New Round, New Challenges

By Gregory Moore
Updated: May 5, 2008

TrophySAN ANTONIO — The first round of this year’s playoffs are over after the Boston Celtics dispatched the Atlanta Hawks in seven games and now the second round can commence.

This year’s semi-final conference games actually have some intriguing match ups as match ups in both conferences give fans a chance to really root for who they think will come out on top.

Let’s take a look at the four series that will now take place starting with the Eastern Conference.

DETROIT VS. ORLANDO: The Pistons had to be one of two East teams who needed a wake up call in the first round.

With rumors of Flip Saunders possibly being let go at the end of the season floating out there, evidently the team itself was a little distracted when the Philadelphia 76ers scared them early in the series. Against the Magic that symptom of daydreaming didn’t exist.

Despite a gamey performance by Dwight Howard, the Magic found out quickly that Chauncey Billups and company are now about the business of winning. This series, which the Pistons lead 2-0 after Monday’s Game 2, will go down pretty quickly in five.

BOSTON VS. CLEVELAND: It’s KG versus King James and you can’t tell me you wouldn’t want a ticket to this contest.

The Celtics had their hands full with the Hawks on the road and if they continue to struggle when they go to Cleveland, they could lose this series. Unlike the Hawks, the Cavs are more than capable of beating them in Boston one or two times.

Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and company will need to be really on top of their game as LeBron will do his best to get his teammates involved. The series began Tuesday night at Beantown.

This is going to be a great series. One that has Boston winning another best of seven series.

Out West things are just as exciting. With the Spurs dispatching the Phoenix Suns and the Lakers dispatching the Denver Nuggets, we now are down to what are considered the top four teams in the West.

SAN ANTONIO VS. NEW ORLEANS: It’s frijoles versus the poor boy sandwich; a classic match up.

Both of these teams mirror each other in many respects but the Hornets may have a bit of false confidence based upon how easily they beat the Dallas Mavericks.

The Spurs got their own wake up call in their first round series as the Suns basically handed them two games and they just whipped the Spurs in game four.

But the Spurs won the series and it wasn’t solely based upon the Suns imploding.

The Spurs took advantage of situations and they exploited them to their advantage.

This series will be a tough battle and even though the Hornets already won Games One and Two, this series is far from over.

Look for a good, tough battle that will actually go seven games with the defending champs winning.

LOS ANGELES VS. UTAH: Probably one of the most celebrated teams going up against an underrated giant.

Despite the Jazz losing by 11 in the first game, that doesn’t mean that the Lakers can just waltz all over them.

Without Andrew Bynum, the Lakers do not have a true big man that can match up with Carlos Boozer.

That’s going to be key because if Deron Williams and company really start feeding him the ball more on the low post, the Jazz could possibly make this series a lot more difficult early with a win in Los Angeles.

Another tough series that will go seven and the Lakers will be scrapping for all four wins.

So to quickly recap, I’ve got the Pistons over the Magic in five with Boston, San Antonio and Los Angeles winning their series in seven.

That leaves your conference finals match ups as the Celtics vs. Pistons and the Spurs vs. Lakers.

Classic conference finals in my opinion.

KOBE MAY BE MVP, BUT PAUL DESERVED IT MORE As great as Kobe Bryant has been in his twelve years as a pro, I had to tip my hat off to Chris Paul and say that he deserved the title more.

While Paul’s body of work isn’t nearly as extensive as Bryant’s, let’s just look at what this young man was able to accomplish in his three years in the league.

He was Rookie of the Year.

He helped his franchise have two cities that loved them by playing spectacular ball under dire circumstances.

He brought the Hornets to the second best record in the conference and led them to their first division title.

And he’s not the MVP in the regular season?

I don’t believe in lifetime achievement awards and yes, I think Bryant getting the trophy would be for his lifetime body of work.

This trophy should be about how important you are to your team right now and if I weighed the two, Paul means a little more to his team than does Bryant for the Lakers.

Basically if Bryant was out, the Lakers could still get into the playoffs but if Paul was out of New Orleans’ line up, this team would probably win less games than it did last year.