Atlanta Hawks at Orlando Magic- 8 ET TNT
The Orlando Magic manhandled the Atlanta Hawks in their season series winning three out of the four games. The one game Atlanta did win happened to be one of the plays of the year as Josh Smith put down a nasty game winning, buzzer beater at home.
To add to the concerns I have for the Hawks in this series, they just got finished playing a tough series with the Milwaukee Bucks. If they struggled against a team like the Bucks without height and consistent perimeter shooting, how in the world are they supposed to compete with the Magic who arguably have the best team in the league when it comes to size and shooting ability.
I mentioned it throughout the entire first round that the Hawks struggle due to a lack of bench depth and that weak bench will continue to be exploited tonight. Much like the Bucks were given all they could handle with Atlanta down low, the Hawks now face the same situation. Dwight Howard and the Magic will give the Hawks endless trouble throughout the series.
Although the Bucks took the Hawks 7 games with post problems, the Hawks in a similar situation will do far from the same. If the Magic can gear down, remain focused; this series shouldn’t go anymore than 5 games at best. In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Hawks get swept. If the Magic are able to do just that, I’d have to like their chances of making it to the NBA Finals yet again this year.
Magic- 105 Hawks- 96
Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Lakers- 10:30 ET TNT
In many facets, this series is very similar to the Celtics-Cavs going on in the Eastern Conference. With that being said, much of my Game 2 predictions where I correctly predicted the Celtics to beat the Cavs, hold true to tonight’s Jazz-Lakers Game 2, I’m going Jazz.
Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol can’t play much better than they did in Game 1 as the held their ground in the opening game squeaking out a win. Lakers’ fans may argue that in Game 2 we could see improved play in both Lamar Odom and Ron Artest, but unfortunately I just don’t see that being the case. Odom and Artest are huge disappointments so far in playing big when called upon, both have struggled to even have a worthwhile competition for whose the more significant piece to the Lake Show puzzle.
Having a unit of guys that have understood their roles and know when they’re being asked to step up has never been a problem with Jerry Sloan’s Jazz team. That will show in Game 2 as the Jazz will stick to the plan or at least how I envision their outlook to be in Game 2. Coach Sloan will simply encourage his guys to stick around, stay between 3 to 5 points until about the 5-minute mark remaining in regulation. Then in the midst of Deron Williams one-man show, one of the Jazz perimeter players will hear his “calling” to step up. I see that man rising to occasion, at the perfect time, and getting the job done assisting Deron Williams and his team. Who do I see that being? C.J. Miles. Much like George Hill over in San Antonio, it’s been Miles’s postseason play that helped the Jazz take down the Nuggets in Round 1. Struggling from the outside in Game 1, I see improvement coming from Miles in Game 2. Jazz take a split series back home to Utah.
Jazz- 106 Lakers- 101