Houston 88 (OT)

SAN ANTONIO (3) vs. MEMPHIS (6) [Final margin 4 - 0]
Will meet the winner of the Los Angeles - Houston series

MINNESOTA (1) vs. DENVER (8) [current 2 - 1]
Gm1: Minnesota 106, Denver 92
Gm 2: Minnesota 95, Denver 81
Gm 3: Denver 107, Minnesota 86

SACRAMENTO (4) vs. DALLAS (5) [current 2 - 1]
Gm 1: Sacramento 116, Dallas 105
Gm 2: Sacramento 83, Dallas 79
Gm 3: Dallas 104, Sacramento 79

The Eastern Conference
INDIANA (1) vs. BOSTON (8) [Final margin 4 - 0]
Will meet the winner of the Miami - New Orleans series

NEW JERSEY (2) vs. NEW YORK (7) [current 4 - 0]
Will meet the winner of the Minneasota Milwaukee - Detroit series

DETROIT (3) vs. MILWAUKEE (6) [current 2 - 1]
Gm 1: Detroit 108, Milwaukee 82
Gm 2: Milwaukee 92, Detroit 88
Gm 3: Detroit 95, Milwaukee 85

MIAMI (4) vs. NEW ORLEANS (5) [current 2 - 1]
Gm 1: Miami 81, New Orleans 79
Gm 2: Miami 93, New Orleans 63
Gm 3: New Orleans 77, Miami 71

Summary: Series to watch is still the Lakers – Houston matchup which moves back to Staples Center in LA on Wednesday. Malone (who became the first over 4o player to score 30 points in a playoff series) Vs. Nachbar seems be the most unlikely of rivalries but there no love lost between the Gundy and Jackson too. If the Nuggets can keep up the good work with their fast-breaks and the pick and rolls, then the curse of the SI cover might probably claim another set of victims in the Wolves trio of Casell, Spre and KG! And C-Webb has actually seemed to be the weakest link in this strong Kings lineup, but Peja and Co. should probably put the last loss to the Mavs and get on and win their series as expected.

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