Shaq attack might
The NBA playoffs are on the horizon and they are as predictable as a Vince
Carter knee injury. The Eastern Conference teams will fight tooth-and-nail
to get to the finals, only to get wasted by the powers out west.
The Boston Celtics lack depth behind their two stars,
Antoine Walker and Paul Pierce. Tony Delk and J.R. Bremer can score a
few points, but they're not the floor generals the Celtics need running
the show during crunch time.
The Indiana Pacers were smart to pick up greying point
guard Tim Hardaway, but the young guns of this team Ron Artest,
Al Harrington, Jermaine O'Neal and Jamaal Tinsley are at least
a year away from realizing playoff glory, and it's a pity. These guys
will really start to blossom as a squad just as Reggie Miller is on his
way out. That said, don't be surprised if the Pacers win in the first
round of the playoffs, especially if they end up facing the New Orleans
Hornets. If Baron Davis isn't at 100 per cent, New Orleans
will be in serious trouble.
Don't look now, but the Philadelphia 76ers are the only
team in the East with a winning record on the road (20-16). The 76ers
play solid team defense and in Allen Iverson they have a rare commodity
in the East a proven superstar who wants the ball when everyone's
It's generally the defensive teams that thrive in the NBA playoffs, but
I'm inclined to think that the first place Detroit Pistons
are so defensive-minded that nobody will want the rock at the end of the
fourth quarter. Chauncey Billups may be hot right now, but Richard Hamilton
leads the team with just 20.2 points per game.
Jason Kidd and the New Jersey Nets, on the other hand,
have the offensive depth that should see them through to the Eastern Conference
finals. Throw a healthy Dikembe Mutombo into the mix and you've got an
impressive two-way team with a wealth of playoff experience.
The 76ers and the Nets are the two standout squads from the East.
Portland and Minnesota appear destined
to meet each other at the start of the playoffs. Kevin Garnett may be
the front-runner for MVP, but one thing remains certain neither
the Trailblazers nor the T-Wolves will emerge from the second round.
Also, expect the San Antonio Spurs to fizzle by round
two. Notwithstanding their lockout-year championship, Tim Duncan and his
supporting cast have a knack for looking mediocre when it matters most.
The Dallas Mavericks might be the most talented team
in the NBA, but they lack defensive depth. The Mavs are built for the
82-game season, not the month-long run-up to the championship. Expect
high scores and close games from Mark Cuban's run-and-gun squad.
Despite what anyone else would have you believe, Sacramento
is the real team to watch for come playoff time. For the first time in
years, the Los Angeles Lakers look mortal. The Lakers
aren't playing as cohesively as they have in past seasons despite
the fact that Kobe Bryant is performing at an inhuman level. It's one
year later and nothing's changed Sacramento poses the only real
threat to the Lakers' post-season supremacy.
If the Utah Jazz hold on to their half-game lead over
Shaq and Co. for the sixth playoff spot, the Lakers will face number 2
seed Sacramento in the first round. In the case of such an event, stay
glued to your TV; the winner of that series will win the NBA championship.