Fact or Fiction: Friday's NBA action
Five writers tackle five bigs questions on Friday's slate of NBA playoff games
Let's play a little Fact or Fiction on Friday's action.
We asked five writers to tell the truth about the Knicks-Celtics, Hawks-Magic, and Hornets-Lakers series:
1. Fact or Fiction: The Celtics are lucky to be up 2-0 versus the Knicks.
Eddy Rivera, Magic Basketball: Fiction. There's a saying: Luck is what happens when opportunity meets preparation. That axiom couldn't be more true for the Boston Celtics. Thanks in large part to Celtics coach Doc Rivers' late-game mastery and preparedness with the clipboard, Boston (with the help of Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett) came through in the clutch in Games 1 and 2.
Caleb Hellerman, KnickerBlogger: Fact. I know the Celtics expected to be up 2-0. But a Boston fan watching Roger Mason and Jared Jeffries close out Game 2 in place of Chauncey Billups and Amare Stoudemire knows the leprechaun is on his or her side. Don't shave that beard or change that underwear. Chicken for every meal. Whatever it takes.
Brendan Jackson, Celtics Hub: Fiction. The Celtics have all the advantages -- home court, a relatively healthy roster of players, the NBA's second-best defense -- they are just playing really poorly. Credit the Knicks for not laying down after losing two of their best players, but the Celtics are the better team, the higher seed, and the better closers. It can't really be luck if it's expected.
Brian Cronin, KnickerBlogger: Fact. There is no doubt that the Celtics' playoff experience plays a huge role in their ability to close out games in the postseason; that is not luck. But between the botched calls at the end of Game 1 and the injuries to two-thirds of the Knicks' "big three" in Game 2, the Celtics are definitely lucky to have this 2-0 lead.
Phillip Barnett, Forum Blue & Gold: Fiction: You can't blame the Celtics for going out and beating the team placed in front of them. The Knicks have had key injuries, but the Celtics' resolve and end-of-game execution is why they're up 2-0.
2. Fact or Fiction: The Knicks are unlucky to be down 2-0 vs. the Celtics.
Eddy Rivera, Magic Basketball: Fiction. Partly. Freak injuries incurred by Chauncey Billups in Game 1 and Amare Stoudemire in Game 2 didn't do the New York Knicks any favors. However, an inability to execute with the game on the line proved to be their downfall more so than bad luck.
Caleb Hellerman, KnickerBlogger: Fiction. Some are pointing to the blown calls, but the Knicks had great opportunities both nights and didn't grab them. If you don't want bad luck, don't call a play for Jared Jeffries the next time you're down one with five seconds left.
Brendan Jackson, Celtics Hub: Fact. It seems counterintuitive to call truth on this one and malarkey on the other, but It takes a certain amount of luck to win on the road in the playoffs, and the Knicks haven't had it. The leprechauns in the Garden are earning their keep.
Brian Cronin, KnickerBlogger: Fact. It is difficult to call a 42-40 team being down 0-2 to a 56-26 team "unlucky," but in this series, it does apply. The calls in Game 1, the injury to Billups, and then Stoudemire injures himself on a trick dunk during warm-ups?! People in Midtown might want to bring their umbrellas Friday, as it might rain frogs.
Phillip Barnett, Forum Blue & Gold: Both. Not having Billups and Stoudemire definitely hurt the Knicks; untimely injuries to key players is not the recipe to playoff success. However, the Knicks were in position to win both games and are now heading back to Madison Square Garden in a huge hole.
3. Fact or Fiction: The Hawks-Magic series is still Orlando's to lose.
Eddy Rivera, Magic Basketball: Fact. Had head coach Larry Drew not made a serious tactical error by sitting Al Horford for most of the first half in Game 2, the Atlanta Hawks probably would be enjoying a 2-0 lead and the series would be theirs to lose. But as it is, all the Magic need to do is win once in Atlanta to retake home-court advantage and that's very doable.
