Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

It’s that time of year, guys. Like most of you, I’m ecstatic. This year’s NBA Playoffs promises to be historically great. The last time the tournament was this deep was reportedly 1993. I’m paraphrasing the opinions of older fans, of course, because I was not exactly a self-aware being at that time, having been only 4 months away from my 6th birthday.

I can attest to this being the deepest playoffs in recent memory, however. From 7 of the 8 teams out west to 4.5 of the teams back east(Orlando and New York combine for the extra 1.5 team), this tournament is stacked.

Before unveiling my first round playoff picks, allow me to provide you with my Eastern Conference Power Rankings. Obviously, this isn’t how the seedings panned out.

8. Indiana Pacers

7. Atlanta Hawks

6. Philadelphia 76ers

5. Orlando Magic

4. New York Knicks

3. Miami Heat

2. Boston Celtics

1. Chicago Bulls

Indiana Pacers v. Chicago Bulls (8th v. 1st)

As far as 1st seed v. 8th seed matchups go, this one is pretty much what you’d expect. The Chicago Bulls figure to wax the floor with the Pacers, whom interim head coach Frank Vogel thinks of as a team that no upper seed wants any part of. Unfortunately, that’s not true. Chicago will win this series, and they’ll probably make it look easy. They are a top-to-bottom team, with the exception of one glaring weakness at shooting guard. The Pacers don’t have enough to make them pay for that weakness, however.

In the first round, the pressure is rarely at a high level. Yes, this is the playoffs, so the intensity is turned up a notch, but really, it’s not until the bad teams get weeded out (round two, or at the very least, round three) that the intensity level reaches critical mass. The Bulls won’t feel the pressure from the Pacers because, outside of Danny Granger, the Pacers have no advantages. Much like the Dark Knight and the Joker, the Pacers have nothing to threaten them with; but, unlike the Dark Knight, they don’t have the luxury of a surplus of strength.

Speaking of Batman, Danny Granger(his nickname, and one of the best in the league, at that) could get hot and give Luol Deng trouble, but don’t bet on it. He was secretly one of the worst players on Team USA, despite his amazing physique. The Bulls are too good a defensive team to get beat by one guy. Derrick Rose will continue his league-wide dominance and make UCLA product Darren Collison look like a Biggest Loser contestant on defense. Collison will struggle to get his, thanks to the Bulls tough defense, and Roy Hibbert is too erratic to be counted on to outperform the Boozer-Noah duo.

The best hope the Pacers have of winning is stealing a game at home with the help of the fans; not in the traditional sense, either. Rose, in all his infinite glory, is trypanophobic. That is, he is deathly afraid of needles. If they can organize an arena-wide needle exchange, I imagine Rose will have a hard time keeping his focus on the court.

Good thing those are not needles in his face. There is no telling how he might react.

Either way, it’s a moot point.

Bulls in 5

Philadelphia 76ers v. Miami Heat (7th v. 2nd)

The 76ers are an over-achieving group that can attribute their success to good coaching and the collective buying of what Doug Collins was selling. They started their season at a dismal 3-13 clip, but played well enough to finish at an even 41-41. Their task, however, appears too daunting.

The Miami Heat are a star-driven team. They have 1 all-time great, 1 superstar, and then LeBron James. Okay. You caught me. They have 1 all-time great in LeBron, 1 superstar in Dwayne Wade, and 1 all-star in Chris Bosh. The rest of their team is squash and bananas. But their big 3 is better than the entire 76ers lineup. At any given point in time, one of those 3 players will be on the floor for the Heat. The Philadelphia defense will hardly get any time off.

While most think that this is their weakness (only having a big 3), I find it to be their strength in this series. A top-to-bottom team would struggle more with the plethora of wing-players and scrappy low-post players that the 76ers possess. The Heat, however, are just too talented at the top to fall to the 76ers. Sure, Philadelphia has some bodies to throw at LeBron and Dwayne, and Elton Brand has a puncher’s chance against Bosh, but it really won’t matter.

