Home > Basketball, The Final Buzzer > The Final Buzzer – Eastern Conference Round 1 Playoff Preview (13/4/11)

The Final Buzzer – Eastern Conference Round 1 Playoff Preview (13/4/11)

The start of the second season, or perhaps the real NBA season is about to tip off. That’s right people, the Playoffs are finally here! April 16th. That’s right we’re only days away people! All the Eastern seeds are locked into place so let’s jump into the matchups and make some predictions!

(1) Chicago Bulls vs. (8) Indiana Pacers

Season Series: Bulls 3, Pacers 1

My friend Rusty always complains about my lack of Pacers write ups. That changes today although what I’m going to write isn’t what he’s going to want to hear. The Pacers qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2006 and are 6-4 in their last 10 games. And seeing as they’re in the East, the can qualify without having a winning record. Lucky bastards. Now I will give them credit, since Frank Vogel took over as coach they have been playing better and more consistently. They have some nice young players in their front court in Roy Hibbert, Josh McRoberts and Tyler Hansbrough. Danny Granger is having another fine season and if he was playing with another superstar, he would thrive even more. However, despite these nice pieces, they just don’t match up well with this Chicago team. It’s not their fault though, they’re just simply not ready to take the next step into legit playoff contender. They’re basically filling up numbers this year. Much like the background extras in a movie. It’s that simple. They’re simply overmatched.

The Bulls will enter the playoffs as the number one seed in the East for the first time since the 1997-1998 season. The Bulls are currently the team that no one wants to face. Not because nobody likes them, on the contrary, everyone is jumping onto the Bulls bandwagon like it’s 1991! They’re once again toast of the town. They have an MVP candidate in Derrick Rose that’s endorsed by the greatest Bull of all time in Michael Jordan. However, despite this team playing out of their freaking minds at the moment, and the awesomeness that is Derrick Rose, they’ve had a pretty easy schedule since the All Star Break they’ve only played against 13 playoff teams out of their 28 games since the break. That is pretty favourable compared to most of the other teams. They appear to be peaking at the right time and coach Tom Thibodeau will surely have them ready for playoff basketball when tip off arrives. The Pacers will put up a fight and will probably win a game in Indiana, but unfortunately I don’t see the Pacers posing much threat to this rampaging Bulls team.

Prediction: Bulls win 4-1


(2) Miami Heat vs. (7) Philadelphia 76ers

Season Series: Heat 3, 76ers 0

This is another series that I suspect won’t last very long. James, Wade and Bosh know all about playoff basketball…well James and Wade do anyway. Sure the 76ers might steal a couple of games and Elton Brand could find his 2004 self and become that 20-10 guy that the 76ers thought they were getting, but the reality is that the Heat, much like the Bulls, just out-match their first round opponent. They’ve proven this over in the regular season by winning all three games. Not that the regular season is the best way to predict what’s going to happen in the playoffs, but these wins have come comfortably and in order for the 76ers to stand a chance, it would more likely be because the Heat are imploding rather than the 76ers exposing the Heat*.

Lou Williams and Jrue Holiday are nice young point guards, but they’re not quite at the level to expose the Heats point guard weaknesses and the same could be said for their front line which includes Spencer Hawes, Marreese Speights and Brand. They stand more of a chance of upsetting the Heat than the Pacers have of upsetting the Bulls. But that’s not saying much. The funny thing is, someone who could exploit the Heat would be a scoring PG who can penetrate into the lane…like Allen Iverson…oh the sweet irony!

*Although the idea of the Heat imploding is not 100% out of the question. They’re still got problems regarding closing a game. Wade or LeBron? What about Mike Bibby? Oh you say it’s not 2002? Ok I’m sorry, I take the Mike Bibby suggestion back. But imagine if the Heat lose this series. On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being Pat Riley blows up the team and suffers a heart attack, where do you think the Heat would land? An 8? A 9? Would they trade Chris Bosh? Would Pat Riley return to the sidelines?

