3 votes – Dirk Nowitzki. Hard to deny Dirk the 3-votes today, leading his Mavs into the second round in a game I honestly did not expect them to win. A bit of tough playoff resolve on the road – not exactly the Mavs forte in recent years. But thanks to Dirk saving his best game of the series till last – 33 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists – they did it pretty comfortably in the end. With the media focus being on Lakers-Hornets and the Grizzlies upsetting the Spurs, the Mavs have managed to sneak under the radar a little. They are playing fantastic team ball, getting contributions from their bench (Terry scored 22 today) and Chandler is still anchoring that much-improved defense. They will be no push-overs for the Lakers.

2 votes – Andrew Bynum. Not just searching for Lakers votes here because of their win. Bynum really was their best player, by far. Don’t just take it from me though.

Every time he got an offensive rebound, it was deflating. You don’t really realize how good he is until you face him in a series. Kobe’s Kobe, but I thought Bynum decided the series. He was that good.”

That was Hornets coach Monty Williams, and he was spot on. Bynum was the difference-maker in this series. Some Lakers fans are taking that as a sign Bynum is ready to dominate these playoffs – the first time he’s been fully healthy starting a post-season. But I’m not getting too carried away yet. Bynum should have dominated the Hornets in this way. If there was one undersized and under-skilled team in he big-man department that the Lakers could have chosen in round 1, it would be this Hornets team. So yeah, Bynum has been the difference-maker but I put it down to him just taking care of business. Next round will be a much bigger test for him – Tyson Chandler is a beast and wants to hurt you. Let’s see how the Lakers big man copes with that.

1 vote – Joe Johnson. So I was proven completely wrong, several times, and the Hawks proved they were the better team in this series. I can’t figure out how they won today after shooting only 39% (Orlando shot 43%), with Joe, Jamal and Josh combining for a horrific 19-55, yet with Dwight, Hedo and Jameer combining for a healthy 18-37… it just doesn’t make sense. But numbers didn’t tell the story with this series. Heart and hustle did, and the Hawks simply wanted it more. They were more desperate and had more fight, and in the playoffs that will often trump talent. Despite his iffy shooting night, Joe lead from the front tonight and arguably had his best game of the series – 25 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists – including the game-winning offensive rebound in the dying seconds. I’m not going to give the Hawks any chance of beating the Bulls in round 2, but something tells me that’s exactly how they like it.

Playoff Retro Diary:
2010 Day 13 – Where late first-round picks winning playoff games in their second year happens
2009 Day 13 – Where do I start

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