Philadelphia has gained confidence in their ability to hang with the Heat, though. In their last meeting with Miami on March 25, they lost 97-87. But what the box score doesn’t show is that Philly had the Heat on the ropes until the final 3 minutes. The game was within 3, but then Miami took control.

Expect more of the same from the 7 v. 2 matchup, as the 76ers might hang around late in games, but will eventually be overcome by the strength of LeBron or the clutch play-making of D-Wade. More than any other team in the past decade, the backcourt of Miami has the personnel to put some serious defensive pressure on opposing teams’ backcourts. Not since the days of MJ  and Pippen has a team possessed a backcourt with otherwordly defensive prowess. LeBron is a monster athlete, and he’s able to use his body well in guarding smaller guards. D-Wade has fantastic lateral quickness, really quick hands, and a great knack for the ball. Not to mention that he’s the best shot-blocking guard in the league.

Jrue Holiday, Thaddeus Young (by the way, Thaddeus has to be on a short-list of professional athletes with names reminiscent of what we’d see in a movie like “300”), and Andre Iguodala have their work cut out for them with those two.

It’ll be fun watching Iggy and Thaddeus guard LeBron, and visa versa, but we all know how it’s going to end.

Miami in 5

New York Knicks v. Boston Celtics (6th v. 3rd)

This is where the Eastern Conference gets interesting.

Unlike the rest of the world, I feel like the Celtics are going to be at their best when it matters most. Well, right now is when things matter most. Everyone surmises that this series will go 6 games, and that the Celtics will prevail. I disagree.

The Celtics will win in 5, maybe even 4.

If the regular season is any indication,  Boston is going to handle New York. They won all 4 matchups this season, and even managed to steal one by way of a Paul Pierce game-winner at MSG. Sure, he pushed off on Amar’e Stoudemire, but the referees don’t look at that unless your name is Kobe Bean Bryant.

I might hate the Celtics, but I’m smart enough to have a healthy respect for them.

Regardless, the Celtics are going to win some very close contests and at least 1 blowout. They finished the season at a very below average 10-11 mark, but they have two things working to their advantage:

1. They’ve been here before.

Even if the Knicks manage to push them to 6 or 7 games, the Celtics have been together too long to lose to the Knicks in the first round. It’s not going to happen. They are an experienced, tight-knit group (Jeff Green not withstanding) that knows how to win in the playoffs.

2. They have an identity.

They might not be as intimidating defensively as they were with Kendrick “Fat Ass” Perkins (come on, you know I couldn’t officially be back until I gave you the patented Epic-Mess ‘Fat Ass’ moniker for Perk), but they still know who they are. The Celtics can push the ball in transition and spot-up for a three-pointer or even attack the rim. Rajon Rondo is a wizard with the basketball, can seemingly get inside at will, and has two of the best three-point shooters in the history of the franchise, and the NBA, to dish it to if the defense closes the lane. Their defense might suffer statistically (which, oddly enough, it hasn’t) without Fat Ass Perk manning the paint, but Kevin Garnett is no slouch defensively. Pierce can still body up on the perimeter when he wants to, Ray Ray can stick with the quicker two-guards in the league, and Rondo can steal the ball when guards get careless with it.

The fact is, neither of these two points are true for New York. They don’t even know who’s team it is. Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, and Amar’e can all hit a game-winner or two, but they have to be able to be in that position in order for them to get the chance. And, despite his burgeoning reputation as a monster closer (Henry Abbott finds him the best in the league, behind Chris Paul), I’ll take Pierce in that situation any day.

Why?

Because he’s been here before.

Celtics in 5.

And don’t sleep on them in round 2 at Miami. All they have to do is get their swagger back, which New York will help them do (KG will be in typical a-hole form against rival Stoudemire), and then they’ll start rolling again.

