Beating Utah tougher for GS

May 8, 2007 4:43 AM

LAST WK SEASON PCT 2-3 44-37-3 54.3

Three of the eight first round NBA playoff series produced upset winners, none more shocking than Golden State eliminating Dallas in 6. And, it wasn’t a fluke.

The top-seeded Mavericks had great trouble dealing with the Warriors’ quickness, both on offense and defense. Another Western Conference upset saw Utah get past Houston in 7. The surprising was Utah taking Game 7 on the road, a rare occurrence in the annals of all team sports.

In the East, New Jersey’s upset of Toronto was not totally unexpected. The young Raptors were making their first playoff appearance in five seasons, while the Nets are in for a sixth straight season. Experience counts in postseason, especially in the NBA where teams must pay their dues before advancing deeper into the playoffs.

The Conference semifinals began with Detroit, Cleveland and San Antonio holding 1-0 edges over Chicago, New Jersey and Phoenix. On Monday night, Golden State visiting Utah and the Bulls met the Pistons in Game 2.

Here’s a look at all four series, which are scheduled to last into the third week of May if they go the full 7.

Pistons vs Bulls: If down 2-0, play BULLS -4 or less. If 1-1, PISTONS +3 or more. This series should go 6 and likely 7. Most games should be very competitive. Great potential for the zig zag theory to apply given familiarity and the long standing rivalry. Remember, zig zag suggests a play on the straight up loser of the previous game in the series. FORECAST: PISTONS IN 7.

Cavs vs Nets: Despite being weary, New Jersey gave Cleveland a stiff test in Game 1 before succumbing 81-77 as a 6-point dog. The win was Cleveland’s third in four meetings, yet only one has been decided by more than 5. New Jersey matches up well with key options in Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson and Jason Kidd. The Cavs rely on King James (LeBron) and an unspectacular supporting cast. Play NETS +5 in Game 2 on Tuesday and in Game 3 back home on Saturday if tied 1-1 or down 0-2. Play CAVS is up 3-0 heading into next Monday’s fourth game. FORECAST: NETS IN 6.

Suns vs Spurs: San Antonio is 3-1 against Phoenix this year with the Game 1 victory, first by the road team. Phoenix brings plenty of offense and is challenged by the Spurs’ excellence on defense. The defensive prowess of San Antonio makes SPURS +5 an attractive option in Game 2 and a solid play as 4-to-5-point favorites in Game 3 back home whether tied 1-1 or up 2-0. SUNS would be a solid play if looking to square the series at 2-2. If the Suns are up 2-1, then SPURS -6 or 7 to even the series next Monday. FORECAST: SPURS IN 5 or 6.

Jazz vs Warriors: Utah holds some fundamental edges over Golden State, including up front and in the interior game. The Warriors quickness might ultimately hurt them. Utah is a surprisingly cheap -135 favorite to win the series. The presence of Andrei Kirilenko and Carlos Boozer give Utah a decided edge in the frontcourt and Deron Williams will present a formidable obstacle to Golden State’s outstanding Baron Davis. WARRIORS in Game 3 back home at 1-1 or down 0-2. JAZZ in Game 4 if losing Game 3. FORECAST: JAZZ IN 5 or 6.