OK so I went 3-1 in my opening round match-ups but I have to say I think my Thunder prediction was right on. Last nights game was insane and if it wasn't for a misplay on defense allowing Pau Gasol to float in the lane uncontested we could be talking about a game 7 in LA. But that's all in the past so lets look at the next round of the 2009-10 NBA Playoffs.
Matchup 1: #1 L.A. Lakers v. #5 Utah Jazz.
I among many NBA writers out there felt this match up was going to happen and I even predicted the resilience of the Utah Jazz. If a team has ever advanced on intangibles its this Utah Jazz team. They are the most resilient team in the league and pushed themselves every minute to get into this match up. The tandem of Boozer and Williams was spot on last series but they are coming in taking on the defending NBA champs which could make (and will make) for a tougher upset then what they had against the gassed Denver Nuggets.
Andrew Bynum is back and his injuries seem to be behind him. Bynum averaged 12 points and 9 boards against OKC and battled a much younger team that was dominant on offensive boards. He looked fresh and will be expected to work the low post as Carlos Boozers' shadow in the semis, and as much as I think Boozer has the advantage against Bynum, with Pau Gasol lurking in the low post for much of the game I think Bynum will have another productive round.
The Lakers bench has been mildly productive so far with Lamar Odom settling back into his role as the 6th man quite well making the most of his time on the court. Also I was surprised to see how effective Shannon Brown was in a series I thought he would be way to over sized. He only averaged around 15-20 minutes a game but was affective with 6.2 ppg. Brown caused trouble with his ability to drive into the lane and get to the line when the starters were resting converting on 10-14 Ft. (.714).
You cant talk about the Lakers without talking about Kobe. Bryant was his old self on offense, even though at times he did seem a little slow, but with a team that was an average on 8 years younger then him that was to be expected. Bryant played some relentless defense and was able to neutralize potential all-star Russell Westbrook. The good thing about the next series is that other then Deron Williams there is no real number one shooting threat for the Jazz and most of the series Ron Artest will be guarding Williams so expect Kobe to make plays in space to help his team against the Jazz.
You knew what Utah was bringing with Deron William and Carlos Boozer but I think coming into the opening round many people were unsure how they would react without Andrei Kirilenko or Mehmet Okur. Carlos Boozer is a low post threat but he is not a center type asset, hes a pure PF and did an excellent job working in the low post.
Who can honestly tell me they knew anything about Kyrylo Fesenko before this series started. I know the guy only played like 18 minutes a game but for an unknown he was mildly affective.
I think Paul Millsap had a bit of a disappointing series and if the Jazz are going to make it any further then the second round Millsap is going to need to step up his game and become more affective down low. He average 17pts and 9 boards a game but that will be depleted when he has to play against seven footer Pau Gasol. Not to mention, at times, work one-on-one against either Ron Artest or Andrew Bynum.
For the average NBA fan you know who Deron Williams is, and that he is an undersized yet overachieving superstar. In this series you won't be disappointed as D. Will will show you that every game. The duo of Carlos Boozer and Williams will make this match-up tough but they need to capitalize on a few things if they have a chance to take down the defending champs.
L.A. just finished a tough series and Utah needs to come at them quickly to wear the Lakers down. We saw with OKC that Kobe is not the best when defending a quick point guard off the dribble so expect to see Deron Williams pressuring Kobe in the lanes and going to the line. If he can do this, and get players like Paul Millsap and Wesley Matthews involved then the Jazz could win a few games... notice I said only a few games.
Utah was impressive against Denver but the Lakers are a lot different from the Nuggets. The Lakers are the deepest, strongest and most experienced team in the league and have a little too much to throw at the Jazz to make this a balanced contest. I expect to see players like Lamar Odom having another strong series. He will play extended minutes and face many mismatches when it comes to both teams resting their starters, and lets be honest most of Utah doesn't deserve to start, so when their "bench" is on the court the Lakers will pick them apart. Odom has the size and speed to control the post when Boozer is resting and if he is on the court with either Artest or Bynum then the Lakers points-in-the-paint will be astronomical.
I wish I could say Utah has a shot but the Lakers are destined for the Finals and we all know it.
Result: Lakers in 5-or-6 depending on if Utah wins game 1.