By Bill Smith
The first round of the NBA playoffs is complete—FINALLY! At one time the first round of the playoffs was the best of 5. The league decided that didn’t provide enough money so that round was changed to best of 7 like the rest.
For a long time, the Western Conference has been dominant. That could be changing soon. The Suns are setting. San Antonio is a shadow of its former greatness. In the East, Chicago, Miami, Orlando, and Atlanta are all on the rise.
8 Detroit vs 1 Cleveland
Fortunately the Cavs were kind to the Pistons. It hurts less when you pull the bandage off quickly. The Cavs sat watching Atlanta and Miami slug it out. The Cavs move on and the Pistons will rebuild. They have been competitive for a long time. That time is over. They need to rebuild or face falling to the top of the draft. I predict ping pong balls in their future.
7 Chicago vs 2 Boston
Of all the series in the first round, this is the only one that we could have enjoyed seeing more games. I’m not sure that either team could have survived another game of tackle basketball. Boston limps away to fall in the next round. Chicago is young and this tough series will provide the equivalent of 2 or 3 series of playoff experience . They both will be back next season but the Celtics are on the down elevator because of age and the Bulls are rising.
6 Philadelphia vs 3 Orlando
This was a warm up for the Magic facing the Celtics. The Magic have enough stars to give any team trouble—even the Cavs. The 76ers are treading water. The were 40-42 last season and 41-41 this year. They are going to have to shake things up in order to improve beyond the 40 to 45 win season level.
5 Miami vs 4 Atlanta
Atlanta has grown into a really good team. The team improved by 10 wins this year. The series win over Miami was their first since 1999. To move beyond the second round in the future they will need another piece or 2. Miami is a tough out. They improved by 28 games this season and are coming back from the dead zone of the NBA. They have a way to go, but they are getting better.
LA is the cream of the conference but they can’t look back too often. It is not the same old teams that are chasing them but a new group that could ultimately be more dangerous.
8 Utah vs 1 LA
If Utah ever learns to win consistently away from the friendly confines, it will be dangerous. They seem to play a lot tougher at home. Utah is trying to rebuild on the fly and lost ground this season falling from 54-28 to 48-34 and 3rd place in the division. LA has all the pieces in place now. The team is totally different with Andrew Bynum in the lineup when he is 100%..
7 New Orleans vs 2 Denver
Denver showed its speed against an over maned opponent and won the series 4-1. The Hornets fell from 1st in the Southwest to 4th and just made the playoffs. Chris Paul needs more help. Denver is coming on fast. They won the Northwest and are going to be a tack in the sneaker of the West for a while.
6 Dallas vs 3 San Antonio
This was one series I missed on. San Antonio looked older and slower than ever. Dallas survived but will be hard pressed to win in round 2 against Denver.
5 Houston vs 4 Portland
Portland put up a good fight but the combination of lack of experience in the playoffs and exhaustion from the late season drive to get into the post season took a toll on them. They will get better and stronger. Houston has the best chance to beat LA in the west. Houston took the Lakers in game 1 in LA and stole home court advantage.
Dikembe Mutombo has announced his retirement from the NBA. With all bad news about rich athletes acting badly, Mutombo was a star on and off the court. He gave his team, the fans, and the game all he had to give. He also gave his time and money to his homeland. His foundation was a gift of health to his people.
The Dikembe Mutombo Foundation is dedicated to improving the health, education and quality of life for the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Foundation strives to accomplish this goal through an emphasis on primary health care and disease prevention, the promotion of health policy, health research and increased access to health care education for the people of the Congo.
Nothing else needs to be said. We will miss him.
That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.
Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits https://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .
My email is [email protected]