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NBA 2006 Playoffs

The Semis are Set

Wow, what a playoff run we've had. So many overtimes, so many one point games, a champion dethroned, another champion already pushed to seven and new blood coursing through an ever more popular league. David Stern, commisioner of the NBA, must be thrilled. Despite the major market teams not participating, these playoffs have so far been captivating beyond all belief.

In the East, a rematch of last year's Eastern Conference Championships is on tap. From the looks of the first game, Detroit might be wearing down at the wrong time. We've seen the past champions' window stay open for two to three years with the same core group of guys. For whatever reason, the competition has started to figure out how to attack, while the champ has slowed down or, some would say, even grown complacent. It's been almost two years since Detroit won its last Championship. How sharp will Detroit be in 2006?

There's a good chance these teams will go seven in this series. Not only because of Dwayne Wade's amazing abilities and Shaq who always comes through at the right time, but also because Detroit suddenly seems vulnerable. Chauncey isn't dominating. Rasheed Wallace is hurting. Maybe it's Flip Saunders not driving this team like Larry did? When the most valuable players of game seven against the Cavaliers were Lindsey Hunter and Tayshaun Prince, it's a clear sign that all is not well in the Palace of Pistondom.

As much as I gave reasons why Detroit will lose, they have the team to win now. If Rasheed plays like he can, they'll win, but if he's truly hurt don't be surprised to see this year's most vaunted team fall.
Prediction: Detroit 4 - Miami 3

In the West, make no mistake that the Spurs-Mavs matchup was the conference finals. I'm not saying it will be a cake-walk for the Mavericks, but it should be. As long as they don't get into a break-neck track meet, this Maverick team has all the tools to take out the Suns. Who can stop Dirk? The Mavericks have lots of guys to throw at Nash.

Can Nash play at a high level in a long series? Yes, and that's the one caveat. He handles the ball and controls the tempo a lot more than Dirk. The wild cards for the Suns will be Boris Diaw and Tim Thomas -- can they continue to play relaxed, agressive ball? For the Mavericks, Josh Howard and Devin Harris will be needed for defense. If Harris gets too aggressive and starts making turnovers, this could be a long series for Big D.

There's no reason Dallas shouldn't handle the Suns but a running game plays to Phoenix's strengths.
Prediction: Dallas 4 - Phoenix 2