How sweep it is: NBA Conference Semi-Finals Playoff Report
With the first round in the books, the NBA playoffs are lacking competitive fire in the conference semi-finals, as inferior teams have fallen quickly and three out of the four series subsequently ended in sweeps.
The five remaining teams, however, are all strong contenders, and each have the ability and experience to perform upsets in any of the current or upcoming series.
The Phoenix Suns are one of those five contenders, after surprisingly defeating the San Antonio Spurs with ease. Despite Phoenix versus San Antonio being one of the more memorable rivalries in the past ten years, the Spurs couldn't hold up their end of the bargain as the Suns made quick work of the southern Texas team.
San Antonio had eliminated the Suns in each of their last three meetings in the post season, and it seemed only a matter of time before the pendulum swung the other way and Phoenix got their revenge.
In all four games, the Spurs were incapable of stopping the Sun's gritty, defensive bench and the pick and roll combination of star point guard Steve Nash and Forward Amare Stoudamire.
Even a bloody eyelid couldn't stop Phoenix's attack, as Nash was elbowed in the face by Tim Duncan in game four and was subsequently forced into the locker room to be stitched up. Undeterred, he returned with a swollen left eye to finish what was left of the Spurs' season with 10 points and 5 assists in the fourth quarter.
Nobody expected a 4-0 sweep of a team with such an extensive championship pedigree, but the Spurs just couldn't cool off the hot Suns. The Los Angeles Lakers hoped to fare much better in the next round.
Before those Lakers could face the Suns, however, they had to finish off Utah Jazz in a series that was all too familiar for Jazz fans. Los Angeles eliminated Utah in the past two playoffs, and 2010 was no different. The Jazz found no solution for the Laker bigs, who simply out-rebounded, out-muscled, and outplayed the undersized Utah forwards.
The Okalahoma series seemed to sharpen the Lakers, who have finally decided to play defense, holding the Jazz to 44 percent while shooting over 50 percent themselves, according to NBA.com. Add to that Kobe's emergence as his old self, Los Angeles had no problem taking down Utah in four games and keeping the Lakers' supporters content.
With the series victory, the defending champs will now play the Phoenix Suns to determine the West representative in the NBA Finals.
The East, on the other hand, is still fully not decided.
The Orlando Magic followed the Suns and Lakers formula, by sweeping the Atlanta Hawks in dominant fashion and finishing with an unbelievable 101-point margin of victory.
Orlando looked sharp as its Big 4 of Vince Carter, Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson man handled the undersized Hawks. By moving the ball offensively and smothering Atlanta on the defensive end, Orlando simply cruised.
The Magic held the Hawks to under 40 percent shooting and it came to the point where Atlanta had virtually stopped competing in game three.
Orlando defeated the Hawks 4-0, and became the third team to do so in the 2010 conference semis.
The only series yet to be decided in the second round is the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Boston Celtics.
With the Celtics fully healthy and the Cavaliers beefed up with off-season and mid-season acquisitions, this match-up has intrigue written all over it.
Cleveland and Boston split games one and two, and then proceeded to leave each fan base awe-struck with otherworldly performances in the following two contests.
Game three saw LeBron James score 28 of his game high 38 points in the first half and subsequently will his team to victory. Not to be outdone, Boston point guard Rajon Rondo became only the third player in NBA history to score 29 points, grab 18 boards and dish out 13 assists in game four as he helped the Celtics tie the series 2-2.
The series is set to resume in Cleveland for game five on Tuesday night.
It seems some of the hype in this year's playoffs has been overplayed, but the clash in the Western Conference Finals will no doubt keep eyes glued to television. It will be interesting to see how the Lakers will defend the 3-point line against the Suns, as it is something they have struggled with all season.
With the Magic coasting to a consecutive appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals, it appears Orlando will be prepared to face either Boston or Cleveland in the upcoming round.
The finish line is drawing close and with three of the last four series resulting in sweeps, basketball fans hope to find more parity in both conference finals.