Don?t panic

Gilberto Manzano

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Last year’s NBA finalists, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics, both gave up home court advantage after dropping their playoffs second-round opener at home Monday night.’ Many people in Bean Town are probably pressing the panic button and thinking the Celtics will not get past Dwight Howard and his Orlando magic without Kevin Garnett. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, many Lakers fans left Staples Center on Monday wondering if the Lakers are tough enough to win an NBA championship.

After coming off a seven-game first round series against the Bulls, Celtics coach Doc Rivers did not want to blame fatigue for the Celtics 95-90 defeat to the Magic. The Celtics got off to a horrible start, only managing to score 19 points in the first quarter, and 17 in the second. The C’s went into the locker room down 18 points and didn’t shoot a single free throw in the first half.

The Magic did everything right for almost three quarters. Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis both played stellar games and Mickael Pietrus provided a spark off the bench. Howard looked great as well after coming off his one-game suspension. The NBA’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year finished the night with 16 points and 22 rebounds. At one point in the third quarter, Orlando had a 28-point lead on Boston.

However, with four minutes left in the third quarter the Celtics began to show signs of life. Boston cut the lead down to four with 2:08 to go in the fourth quarter and even managed to get within a single possession after Paul Pierce’s three-pointer brought the Celtics within 93-90. Unfortunately for the defending champions, that happened when there were only six seconds left in the game. J.J. Redick iced the game with free throws and Boston ran out of time.

However, the Celtics now have confidence going into game two at home tonight. Look for Ray Allen to bounce back after having a miserable game one in which he only scored nine points. And you can count on Pierce not letting his team lose two straight at home in the playoffs.

Don’t worry about the second round, Boston fans. The Celtics won’t be dethroned by the Magic. Orlando isn’t ready to move to the next level yet. Howard is too caught up in being an entertainer and doesn’t have that killer mentality yet to lead his team to a title. The Celtics will win tonight, take a game at Orlando and finish the series in seven games.
It will be the Lakers or Cavaliers who’ll eliminate Boston in the later rounds.

The Lakers might have a couple reasons for getting upset by the Rockets, 100-92, in game one. Kobe Bryant had flu-like symptoms and the team looked rusty after not playing for a whole week.

The people that thought the Lakers were going to sweep the Rockets obviously don’t watch the NBA. Houston is a great defensive team that would give any team in the NBA trouble.

As we saw in game one, the Rockets have two guys to throw at Kobe in Ron Artest and Shane Battier. Luis Scola harassed Pau Gasol, and Yao Ming gave Andrew Bynum a lot of (foul) trouble.

It seemed as if the Lakers were ready to take over the game in the fourth quarter, when they went ahead by one point. However, the Rockets took command back with an 8-0 run. Then, adding insult to his own injury, Yao gave Lakers fans a flashback to last year’s NBA Finals in which Pierce faked an ankle injury (that’s right, he faked it). Yao’s knee collided with Kobe’s and the center went down, grabbing his knee in what looked like agonizing pain. He was on his way to the locker room to be looked at, but then he told trainers he had to go back in the game immediately. The Houston staff tried to persuade them into letting them look at his knee first, but at no avail. He returned ala Willis Reed, knocked down a crucial jumper and the Rockets never looked back.

OK, now the big question is if the Lakers are tough enough to win a championship. Of course they are. This game is just a bump in the road. Look at the 2007-08 Celtics. They went through two game sevens before winning it all.

Look for the Black Mamba to strike in game two tonight. Remember what that nut job’ ‘ ‘ Artest said about Brandon Roy and some guy he used to play with in New York ‘- who is now in jail ‘- being the two best players he ever guarded? You know Kobe would take offense to those comments. Artest is crazy for thinking Roy and some dude is better than Kobe. Look for the former MVP to play an efficient game and shoot over 20 free throws. Artest will regret having said what he said.

The Lakers will beat the Rockets in six games, or maybe five if Andrew Bynum decides to show up to the playoffs instead of at a party at the Playboy mansion.

The Lakers are just way too talented to lose to a 53-win Houston team.