May 8, 2006
Let's take a look at the NBA conference semifinals:
Detroit vs. Cleveland
LeBron James had a super opening series against Washington, but does he have enough to score a shock city upset of the Pistons here? I don't think James has the supporting cast to get it done, as was the case in the first game of this series. Detroit have balance, defense, postseason experience and a winning mentality that makes them special.
This Detroit club reminds me a lot of the 1970 New York Knicks team that won with great teamwork and the ability to get the ball to the open man. Red Holzman was the legendary coach of stars like Walt Frazier, Willis Reed, Earl Monroe, Dave DeBusschere and Bill Bradley. I understand Mike Lupica made a similar analogy on The Sports Reporters.
Richard Hamilton and Chauncey Billups will lead the Pistons to a series win in five games.
Miami vs. New Jersey
Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade take on Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson. Wow, what star power in these lineups! Pat Riley has a world of playoff experience and he may rate an edge over Lawrence Frank on the sidelines. I figure this will be a tough, tough series which could get very physical inside. Shaq looks like he is pumped up and ready to face Jason Collins in the middle.
I see this going all the way to seven games, but Miami advances.
San Antonio vs. Dallas
Wow, both of these teams won 60 games during the regular season. The state of Texas will be excited with this battle.
Tim Duncan and company set the tone with a hard-fought two-point win in the first game of this series. That came on short rest after knocking off Sacramento on the road.
Dallas needs Dirk Nowitzki to come through big-time in this series. In the end, I see San Antonio coming through in six games.
Phoenix vs. LA Clippers
Yes, that's right, the Clippers are in the second round of the playoffs. The last time this franchise won a playoff series, it was known as the Buffalo Braves and coached by ESPN's own Dr. Jack Ramsay!
Steve Nash earned his second straight MVP award. Imagine the number of assists he would have if Amare Stoudemire was healthy? Nash is an inspirational player who works so hard and makes his teammates better. The Suns will find a way to neutralize Elton Brand.
This will not be an easy series. I like Phoenix to move on in six tough games.
Overall, I still feel the Spurs and Pistons will advance to the NBA championship. The other teams simply don't play defense as well and that will be a key. You can analyze and evaluate all you want, but those two teams will be back competing for the NBA title.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.