Five-minute guide (cont.)
Posted: Thursday April 19, 2007 1:37PM; Updated: Thursday April 19, 2007 1:37PM
Watch Out For ...
These dangerous teams or players are capable of elevating their games in the playoffs:
LeBron James: Will he build on last year's sensational playoff debut? James is capable of driving the Cavaliers through the wide-open East to the Finals.
Houston Rockets: Yao Ming is potentially the league's best center, McGrady is a dominant scorer and playmaker, and the Rockets led the league in field-goal defense. Because of injuries, they were unable to prove themselves at the highest level during the regular season -- they were just 28-24 in conference and 4-8 against Dallas, Phoenix and San Antonio. If they coalesce during the playoffs, they'll make it a four-team race in the West.
Toronto Raptors: By earning the No. 3 seed, they've avoided Detroit and Miami during the first two rounds. The Raptors should get by New Jersey, and their recent 15-4 sprint as the most impressive Eastern team down the stretch demonstrates that they won't surrender to Cleveland in the second round. The playoff inexperience of Chris Bosh may be offset by the big-game familiarity of Juan Dixon and Rasho Nesterovic as well as Jose Calderon, Anthony Parker and rookie Andrea Bargnani, who have a history of coming up big in the European playoffs.
Jason Kidd: He led the Nets to victory against his nemesis Scott Skiles on Wednesday. Can he will former Raptor Vince Carter to avenge himself against his old team? Yes he can, but that might not be enough to advance.
Kobe Bryant: He is by far the most dangerous individual in these playoffs. His Lakers have been slumping, but Bryant could single-handedly lead the Lakers past Phoenix in the first round.
Best Round 1 Matchups
Don Nelson vs. the Mavericks: Golden State looks like it has the Mavericks' number, but that was a regular-season mirage. The Warriors will make the first round interesting, but they can't knock off the league's dominant side.
Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson vs. San Antonio: They won 10 of their final 11 to surge past the woebegone Lakers, but the individualistic Nuggets are about to be assimilated by the Borg-like Spurs. Resistance is futile.
Jeff Van Gundy vs. Jerry Sloan: Never will you see two more miserable-looking men doing something they love. And doing it better than almost anybody else. The winner wears the bigger frown.
Grant Hill vs. Detroit: Will this postseason homecoming be Hill's farewell? Just the opposite, I predict: It will complete his seven-year Orlando odyssey, and send him off in search of a new twilight career with a championship contender.
Vince Carter vs. Toronto: The criticism of Carter is that he doesn't bring it every night. That might not be a problem in this series.
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