Today, the NBA playoffs finally begin, with four games today and four more tomorrow. Since the first round predictions for the Western Conference hit the site yesterday, it only makes sense that some Eastern Conference predictions should follow. Who are the beasts of the East? Who is least? How many more times will we rhyme? Let’s just see.
(1) Chicago Bulls vs. (8) Indiana Pacers
The Bulls finished the regular season with the best record in the league, and point guard Derrick Rose is pretty much guaranteed the MVP. Supporting players Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer add scoring, and Joakim Noah is a force on the boards and on defense, even if his shooting motion looks like that of a little kid playing Hoopsters who can’t quite get the ball to the rim. Rookie coach Tom Thibodeau has everyone playing the kind of tough D he had the Celtics playing when he was on the staff there.
The Indiana Pacers have Danny Granger.
Prediction: Bulls in 4
(2) Miami Heat vs. (7) Philadelphia 76ers
It would be nice to think that Doug Collins can get his overachieving bunch out of the first round, especially since they’re playing the Miami Heat. Sadly, the talents that have taken themselves to South Beach will be too much for the 76ers. LeBron, Wade, that one other guy, and the other dudes like that one white guy who shoots threes and the walking corpses of Juwan Howard and Mike Bibby swept the season series against the Sixers. They won’t sweep this series, but they’ll come close, with the real challenges to the Big (Insert Joke About How Bosh Doesn’t Qualify as a Third Superstar Here) coming in later rounds.
Prediction: Heat in 5
(3) Boston Celtics vs. (6) New York Knicks
The Knicks are a dangerous team to have to meet in the first round, especially since the Celtics just haven’t been the same since dealing Kendrick Perkins, who many saw as the heart of the team. The real heart of the team, though, is Kevin Garnett, and he’ll still be there, along with Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo. They don’t have that big presence in the middle, but that won’t matter in this series. Amar’e Stoudamire and Carmelo Anthony will get their points, and the fast-moving Knicks will make the Cs run, but the Celtics will pull this one out. The real worry about this series is whether or not it’ll wear the old guys in green down for subsequent series.
Prediction: Celtics in 7
(4) Orlando Magic vs. (5) Atlanta Hawks
Here’s where the upset in the East happens. The Hawks, you say? Yes, sir. They took the season series against the Magic 3-1, and are a far less one-dimensional team than the Magic, whose entire offensive strategy is to get the ball in to Dwight Howard, then stand around at the three-point line waiting for him to dunk or kick it back out for a long jumper. Dwight Howard is a beast, and he has made strides as an offensive player this year, but he’s still weak from the line, and easily frustrated, as his league lead in technical fouls shows. The Hawks know this, and center Jason Collins knows how to manhandle Howard.
Going the other way, Al Horford and Josh Smith make poor matchups for Brandon Bass and Hedo Turkoglu, and should be able to score enough to tilt these primarily defensive battles the Hawks’ way.
Prediction: Hawks in 7
Check out yesterday’s Western Conference predictions here.