NBA teams play through each season to determine their seed in the playoffs. They strive for a chance at the division title, or possibly even their conference title. They want to make their road to the championship as easy as possible.
The Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic are a prime example of this by playing exceptionally well during the season to assure at least a trip to the second round. The Magic are one team to assure that spot, not without a fight from the Philadelphia 76ers, however. But the Celtics are still in conflict with their first-round opponent, the Chicago Bulls.
It seems like the Magic and the Celtics should have just breezed by the Sixers and Bulls like the Lakers did to the Jazz and the Cavaliers to the Pistons. The Sixers and Bulls have shown us something we haven’t seen in the NBA playoffs in quite some time: the underdog showing more will to win than the obvious favorite.
The Philadelphia 76ers were more than likely ecstatic to be matched up with the Magic in the first round. They are a team that can exploit Orlando’s weaknesses easily. A good example: Game One. Philadelphia came ready to play.
Their starting lineup matched up very well with the Magic, limiting two of their best players, Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis. The 6’10” Turkoglu is not the most athletic of forwards, which made Andre Iguodala’s job easy. Iguodala held Turkoglu to just six points in Game One, off of just 2-for-8 from the field.
Rashard Lewis and Thaddeus Young had all the indications of being the best matchup (possibly behind Andre Miller and Rafer Alston). They played virtually identical to each other. Young hit 5-of-10 for 14 points and Lewis made 5-of-11 for 15 points.
Lewis is used to having the upper hand on most power forwards in the NBA, however, with his offense. He was originally a small forward who moved to the power forward spot because of his size, which makes it easy for him to take immobile fours to the rack. But on the other hand, Thaddeus Young plays the same role for the Sixers.
Because of these factors, the Magic dropped Game One, 100-98. After Game One, though, the series was evened at one a piece as Turkoglu and Lewis each looked to improve on their sub-par Game One performances with 16 points each in a 96-87 victory.
Game Three was a reoccurring nightmare for the Magic. Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis combined for a mere 25 points, and the bench for the Magic only contributed 10 points, as the Magic lost Game Three, 96-94.
After the series moved to 2-1 in favor of the Sixers, however, the Magic seemed to have the intensity they had all season in their postseason play.
Orlando won three in a row, as Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis averaged 12.7 and 23.3 points in those three games. Game Six was a big game for the Magic, winning without Dwight Howard or rookie sensation Courtney Lee.
JJ Redick and Marcin Gortat made a huge step in starting for the Magic and producing. The 6’4” Redick had 15 points and “The Polish Hammer” finished the game with 11 points and 15 rebounds.
So who will the Magic play in round two? We don’t know yet.
The series between Boston and Chicago has been praised as one of the best first-round series that has been played in quite some time. A playoff series that has seen overtime seven times deserves all that praise.
This series is relative to the Orlando series, in that it has been a battle of matchups. But one huge factor that has crippled the Boston Celtics is that Kevin Garnett isn’t able to step on the court. Without Garnett, Rajon Rondo has stepped into the spotlight to fill the void of the “Big Three.”
However, the opposing point guard has been phenomenal. Derrick Rose has proven why he deserved Rookie of the Year honors. Ben Gordon is another star that has made a name for himself by scoring 127 points in six first-round games. But he has to go against a player in Ray Allen that has scored 141 points in these six games.
Rondo and Rose hasve been eye candy for all basketball fans. The whole series, they have gone back and forth. The Gordon-Allen matchup seems to be the most intriguing, however. They each have their share of huge shots for their team. Gordon has a 42-point game and Allen has a 51-point game.
The matchups are amazing, and the first round has looked the best it has in some time. The playoffs are truly where great players are made. The Chicago Bulls will look to carry all their momentum into Boston for a Game Seven.