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NBA playoff picture, in a snapshot

Believe it or not, as of Tuesday afternoon, the Celtics [1] are the only team that has finished its first-round series. While they await their first day of practice on Wednesday, NBA fans in Boston get a chance to watch what should be one of the most exciting playoffs in league history. Here’s a brief snapshot of the current playoff picture …


Miami Heat [2] 3, Philadelphia 76ers [3] 1

LeBron James & Co. are just trying to finish this series, so they can get their shot at the Celtics. The problem? The Heat are still struggling with chemistry and — as a result — have a 0-1 record in close-out games so far. Meanwhile, 76ers coach Doug Collins [4] is just glad to get another game of playoff experience under his young team’s belt.

Heat forward Chris Bosh [5]: ‘€œWe’€™re going to have to trust each other. We’€™ve been talking about trust all this time, so we’€™re going to have to actually do it when it counts the most. It’€™s easy to stress when you’€™re up 2-0, 3-0. … When it’€™s time to close and it’€™s time to get to those other elite teams, and we’€™re going to have a chance to compete against them, we have to do the same thing well, not the same thing we did [Sunday].’€

Sixers coach Doug Collins [6]: “I’m sure Doc Rivers [7] hopes we take the Heat to triple overtime in Game 7. No question about that. One thing about the playoffs, especially when you are a team that has a lot of games under the belt, you want series to go as little time as possible.”

Chicago Bulls [8] 3, Indiana Pacers [9] 1

This series could easily be tied, if not 3-1 in the other direction. Now, with Bulls point guard Derrick Rose [10]‘s health in question, the Pacers are pretty damn confident for a No. 8 seed that trails 3-1. The shine has already worn off the popular pick in the Eastern Conference.

Bulls point guard Derrick Rose [11]: “It’s getting better every day. It’s not broken, so I’m definitely playing. There’s still some swelling, but it hurts more on the inside. I’m fine. After I take the shot, I shouldn’t feel anything. Hopefully, I can still perform.”

Pacers coach Frank Vogel [12]: “I feel like if we win [Tuesday], we’ll win this series.”

Atlanta Hawks [13] 3, Orlando Magic [14] 1

The Magic — who went to the NBA Finals [15] two seasons ago — haven’t been the same team since they shook up their roster, acquiring the Gilbert Arenas [16], Hedo Turkoglu [17] and Jason Richardson [18] pu pu platter. And now the “Where’s Dwight Howard [19] going to land in the near future?” discussion has already begun. Meanwhile, the Hawks look to be on the verge of making the Eastern Conference semifinals — where they’ll be trampled by the Bulls.

Hawks coach Larry Drew [20]: ‘€œI think clearly looking at some of these games they are moving on their screens. We haven’t gotten the whistle. We are not going to cry and complain about it. We are just going to keep playing.’€

Magic coach Stan Van Gundy [21]: “You’re a professional athlete. You’re in big games. There’s pressure. Deal with it. Deal with it and make shots. It’s an opportunity to win and move on. That’s all it is. It’s not about pressure. It’s about stepping up and doing what you do at a high level.”


Memphis Grizzlies [22] 3, San Antonio Spurs [23] 1

Raise your hand if — when he left the Celtics last summer — you thought Tony Allen [24] would ever be the leader of a team that will likely make the Western Conference semifinals and spell the death of the Tim Duncan [25] era. Anybody? Anybody? Even a few months ago, I wouldn’t have taken Allen over Jeff Green [26]. Now? The Celtics would have to sweeten the deal significantly.

Spurs big man Antonio McDyess [27]: ‘€œWe’€™re playing like a bunch of wussies.’€

Grizzlies guard Tony Allen [28]: ‘€œWho ain’€™t bruised up around this time of year? Everybody got aches and bruises right now. Since [Manu Ginobili [29]] has got the high profile name, everybody puts emphasis on what’€™s wrong with him. I don’€™t go to the media saying what’€™s wrong with me. I don’€™t go to my P.R. guy and say put this out. I just fight through. He’€™s trying to fight through it.’€

New Orleans Hornets [30] 2, Los Angeles Lakers [31] 2

I’ve said it all season long: What Chris Paul [32] has done with this Hornets team — especially since David West‘s injury — is remarkable. Probably just as remarkable — if not more impressive — than what Rose did for the Bulls. The Hornets start Marco Belinelli for chrissake. Meanwhile, Kobe Bryant [33]‘s has been hobbling on crutches and won’t undergo an MRI for the Lakers’ medical staff — fearing the worst, in all likelihood.

Hornets point guard Chris Paul [34]: ‘€œI just look at it as a great opportunity for us as a team to forget about the regular season and seize the moment. I play with a chip on my shoulder. Regardless, day in and day out. I’€™m not trying to make a statement. When you get to the playoffs, nobody feels sorry for you. Nobody. They don’€™t care what’€™s wrong with your ankle, your knee or anything like that. This is what players are made of.”

Lakers coach Phil Jackson [35]: “We’re trying to convince him it might be a good idea to [undergo an MRI]. It doesn’t matter He’s going to play anyway. That’s his answer. He won’t let them deal with it.”

Dallas Mavericks [36] 3, Portland Trail Blazers 2

Unlike the Lakers-Hornets series, just about everybody figured this to be a tight series. And it is. After Brandon Roy [37]‘s ridiculous fourth quarter in Game 4 that helped the Blazers even up the series, the Mavericks bounced back nicely from their collapse to win Game 5 — thanks to Tyson Chandler [38] being a beast on the boards. No bad blood here. Just two very good teams in a very good series. And can anyone else believe Chris Johnson [39], who spent four games on the C’s this season, is getting playoff burn?

Blazers center Marcus Camby [40]: “We’re still feeling confident. The only thing they did was hold serve on their home court. Now we have to go out and do the same thing next ball game. But we can’t rely on being home as being the cure-all. We know we have to play a whole lot better.”

Mavericks guard Jason Terry [41]: “The fans had it rocking in here from the jump and we came out and set the tone early, and we were able to finish them off in the fourth quarter. We were really anxious to get to this game and we wanted to go out and prove to everyone that we let that game [Saturday] slip away, and it was not going to happen on our home court and it’s not going to happen again.”

Oklahoma City Thunder [42] 3, Denver Nuggets [43] 1

So, where are all the Nuggets fans who thought the Thunder was a good matchup for their team? I’m still waiting to hear back from them. Still, it’s kind of funny that the guys who got traded for Carmelo Anthony have actually won more playoff games this season than ‘Melo himself. As for the Kendrick Perkins [44] watch, he’s averaging 4.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.0 fouls in 25 minutes per game in this series.

Thunder center Kendrick Perkins [45]: ‘€œWhen you have a team down, you just have to apply the pressure and keep your foot on their throat. So you got to come out with the mindset that you’re going to come out and not give them any hope.’€

Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson [46]: ‘€œIt’s easy to attack Perkins, because he’s a little bit slow.’€