Well it is finally that time of year.
The NBA Playoffs are just two days away, and I will be there to cover it from start to finish, starting with my previews breaking down every aspect of the playoffs. Follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/chaseruttig or check out my articles daily for instant analysis on everything NBA.
The Eastern Conference is often criticized as the sister conference in the NBA. And although the critics may be rightthe Western Conference has the more competitive basketball during the regular season this year two of the teams with the best chance to win the NBA title reside in the East. However, after Cleveland and Orlando, the east is a wasteland of aging teams past their prime (Celtics), teams that lack depth (Bulls, Heat, and Bucks), or teams that are one or two years off from being contenders (Hawks).
So do any of the lower seeds have a chance of pulling off the upset? Lets find out.
1. Cleveland vs 8. Chicago
This is one of the only series that is a virtual lock to be a four game sweep, as a rested and focused Cavs squad goes against a Bulls team that barely snuck into the playoffs via a colossal choke by the Toronto Raptors.
The Cavaliers are the best team in the NBA this year and are stacked on paper. LeBron with a supporting cast is simply scary, and I don't see one team in the East, with the exception of the Magic, that can match up with the Cavs. They have four solid post players and LeBron makes up for their deficiencies at the other positions.
This is LeBron's playoffs to lose and unless Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah can steal a game at home, all signs point for a series sweep and Chicago fans begging for the firing of Vinny Del Negro
Pick: Cavs in 4
2. Orlando vs 7. Charlotte
An interesting series if anything. The Magic are the defending East champs and are the only team that poses a real threat to the Cavs while the Bobcats are a scrappy defensive minded team coached by Larry Brown and owned by the most famous basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan. They have a perfect recipe for a great story in the playoffs, it is just too bad they have the wrong matchup in the first round.
Dwight Howard provides all the reasons that Charlotte won't win this seriesthere is no real matchup for him down low. And as we witnessed last year, if you sag your defense to stop Howard, the Magic will kill you from outside.
An improved JJ Redick and a stopper in Pietrius have the Magic looking like a Finals contender. Even though Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson have been great all year, the Bobcats lack depth to deal with the Magics backcourt.
Charlotte has a good team, they could beat the Celtics and the Hawks, but the Magic just have an answer for them at every position. They will keep it interesting, but not having a healthy Tyson Chandler will be their downfall in this series.
Pick: Magic in 5
3. Atlanta vs 6. Milwaukee
Basketball fans were robbed of a great series when Andrew Bogut's arm snapped into a million pieces. The Bucks were playing some of the best basketball in the league after the All-Star break and it looked like the Bucks were going to advance into the second round.
Now that isn't saying that the Bucks don't have a great chance to win this series. John Salmons is playing great and Brandon Jennings is this years top contender for "the rookie to go absolutely crazy in a playoff series they should be losing." If the post players can play out of their minds for four games the Bucks may actually still give people a reason to "Fear the Deer."
But once again, this series comes down to post play. The Bucks lost their teams identity when Bogut got injured, but the Hawks don't have the best inside presence eitherthey have seemed more adverse to the outside game during most of the regular season.
The Hawks offense is electric and the Bucks defense is among the league's stingiest. This series is a toss up.
I am going with an upset in this one. the Bucks will continue to fight through the adversity, Brandon Jennings will make like Derrick Rose and go bananas at the right times, and John Salmons will continue his rise to elite status.
Pick: Bucks in 7, Fear the Deer
4. Boston vs. 5. Miami
The marquee matchup of the first round in the East. The aging, slumping Celtics come into the playoffs with many doubting that the Big Three can still get it done, and an aging Kevin Garnett looking like he has one more good playoff run in him. This is the Celtics last chance to win a title with Garnett, Pierce, Allen, and Rondo at the helm.
Miami lacks depth, but they have Dwayne Wade who has won playoff series by himself before. The x-factors will be the difference, and it may be up to Michael Beasley and how he performs. Dwayne Wade may need help to win this one, and the rest of the weight falls on Beasley's shoulders.
Can Boston turn it on for one more deep playoff run?
I say no. Miami may lack depth, but Kevin Garnett is a shadow of himself and unless he can step it up the Heat will win this series with Dwayne Wade once again proving why he is one of the league's best playoff performers of all time.
Pick: Heat in 6
There you have ityour short, but sweet, Eastern Conference preview. Check back daily for more NBA/NHL playoff recaps and previews, or check me out at twitter
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