Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Hey, it's the playoffs! We'll miss the bad teams, but let's talk about the good ones. Today, the Eastern Conference, tomorrow the West. Let's NBA!

What Up?

I've been riding the Magic since last summer and until Cleveland shows me something in that squad's eventual third-round pairing with Orlando, I'm still picking the defending Eastern champs to make it back to the Finals. But though the Bobcats lost the season series to Orlando, I like the way Charlotte matches up.

With that defense, I like the way Charlotte matches up with just about anybody, and I can't help but reflect back to a March 14 contest between the two squads in Orlando. A lot had to go right for the Bobcats to win - Stephen Jackson(notes) had zero turnovers in almost 43 minutes of play, Jameer Nelson(notes) and Rashard Lewis(notes) combined to shoot 3-17 - but the Bobcats earned that one. They pushed Orlando around, and the Magic didn't like it.

And this will be Orlando's issue throughout these playoffs. If you're a fan of the Magic, you're right chuffed that the Magic face the Bobcats first. That Nelson and Lewis will have to answer the bell early. That Howard will have to flex his muscles while trying to stay on the court for 35 minutes. This is absolutely what Orlando needs, and while Charlotte is nobody's prefight sparring partner, I can't help but think the Magic depth and talent will win out.

But it will be a fight. Charlotte's not one to back down from anything. -- Kelly Dwyer

An Important Matchup
Dwight Howard(notes) vs. Charlotte centers

Almost no one can stop Dwight Howard. He's bigger than all of us put together, he can jump out of the gym and he unabashedly wears Ed Hardy T-shirts. That's a tough package to game plan for no matter who plays in the pivot. It becomes even more complicated when your big men are Tyson Chandler(notes), Theo Ratliff(notes) and Nazr Mohammed(notes).

This isn't to say those guys are bad, because they're not. At worst, they're below average and at best they're mediocre. But sometimes they play tough defense. To beat the Magic, that's important. These three need to clean the glass, try to limit Dwight's touches and just battle every minute of every game if the Bobcats stand a chance against last year's Eastern Conference champions. -- Trey Kerby

An Unimportant Matchup
Mickael Pietrus'(notes) Frenchness vs. Boris Diaw's(notes) Frenchness

While neither of these guys can touch Tony "Baguette" Parker for supreme Frenchness, they're pretty close. But who is most French?

On one hand, Pietrus speaks French, is nicknamed "Air France" and won two French national championships. Sounds more French than a guy named Boris, right?

Hardly, Diaw was actually born in France, which puts his French quotient at 100 after complicated equations. Oh, and he was Tony Parker's(notes) best man at his wedding. That's off-the-charts French. -- Trey Kerby

Mark Eaton says...
Made-up thoughts on "going for it" in the NBA playoffs and in life, from the 7-foot-4 former Utah Jazz center and current celebrity motivational speaker.

We talk about effort a lot in my well-attended seminars. I say things like "'I can' is more important than 'IQ'" and "Talent might fall short, but desire's around for the long haul," and those usually do a pretty good job of impressing the dumb, lazy hacks in the audience. But the truly industrious attendees -- the real go-getters, the ones with their eyes on the prize -- need a little bit extra from me. They're looking for something to really push them. To kick their achievementabolism into overdrive.

That's why I've got this poster of me sonning Otis Thorpe. And that's why Stan Van Gundy has Matt Barnes(notes).

Whether he's pretending to throw a ball at the face of an unflinching vastly superior player, covering his tattoos with more tattoos of guys in Ed Hardy T-shirts with tattoos, or just plain cursing a lot on Twitter, Barnes is exactly the kind of guy teams need when they're looking to kick things up a notch. What things and why kick them up, you ask? BOOM! Matt Barnes just pretended to throw a ball at your face and his teammates were all like, "Yeah! We're going to win more now!" Does that answer your question?

Hope the Bobcats, led by notoriously mild-mannered non-notch-up-kicker Stephen Jackson, are ready for things to get a lit-tle bit hectic in the first round. Because if they're not, BOOM HE JUST DID IT AGAIN. -- Dan Devine

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Eastern Conference:  Cavs vs. Bulls | Hawks vs. Bucks | Celtics vs. Heat
Western Conference: Lakers vs. Thunder | Mavericks vs. Spurs | Suns vs. Trailblazers | Nuggets vs. Jazz

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