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NBA Playoffs off to roaring start in West and East

By Joe Pantorno, Assistant Sports Editor

In the West, the Los Angeles Lakers are looking to defend their title taking on the young guns of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Game one of the series saw the Lakers dominate the early portions of the game and not relinquishing their lead. Both big names in the game, 2008 MVP Kobe Bryant and third year sensation and 2010 scoring champion Kevin Durant, were held to 24 and 21 points, not exactly an all-star performance from both players.

Game two was a much different story as the inexperienced Thunder team showed life against the Lakers. Durant posted 32 points willing his team into contention but Bryant, playing with a broken finger, bad ankle and sore knee, put up 39 points giving the Lakers the 95-92 win and a 2-0 series lead. If the Thunder has any hope of slowing down the Lakers during this series, Durant needs much more help from teammate Russell Westbrook.

In an all Texas affair, the number two seedDallas Mavericks take on their rivals, the seventh seeded San Antonio Spurs. Game one saw a duel between three Texas sized stars as San Antonio's Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli and Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki put on an offensive shootout in Dallas. Duncan drained 27 points, Ginobli put up 26 and Tony Parker off the bench scored 18 points for San Antonio.  Nowitzki though had other ideas as he dropped 36 points going 12-14 from the field and making all twelve of his free throws as Caron Butler added 22 and the Mavericks took game one 100-94. The Spurs' objective will be simple for the rest of the series: stop Nowitzki at all cost. With Nowitzki out of the game, the Mavericks do not have enough offensive firepower to hold off the Spurs.

The three seed Phoenix Suns will try to keep their success on offense in the playoffs against the sixth seeded Portland Trail Blazers. The injury ravaged Blazers stole game one in Phoenix, a very impressive feat considering the fact that the Suns lost at home only eight times this season. Veteran Andre Miller scored 31 points for the Blazers as the Suns did not have an offensive night that met their high standards. Two-time MVP Steve Nash led Phoenix with 25 points in the 105-100 loss.

Game two saw the Suns return to form, as Portland could not find an answer to Jason Richardson, who dropped 29 points.

Game one of the Denver Nuggets (no. 4) against Utah Jazz (no. 5) series became the Carmelo Anthony show as he took the game by storm scoring 42 points. Not only did the Jazz go down 1-0 in the series, but they also lost center Mehmet Okur to an Achilles injury. 

The Jazz bounced right back for game two. Led by all-star point guard Deron Williams who had 33 points and 14 assists, the Jazz took game two 114-111. If the Jazz is able to keep Anthony in check and can beat forward Kenyon Martin to rebounds, the Jazz has a very good chance of taking this series.

In the Eastern Conference, the top seeded Cleveland Cavaliers led by the best player in the league in LeBron James, look to quiet the critics and start their championship quest on the right foot by beating the Chicago Bulls in the conference quarterfinals. In game one, King James scored 26 and Antawn Jamison, whose compatibility with Shaquille O'Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas was in question, scored 15 points. Chicago's Derrick Rose's 28-point effort was overshadowed by the 96-83 Cavs win, as it seemed like all business in Cleveland.

Game two was more of the same for the Cavaliers as LeBron James drained 40 points and Jamario Moon was money from behind the arc (knocking down four of five three pointers). It was not surprising that the Cavs took game two 112-10, but some positives could be taken out of this game for the Bulls. Forward/center Joakim Noah scored 25 points and collected 13 boards.

The number two seed Orlando Magic look to find the same chemistry that brought them to an NBA Finals appearance last year. It will not be an easy road though as they take on the up and coming Charlotte Bobcats in the first round. Jameer Nelson led the Magic to a 98-83 win by scoring 32 points in game one. Dwight Howard, who found himself in foul trouble early, only scored five points, something that Charlotte will be looking to exploit for the rest of the series.

The Atlanta Hawks come into this years playoffs looking to establish themselves as the class of the Eastern Conference while taking on the Milwaukee Bucks. Despite a 34 point effort from Brandon Jennings, the Bucks dropped game one 102-92.  The key stat in game one was the next leading scorer behind Jennings was John Salmons with 16. Every other member of the team was held to single digits, a stat that Milwaukee must improve on.

Game two was not any better for the Bucks. Atlanta's Joe Johnson dropped 27 points and the star of game one, Brandon Jennings, was held to only nine points. Josh Smith also scored 21 for the Hawks as they took game two 96-86. It looks like the path to a win will have to be under the basket where the Bucks hold a slight advantage in rebounding.

Rebounds are key to gaining momentum that Milwaukee so desperately needs.
The first test for the Celtics comes against Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat. D-Wade's 26 was not enough in game one, a low scoring affair that Boston took 85-76.

Game two became a rout after a closely contested first quarter. Ray Allen scored 25 points and the Celtics made easy work of the Heat winning 106-77. Glen Davis filled in nicely for Kevin Garnett as he scored 23 points. The Heat have to find away to the basket because they can not rely on going fifty percent from three point land (they shot only 38.2 percent from inside the arc) to keep themselves in these games.

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