I know, I know. Round 1 isn't technically over yet, but honestly, it basically is.
Let's see, Detroit has woken up from its ridiculous slumber and taken a 3-2 lead on Philly and I don't doubt they will finally shut the door on the series in game 6 even if it is on the road. Boston has gotten out-energized in 2 games in a row, but it's a young Hawks team who's excited. I still don't think that Atlanta squad can win in Boston, which means the C's will still win the series. I actually think they will close it out on the road in game 6 as well. One thing of note, I'm happy Mike Woodson's job is basically safe after all the crap he's had to go through to get that team playing well. Then there's Cleveland, who I told you would have some close games with Washington, but still win the series in fine fashion - they'll close it out at home in game 5. Orlando's already through in 5 games (terrible call on my part - Toronto needs to address their rebounding/big man woes and get a guy who can take over the game scoring off the dribble).
Out West, New Orleans "shocked" everyone by dominating Dallas for the majority of that series and LA didn't give Denver a shot in that series. Flat out, that one wasn't even close. San Antonio also finished off Phoenix in fine, painful fashion as they are accustomed to doing. I don't think the rumors of D'Antoni getting fired are legit. He deserves to stay at least as long as Nash can still play at his high level. Then there's Utah, who I've been saying all year is OVERRATED. Sure, Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer were magnificent in last year's playoffs getting to the conference finals, but were they really? They won a game 7 in Houston last year (who weren't nearly as good as they are this season - although much better with Yao than without) and beat a worn-out Golden State Warriors squad that just matched up terribly. Now we see them struggling to beat a undermanned, undersized Rockets team. I just don't understand how people love that Jazz team and think they're so great. Deron's a great player, but he's even inconsistent at times. Carlos Boozer just isn't good on the defensive end. Mehmet Okur has been their most consistent option in the series and they rely on Andrei Kirilenko to do way to much, which is never a good thing. I think Utah will win this series, but in the next round, they are going to get exposed by a GREAT Lakers team.
So now onto the next round match-ups (as long as the 1st round plays out correctly, which by the way, who would have ever thought the last four series in the 1st round would be DET/PHI, BOS/ATL, UTAH/HOU and CLE/WASH. I barely count the Cleveland series since that one's going to end in 5. Gotta love the NBA)
Cleveland @ Boston: This series is one people are starting to question. People think Doc Rivers is finally imploding after a seemingly masterful season. They think Boston, all of a sudden, doesn't have options at the end of games. The Celtics don't have a set rotation anymore. Why is Cassell playing at the end of games instead of Rondo? Who can guard Lebron? All legit questions unless you forget that Boston was clearly the best team during the NBA season. They won 66 games, most people recall, BUT they also LOST games as well. And it's not like they never lost multiple games in a row. That happened too. I almost feel dumb for having to convince people that Boston should be and will show that they're the favorites in this series. Sure, they'll have problems with Lebron, but who doesn't? And moreover, Boston led the league in defense this season, by a lot too. They have the DPOY in Kevin Garnett and I'm sure they can figure out a way to limit Lebron and basically stop the rest of that Cavaliers team. As long as Pierce is relatively healthy (which is somewhat of a big IF) I would pick these Celtics in 5, but since that's not certain, I'm going to pick them in 7, not because I think Cleveland is that good. I'm confident that the 3 games before game 7 that Boston win will be 10+ points, while Cleveland will sneak out with a few "Lebron games". If I'm Boston, I take a look and see that I can put Tony Allen (for quickness), James Posey (a bit bigger) or Leon Powe (even more size) on Lebron to give him different looks. As for the rest of the Cavs, who cares? They all helped him enough against Washington (who's not a better team than the Wizards, that's a questionable statement at best), but that was because the Wizards are an awful defensive team and have been for years.
Orlando @ Detroit: See, now this actually might be a series... if not for 2 factors. I don't think anyone on the Pistons is containing Dwight Howard. He's too big for anyone on Detroit. He might have just as sick a stat line against Detroit as he did against Toronto. The problem is, Detroit has 2 match-ups against Orlando that are just as lopsided, if not more lopsided. At least with Dwight, he's only hurting you in one way. With Detroit, Chauncey Billups is going to punish whoever is checking him, whether it be Jameer Nelson (too small) or Carlos Arroyo (just not good enough). He had a bad series against Andre Miller (you're telling me NO ONE wanted this guy when Philly was shopping him??), whose got great size, but that's not going to be a problem against Orlando. Then there's Rasheed, who's a match-up nightmare for just about everyone, but especially the Magic. Who is going to guard him?? You're going to put Rashard Lewis on him in the post? Wow, that would be murder. So even though Dwight will get his, the Pistons team is too talented to lose this one. I think Detroit would win in 5, although I'm tempted to say 6 games since we all know they like to give games away sometimes.
Utah @ LA: Like I said before, I don't know why everyone loves Utah so much, but they did show me one thing: they lost a game at home and the way I see it, if Houston can beat Utah for one game in Salt Lake City, the Lakers definitely can. LA's got a great match-up as well. Utah's got absolutely no one to guard Kobe who, last I checked, was still pretty damn good and on a mission. I think Boozer and Gasol can neutralize each other's effectiveness. Neither can play any defense and both are pretty talented offensively. I think Deron Williams can be limited by a combination of Fisher, Farmar and Vujacic (lots of size, athleticism and quickness in that trio). LA in 5.
San Antonio @ New Orleans: I would have felt a lot better about the Hornets' chances in this one if San Antonio lost that game last night. It would have worn the Spurs down some more and let New Orleans scout a little bit more. With that said though, it's going to be tough to pick either side in this one. New Orleans seems to match-up so well against the defending Champs. Chris Paul is just better than Tony Parker, David West played real solid against Dirk last round and Duncan will be a similar match-up. Likewise, Tyson Chandler doesn't have to worry about defending Kurt Thomas or Fabricio Oberto and can patrol the paint. The one issue is Manu. He would be a tough one to contain, but maybe New Orleans goes small again with Pargo and Paul and out-quick the Spurs or bring in Bonzi and hope he can do something. As much as I love the Spurs (they're healthy, which is scary), I think the young Hornets might actually win this series. They've got homecourt, which has been huge for them, and I see this series going 7. Both teams will get one on the opposing home floor and extend this series the entire length. New Orleans in 7.
Update: So, with Toronto out of it, and if all the remaining series go accordingly, I will be 7/8 in my 1st round picks.
Conference Finals Picks: New Orleans @ LA Lakers (change from San Antonio, although obviously the Spurs could still make that spot) and Detroit @ Boston (same as before)
Finals Pick (and wish for it to happen): LA Lakers @ Boston (LA wins in 7)