Lakers 107, Nuggets 101 – Geez, I thought the Nuggets could at least take a game on their way out of the first round, but given the way the team just caved in on itself during the series, not even an attempted comeback by J.R. Smith could save them. The easy solution is to do what the fan in the photo suggests (save the making him GM part), but the basic problem is that Denver ran into a team that is an efficient, smarter version of itself: three good scoring options, but with defensive skills and slightly more talented. This team really won’t go anywhere until George Karl is out and a coach that fully commits to getting Melo, AI, and anyone not named Marcus Camby to play defense is in place. Kobe’s 31 led the Lakers, who have shown flashes of being merely ordinary at times; it may get them past the winner of Houston/Utah, but it won’t do in the conference finals, should they get there.
Hawks 97, Celtics 92 – 20 of Joe Johnson’s 35 points came in the 4th quarter as Atlanta manages to tie the series with Boston, making my prediction of a sweep here look absolutely awful. Ray Allen had 21, KG 20, but now they get to fight off the possibility of being this year’s version of the Dallas Mavericks before Game Five in Boston.
Magic 102, Raptors 92 – Three out of Orlando’s four wins in this series were pwoered by 20 points and 20 rebounds games from Dwight Howard, and the team is advancing in the playoffs for the first time since 1996 (when they had both Shaq and Penny Hardaway). Part of Orlando’s win was making Toronto’s star underachieve: Howard held Bosh to under 20 points; Bosh’s sole standout game was a 39 point effort on Saturday in Game Four.
Photo: AP/David Zalubowski