Monday, May 05, 2008

Magic is This Year's Hapless Fourth Seed In East Semi-Finals

I suppose you have a conference semi-final because the mathematics say half of eight is four and half of four is two.

We're down to the FInal Four in the NBA's Eastern Conference, but only three teams are semi-finals worthy. The fourth, the Orlando Magic -- whom the Pistons will spend the next week or so toying with -- is only there because league rules say four teams must participate.

The Boston Celtics, winners of 66 games in the regular season, didn't exactly get their bye thru the first round, but their total domination of the 37-win Atlanta Hawks in the games played in Boston shows that, even though the series went seven games, it really wasn't a series, because the neophyte Hawks never came close to stealing a game in Beantown. The Celtics, with their Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce, are certainly Final Four material.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are always Final Four-ish as long as King James, LeBron version, suits up for them. It'll be interesting to see how the Celtics handle James, seeing as how they struggled to contain Hawks guard Joe Johnson at times. The Cavs are worthy of being a conference semi-finalist.

The Pistons show up to these conference semi-finals every year, usually just waiting to get their ticket punched to the REAL Final Four, NBA-wide. Five straight trips to the conference finals, including two wins and a championship, cements their place in these second round matches.

The Orlando Magic are the fourth team, and it's only because the East has such slim pickings that the Magic are allowed to the party. Last year the Chicago Bulls were here. Once, the New Jersey Nets were frequent visitors. Same with the Indiana Pacers. The Magic are this year's fourth entry, and it's anyone's guess whether they'll be back next year or the year after that.

Oh, the Magic are a nice little team, but this is their first trip to the second round in quite some time, and already they seem unsure of what to do now that they're here. They made it here by playing an up-tempo, frantic game built around the three-point shot, but in Game 1 on Saturday, the Magic tried to ugly it up and get all Bad Boys-ish on the Pistons. It backfired. Badly.

It's not smart money to wager on this series lasting more than five games. Maybe next year, the Magic could give the Pistons a little go-round. Not this spring. The Magic won more games than James's Cavaliers, but it would be hard to argue that Orlando is a better team than Cleveland. There's no question, in my mind, who I'd fear more right now, if given the choice between Dwight Howard and the Magic, and James and the Cavaliers. We all still have ghoulish memories of what James did to the Pistons in Game 5 of last year's conference final.

They must allow four teams into the conference semi-finals -- if only because it would be unfair to give one team a free pass while two others engage in battle. This year, it's the Orlando Magic playing the role of the fourth seed. Next year, might be somebody else. Either way, no. 4 is going home soon.

No comments: