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Playoff Threads

There are 30 NBA teams and 27 SBNation NBA team blogs.  With a mere eight teams still in action, that leaves 19 SBNation communities with no dog in these fights.  Some sites have been hosting game threads, where their communities can comment on the playoff games.  But Basketball John from the Jazz blog SLC Dunk came up with a great idea - a single playoff game thread, hosted by a non-playoff SBNation site, on a revolving basis.

The details of the schedule are still being worked out, but tonight's action (starting at 5 Pacific on TNT) will be hosted at the Pistons blog, Motown String Music.  Of course, you can always go join the threads at one of the participating teams - but you risk being accused of being a troll in that situation.  I mean, try making a 'Seriously, Rondo deserves to be suspended for that' comment at Celtics Blog - it will not end well.  But a bunch of fans of other NBA teams can have a lovely, bitter time talking about how the refs suck, how LeBron travels all the time, how Carmelo is a thug, and how much they all hate the Lakers and the Celtics.  The enemy of my enemy is my friend... and sharing is caring.

While we're talking about playoff threads, here are the storylines that I find interesting in the second round.

Cleveland versus Atlanta - How good are the Cavs?  I'm afraid it may still be some time before we find out.  Detroit was a mess, so winning handily there was simply what they were supposed to do.  (To their credit, they did it.)  I don't think Atlanta's much better.  It's the reward that Cleveland gets for securing the best record - it looked all along that the one seed in the East was a free pass to the Conference Finals.  We'll get our first indication tonight of just how easy it's going to be for the Cavs.  As for the Hawks, they'll have to get out and run and use their athleticism if they're going to have a chance.  But I just don't see who is going to stop newly crowned MVP LeBron James (or Mo Williams, for that matter).

Boston versus Orlando - The NBA's plan for another Lakers - Celtics Final took quite a beating last night when both of last year's finalists lost.  But the story wasn't really the game Boston lost so much as the lead Orlando lost.  I mean, they still had 16 of their 28 point lead left going into the fourth quarter, and almost lost that - despite the fact that Boston shot 39% and committed 5 turnovers in the fourth.  Basically, Boston was terrible in the fourth quarter, and they still almost erased a 16 point deficit.  It might be taken as an isolated incident, if Orlando hadn't lost some big leads late in their first round series against the Sixers.  For Boston the question is their front line.  Garnett is out (though there is some hope he could be back at some point), Leon Powe just underwent surgery - this leaves Brian Scalabrine as the first big off the bench - not the best situation.  Facing Dwight Howard, where fouls are not only a fact of life but a viable defensive strategy, this is the wrong time to run out of bigs.  I don't see Boston winning this series, though it seems entirely possible that Orlando could lose it.

Lakers versus Houston - The NBA can live without Boston in the Finals - LeBron James versus Kobe Bryant is as good, if not better, than Lakers versus Celtics.  But rest assured, they want Kobe there, no matter how much they like the Chinese market.  So the Rockets defeat of the Lakers was definitely bad news.  Except not really.  The Lakers aren't going to shoot 2 for 18 from three point range, and Ron Artest isn't going to shoot 8 for 15.  In fact, I'd bet that there will be more than one game in this series where the Lakers as a team shoot a higher percentage from deep than Artest shoots overall.  (On the regular season, Artest shot 40% overall, while the Lakers shot 36% from three.)  You have to give the Rockets credit - their defense is truly outstanding.  But I just don't see where they're going to get enough offense to beat the Lakers in a seven game series.  The other story line to watch here is Andrew Bynum - where is the guy the Lakers gave 4/$58M?  Is he still recovering from his injury?  Or was he never actually worth that money?  With Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza free agents this summer, and Bynum's new contract kicking in next year, the Lakers are clearly expecting (and need) a lot from Bynum.  15 minutes against Yao Ming (i.e. in the matchup where they really, really need him) is not enough.

Denver versus Dallas - This is the late game tonight.  Denver is playing as well as any team right now, and the story here has got to be Chauncey Billups.  I mean, I know it's been discussed plenty, but in a way I think it's a bigger story than anyone is saying.  Not just what it says about Billups, but what it says about Allen Iverson, and the other Denver players, and to some extent about George Karl.  At any rate, it's absolutely amazing how replacing one player with another, without a discernible talent upgrade (and arguably a talent drop off), can totally transform a team.  Then again, there are stories everywhere you look for the Nuggets.  Chris Anderson has been absolutely amazing.  Anderson and Nene are BOTH candidates for Most Improved Player.  (If you're wondering how you replace Marcus Camby's production, it was simple - just have TWO guys play so much better than they ever have that they are in consideration for an award.  A great plan, if not easily repeatable.)  J.R. Smith turning into the greatest scorer in the history of the universe from time to time.  Kenyon Martin knocking people down.  And this guy Carmelo is always a story.  As for Dallas, if the refs are going to allow the Nuggets to knock Dirk all over the court and only give Dallas 13 free throws (to Denver's 36) then this series is already over.  George Karl may think the fine the NBA gave to KMart is 'crazy' but he'll take 23 extra free throws and a fine any day.