NBA Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

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Well, it appeared the Boston Celtics threw in the white towel last night and gave the Big 4 the night off. The subs then promptly lost in overtime to the lowly Washington Wizards. With that loss, and Miami’s win over the Atlanta Hawks, the playoffs are now set in the Eastern Conference.

This year’s playoffs are going to very hyped up and rightfully so. There are four or five contenders in the East and many questions that will be answered in the coming weeks. The Chicago Bulls have won 60 games to date and are the top seed while the Heat are second and Boston third. Many would say one of those three teams will represent the East in the Finals but watch out for the Orlando Magic and maybe even the New York Knicks.

I’ve broken down each first round matchup and predicted the winners starting with the Bulls vs. Pacers so let’s take a look…

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1. Chicago Bulls vs. 8. Indiana Pacers

Could this be the start of another Chicago Bulls dynasty? It very well could be with the defense the Bulls have under rookie head coach, Tom Thibodeau. There’s also that fella named Derrick Rose who has become one of the game’s best players and should receive the MVP honors this year.

Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah are a great tandem in the post with Boozer providing the scoring and Noah grabbing boards and bringing energy. Luol Deng is not talked about much, but he had a great season and will be counted on this postseason to take the pressure off Rose. The Bulls bench has also been very effective this season and they will need to be ready in the first round because the Pacers are always putting fresh bodies out on the floor.

As many as 12 players see good time game in-game out for Indiana but they need Darren Collison and Roy Hibbert to come up huge if they hope for a first round upset. Locking down Rose is impossible but slowing him up would be huge for this young Pacers bunch. Don’t expect an upset but don’t be surprised if the Pacers steal one from the Bulls in Indianapolis. Prediction: Bulls in 5


4. Orlando Magic vs. 5. Atlanta Hawks

If big, bad Dwight Howard can keep himself from getting suspended because of technical fouls then the Magic should win this series for the second year in a row. However, the Hawks did win three out of four in the regular season so maybe there is some substance to that?

Atlanta has five players who average double figures with Joe Johnson leading the way at 18.5 per game. What the Hawks need is for Al Horford to play great and Zaza Pachulia to be the irritant he is and get inside Howard’s head. Jameer Nelson is always steady at point guard and Atlanta’s Jeff Teague is faced with the task of stopping him.

Teague has started a handful of games since Mike Bibby’s departure and the playoffs could be a something of a coming out party for him. Kirk Hinrich has playoff experience with the Bulls and is reliable. This series is hard to predict but I’m going to guess that Dwight Howard can go seven games without being a cry baby and take the Magic to the second round. Prediction: Magic in 7

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3. Boston Celtics vs. 6. New York Knicks

This so called “rivalry” has supposedly heated up this year, but until now that was a lie. Now that the two teams are meeting in the playoffs things probably will heat up and we should be treated to a great series. If the Celtics hadn’t made the idiotic move of trading Kendrick Perkins then I would say Boston would win easy but that’s not the case anymore. If you’re looking for an upset special this could be it.

The Knicks can score in bunches and the Celtics seem very vulnerable right now. They haven’t been the same team since the trade and they seem to have lost their edge. By no means am I saying the Knicks are a great team, but they are capable of winning this series. Carmelo Anthony is the best closer in the game right now and that means better than Kobe- for all you Laker fans. He and Amare came to New York for a reason and, while they are a few years away from the ultimate destination, they can take the first step this season. For the Celtics it’s championship or bust. Prediction: Knicks in 7

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2. Miami Heat vs. 7. Philadelphia 76ers

We all remember that little pow-wow the Heat had at the beginning of the season when LeBron made the claim that they would win something like 11 NBA championships together. It seemed silly then and it seems silly now. Miami won’t win more than four championships and they won’t win this season.

That said, they won’t have a problem in the first round against the 76ers. With LeBron and Dwyane Wade, the Heat have two of the best finishers in the game and that’s what a team needs to advance in the playoffs. Message to Erik Spoelstra: give Wade the ball for the last shot if it’s needed!!! LeBron has been awful and lost his chance!!

Okay, back on topic, Chris Bosh needs to play like an All-Star in the postseason for the Heat to advance far. For the Sixers, they are a young team with a veteran coach and they have a nice story this year but they don’t have a chance to beat the Heat. Kudos to Doug Collins and staff but Miami will be moving on easily in this series. Prediction: Heat in 4

If those predictions hold true I would then pick the Bulls and the Heat to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals and the Bulls would win to advance to the Finals. With a potential lockout looming, make sure to watch as much playoff basketball as possible because who knows when we will see it again. The East has made a comeback and now has several solid teams, filled with superstars. That’s a change from the past and these playoffs are where the conference can really showcase that. Four of the top candidates for MVP will be playing in the East and should all advance to the second round. Stay tuned in the coming days for the Western Conference preview once that bracket is set.

–Zach Wadley

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