Oh, and Mike D’Antoni is a terrible coach.

Atlanta Hawks v. Orlando Magic (5th v. 4th)

This series is secretly one of the more intriguing matchups in this year’s playoffs.

While it may not possess the strong sex appeal of a Nuggets-Thunder matchup, or the big market clash of the Knicks-Celtics matchup, it actually fixes to be a seesaw battle. The Hawks finally rid themselves of the miscast coach from last year, but they have yet to rid themselves of their “turrrible” attitudes. They quit on last year’s coach, and they’ve already had bouts with this year’s coach.

Few fanbases have less confidence in their city’s ball clubs than the city of Atlanta. They started the season playing fairly average basketball, but have since tailed off. They enter the playoffs as losers of their last 6 games. Their last two wins? Against the Magic and the Celtics, both of whom are playoff contenders.

In fact, Atlanta won 3 of 4 regular season meetings with the Magic. For whatever reason, the other Collins twin spells nightmare trouble for Dwight Howard. In those 3 Atlanta wins, Dwight Howard is averaging 16.6 points per game on 39% shooting (15 of 38 from the field), which is close to 7 points below his average of 22.9 ppg. That’s right. I did some number-crunching. I can’t afford a research guy of my own, so I have to do the dirty work, too.

Atlanta may have finally figured out their Dwight Howard problem. Collins does a great job of frustrating Dwight, knocking him off his spots, and challenging his low-post shots. He makes life difficult for him in a one-on-one post battle, and that will serve to minimize the open-looks his three-point shooters get. Atlanta defenders can stay at home comfortably knowing that Collins will be doin’ work.

Despite all that, conventional wisdom tells us that the Orlando Magic will win. They’re a 52-win team that’s just not likely to lose to 44-win team; especially not the way that Atlanta has entered the post-season.

I don’t like how media pundits are summarily dismissing the Magic from overall contention. I realize that sounds ridiculous after having just explained why they’re in real trouble against the lowly Hawks, but I don’t care. The Magic possess the best big man in all of basketball, have a guy that can hit big shots in Jason Richardson, and a point guard that is a good player in his own right in Jameer Nelson.

As much as I want to pick an Atlanta upset, history tells me not to. The regular season isn’t the post-season. The Hawks are as cold as ice. And the Magic have the best player in the series.

I’ll take the Magic in 6.

Till next time.


Advertisements

7 Responses to “Eastern Conference Playoff Preview”

  1. daniel "cool beans" lee Says:

    The first round east conference playoff looks to be too predictable. I want upsets across the board!

  2. Faggot Ref Says:

    I agree with most everything you wrote, but I think the Hawks are a joke. The Hawks will get their clothes ripped off by the Magic like they did in the playoffs last year and will be standing there naked and embarrassed by their surprisingly small penis. If Kobe said that, he’d over the League $200 large =.

  3. gene Says:

    76ers in 7!

  4. mr sam Says:

    cant wait for the playoffs to start manana, but reading this just made me realize the first round matchups for the eastern conference are less exciting than I thought. hoping the celtics-knicks series will be a good one, but celtics in 5 is a good prediction.

  5. D-Flo Says:

    “While it may not possess the strong sex appeal of a Nuggets-Thunder matchup…” Yes. And Drew Barrymore is hot as hell.

  6. K.Perk Says:

    I hated it. The periods, the commas, the capital letters, and especially that lame fat moniker. I’m 300lbs of pure anger and rage, and just 20% body fat. Get your facts straight before I eat you.

    P.S. The Celchicks ain’t winning no ring without me dawg.

  7. chappy81 Says:

    This is going to be a great playoffs. So many good teams, whoever ends up winning will be a true champion. I really think the Heat will make it out of the east for some reason. I don’t have any concrete reason, but the Heat do play some great defense. When everyone talks about the Bulls amazing D, I’m surprised not as many talk about the Heat’s great d…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: