Let's play a little Fact or Fiction on Thursday's action.
We asked five writers to tell the truth about the Pacers-Bulls, 76ers-Heat, Pacers and Blazers-Mavs series:
1. Fact or Fiction: The Bulls have been as good as expected in the playoffs.
Jared Wade, 8 Points, 9 Seconds: Fiction. When the sub-.500 Pacers hung with the Bulls, nay, outplayed the Bulls until the final three minutes in Game 1, it was one thing. Indiana shot great and played high-level offense. But Indy couldn't score throughout Game 2, and it still took 36 Derrick Rose points and one unfortunately placed cameraman for the No. 1 seed to prevail.
Carey Smith, Philadunkia: Fiction. I expected more from everyone not named Derrick Rose. I certainly did not expect that Rose would have to totally carry Chicago in Games 1 and 2 to secure wins versus the lowly Pacers. So while I think D-Rose has been absolutely incredible, the Bulls as a team have not been as good as expected.
Noam Schiller, Hardwood Paroxysm: Fiction. Derrick Rose has been so good that he would probably garner even more MVP love if the season ended today, but defensive ineptitude in Game 1 and a flurry of turnovers in Game 2 have Chicago playing well under their potential.
Chris Palmer, ESPN The Magazine: Fiction. They've looked like anything but the No. 1 seed. Down 10 in the fourth in Game 1? Come on. They've been content to rely on the genius of Derrick Rose (6 TOs in Game 2, though), not a formula that will get them to the Finals. They need a concerted effort from Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. Rose may be on the verge of claiming the MVP but he's not Jordan.
Matt McHale, By The Horns: Fiction. In Game 1, Chicago's league-leading defense gave up 113.8 points per 100 possessions. In Game 2, the Bulls shot 38.6 percent and committed 22 turnovers. Considering they compiled the best record in the league this season and they're matched up against the worst team to make the playoffs, it's safe to say they've been performing below expectations.
2. Fact or Fiction: Chris Bosh is Miami's postseason MVP so far.
Jared Wade, 8 Points, 9 Seconds: Fiction. Bosh has played excellent basketball but he could never be confused for LeBron James. LeBron is living in the paint, getting to the line, handling the ball, electrifying the break and defending the entire court. Great work by Chris, too, but there are two guys Miami probably couldn't win this series without -- and Bosh isn't one of them.
Carey Smith, Philadunkia: Fiction. I expected Bosh to have a huge series against the Sixers' horrible interior defense. No doubt he has posted two solid games, but my question is, can you be the MVP of anything for simply doing your job versus weak competition? Miami's defense has been the "MVP" for the Heat so far this postseason.
Noam Schiller, Hardwood Paroxysm: Fiction. Bosh has been Miami's best player after two games, but it's impossible to single out an MVP when it has been Miami's overwhelming athleticism as a team that has left Philly in the dust so far.
Chris Palmer, ESPN The Magazine: Fact. Bosh has been Miami's best (and most consistent) player with averages of 23 and 11 while doing everything from sticking the 17-footer to filling the lane on the break to displaying defensive aggressiveness. Bosh is showing his true worth. To a man, everyone in the Heat organization says Bosh is their most important player. They're not kidding.
Matt McHale, By The Horns: Fiction. I'd say Bosh has been more X factor than MVP. His regular season was so-so by his standards, but his first two playoff games have been fantastic: 23.0 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 56.7 percent shooting and a PER of 30.8. I think the Sixers expected dominance from LeBron and Dwyane Wade. I don't think they expected it from Bosh.
3. Fact or Fiction: The Pacers will be the next East underdog to win.
Jared Wade, 8 Points, 9 Seconds: Fact. This is mainly because Indiana plays Thursday night and Atlanta is off until Friday. Without even factoring in the Darren Collison injury, it's possible Chicago comes into Conseco and wins by 30. But I think the Pacers finally play decently down the stretch and get a win over a team that they have so far outplayed in five of eight quarters.
Carey Smith, Philadunkia: Fiction. It will be the Sixers. Coach Doug Collins will find a way to steal a game from the Heat for the 76ers (Game 3 is Thursday in Philly) before the Pacers can overcome D-Rose and the Bulls. The Sixers are very good at home, the Heat were prone to lapses this season, and there's no way Collins can live with being swept by Heat coach Eric Spoelstra.
