NBA Playoffs: First Round At A Glance

Pro Basketball

April 19, 2003|By Milton Kent

EASTERN CONFERENCE

No. 1 Detroit (50-32) vs. No. 8 Orlando (42-40)

Season series: Detroit won, 2-1.

Coaches: Detroit's Rick Carlisle (100-64 in two seasons, both in Detroit). Orlando's Doc Rivers (170-158 in four seasons, all in Orlando).

Outlook: The Magic will have to find a way to make the Pistons play at a free-wheeling pace, and that's not likely to happen. On the other hand, it's difficult to imagine Detroit's Richard Hamilton locking down Tracy McGrady, the NBA's leading scorer. This series could go longer than expected if Detroit's Ben Wallace is still hampered by a sprained knee, but the Pistons should still prevail. Detroit in six.

No. 2 New Jersey (49-33) vs. No. 7 Milwaukee (42-40)

Season series: Tied at two.

Coaches: New Jersey's Byron Scott (127-119 in three seasons, all in New Jersey). Milwaukee's George Karl (708-499 in 16 seasons, 205-173 in five seasons in Milwaukee).

Outlook: These are two teams seemingly going in opposite directions: The Nets dropped four of their final five to end the regular season while the Bucks won eight of their last nine. Gary Payton and Sam Cassell seem to finally be clicking together for Milwaukee. If Richard Jefferson doesn't get the best of Desmond Mason in their matchup, the Nets are in big trouble. They may already be. Milwaukee in six.

No. 3 Indiana (48-34) vs. No. 6 Boston (44-38)

Season series: Tied at two.

Coaches: Indiana's Isiah Thomas (131-115 in three seasons, all in Indiana). Boston's Jim O'Brien (117-95 in three seasons, all in Boston).

Outlook: Neither team has played particularly well in the second half, but the Pacers seem a bit more consistent. They also have a big advantage down low, with Jermaine O'Neal likely to run wild in this series. There just aren't enough three-pointers between Boston's Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker to keep the Celtics in this series. Indiana in five.

No. 4 Philadelphia (48-34) vs. No. 5 New Orleans (47-35)

Season series: New Orleans won, 2-1.

Coaches: Philadelphia's Larry Brown (879-685 in 20 seasons, 255-205 in six seasons in Philadelphia). New Orleans' Paul Silas (286-313 in eight seasons, 208-155 in five seasons with the Hornets).

Outlook: Look for the Hornets to put long-armed Stacey Augmon on Allen Iverson in key moments. The Sixers guard shot just 2-for-11 against the defender in New Orleans' win last week. An Eastern coach says that the Hornets have the best talent in the conference, but the Sixers have been surging since the All-Star break, and the home-court advantage should be enough to win a tough series. Philadelphia in seven.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

No. 1 San Antonio (60-22) vs. No. 8 Phoenix (44-38)

Season series: Phoenix won, 3-1

Coaches: San Antonio's Gregg Popovich (339-185 in seven seasons, all in San Antonio). Phoenix's Frank Johnson (55-58 in two seasons, both in Phoenix).

Outlook: The Suns were the only Western team to beat San Antonio three times this season, and Amare Stoudemire's matchup with Tim Duncan is a key one. Spurs point guard Tony Parker shot a combined 6-for-30 in the first two games with the Suns. In the end, San Antonio's bench should be the difference in what should be a tough series. San Antonio in six.

No. 2 Sacramento (59-23) vs. No. 7 Utah (47-35)

Season series: Sacramento won, 3-1

Coaches: Sacramento's Rick Adelman (603-384 in 13 seasons, 246-132 in five seasons in Sacramento). Utah's Jerry Sloan (875-521 in 18 seasons, 781-400 in 15 seasons in Utah).

Outlook: These two teams met in the first round last season and the Jazz was a tough out, losing in four games. The Kings have added Keon Clark for frontcourt depth, while Andrei Kirilenko, since going to the bench, has given Utah solid energy. Still, it's hard to imagine Karl Malone and John Stockton having enough in their tanks to get past the more talented Kings. Sacramento in five.

No. 3. Dallas (60-22) vs. No. 6 Portland (50-32)

Season series: Tied at two.

Coaches: Dallas' Don Nelson (1,096-828 in 25 seasons, 245-199 in six seasons in Dallas). Portland's Maurice Cheeks (99-65 in two seasons, both in Portland)

Outlook: Call this the dysfunctional series. The Mavericks melted down in the stretch run, going 6-5 to end the regular season and losing the Midwest crown to San Antonio. The Trail Blazers stayed true to their essential nature, beating each other up. Not a lick of defense will be played in this series, but the Mavericks' offense seems to be a bit more in sync. Dallas in seven.

No. 4 Minnesota (51-31) vs. No. 5 L.A. Lakers (50-32)

Season series: Tied at two.

Coaches: Minnesota's Flip Saunders (328-276 in eight seasons in Minnesota). Los Angeles' Phil Jackson (720-264 in 13 seasons, 231-97 in four seasons in Los Angeles).

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