All four series in the Eastern Conference have completed three games, with Cleveland leading the Bulls two games to one, Atlanta leading the Bucks by the same margin, and with Boston and Orlando holding virtually insurmountable three games to none advantages over Miami and Charlotte, respectively.
After last year's experience for the Cavs, sweeping the first two rounds and then meeting an obstacle for the first time with Orlando, and failing to advance further when finally "tested", is it better that we pull for Boston to sweep and to be too rested, assuming that the next round would be Cavaliers-Celtics? Quite frankly, only in yesterday's third game was Boston pushed by the Heat, and then, when a play was needed at the end of the game, Paul Pierce drained a shot at the buzzer to win after the Heat (inexplicably) failed to use the foul they had to give to drain some time off the clock and make setting up the decisive shot more difficult.
The supposed Achilles' Heel of the Celtics is their age. Especially in the second half of the season, when Boston barely played .500 ball, many were writing them off as a championship contender, saying that their time had come and gone with their 2008 championship. How much are the results of the first three games of this series Boston being simply better than Miami, and how much may it be a case of a team "flipping a switch" when the playoffs started?
I am inclined to think that Miami may be in a little bit over their heads, that perhaps they were done in by the "Celtic Mystique" in the first two games and then, when the jitters had faded a bit, found themselves in a win-or-else mode at home in game three and were not quite able to pull it off.
I am pulling for Miami to win at least one game. Maybe I am buying into the notion of the Celtics being ripe for the picking if they are not very well-rested before the next series starts. But then, the Cavaliers are not exactly young, not when two of their starters are well over thirty. It is quite clear that Coach Brown seems to subscribe to the necessity of as much rest as possible, and there may be precious little rest to be had between rounds One and Two. And yes, I still see Cleveland winning their series with Chicago.
As far as Orlando-Charlotte, I am not at all surprised to see the Magic in the shape they are in. Charlotte reminds me of the Cavaliers against the Spurs in 2007, a little stunned to be where they are and feeling that they might not really belong yet. This is, after all, not only the Bobcats' first playoff appearance, it was also their first winning season. Good intentions don't win many games against a team that advanced to the Finals last season, although Charlotte gave Orlando all they could handle earlier today before losing by only four points.
Atlanta-Milwaukee is hard to get a handle on. The Hawks would have had their hands full if the Bucks had Andrew Bogut, and his absence had me seeing a sweep for Atlanta. But Milwaukee, to their credit, showed a lot of emotion and a lot of heart today at home and handled Atlanta convincingly. Now Milwaukee is in the same situation as the Bulls are...down by just one game, and with their next game at home, and feeling that if they can just even their series, the possibility always exists to steal a game on the road if the favored team begins to feel the pressure of maybe losing a series it has no business losing.
Addressing Miami-Boston specifically...what do you think would be more beneficial to the Cavaliers in the long run: Boston finishing off the sweep on Sunday and having maybe a week or more to wait for their next game, or Miami winning a game or two before bowing out and the Celtics being a little winded, but not "stale" from resting too long? (I am assuming that Boston will win this series, even if Miami comes back and wins one or two games...I simply cannot see the Heat winning four straight.)
What are your thoughts about the three series not involving the Cavaliers so far? Anything you see as surprising? Anything you would like to see happen from here on out?