Apr 17, 2010

NBA Playoffs Preview 2-of-2: Eastern Conference

The drama begins tonight in the NBA playoffs and as much as I love the East this conference is going to be a two man race. This will be beyond Cleveland and Orlando, I think when the Eastern Conference is ultimately decided it will be King James v. The Real Superman Dwight Howard. But before we get to the conference game lets break down the first round.

#1 Cleveland Cavaliers v. #8 Chicago Bulls
Season Series: 2-2

You look at these teams and you truly understand how much of a dichotomy the Eastern Conference really is. Beyond that fact that this is the first time in three years that all eight playoffs teams are above .500 you see that the team that took the final spot had to play there way in the final day of the season and you begin to think that the East has been decided before it even started and in this series your right.

The Bulls: Does anyone else remember that just a few years ago everyone in the league though this was the team of the future in the East. This team has talent at all position but at the same time the talent is meager at best when you compare it to the rest of the league. Derrick Rose is an all-star and it seems the Joakim Noah is getting better with experience but they will become a test subject in this series when it comes to the destiny of Le Bron James. 
The Cavs: This team was a beast last year in a bit of a stronger Eastern Conference. If you take the Cavs and realize that they are THIS good even beyond the fact that they shut it down for the last 3 or so weeks of the season. Also take note the key additions they have made this season. Shaq hasn't played in about a month, The addition of Jamison boosts this team to the point that they could have multiple set on the court that would require the Bulls to shift to double teams. Not to mention the bench play of Cleveland. If you look at the fact that players like Delonte West, Shaq and even Mo Williams may be coming off the bench at times this teams looks even scarier. Fact is this series will go to four and nothing more.

Key Match-up: Luol Deng is a strong player and even a consistent starter but the fact that he will have to play one-on-one with the most dominant man in basketball, Le Bron James, says all you need to know about Chicago. This match-up may seem closer in the beginning of the series while Le Bron shakes off the rust of sitting four games but once he gets in the groove the Cavs will cruise.

Results: Bulls don't stand a chance, Cavs in 4 

#2 Orlando Magic v. #7 Charlotte Bobcats
Season Series: Orlando 3-1
When you look at this series there are only a few things that you have to consider. This is Charlotte's first trip to the playoffs ever and the fact that Orlando has improved from the team that went to the NBA finals last season. The off-season departure of Hedo Turkoglu to Toronto allowed the Orlando Magic to bring in another veteran to push them over the edge in Vince Carter. Even though this is a 2 v. 7 seed there are a few facts that could make this series become the high light of the Eastern Conference first round.

As much as I wish the Bobcats luck because they have a lot of experienced talent and I am a huge fan of Larry Brown I just don't feel that they have enough to take it to a determined team in Orlando.

The Bobcats: Not only is this the first time the Bobcats have made the playoffs but this is the first time they have had a true all-star. Gerald Wallace is an intimidating player on the inside post and is quick around the ball. You mix in the Stephen Jackson trade and the fact that he is one of the purest shooters in the NBA and it makes you think this team stands a chance. Also I don't think the Tyson Chandler injury is an issue which will be important because its going to be Tyson that has to take on Dwight Howard so for them I hope I am right.

The Magic: Lets not dwell on Dwight Howard or Vince Carter because over most of the team they get the attention, which is well deserved. I think this team may have the deepest bench in the NBA. They have some of the most pure shooters in players like Mickael Pietrus and J.J. Reddick make me think that Orlando will sweep this series but some of the stats we associate with the Magic are going to fall flat against a tough and gritty Bobcats team.

Key Match-up: This is not a player v. player match-up but more of a situation match-up. It has been highly touted that the Magic have made the most three's in the NBA this season and that they have the deepest roster of shooters but I don't think they will have the prosperous outing most people do seeing as Charlotte allows the lowest three point percentage in the Eastern Conference (.385) and also the fact that they will be playing a lot of man-to-man pres which is a staple of the Larry Brown defensive set. I think this give the Bobcats an advantage on eliminating the Magic's bread and butter but they will still have to deal with Dwight Howard and that intangible is still yet to be controlled.

