Now that the first round of the 2009 NBA Playoffs is in the books, fans can focus on the four matchups that will entertain us in round two.
Each series has its own unique story line, and the level of play and intensity should be even higher than in the opening round.
Check out LayupDrill.com’s preview and predictions for each series.
One of my personal favorite NBA team blogs is The Dream Shake, which covers the Houston Rockets. I was checking out a story from earlier this weekend that said what another writer told me today: The Winner of the Lakers/Rockets series will win the NBA title. I didn’t agree at first with that statement, but after really looking at the path to the finals I can see its merits.
Houston finally made it to the second round, and now face the best in the West in L.A.—a team they have not defeated this year in four attempts.
The Rockets will need to figure out a way to make someone on the Lakers to beat them other than number 24. Kobe Bryant has had games this year when he was perfectly happy facilitating his teammates' success, dishing out assists, and running the triangle to perfection.
There also have been games when Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum stood around in awe of Kobe as he took over the scoring load.
In Shane Battier and Ron Artest, the Rockets have two players capable of keeping up with Bryant. They also have Yao Ming, who will draw some serious attention inside.
If the Rockets get some scoring off their bench, and can win the rebound battle, they will have a shot. Still, I see the Lakers having too much for Houston in the end.
Prediction: Lakers in six
The Denver Nuggets are the league's best team that flies below the radar. Denver dismantled the Hornets pretty easily in the first round, while the Dallas Mavericks surprised some in taking out the Spurs in five games themselves.
Dallas is playing at their peak level, and Rick Carlisle realizes he will need his team to remain consistent in their defensive play if they want to slow Denver.
The Nuggets have an advantage at nearly every position, according to our friends over at The Nugg Doctor, and we agree. Dallas matched up very well with the broken-down Spurs in the first round, but will find themselves in a different situation now.
Expect some high-scoring, high-energy games, but after it's all over, Denver will win this series.
Prediction: Nuggets in seven
The Boston Celtics may not be the most exciting team to watch, but they have the most heart of any of the eight remaining playoff teams. Boston battled the Chicago Bulls in one of the most amazing first-round series in NBA Playoffs history, but were able to outlast Chicago in the end owing to superior defense.
While Boston is not truly deep, their role-players know that when Doc Rivers calls on them to deliver, they need to come in and shut down their assigned man.
The Magic, meanwhile, come off an impressive close-out victory over the Sixers in Philly without Dwight Howard. Orlando gets a chance to knock off the defending champions now, but they will need to rely on Superman early and often to dethrone the champs.
Boston will throw Kendrick Perkins, Mikki Moore, Glen Davis, and Brian Scalabrine at Howard throughout, however the perimeter defense of Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo, and Paul Pierce will be tested by the outside shooters of the Magic.
I expect to see Tony Allen play critical minutes during this series, and I believe we are headed to another seven-game series. In the end, I still don’t see the champs checking out yet, and Boston will advance.
Prediction: Celtics in seven
Cavs vs. Hawks
The Cleveland Cavaliers had been sitting and waiting patiently to find out the identity of their second-round opponent. Atlanta’s big Game Seven win over the Miami Heat sealed the deal, and the Hawks will provide Cleveland with plenty of competition in this round.
While the Hawks provide an inside-outside punch of Joe Johnson and Josh Smith, the Hawks have no answer for slowing down LeBron James. If you double James, then Mo Williams, Delonte West, or Daniel Gibson can make you pay.
The Hawks will have to pick their poison wisely, but it won’t matter much, as Cleveland will advance.
Prediction: Cavs in five