NBA Playoffs Are Heating Up

Taylor LunemannCorrespondent IMay 8, 2009

CLEVELAND - MAY 07:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts after just missing a three pointer as time expired in the third quarter while playing the Atlanta Hawks in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 7, 2009 in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland won the game 105-85 to take a 2-0 series lead. 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 Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The NBA playoffs are into the second round and continuing to heat up as they go.

There are eight teams left that are playing to compete in their conference’s championship.

I break down each series to see what it will take for each team to be successful and move on to the next round.



Atlanta Hawks vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

Although the Hawks have improved from last year, no one is really giving them a chance against the Assosciation's newly declared Most Valuable Player LeBron James.

The Cavs possess the best regular season record and are the heavy favorites to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Championship game.

Obviously the Hawks’ number one problem is stopping King James from doing what he does best, everything.

They do not have anyone who can really match up against him one on one so they must rely on double teaming him when he gets the ball to prevent him from beating them. This causes problems though because James has so many talented scorers around him that he gets them open shots and they will capitalize on those opportunities.

On the offensive side, the Hawks will need Joe Johnson to show up in this series, as he was absent for most of the first round production-wise. He is their best scoring option and he needs to step up.

As long as James does not go down with an injury, the Cavs take the series in five.


Boston Celtics vs. Orlando Magic

This could potentially be a very good series between two very talented teams.

However, the Celtics are not even close to the same ball club without Kevin Garnett, who is sidelined for the entire playoffs. Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen are all very good players and need to show up each night for this team to be successful.

Dwight “Superman” Howard is too much of a beast for anyone to stop him and he dominates the boards every game. Slowing him down will be a huge task for the Celtics.

Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu have been huge for the team all year and continue to do so in the playoffs. They are both good in size and are hard for the much smaller Celtics to handle on defense.

Ray Allen is a big liability on the defensive side of the ball and that will ultimately hurt them more than one may think.

Since the Magic tend to live and die by the three ball in some games, it will take six games to take down the defending champions.


Dallas Mavericks vs. Denver Nuggets

I would normally never give Dallas a shot against the high-powered Nuggets squad, but they have demonstrated they can compete with them.

Dallas’ biggest weakness is that they are limited to basically two scorers on their team. Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry are their only reliable scorers with Josh Howard being sidelined with an injury.

It really showed the other night when Dirk and Terry while both getting some rest to start the fourth quarter. There was no one who could consistently step up and score consistently and it really end up killing them as the Nuggets came out on a run and pushed their lead to double digits.

When Dirk finally checked in, he was approached by constant double teams and could not work effectively on the court.

The Nuggets are way too much to handle, especially with the emergence of Nene Hilario and J.R. Smith in the playoffs.

Nuggets take the series in five games.


Los Angeles Lakers vs. Houston Rockets

The Rockets took the first game in this series and the Lakers responded by taking the second.

Kobe Bryant was sick with the flu in the first game of the series and it showed. He did not look like he was in top form as the Rockets were able to stay with the Lakers the entire game.

The Lakers have way too many weapons on their squad for the Rockets to handle. The Rockets also shot the lights out in the first game of the series and I do not expect the Lakers to allow them to get such good looks at the basket.

The key players in this series are Ron Artest and Lamar Odom.

Artest is a huge small forward, it is really hard to match up against because of his size, he has a mismatch almost every time because he is too strong for the small forwards and too quick for bigger players to guard him.

Lamar tends to show up every other game, but when he does, he really shows up. He can light a fire under the Lakers at times because of his ability to get to the basket and rebound.

Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum both do a good job when they are in there, but Lamar will be in there expected to do his thing at the end of the game.

Lakers in six.