Results: Magic in 5. Charlotte gets a win at home to appease M.J. but that's about all they get.

#3 Atlanta Hawks v. #6 Milwaukee Bucks
Season Series: Atlanta 2-1

As much as this series will be explained as a chance for Brandon Jennings to make his rookie of the year statement I think that this is the culmination of about three years of everyone saying "Atlanta will compete for a title soon". I really like the Hawks even before the injury to Andrew Bogut and after Bogut was sidelined with the elbow fracture I think this series was decided.

The Hawks: This team is so balanced I didn't want to single a player out for the photo. Joe Johnson has become one of the most consistent leaders in the East and is the best player non-NBA fans have never heard of. Mike Bibby has had an incredible season adding +4 assists a game to his arsenal and with the recent standout play of Josh Smith I think this series is Atlanta's to loose.

The Bucks: First off I feel that I should state that I feel Brandon Jennings should be the rookie of the year. Hes the only prospect taking his team to the playoffs and he has the basketball i.q of a veteran.  I think the John Salmons trade was one of the smartest of the year but I still think that losing Andrew Bogut will be the Achilles heel for the Bucks and that's why I think this will be great experience for the young Jennings but that will be all it is.

The Match-up: This will be a great learning experience for Brandon Jennings as he has a very similar style to that of Mike Bibby. I expect Jennings to get the best of Bibby a few times because of his quick off the balls skills but in the end Bibby has more around his then Jennings and I think that will be the deciding factor.

Results: Not enough to stop the Hawks, Atlanta in 5. 

#4 Boston Celtics v. #5 Miami Heat
Season Series: Boston 3-0

 Even though Boston was the season series hands down this will be one that will go down to the wire. Boston has the experience, but with experience comes age and that is the one thing that may hold the Celtics back. When this team was put together we all knew there was a time table before the dream match up of Garnett, Pierce and Allen would start slowing down and if its not here then I think this is Bostons last chance to make a run at the title.

On the contrary Miami is a young and talented team that at times has shown its youth and may not have the huge balance that will be needed to make a long run into the playoffs. We think of Miami as D-Wade and cast but I think that this year the team from south beach has proved they are more then a one man statement. Michael Beasley has had his most productive season since leaving K-state and has shown the league that he is one of the strongest undersized power forwards in the league.

The Celtics: We all know about Pierce, Allen and Garnett and how their experience and defense won them a title and how they are always the X-factor in any game but I think its the newcomers that deserve a lot of the credit getting Boston as far as they have come. This season Rajon Rondo finally got the credit and contract he deserved. He is an explosive guard who has some of the quickest defensive hands in the east, which bodes well for the defensive minded lineup Doc Rivers puts on the court. With Rondo playing the point and the ever accurate outside shooting of Allen and Pierce Boston gives themselves a huge advantage against the sometimes undersized Miami Heat.

The Heat: D-Wade is one fellow all-star from taking over this league and we saw that in Shaq's time in south beach. Michael Beasley is a nice addition but he still lacks some of the talent that is needed to make himself on of the more aggressive players in the league. Carlos Arroyo is a good pg but not great and I think that his taking on Rondo might show some of the flaws in his games. Miami will go as far as Wade wants them to but not an further because if they have success its going to on the back of #3.

The Match-up: I think this series will come down to the one Celtic that I have not mentioned yet and that is Kendrick Perkins. Perkins will be put up against Jermaine O'Neal at a time well Jermaine is having an extremely productive season and is still playing with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. Perkins is a big post up player but at times is slow on the break and that could inhibit his effectiveness. 
Results: This one will go down to the wire but I think Boston's experience will give them one more shot at the title, Boston in 7

 Love is or hate it this is my opinion. I am open to your debates so leave me a message
We will all find out starting tonight.

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