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Watching the other series

It’s a good thing the NBA had Game 4 of the Cavs-Pistons scheduled directly after the epic Celtics-Bulls clash, because after watching Ben Gordon [1] and Ray Allen [2] play UConn H-O-R-S-E we all needed a breather and nobody has sucked the air out of the playoff balloon quite like the Detroit Pistons [3].

That gave us a second to prepare for Game 4 of the Magic-Sixers series, which should be of slight interest to Celtics [4] followers. If the C’s and Bulls represent the best of the first round of the playoffs and the Cavs and Pistons are the worst, Philly and Orlando lie somewhere in between.

The games in that series have been mostly competitive, but nowhere near the breakneck pace of Boston-Chicago. Three of the four games have come down to last-second shots and Philly has won two of those, further proof for most that Orlando just isn’t ready for prime time. If Hedo Turkoglu [5] doesn’t knock down his contested 3-pointer in Game 4, the Magic would be in serious trouble right now.

But he did and they are back in control of the series, although warily. The problem for Orlando remains that its best player is not the go-to guy down the stretch. From the outside looking in, I’m still not sure how Stan Van Gundy’s team can deliberately go away from feeding Dwight Howard [6], even with his troubles at the free throw line.

It’s worth remembering that on the final day of the regular season the first round matchups looked like they would have Chicago playing Orlando and Philly playing Boston. If the Bulls hadn’t inexplicably lost to Toronto–and Cleveland hadn’t rested its most important players against Philly–we would be looking at entirely different scenarios right now.

But they did and here we are. The survivor of the Boston-Chicago series won’t have a lot of time to lick their wounds, but whoever it winds up being has to feel good about its chances in the second round.

One other odd note from the first round thus far. Homecourt advantage in the East hasn’t meant a whole lot, where the home teams are just 8-7. But in the West, the home team has gone 12-3. Indirect evidence that the East is a whole lot more competitive than people have given it credit for?