Winding down to the final day of the 2010-2011 NBA season, the Eastern Conference playoffs are set while the Western Conference seeding is still to be determined. With the playoffs beginning soon, I’ll first preview the East and examine the West matchups next.
(1) Bulls vs. (8) Pacers
The Bulls have cruised through the regular season led by my MVP choice Derrick Rose. The Bulls just have too much talent for the Pacers to contend with and have just started elevating their game recently as they pulled away with the #1 seed in the East. The Pacers have turned around their season after a mid-season coaching change but simply cannot contend with the Bulls in a seven game playoff series. The Pacers can steal one game at home but the Bulls will close it out quickly and cruise on to their second round matchup.
Prediction- Bulls in 5
(2) Heat vs. (7) 76ers
This matchup proves how important last weekends Heat-Celtics game was that found that Heat winning the matchup for the first time all season. The Heat have struggled against top competition but this could be a sign of change at just the right time. While it was just another regular season game amongst contenders, it decided playoff positioning for the two teams. The Heat are considered by many to be a tough out in a seven game playoff series and just offer too much talent for the 76ers. Miami swept the season series against Philly and have enough to take this first round series. A series win against the 76ers as well as a Celtics series win over the Knicks sets up the most intriguing
Prediction- Heat in 5
(3) Celtics vs. (6) Knicks
While the Celtics have swept the season series so far against the Knicks, only one of those wins came against the new look Knicks team after their mid-season trade for Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups. The Knicks can contend with the Celtics and these games could come down to which team controls the tempo and style of play. If the Knicks can speed up the game against an older Celtics team, I see them stealing a few games. The Celtics are the far superior defense team though and will try to slow down the tempo and control a lower scoring game. In the end the Celtics are the better team though and will win out and advance to the next round.
Prediction- Celtics in 7
(4) Magic vs. (5) Hawks
The Hawks will play tough and put up a fight but Orlando has the experience and depth that prevails in the playoffs. The Magic are the more physical and more talented team amongst the two. Dwight Howard will be a tough matchup for Atlanta with their lack of frontcourt depth beyond Al Horford. Joe Johnson and Josh Smith’s athleticism will be kept in check by Orland’s depth. The biggest concern for Orland if they hope to make a serious playoff push should be limiting Howard’s technical foul calls so no suspensions arise throughout the playoffs. A sweep by the Magic like I predict will set them up with a little extra reset for a tough second round matchup against the favored Chicago Bulls.
Prediction- Magic in 4
The four favorites are all likely to advance in the East into the second round. These four teams have been the favorites since the beginning of the season and have pulled away throughout the year as the four legitimate title contenders in the Eastern Conference. The projected matchups of Bulls-Magic and Heat-Celtics present tough matchups for all teams and will intensify the Eastern playoffs in the second round.
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