First Round Preview: Eastern Conference

Big Baby and Jared Jeffries in the photo?  Really?  Sure, why not?

Bulls (1) vs Pacers (8)

Chicago enters the postseason with wins in 21 of their last 23 and riding a nine-game win streak.  That makes them the hottest team in the NBA since the All-Star break.  When matchups were yet to be determined, Danny Granger still wanted to see them, though, because he feels that if you can just stop Derrick Rose, then you’ve stopped the Bulls.  It sounds good in theory… but there’s just one little problem: no one has been able to even come close to stopping Rose all season long… that’s why he’s about to win the league MVP.  The Pacers, especially, haven’t been able to do a damn thing to keep the studly PG in check.  Rose put up 27 PPG on Indiana this year as Chicago beat them in three out of four meetings.  R.I.P.

NBA247365.COM’s Guaransheed: Bulls in 5.  The Pace Makers will get hot from downtown and steal one at home.

Heat (2) vs Sixers (7)

The good news for Philadelphia is that Lou Williams and Andre Iguodala are both listed as game-time decisions for Saturday’s series opener.  Seeing as it’s a playoff game, “game-time decision” pretty much means “will play.”  The bad news is that neither player is likely to be 100 percent, and even if they are, Philadelphia is a pretty big underdog here.  They went 0-3 against the Heat this season… although two of those games were played in October and November when Philly was quite honestly a completely different team (I suppose Miami was too, actually.  Anyway…).  The two teams did meet on March 25th, though, and Miami beat them rather easily (111-99).  Philly had a nice run this season.  They recovered from a terrible start and made the playoffs after winning just 27 games last year, exceeding most everyone’s expectations.  They were a nice story, but the story is about to come to a rather abrupt end.  Miami is simply a much better basketball team than Philly… that’s all there is to it.

NBA247365.COM’s Guaransheed: Heat in 4.  LeBron and friends are going to come out and make a first-round statement.

Celtics (3) vs Knicks (6)

Everyone’s expecting an upset here.  Not I.  Yeah, the Celtics have been horrendous since shaking things up at the deadline.  Their once elite chemistry is now nonexistent, and they’ve been all kinds of banged up.  Rajon Rondo hasn’t been the same guy that was dropping 15 dimes a night back in November, and Ray Allen hasn’t been drilling everything he throws at the basket.  I’m not writing them off–remember, last season they were a .500 team from the All-Star break on–but I’ll admit, I’m not feeling too confident in them as far as championship aspirations go.  That being said, I still don’t see an upset taking place in this opening round series.  Yeah, the Knicks had a nice little run over the final few weeks (finished the season 7-2), but they’re still giving up far too many points and relying on the long-ball.  That style doesn’t win playoff basketball games, especially against an experience group of veterans who excell in physical, gritty, ugly basketball games.  I believe the Knicks will get hot from outside and win a few, but I think Boston’s superior size and defense will prevail in the end. 

NBA247365.COM’s Guaransheed: Celtics in 6.

Magic (4) vs Hawks (5)

This matchup turned into one of the most lopsided playoff series of all time when the two teams met in the second round last spring.  Orlando set the tone with a 40-point blowout in game one, and then proceeded to win the next three by an average of 19.  Both teams have made sigificant changes since then; the Magic to their roster, and the Hawks to their coaching staff, but will these changes effect the result of this series?  The regular season indicates that they should.  Atlanta won three of four contests while holding Dwight Howard to 19 PPG on 43 percent from the field.  In that playoff series from last season?  Superman Jr. missed a total of FIVE f@cking shots.  So… what was the difference?  Well, new head coach Larry Drew has opted to go big against Howard this season.  Expect Jason Collins to start, and expect Zaza Pachulia to see significant minutes as well.  While having Jason Collins on the floor in a must-win situation may seem foolish–the guy has no talent or athleticism whatsoever–he’s done an undeniably effective job on Howard this year, and it has resulted in wins.  I feel the need to point out the fact that ATL did finish the season 0-5… but I’m not going to hold that against them.  They had nothing to play for, and they limited the minutes of some key contributors.  All of that being said, I don’t expect them to win this series.  I think it will be much, much, much more competetive than last time around, but I think Orlando will take it.  Dwight should be able to step his game up and put Jason Collins on the bench pretty quickly, and then he can get around to doing what he does (assuming that his teammates will throw him the damn ball every once in a while).  Orlando will win (but also probably lose) at least a game or two because all of their threes drop.   

NBA247365.COM’s Guaransheed: Magic in 7.

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