Playoff Pondering: April 29, 2011

ATL over ORL, 84-81 (ATL wins 4-2)

Orlando didn't have enough magic
(image by the AP)
These Hawks flew under the radar for most of the season, yielding the spotlight to teams with bigger names and bigger egos. But names and egos don’t win games do they? Talent helps, sure, but will is the key. Talent is nothing without will, and Atlanta has boatloads of will. Jamal Crawford was the hot hand for most of this first round encounter, but Joe Johnson was the one who finally shut the door on the Magic. A year after losing by an average of 25 points in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Atlanta proved to be tougher in the clutch, and just plain more balanced. They were also better at cleaning the glass in this one, outrebounding Orlando 38-31. Wait, Dwight Howard plays for Orlando right? Yup, he does, at least for now -- nobody knows where he’ll be in a couple of months. Sure, he’s not a free agent yet, but if he throws a tantrum like Carmelo Anthony, then who can stop Superman from upping for wherever he wants? As for the Hawks, they get to tell Derrick Rose, “Jameer Nelson says hello.”

LAL over NOH, 98-80 (LAL wins 4-2)

Not yet there CP3, not yet there
(image by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
In the end, the Hornets were just not good enough. It took LA longer than most expected, but they’re now headed for the second round. Just like that everything is back in order. Maybe even better than “back in order.” Pau Gasol had another okay game, but it wasn’t much of an issue because the Lakers’ “other” big man, Andrew Bynum, dominated down low. Slowly but surely the youngster showed why Gasol’s low post presence can be a little expendable, or if you look at it as Gasol’s lack of a post presence, then Bynum makes it bearable. New Orleans just couldn’t get anything going, and their on-court ineptitude just made LA look that much more dangerous. For the second straight postseason, Kobe and co. got pushed in the first round, and, for the second straight postseason, they survived. Up next is Dallas, who had to dispose of another pesky adversary as well.

DAL over POR, 103-96 (DAL wins 4-2)

Good try Brandon, but we got next on the Lakers
(image by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
No, Dallas, the Mavs won’t return. Not until Game 3 against the Lakers. Dirk Nowitzki had a monster performance, finishing with 33 points and 11 boards, to hand Rick Carlisle a second-round ticket to California. Many people picked the Blazers likely to upset Mark Cuban’s team, and after Game 4 it seemed like they just might, but, in a form rarely seen from them, Dallas proved to have more poise. Truth be told, it should have never even reached a Game 6, save for Brandon Roy’s miracle Game 4 finish. In this battle of teams that were ousted in the first round of the 2010 Playoffs, it’s the Blazers who are packing their bags again, despite being picked to bump off the Mavs. “Not a lot of people picked us to win this series, and not a lot of people are going to pick us to win the next series,” Nowitzki said after the game. That may just be how Dallas wants it.

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