NBA Playoff Wisdom: First Round Matchups and Analysis

Ari Wagner@@Ari_WagnerContributor IApril 22, 2009

SAN ANTONIO - APRIL 20:  Forward Josh Howard #5 of the Dallas Mavericks during play with the San Antonio Spurs in Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on April 20, 2009 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The 2009 NBA playoffs have come in with a bang.

The Celtics are limping on bad knees, while the Bulls are trying to take care of business at home and travel back to Boston with a commanding series lead.

Philadelphia came into Game One in Orlando with a little magic of their own, coming from 18 points behind to rally a two-point victory by their new A.I. with only two seconds left on the clock.

Both the Miami Heat and the Portland Trail Blazers got smoked in their first game, however the Blazers came back to even the series with a brilliant performance from Brandon Roy and an excellent night from LaMarcus Aldridge Tuesday night.

The two best matchups of the postseason are between the Nuggets and Hornets and the Spurs and Mavs. Chauncey "Big Shot" Billups posted a hurtin’ on the Hornets by hitting eight of nine from long range, while Tony Parker and the Spurs came back to win Game Two and try to carry some momentum into Game Three on the road.

No surprise that the one seeds are absolutely taking it to the eight seeds. The only difference is who they are playing. The Eastern Conference juggernaut of old Detroit Pistons are out-matched and definitely out-led. LeBron James is more than just a floor general, but a dictator of the game. While Kobe and the Lake-show are smothering every effort of the Jazz to come back, both series are at a 2-0 lead.

Starting off in the East, the Cleveland Cavaliers are showing the league that team unity and superior leadership is the key to a great start in the playoffs. With James averaging close to 33 points, 10 boards and six dimes in the first two games, it will be no surprise to see this series end in four.

The Pistons head home to their Palace of Auburn Hills, but it just won’t be the same atmosphere. The crowd will be into it, as they always are in the D, but 20,000 screaming fans probably won’t even be able to put a spark into this team.

Cleveland will take a hold on this series by winning Game Three in Detroit, and won’t look back until they bring Cleveland a clean sweep of long time Eastern Conference rival Pistons.

The L.A. Lakers have that look in their eye this year, and with a healthy Andrew Bynum, it does not look like the Jazz—a three seed with an eighth seed mask on—can stop them. This is not just a one versus eight matchup, but it’s more of a preparatory matchup for the Lakers who will face equal talent as the Jazz for the rest of the West.

The Okur-less Jazz have no shot at winning this series; however, they will produce a great matchup at home, where they have so much success. The Jazz will take at least one game at home in this series, but I can’t see this going more than six games.

The Chicago Bulls and their Rookie of the Year Derek Rose, alongside scoring machine Ben Gordon, have shown us what the Hawks did last year. Without Kevin Garnett for the Celtics, I have a feeling that this will not just be another first round scare like we saw last year.

Bulls go into Game Three at home, with a rowdy Chicago fan base waiting to see a glimpse of the spectacular things that the Jordan era brought.  If K.G. was healthy and holding it down on D, I would tell you that the Bulls have no shot, but without the Celtics defensive anchor, I think they would be lucky to win one on the road, but it seems unlikely.

I see the Bulls taking care of home court and winning in six, bringing their momentum into the second round against the evolved human beast we call LeBron James.

Next we go to the battle of the point guards, one Mr. Big Shot, vs. the cool customer, CP3. These two players should feed off each other all series long, and may the best man win.

However, former finals MVP in Detroit, Billups has the playoff experience and the willpower to get the best out of his team, without having to drop off the perfect pass every play. 'Melo and Co. will come up big in this series and help the Nuggets prevail.

The magical comeback by the 76ers is not something to take serious, it is a fluke 18-point turnaround and last second jumper that led Philly to a 1-0 lead in the series.

Howard had a beastly performance and they still could not get it done. Look for Orlando to have a great three-point shooting night during Game Two, and Turkoglu will have to stick on Iguodala and make sure he does not get a break on defense or the offensive side of the ball.

The Magic need to run their offense through Howard and either have him take the opening, or dish it out to the perimeter in hopes of an open look at three. Philly will probably take one more in this series, but look for Orlando to get serious and take care of business in five or six games.

Dallas and San Antonio is a great matchup. Dallas has Terry and Dirk with their ability to either drive the lane or light up the three-point torch. Jason Kidd can hit killer threes as well, but he also has the ability to rebound and do the intangibles you need your guards to provide in playoff basketball.

On the other side of the court you have the dominance of Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich, which can never be undermined. Tony Parker is playing brilliant right now, and with the absence of Manu, they need someone to step up big.

As much as I want to say that Dallas and their fire power should take this series, I just can’t be against Duncan and Pop, and Dirk is too much of a softy to take down the beast. San Antonio wins in seven.

Miami and Atlanta. D-wade vs. the entire Hawks roster. There is no way that the outmatched Heat can ride on Wade for a seven game series, it just won’t happen. Atlanta has superiority in every position on the court besides the two-guard spot, which is the Wade/Joe Johnson matchup, and quite frankly, Johnson is not a whole lot worse than Wade.

This series will go no more than six, and will most likely only go five. Don’t sleep on the Hawks this year, people. No matter who wins between Orlando and Philadelphia ,I like the Hawks' chances to get to the Eastern Finals this year.

The knotted up series between Portland and Houston is something that I have a hard time predicting. If Portland and their stars could play the way they did last night every game, I like their chances. But Houston was still leading for the most part of that Game Two, and could have easily stole another one on the road if it wasn’t for Roy’s three pointer with a minute to play.

Houston plays much better without McGrady in the game, and since he has never played his way out of the first round, I think that it would be very bitter and a little sweet to see his team advance.

I think they will advance. All the Houston players are playing as a group and that is what you need in playoff basketball. Sorry, TMac, but you’re going to have to see your team hit the second round in street clothes.