ROUND II - Golden State looks to take on another higher seeded opponent after their historical upset over Dallas and LeBron James and the Cavs face Jason Kidd and the Nets in round two of the NBA Playoffs.
This second part comes to you thanks to some odd scheduling in the Association. Read part one, here.
Cleveland Cavaliers(2) vs. New Jersey Nets(6)
Winner: Cleveland Cavaliers
Thoughts: I got only a few thoughts on this series. And they pretty much start and end with LeBron James, namely his ability to play defense. I'm not going to be silly here, no one on the Nets roster is going to stop LeBron without tying his shoe laces together, and even then he may just penguin shuffle all over their asses and drop 30 anyway. I think one of the keys to this series is who LeBron guards and moreover how well he checks them. With Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson running the wings for New Jersey, LeBron will have to guard a top scorer for the Nets, for extended periods of time during the game, in what will likely be an extended series. I'm sure in the end the Cavs will pull this out, but how long a series this is for Jersey largely depends on LeBron's ability to negate Carter or Jefferson a bit.
The second issue, if the not the most crucial, is Jason Kidd. J-Kidd ran willy fucking nilly all over the Raptors and Cleveland is going to have to cut that out or face getting ousted just like Toronto's finest did. Zone, full court pressure, traps, double teams on pick and rolls, whatever it takes Cleveland is going to have to throw a multitude of looks at Kidd to force him to alter his habitual triple-double game.
Lastly, Cleveland's low post presence with Gooden and Illguaskas will be a big difference in the series. New Jersey gets all their points off transition and their spectacular back court, but almost nothing from their front court. That means Jersey is relying on getting stops (to start their transition game) against bigs they can't guard, and furthermore depending on jumps shots while Cleveland, believe it or not, actually has a little something down low to fall back on if LeBron isn't hitting. Jersey is a fine team that could give the Cavs fits if Cleveland doesn't learn and learn quickly to get back on D, but overall Cleveland is (gasp) a deeper team with more size and the best player on the floor in the series. Cavs win.
Utah Jazz(4) vs. Golden State Warriors(8)
Thoughts: The Warriors have defeated the 67-win number one seeded team in the league - it's time we start taking them seriously, yes, but it's not time for a coronation just yet. The Dallas series seemed to be mental, and that goes both ways. The Mavericks seemed to have an unnatural lack of confidence, but there's no denying the Warriors got a mental boost against Dallas that they simply won't have against anyone else. The Jazz have no reason to fear Warriors. You have to respect them for going through the conference's number one seed, but Golden State has no more mental edge.
I can't help but feel, after the game six post game celebration and crowd surfing from the Warriors, that beating the Mavs was all they had in mind for this postseason. This tends to be a cliche now, but the Warriors may just be happy to be in the second round. The Jazz seem like the more experienced, more consistent team to me. The Warriors tend to rely a lot on transition and wild jump shots, two things that can't secure constant success. They get hot in spurts, but Utah is a systematic orderly team that operates with efficiency and precision.
This is going to be a close series, no doubt, and watching some of Golden State's hot spots will be fun, but I think the home court, the depth and consistency of the Jazz, and Baron Davis's health will tip things in Utah's favor. Carlos Boozer is playing phenomenal and the Jazz feel like a team with more experience than they have. I like the Warriors and what they've done as much as anybody else, but their run stops here. Jazz wins.
Jordan's First Round Playoff Picks:
6/8 - 75%