Cleveland and LeBron's Path to the Finals: Eastern Conference Playoffs

Jenise RolleContributor IApril 18, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 19:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers attempts to steal the ball from Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the forth quarter at Staples Center on January 19, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

In my opinion, this NBA season has gone by much faster than others, thanks in part to the predictable Eastern Conference and the dominant Los Angeles Lakers in the West.

There is little to no doubt in my mind, that America will be glued into watching an six-game NBA Final Matchup that includes LeBron James guarding Kobe Bryant.

As far as the Eastern Conference goes, the only major upset will be Boston not making the Conference Finals to face Cleveland, but first let’s break down the first round.

Who would have thought that the Iverson—Billups trade would change the entire Detroit franchise into the disaster that it has become.

With the Pistons (39-41) sitting in the No. 8 spot, they will be facing the No. 1 Cleveland Cavaliers (66-16), giving me a high reason to believe that this playoff series will quickly end in a Cleveland sweep of the Pistons.

The Cavaliers are in no way going to be denied access into this year’s Eastern Conference Finals, so it’s just a waiting game for Cavaliers fans, as they ride LeBron’s back straight to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Expect this series to be a mid-tempo type game, and keep a tally sheet next to you, to check off how many technical’s Rasheed Wallace will be hit with. (Cleveland in four)

Now would be a good time for me to indicate that although I believe Dwyane Wade has proven to be this year’s MVP, by taking an inexperienced and not-so-well-rounded Miami Heat team to an above .500 record and the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference, ‘King James’ will be the man walking away with this year’s MVP trophy.

James will get the award not only for his leadership on the Cavaliers team, but his playmaking abilities that he has demonstrated on the court. (Wade still deserves the trophy in my mind though, but I don’t have a vote, so we’ll move on.)

No. 2 Boston facing No. 7 Chicago will be an interesting series to watch, mostly to determine where the Bull’s season will be headed next year. It should be automatically assumed that the Celtics (62-20) will be headed to face the Cavaliers in the Conference Finals, but with Garnett sidelined for the playoffs, that may not be the case.

I strongly believe that Boston will win their series against the Bulls (41-41), who’s roster includes ‘Rookie of the Year’ Derrick Rose, because with Rose in charge Rondo the rookie will be facing a monster truck that he’s just not ready to completely take down, at least not this year.

This should be an interesting set of games to watch that will display the future direction of the Bulls franchise and what their players are capable of. (Celtics in six)

"Superman" and the Orlando Magic (59-23) are seated No.3 in the East as they prepare to take on the No.6 76ers (41-41), who recently snapped their 5-game losing streak with a win on the road against Cleveland.

Thank God the City of Brotherly Love was awarded a World Championship Trophy because the Sixers are heading nowhere fast in this year’s playoffs. Orlando will win this series in five games strongly because of their consistent three-point shooters (Lewis, Lee, and Turkoglu) and the lack of Philadelphia’s perimeter defense.

Although Thaddeus Young has returned to the Sixers lineup, and has averaged 19 points in the last three games, they simply do not possess the depth to go into the second round.

This series will be different than the these team’s meetings during the regular season, as the Sixers will be forced into a half-court style of play and with Howard in the paint, the Sixers will need to shoot more jump shots, which is not one of their greatest strengths. (Orlando in five)

The most exciting first-round match up will be the Atlanta Hawks and the Miami Heat because of the youth and explosive energy that both teams possess.

The No. 4 Hawks (47-35) forced the Celtics to seven games in the Conference Finals last year, and they will be prepared to take on Wade and the Heat (43-39) no differently.

The speed and talent of Dwayne Wade may seem too much for the Hawks, but with a strong Power Forward like Josh Smith and their winning record in three of their four meetings against Miami during the regular season, the Hawks are the considerable favorites.

This series will be very physical and up-tempo. Both teams will be making strong runs to the basket and it will ultimately be a track meet that determines the winner of this playoff round. (Atlanta in seven)

With Philadelphia, Miami, and the Bulls no longer in the running, the Cavaliers will face Atlanta in the second round and Orlando will take on Boston.

The Cavaliers have won three of their four meetings with the Hawks and I suspect that Round two will last six games with the Cavaliers advancing. Orlando will defeat Boston, yes I said that Boston will lose to the Orlando Magic, in six games.

The loss of Garnett is a large step backwards for the defending champions and without his defensive presence, they will not make it to the Conference Finals.

These two teams split their regular season meetings, but the Celtics have lost a main component of their offense and defense that will prevent them from repeating as NBA Champions.

The Eastern Conference Finals will boil down to the No. 1 Cavaliers and the No. 3 Magic, with Cleveland advancing to make their second NBA final’s appearance. It’s important to note that Cleveland has lost two of its three meetings with Orlando, but the Cavaliers will be riding high on momentum from their strong playoff run.

Orlando may have decent outside shooters and Howard’s strong presence around the basket, but they still lack a go-to scorer that can get them a bucket when in desperation mode.

Cleveland will win the Conference Finals in six games, and this year’s MVP, or King James that is, will make his way to the NBA Finals to battle Kobe and the Lakers, to whom I believe will win this year’s Championship crown. (Lakers in Six)