I have to admit, this series frightens me. Yes, I see the obvious: a Cavs team that won 50 games and a New Jersey squad that had to scramble just to be .500 and make the playoffs. The Cavs have so many advantages over this team, including depth, post play and, of course, LeBron.
So why does this series, one that the Cavs should sweep, scare me? Well, for starters there is Jason Kidd. He is playing the best ball of his career, averaging a triple double for the playoffs so far. He has been to the finals twice and is veteran winner. Another factor is Vince Carter. I hate Vince, primarily because he couldn't be bothered to play hard for the Toronto Raptors. He is one of the most underachieving talents in recent NBA history. That aside, VC always seems to kill the Cavs. He hits impossible shots against us and seems to save his best for when the wine and gold are on the same court. Then there is Richard Jefferson. I can't decide if this guy is really good or if he just plain sucks. The Nets seem to go as Jefferson goes, so I have to hope that LeBron will continue to humiliate him like he did the last time they matched up.
My prediction: Cavs win in six. My logical mind is going to win out over my trepidations. With Nenad Krstic out, the Nets will have no answer for Z. Two of their starters are career scrubs in Mikki Moore and Jason Collins. The bench features hot-shooting Bostjan Nachbar and little else. They should be run out of the playoffs in four, but I will give them two Kidd-fueled victories.
Position by position analysis:
PG: Larry Hughes vs. Jason Kidd. Larry will have his hands full containing Jason Kidd, and vice-versa. Both are streaky shooters. Larry is the better scorer, but Kidd is the superior ball handler. Both rebound well at the guard spot. Advantage: Kidd.
SG: Sasha Pavlovic vs. Vince Carter. Obviously, this is a major challenge for Sasha, in spite of his superior size. Vince will get his points, but Sasha must be physical with him and be active on offense. Make Vince work, which he doesn't like to do, especially in the playoffs. Exploit the fact that Vince is not a champion. Advantage: Carter.
SF: LeBron James vs. Richard Jefferson. LeBron is better than Jefferson at everything. He is even way better looking. LeBron must react wisely to double, triple and quadruple teams. Advantage: LeBron.
PF: Drew Gooden vs. Mikki Moore. Moore is a journeyman, scrappy type player who has no business starting on a playoff team. Shoots for a high percentage because he only shoots when he can't miss. If Drew brings his energy, he will destroy Moore. Advantage: Drew.
C: Zydrunas Ilgauskas vs. Jason Collins. The only thing Collins does well is be tall, and he is 2 inches shorter than Z. Can't shoot or defend. Second biggest mismatch in Cav's favor. Z must exploit a player who is only out there to take up space. Advantage: Z.
Bench: Cavs bench brings shooting: Daniel Gibson, defense and hustle: Andeson Varejao, and, ugh, Eric Snow. New Jersey brings a shooter named Nachbar and that is it. Complete band of no-name scrubs. Advantage: Cavs.
Other series around the NBA:
Chicago vs. Detroit: Detroit 4-3. The Bulls rely too much on jump shooting, though
the Pistons rely on Webber, who is a playoff meltdown or injury waiting to happen.
Phoenix vs. San Antonio: Spurs 4-1. The Suns are a great regular season team. Watch those 124 - 110 victories vanish into thin air against a real team.
Utah vs. Golden State: Utah 4-2. Battle of coaching that I believe Sloan wins over Nellie. Plus the Warriors have the decided disadvantage of depending on Stephen Jackson, who somehow managed to get ejected from TWO first round games.
P.S. I have very lovely memories of the Cavs beating the Nets in the playoffs twice in the early nineties. That's when the Nets had the biggest asshole team in the NBA, featuring Derrick Coleman (taught Webber how to underachieve), Kenny Anderson and the late Drazen Petrovich. Brad Daugherty annihilated them.