Prediction: Heat win 4-1


(3) Boston Celtics vs. (6) New York Knicks

Season Series: Celtics 3, Knicks 0, 1 game remaining

“The Knicks are back!”- Amare Stoudemire

Like Amare stated in his introductory press conference, the Knicks are back indeed! For the first time since 2001, the NBA playoffs will feature the New York Knicks. This is good for the NBA. I mentioned in my last post that I wanted to see the Knicks vs. the Celtics in the first round. Well the big fella up stairs (God or David Stern, depending on where you stand on the NBA conspiracy rumours) answered the call and now we get to see what should be one entertaining first round series. This has the potential to be as good as the Celtics- Bulls series in 2009 which went to 7 games and had four, yes FOUR games that went into overtime. Now I don’t know if this series can live up to that epicness, but this series will be fun nonetheless. They still have one game against each other remaining, but that’s pretty meaningless.

The Knicks are currently on a 7 game win streak and the Celtics are limping to the finish line. Still not much known about Shaq’s health coming into this series. I expect Rondo to have his way against the Knicks. There’s just no one on the Knicks that’s either A) fast enough to defend him or B) good enough to defend him. And Boston needs Rondo to play well. He’s their offense. If he’s playing well, it’ll be hard to pick a Knick upset. On the other side, Amare is the key for the Knicks. If he’s playing well, then a Knicks series win isn’t out of the question. Amare is the first to test out the post-season, post-Perk defense (you like that alliteration?!). I can tell Boston fans are nervous about this. They were so sure of a title before the Perkins trade and now they have a legitimate shot of getting knocked out in the first round. So many exciting match ups all across the board. Doc Rivers defense vs. Mike D’Antoni’s offense. KG vs. Amare. Melo vs. Pierce. The Boston Garden crowd vs. The Madison Square Garden. And of course, Spike Lee vs. Flo Allen (Just remember when they have shots of Flo and Spike on TV, I predicted it last week in my article!)

Home court is going to be the key in this series, so maybe the Boston Garden crowd vs. The Madison Square Garden become the most important match up? I feel that the Knicks will put up a good fight but in the end, experience is going to be the deciding factor that tilts the match up in Boston’s favour. At least the Knicks can look forward to adding Chris Paul in 2012…

Prediction: Celtics win 4-2


(4) Orlando Magic vs. (5) Atlanta Hawks

Season Series: Hawks 3, Magic 1

This is an interesting matchup. Orlando should win this series. They swept the Hawks in the Eastern Semi’s last year but Atlanta won three out of the four games this season. Orlando has Dwight. Atlanta has Jason Collins. See on paper that makes no sense, but basketball isn’t played one paper. For some random reason, which I’ve written about before, Jason Collins defends Dwight as well as anyone in this league. If Dwight struggles against Collins, like he has in the regular season, then Orlando is in serious trouble. Gilbert Arenas has been pretty terrible. He needs to be more confident and come out guns blazing…too soon for a Gilbert gun joke?  Ok moving on, Ryan Anderson needs to step up and spread the floor, which makes Josh Smith defend out to the perimeter which puts pressure on the Hawks defensive rotations. If the Magic shooters (Jason Richardson, Anderson, Hedo, JJ Reddick…basically everyone on the Magic except Dwight and Brandon Bass) can spread the floor and knock down 3s, then the Magic could end this series in 5 or 6.

The Hawks have Dwight’s kryptonite and their best chance they’ve ever had at knocking out the Magic. However, they’re currently on a 5 game losing streak. Joe Johnson hasn’t lived up to his massive 6 year $119 million dollar contract (How could he? He wasn’t worth it in the first place) and has battled injuries throughout the year. But despite that, they could definitely upset the Magic in round one, although would it really be an upset? If Johnson, Josh Smith and Al Horford can provide consistent and solid offense, and the Hawks defense can shut down one of Dwight, Jason Richardson or Hedo Turkoglu than the Hawks have a very good chance to advance the conference semis.

Although I should be picking the Hawks to win, I feel that Stan van Gundy will be able to get his Magic boys ready for this Hawks team and Dwight will overcome his irrational fear of Jason Collins to lead the way for the Magic. It won’t be easy, but if Dwight dominates like he should, then the Magic should prevail.

Prediction: Magic win 4-2

I’ll try and have a Western Conference preview as soon as the seeds are set. But until then, that my friends, is The Final Buzzer.

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