Sunday, April 17, 2011


Chicago Bulls vs. Indiana Pacers

ANALYSIS: Everyone predicted the Chicago Bulls to be good in the Eastern Conference for the future, but no one predicted that they would be this good, this soon. First-year head coach Tom Thibodeau instilled a defensive mindset on this team and it has made Derrick Rose the frontrunner for Most Valuable Player.

The Indiana Pacers are finally in the playoffs for the first time since 2006 amidst a midseason coaching change. Frank Vogel became interim head coach Jan. 30 and Indiana went 20-17 with him at the helm. The Pacers are led by Danny Granger, who continues to be one of the league’s more underrated players.
SEASON SERIES: Bulls won, 3-1
PREDICTION: Bulls in 4
KEY MATCHUP: Joakim Noah vs. Roy Hibbert (While seeing Rose and Granger go off on in a scoring shootout is fun, the real focus will be in the paint between Noah and Hibbert. When healthy, Noah is the Bulls’ best rebounder and averaging a double-double for the second consecutive year. On the other hand, Hibbert is an underrated shot blocker, averaging 1.8 blocks a game.)
PIVOTAL GAME: Game 1 (OK, while this series has a potential sweep written all over it, it will be interesting to see how Indiana comes out of the gate. If they come out firing, they could steal a game. If not, it will be a long four games for the Pacers)

Miami Heat vs. Philadelphia 76ers

ANALYSIS: After an interesting first regular season together, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh now get a chance to prove it when it counts. Miami’s Big Three overcame many rough patches during the season and still managed to notch the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. With Wade, James and Bosh being the only Heat players to score in double-digits this year, someone else needs to step up to help out.

The Philadelphia 76ers started the 2010-11 season 3-11, but steadily turned things around thanks to veteran head coach Doug Collins. Collins left TNT’s broadcasting team during the offseason and he did a remarkable job by guiding this team to a .500 record
SEASON SERIES: Heat won, 3-0
KEY MATCHUP: Wade/James vs. Andre Iguodala (The burning question will be who locks down on Iguodala at all times. If it is based on size, then it is Wade. However if position comes into play, James gets the nod. If the Heat cannot close a particular game, Philadelphia’s other A.I. is more than capable enough to close out a game.)
PIVOTAL GAME: Game 3 (The last two times the Sixers made the playoffs, they surprisingly took a 2-1 lead against an Eastern Conference contender each time. Given that this is Miami’s first playoff appearance with this core, it is possible that Philadelphia could sneak away with a game or two. Do not be surprised if the 76ers stick around in this series.)

Boston Celtics vs. New York Knicks

ANALYSIS: The Boston Celtics are back in the playoffs, but Kendrick Perkins’ midseason departure means that Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal will need to step up. The Celtics may have faltered down the stretch but they are still dangerous with their playoff experience.

After a seven-year absence, there will be playoff basketball in Madison Square Garden. The New York Knicks mirrored the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat by assembling their own Big Three of Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, and Chauncey Billups. Despite growing pains, this terrific trio ended the season on a hot streak, winning seven of their last nine games.
SEASON SERIES: Celtics won, 4-0
PREDICTION: Celtics in 5
KEY MATCHUP: Boston’s defense vs. New York’s high-tempo offense (The Celtics may miss Kendrick Perkins, but they still have a tough defense that can contain New York’s high-scoring offense. If Boston keeps the scoring down in the mid-90s or less, they will win. If it is a track meet, the outcome favors the Knicks much, much more.)
PIVOTAL GAME: Game 3 (In order for the Knicks to have a shot at winning this series, they must have at least one win at this point.)

Orlando Magic vs. Atlanta Hawks

ANALYSIS: The Orlando Magic retooled again this season by getting rid of Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter, while taking in Gilbert Arenas and welcoming back Hedo Turkoglu. However, in spite of all these changes, the Magic still are dangerous thanks to Dwight Howard.

The Atlanta Hawks are an interesting story. In 2008, they took Boston to seven games in the first round, but did not really impress anyone over the last two playoff appearances. The shocking thing is that they resigned Joe Johnson in the offseason, but traded away Mike Bibby during this season. The Hawks must show a little heart if they want to advance.
SEASON SERIES: Hawks won, 3-1
PREDICTION: Magic in 6
KEY MATCHUP: Orlando’s new parts vs. the Hawks willingness to play (An embarrassment was not even the word to describe last year’s Magic/Hawks series in the East semifinals. Crazy thing is that it was the Magic that underwent wholesale changes between then and now. The Hawks won season series, but it depends on them showing up.)
PIVOTAL GAME: Game 3 (This will be the first game in Atlanta, and the Hawks cannot lay an egg here. They may survive here though, because this Magic squad is not as good as the last two years. However if they do not, the Hawks will need to make wholesale changes in the offseason.)

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