One conference in the NBA has all the excitement. Everyone knew it would play out this way. The first round of the NBA playoffs will feature some very close series in one conference and a palate of blowouts in the other. No one knew, however, that it'd be the Eastern Conference - not the mighty West - that would hold the best match ups.
Here's a look at each of the eight first round series and where they currently stand.
(1) LA Lakers vs. (8) Denver Nuggets
The Lakers (57-25) and Nuggets (50-32) were separated by only seven games in the regular season. Very few people, if anyone, thought the Nuggets would actually pull the upset, but it didn't seem all that far-fetched. Instead, Kobe, Pau and Lamar are leading the way from blowout to blowout. The closest game until tonight's Game 4 clincher was the 14-point thumping the Nuggets faced in the series opener.
Game 1: LAL 128, DEN 114
Game 2: LAL 122, DEN 107
Game 3: LAL 102, DEN 84
Game 4: LAL 107, DEN 101
Los Angeles win series, 4-0
(2) New Orleans Hornets vs. (7) Dallas Mavericks
Before this series started, I thought it odd just how so many thought Dallas would upset the Hornets. Then again, if the Mavs upset the Hornets, it's be easy to brush it aside as obvious. Dallas was in the finals two years ago and won 67 games in 2006-07. The Hornets didn't have any of this much-talked-about and ultra-necessary "playoff experience." Yeah, New Orleans has been crippled by that lack of experience. Except for the fact that in his first two career playoff games, Chris Paul dominated both games. The Mavs find themselves in a 3-1 hole with the series returning to New Orleans where the Hornets can advance to round two on their home floor.
Game 1: NO 104, DAL 92
Game 2: NO 127, DAL 103
Game 3: DAL 97, NO 87
Game 4: NO 97, DAL 84
New Orleans lead series, 3-1
(3) San Antonio Spurs vs. (6) Phoenix Suns
Okay, Game 1 was perhaps the best game of the playoffs so far. Heck, it nearly went to triple OT (this isn't playoff hockey!). Since that marathon series opener, the Suns just have not been able to keep up with the defending champs. The Suns acquired Shaq to better deal with Duncan and have a more dominant inside presence. Doesn't seem to be working. The Spurs are finding ways to win these games despite the Suns' best efforts. Before the playoffs started, I thought this would be the most competitive series. Game 1 lived up to the hype, but the series since then has been lacking. The Spurs got up 3-0 in this series, a deficit no NBA has ever overcome. The series may not be technically over, but the Suns have set.
Game 1: SA 117, PHX 115
Game 2: SA 102, PHX 96
Game 3: SA 115, PHX 99
Game 4: PHX 105, SA 86
San Antonio leads series, 3-1
(4) Utah Jazz vs. (5) Houston Rockets
Everyone knew how touch the Jazz would be on their home court, but they took it one step further and crushed the Rockets in Houston in Games 1 & 2. Houston stole a game in Salt Lake City, true, but that seemed like more of a fluke than anything. While the games in this series have been closer than the other three Western Conference battles, the Jazz have shown no reason why they can't go back to Houston for Game 5 and steal a third in H-town to clinch the series.
Game 1: UTAH 93, HOU 82
Game 2: UTAH 90, HOU 84
Game 3: HOU 94, UTAH 92
Game 4: UTAH 86, HOU 82
Utah leads series, 3-1
As it stands right now, there is one series in the West that should go to six games (Jazz-Rockets). That's because the Rockets are playing Game 5 at home, but Utah still can wait to finish the series at home in a Game 6. No pressure there.
In the other three series, the Spurs and Hornets can win a home Game 5 to advance to the next round without having to travel back to Phoenix and Dallas, respectively. The Lakers didn't even need five games to get things done against Denver.
Guess that ultra-competitive Western Conference will have to wait until round two before all that hype is realized. As for the Eastern Conference, the series were simply a formality before the Celtics topped the Pistons to advance to the NBA Finals as the representative from the East. As it turns out, both top seeds are struggling against two sub-.500 teams.
(1) Boston Celtics vs. (8) Atlanta Hawks
Remember how there was a seven-game differential between the 1- and 8-seed in the Western Conference? Well check this out: the Celtics went 66-16 while the Hawks limped to a 37-45 finish. That's a 29-game difference. And apparently that doesn't matter. After the Celtics stormed out to a quick 2-0 series lead, the Hawks held serve in Atlanta by winning both their home games to tie the series at 2-2. Did anyone - anyone? - see this coming? I can't find anyone who picked the Hawks to win more than a single game, and even that was considered a stretch. This would be an even bigger upset than the Golden State Warriors six-game stunner over Dallas last season.
Game 1: BOS 104, ATL 81
Game 2: BOS 96, ATL 77
Game 3: ATL 102, BOS 93
Game 4: ATL 97, BOS 92
Series tied, 2-2
(2) Detroit Pistons vs. (7) Philadelphia 76ers
Similar situation to the Celtics-Hawks series. The Pistons went 59-23 while the 76ers were 40-42. The Sixers started the series strong by shocking the Pistons in Detroit to catapult this series to the forefront. All of the sudden, this wasn't a pushover match up of the big bad Pistons and some lowly bottom feeder in the East. Now it's a series, and it's a series worth watching.
Game 1: PHI 90, DET 86
Game 2: DET 105, PHI 88
Game 3: PHI 95, DET 75
Game 4: DET 93, PHI 84
Series tied, 2-2
(3) Orlando Magic vs. (6) Toronto Raptors
The first of the first-round series to wrap up was supposed to be one of the closer opening-round match-ups. Didn't happen. The Magic made the Raptors disappear thanks to Dwight Howard's third 20-20 game of the series. Yeah, 20-20. He is quite possibly the most dominant player in the Eastern Conference right now. KG has a solid team around him in Boston, but Dwight Howard has been sensational.
Game 1: ORL 114, TOR 100
Game 2: ORL 104, TOR 103
Game 3: TOR 108, ORL 94
Game 4: ORL 106, TOR 94
Game 5: ORL 102, TOR 92
Orlando win series, 4-1
(4) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (5) Washington Wizards
These two teams seem to gravitate toward each other when the playoffs get going. For the third year in a row, the Cavs and Wizards are facing off in the first round in what was thought to be the most even match up in the Eastern Conference. It should be; it is the 4-5 match up. While Games 1 and 4 were pretty close, Games 2 and 3 turned into blowouts quickly. LeBron and the Cavs have been able to pull out the closer contests of the series, and the defending Conference champs are now in position to close the series out at home in Game 5 on Wednesday.
Game 1: CLE 93, WAS 86
Game 2: CLE 116, WAS 86
Game 3: WAS 108, CLE 72
Game 4: CLE 100, WAS 97
Cleveland leads series, 3-1
So with one series in each conference already in the books and four other series with the higher seed in position to close things in five, the closest match ups in these playoffs are the two series that everyone thought would be the least contested. The Celtics and Pistons are both dead-locked in their respective series. Meanwhile, no single series in the Western Conference was even tied at 1-1.
I still think the West will produce the champions of the NBA, but for now it's the East that is providing all the excitement.