Noam Schiller, Hardwood Paroxysm: Fiction. Conseco Fieldhouse will be rocking for its first playoff action in five years. Sadly, fans can't grab rebounds. Chicago has 106 boards to Indy's 67 so far, and if this theme continues, Indiana will be swept. Look for Philadelphia and New York to represent Eastern underdogs better during their respective Game 3s.
Chris Palmer, ESPN The Magazine: Fiction. Make that the New York Knicks. Yes, they needed an epic playoff explosion from Carmelo Anthony but only because they were minus the second and third best players on the team. If Chauncey Billups and Amare Stoudemire can get healthy in time, the Knicks will even this series up by the time it leaves Gotham.
Matt McHale, By The Horns: Fiction. There's no sugarcoating his: The Bulls played poorly in Games 1 and 2. I don't think that'll happen three games in a row. I think it's much more likely the Knicks will win one against the Celtics before the Pacers beat the Bulls.
4. Fact or Fiction: The Sixers will get swept by the Heat.
Jared Wade, 8 Points, 9 Seconds: Fact. And I don't really feel like you need me to tell you why when Sixers coach Doug Collins summed it up so well after Game 1: "If they're playing on top of their game, we can't win. They won 58 [regular-season games]. We won 41." You're absolutely correct, Doug, but maybe don't say that out loud in public.
Carey Smith, Philadunkia:
Fiction. The Sixers are too good and proud a team and Collins is too good a coach to let the Heat -- admittedly a better team, but one filled with glaring weaknesses and led by a middle-of-the-road coach -- embarrass them with a sweep.
Noam Schiller, Hardwood Paroxysm: Fiction. Miami has struggled to stay awake throughout the entire regular season, and Philly isn't good enough to get their full attention -- which will be just enough for the Sixers to win one on their home floor.
Chris Palmer, ESPN The Magazine: Fiction. They're young, athletic and spirited enough to take both games in Philly. Yeah, I said it: This one's going at least six. The Heat won't disappoint their detractors. They'll slip up and lose focus. Remember, losses throw the Heat into a tailspin more so than most teams. If the Sixers get Game 3, this one may go a while.
Matt McHale, By The Horns: Fiction. It sure feels like that after the way the Sixers got spanked in Game 2. That said, I think a team that came back to life and made the playoffs after a 3-13 start has enough heart to win one at home, even against the Heat. But only one.
5. Fact or Fiction: The Blazers will even up the series in Games 3 and 4.
Jared Wade, 8 Points, 9 Seconds: Fiction. This Mavericks team took a lot of flak as the regular season concluded, and the Blazers' relentless resiliency is a phenomenal story, but last I checked, Dallas still has Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Tyson Chandler, Jason Terry and Shawn Marion. LaMarcus Aldridge is a very good player and Portland has a lot of nice pieces, but I don't even see this series going six games.
Carey Smith, Philadunkia: Fiction. I think the Blazers will grab one out of those two games, but not both. And if they allow Peja Stojakovic to hit for 21 again, they will not win either contest and they'll be making tee times by the time the weekend is over.
Noam Schiller, Hardwood Paroxysm: Fact. Fun as it has been to watch Jason Kidd and Peja Stojakovic come back from the dead to shoot a combined 16-for-30 from beyond the arc, the effect of the Rose Garden combined with the law of averages should restore competitiveness to everybody's once-favorite upset pick.
Chris Palmer, ESPN The Magazine: Fact. Portland is too good to go down 3-1 or (gasp!) get swept. In fact, not only will the Blazers even it up, they'll bounce back to win the series in seven. Maybe even six. It depends how much help LaMarcus Aldridge gets from the likes of Matthews, Miller and Fernandez. I suspect plenty. Rick Carlisle called Dirk one of the toughest players he's seen. Note to Carlisle: Blazers will prove tougher.
Matt McHale, By The Horns: Fact. Let's see: It took crazy-hot scoring by J-Kidd (21.0 ppg on 64 percent shooting) and 32 total fourth-quarter points from Nowitzki for the Mavericks to win the first two games. Oh, and let's not forget Stojakovic's five 3-pointers in Game 2. I'd say those qualify as special circumstances. The series will be tied when the teams return to Dallas.
ESPN.com and the TrueHoop Network
Chris Palmer writes for ESPN The Magazine. Jared Wade, Carey Smith, Noam Schiller and Matt McHale write for the TrueHoop Network.
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