Posted: Thursday April 20, 2006 11:25AM; Updated: Thursday April 20, 2006 11:16PM
Which Washington Wizards team will show up?
Against the Cavs, Washington's Gilbert Arenas can prove himself one of the game's elite scorers to a national audience.
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They were perhaps the most perplexing team in the NBA this season. I'm not saying they have the talent to win a championship, but they should have been better than their 42-40 record and the fifth seed in the East. At times, though, they were a really formidable offensive team, led by one of the most unstoppable players in the league, Gilbert Arenas. How do we know this? Because Arenas will tell us. So the Wiz have a first-round meeting with the Cleveland Cavaliers, whom they beat three times in four games this season. It's the playoff debut of LeBron James, so the nation will be watching. It's time to shine, Gilbert.
Can Phoenix keep going against the grain?
Last year the Suns were supposed to be too small and too dependent on the three-ball to get anywhere. So they got all the way to the Western finals. This year (with injuries to Amaré Stoudemire and Kurt Thomas) they're even smaller and perhaps even more dependent on the trey, and they have a great opportunity (by virtue of avoiding both San Antonio and Dallas in the second round) to get to the Final Four again. Will Kobe Bryant and the Lakers deny them that in the first round? Or, if the Suns advance, will either the Nuggets or the Clippers push them around in the second?
Can the Detroit Pistons continue on their serendipitous path?
Not a single injury. Not a single internal blowup, unless you count a couple of mini-tirades by Ben Wallace, who's a great guy and a great defender. (But, Ben, don't think for a minute you should get more shots.) Not a single missed game due to ... oh, wait a minute. There was Rasheed Wallace's technical-foul-related suspension. But it's been a magical season for the P's and for coach Flip Saunders, who could find himself in the Finals just 16 months after getting a pink slip in Minnesota.
But is Detroit imperiled by such a magical season? Sweet are the uses of adversity, the Bard reminds us, and one wonders if the battle-hardened Spurs, who prospered despite injuries to Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, will be in better position to show their mettle in June.