So for those of you who have only been following the Lakers and are curious, here is a recap of the other 7 playoff series as well as predictions for the next round.
*Disclaimer: I do not follow each series regularly (ie watch every game start to finish). I mostly watch parts of some games and SportsCenter highlights. The following analysis is merely my observations, opinions, and predictions. If any fans of the other teams would like to correct what I have to say, please do so (nicely) in the comments and I would be more than happy to edit this post if I feel the correction is warranted.
Well, amid the late game drama that is the Lakers' blown leads, there were actually quite a few compelling first round series and also a few surprises. I'll start with the Western Conference...
Houston (5) def. Portland (4) 4-2: I don't have too much to say about this series because I think it has been pretty well covered here on SS&R. I think many people expected a close series, and while it was back and fourth at times, in the end it felt like the Rockets were the ones in control all the way. The Blazers had no answer for Yao Ming, and the series culminated in a 92-76 Rockets blowout in game six. Next up: Los Angeles (1)
Dallas (6) def. San Antonio (3) 4-1: Wow! Everyone knew that the Spurs were in trouble with no Ginobili and a hobbled Duncan, but wow. Except for a courageous series from Tony Parker, the Spurs, the same veteran Spurs team who we have seen overcome superior talent and expectations time and time again, fell to the streaky Mavericks in only five games. It seemed that it was a different Mav stepping up each night to overcome the Parker-Duncan duo, and even though Dallas played well, I couldn't help but feel that the Spurs were doomed no matter who they played. This was supposed to be a close series with San Antonio possible squeaking by, not the eulogy to their decade long dynasty. By the way, this was the first time in Tim Duncan's career that he has not advanced past the first round. Next up: Denver (2)
Denver (2) def. New Orleans (7) 4-1: While the result of this series isn't surprising, the fact that it is the Nuggets playing well and the Hornets struggling is. This is basically a complete role reversal of last year, when it was the Hornets thriving and the Nuggets who were giving up on their coach and their team. This just goes to show how much of a difference a leader (Billups) and an injury (Chandler) can make. Ever since the Iverson trade, Denver has been one of the most dangerous teams in the league as it seems they have found thier missing piece. New Orleans, on the other hand, seemed prime to make a finals run after the acquisition of Posey, but injuries and then trade rumors dropped them to middle of the pack. The Nuggets were firing on all cylinders this series, and it was all but over after a 58 point victory in game 3 (which was an NBA playoff record). Look out for Denver in the conference finals. Next up: Dallas (6)
Now for the Eastern Conference...
Cleveland (1) def. Detriot (8) 4-0: Well, the [perceived] battle for league's best regular season team continues as LeBron and Co. did what the Lakers failed to do-sweep their first round oppponent (although I think that there is little debate as to who the harder opponent was). LeBron was his usual self; scoring, passing, cheering, dancing, working on his MVP acceptance speech. But seriously, the Cavs were playing like a team that knows exactly what it has to do night in and night out, regardless of who the opponent is. Detriot, well, they obviously decided to start rebuilding this year, so they were lucky just to make the playoffs. Funny how the mainstays of both the eastern and western conferences fall hard in the same year. Up next: Atlanta (4)
Atlanta (4) def. Miami (5) 4-3: So this series was dubbed the most boring 7-game series ever (at least in comparison to the other soon-to-be mentioned one). Each game was a blowout, and there were no lead changes from the end of game 1 until the beginning of game 7. Dwyane Wade showed that he is no Kobe (or maybe he is Kobe because he took a mediocre team all the way to game 7 only to lose in a blowout). Anyways, the Hawks are a steadily improving team who took care of business when needed, and the Heat are still Wade +1. All in all, both teams in this series looked pretty pedestrian, and I wouldn't have expected much from either in the next round. Up next: Cleveland (1)
Orlando (3) def. Philidelphia (6) 4-2: This series in my opinion was the second most exciting of the first round and one I had circled for a potential upset. On one side you had arguably the second best team in the east in the Magic and Dwight Howard, the DPOY. On the other was a young and incredibly dangerous Sixers team that had a knack for pulling the upset. Three of the games came down to the final shot, and the Sixers had a golden opportunity to send it to game seven with Howard and Lee out of the lineup, but pulled a magic act of their own and disappeared. I think that Orlando sent a huge message to both themselves and the league by handily winning game 6 without their star. Now let's see how they handle going from a young team team to a very veteran one. Up next: Boston (2)
Boston (2) def. Chicago (7) 4-3: Ah, the piece de resistance. Only two things stopped this from being remembered as the greatest series of all time. One was yet another overtime period in game 7, and the second was the Bulls not winning. But other than that, this was an absolute slugfest, one that the Bulls had no right being in and the Celtics had no excuse for permitting. Just in case anyone has been under the proverbial rock, here are just a few stats: 4 overtime games (record), 7 overtime periods (record), and 5 games decided by 3 points or less (record). I'll leave the analysis to the people getting paid, but I think we learned a couple of things. First, Derrick Rose is mature beyond his years and the Bulls are going to be very good, very fast. Second, the Celtics still have not shaken the seven game series bug. And third, Boston is in DEEP, DEEP trouble without Garnett. This was not last year when the Celts and Hawks took turns winning at home. This was a punch straight to the mouth, and in my opinion it was the Bulls who lost this series, not the Celtics who won it. Boston (and it makes me very happy to say it) is D-O-N-E. Up next: Orlando (3)
Lastly, it's time for some predictions...
Los Angeles def. Houston 4-1
Denver def. Dallas 4-1
Cleveland def. Atlanta 4-1
Orlando def. Boston 4-3
Go Purple & Gold!