Caleb Hellerman, KnickerBlogger: Fact. The Magic won't be bothered by playing on the road, and they have by far the best player in the series. Orlando's troubles say more about its fall from title contender status than they do about the Hawks.
Brendan Jackson, Celtics Hub: Fact. It's every higher seed's series to lose. Having home court in the playoffs is a huge advantage. So is having the best player and the better defense. The Magic should win this series. If they don't, expect wholesale changes.
Brian Cronin, KnickerBlogger: Fiction. I think that the Magic are the better team and will likely win the series, so if "theirs to lose" just means that they are still slight favorites, then I would agree. But I think that phrase carries the connotation that the Magic are in the driver's seat (such as Oklahoma City is with Denver) and that's definitely not the case here.
Phillip Barnett, Forum Blue & Gold: Fact. Dwight Howard hasn't just been the best player in this series, he's arguably been the best player in the whole postseason thus far. Atlanta has no answer for him, and I doubt Orlando continues to shoot less than 30 percent from behind the arc.
4. Fact or Fiction: CP3 is the best player in the Hornets-Lakers series.
Eddy Rivera, Magic Basketball: Fact. Chris Paul is playing like he did in 2008 and 2009, when he was, unequivocally, the best point guard in the NBA and a top-five player. Paul is still revered as a top-five player but his claim as the best point guard in the NBA is threatened with Derrick Rose's emergence. However, if Games 1 and 2 are any indication, Paul remains the king of all floor generals.
Caleb Hellerman, KnickerBlogger: Fact. I'll go out on a limb and say that a year from now, we'll be shaking our heads over Chris Paul and his knees, saying, "Remember when ..." But for now, I won't argue; he's still better than Bryant or Gasol.
Brendan Jackson, Celtics Hub: Fiction. If the Hornets are going to win another game in this series, Paul is going to have to play as well as he did in Game 1. Before it's all said and done, Andrew Bynum is going to look like the best player in this series and Hornets fans will have a nice Game 1 memory to hold on to until next season.
Brian Cronin, KnickerBlogger: Fiction. If he was playing at pre-injury levels (think 2008-09), I think Paul would be. But despite an absolutely brilliant Game 1, I think Paul remains a close second to Kobe Bryant. Of course, there are at least three more games left in this series, so Paul has plenty of time to make me look awfully foolish for putting him there.
Phillip Barnett, Forum Blue & Gold: Fact. Chris Paul has created offense for the Hornets and himself in myriad ways, and his performance thus far has been brilliant. However, if Pau Gasol continues to struggle, Andrew Bynum may prove to be the most important player in this series.
5. Fact or Fiction: All three series played on Friday will go to a Game 7.
Eddy Rivera, Magic Basketball: Fiction. If any series is most likely to go seven games, it'll be the matchup between the Magic and Hawks. It's doubtful to expect the same from the other two series, given that the Celtics are up 2-0 on the Knicks (in a weakened state) and the Lakers will, invariably, overwhelm the Hornets with their talent.
Caleb Hellerman, KnickerBlogger: Fiction. I don't think any of them will make it to a Game 7. The Lakers and Magic will pull it together, at least until Round 2. Are the Knicks sweeping the next four? I won't tell you. That would be unlucky.
Brendan Jackson, Celtics Hub: Fiction. Despite the way these series have played out thus far, all three are more likely to go five games than seven. The Celtics, Lakers and Magic are all better teams and their struggles have more to do with what they are not doing than what their opponents are.
Brian Cronin, KnickerBlogger: Fiction. The Hawks-Magic series has the best chance of going seven games, because of how evenly matched they are. Next best chance I'd give to the Hornets, since they're playing very well. Heck, they have an outside shot of winning before it gets to seven. The Knicks, with their various plagues, probably won't take Boston to six games, let alone seven.
Phillip Barnett, Forum Blue & Gold: Fiction. Even if Stoudemire and Billups come back, New York lacks the talent and experience to take three games from Boston. I also don't expect the Lakers to drop more than one more game. Boston wins 4-1 and the Lakers win 4-2. If any of these goes seven games, it'll be Orlando-Atlanta.
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