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Thursday, May 14, 2009


Coming into the playoffs, I felt Denver was very vulnerable to getting knocked off in the first round.
Instead, the Nuggets have been the second-best team in the playoffs, behind only the steamrolling Cleveland Cavaliers.
After seeing how the Cavs forced Chauncey Billups to give up the ball in past playoff series, I figured the Western Conference teams would embrace the same strategy. But Billups has controlled the action while his team overpowered the Hornets and Mavericks offensively in the first two rounds.
By the way, got to figure the Mavs' franchise is in deep trouble. Dirk Nowitzki turns 31 this summer and his supporting cast is average at best. Over-the-hill Jason Kidd and his $21 million contract comes off the books, but the Mavs still don't have the financial flexibility to make significant changes to their roster.
The Lakers will finish off the banged-up Rockets, setting up a very intriguing conference finals between the rampaging Nuggets and inconsistent but supremely talented Lakers. At this stage, you've got to give a slight edge to Denver, which has shown a blend of toughness and cohesiveness.
By the way, was there anything more predictable than Orlando's Game 5 collapse in Boston? Time and again, the Magic have shown no mental toughness when tested. Criticize Van Gundy all you want about Dwight Howard's lack of touches but Orlando has to finish off the Celtics in that situation, no matter who's taking the shots.


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