No. 1 Cleveland 61-21 vs. No. 8 Chicago 41-41
The Cleveland Cavaliers come into the playoffs with the best record in the NBA and a well-rested LeBron James. The Chicago Bulls come into the postseason with some momentum after catching Toronto to clinch the eight seed and beating the LeBronless Cavs down the stretch of the regular season.
Cleveland will win because.. LeBron James shows up to the games. The Cavs really shouldn’t have much trouble handling the Bulls. They have a huge home court advantage, as they went 35-6 at home this season and combine to that the 17-24 Bulls road record. LeBron will likely put on a show statistically in this series and the Cavs should run the Bulls off their home court with ease. Antawn Jamison will be a key contributor in this series and the Cavs will exploit Chicago with multiple three-point threats.
Chicago will win because.. Derrick Rose takes his game to the next level and takes charge of this Bulls team on the offensive end. Rose and the Bulls pushed a strong Celtics squad to a game seven last season in the first round and be sure that they will be motivated to do so again with them being labeled a walkover for the Cavs. Joakim Noah is going to have to prove he is back in top form and dominate the glass down low. While Kirk Hinrich is going to have to have his shooting shoes on because his long distance clutch shooting is vital to the Bulls success. Rose will also have to establish himself as a leader when Chicago is in need of a big shot late. Ben Gordon owned this role last postseason for the Bulls, but he departed the team in the offseason.
Prediction : LeBron James and the Cavaliers weren’t going to fear or have much of an issue with any team they drew in the first round. Look for the Bulls to scrap and fight and stay in games and for the heart of Noah to get them one, but the Cavs firepower and depth will help the Cavs cruise to the second round. Cleveland in Five .
No. 4 Boston 50-32 vs. No. 5 Miami 47-35
The Boston Celtics have been the most doubted talent enriched team in the league for the majority of the season. They have been labeled old and haven’t been given much of a chance, but the experience and talent is still there. The Miami Heat ended the regular season as hot as any team in the NBA winning 12 of their final 13 games despite only three of those games being against playoff teams (Milw, Char, Chi), but they are labeled a one man show due to the fact that there isn’t much behind superstar Dwayne Wade.
Boston will win because .. they have many more weapons than the Miami Heat. Rajon Rondo is surely to be a constant triple-double threat in this series with his length and athleticism causing the Heat issues on both ends of the court. Ray Allen will have his shooting shoes primed for the big stage and Paul Pierce will once again lead the Celtics past the first round. Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins will do the job down low against a mediocre Miami frontcourt.
Miami will win because .. Michael Beasley steps up and supports superstar Dwayne Wade’s dominating series. Someone on the Heat needs to step up and be the Robin to Miami’s Batman Dwayne Wade. As old as it gets to hear it Heat fans surely understand this too. The only other reliable postseason producer on the Heat besides Wade is the solid Udonis Haslem, but he can’t be seen as Miami’s number two option if the Heat want to advance. Quentin Richardson needs to get hot from downtown if the Heat has chance for the upset. Jermaine O’Neil must hold his own down low and Dorrell Wright must have a big impact off the bench.
Prediction : The Celtics have too much all around talent to let Dwayne Wade come in and win the series on his own. Rondo’s playmaking and Allen and Pierce’s shooting will prove too much for Miami. Boston in Six .
No. 3 Atlanta 53-29 vs. No. 6 Milwaukee 46-36
The Atlanta Hawks come into the playoffs after a strong regular season, which rewarded them the three seed in the Eastern conference. They boast a talented roster that brings tremendous energy and athleticism to the court. Joe Johnson is their best overall player and the guy who Atlanta leans on to be their leading scorer night in and night out. Josh Smith brings the versatility and explosiveness on both sides of the court. Al Horford is the big man down low who leads the team in rebounds, and Mike Bibby is the leader and experienced point guard isn’t scared of the big stage. But the huge addition to the Hawks this season was sixth man Jamal Crawford. He has brought the energy and scoring off the bench and provided another clutch shooter to the Hawks squad that hopes to get to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Milwaukee Bucks were surprise playoff attendees this season behind three developments, the improvement of Andrew Bogut, the production of first round pick Brandon Jennings, and the acquisition of John Salmons. But the loss of Andrew Bogut in the final month of the regular season has dealt the Bucks a serious unfortunate blow that has created many doubts for the Bucks hope and basically taken all reasons away to “Fear The Deer”.
Atlanta will win because .. they will be able to outgun the Bucks and exploit the absence of Andrew Bogut. The Hawks have too much firepower for a Bucks squad that doesn’t have much of an intimidating defensive presence overall. The Hawks were 34-7 at home (tied for second best in NBA) and should be able to ride the crowd against an under 500 road team in Milwaukee. The Hawks will dominate the glass behind Al Horford, and Jamal Crawford’s production off the bench will be too much for Milwaukee to handle.
Milwaukee will win because .. John Salmons and Brandon Jennings combine to average over 55 points a game in the series. With Bogut out this duo is going to have to carry the Bucks' offensive load completely. The 37-year-old Kurt Thomas is going to have to step up and be a force on the glass and have his jumper on throughout the series. The young Ersan Ilyasova and veteran Jerry Stackhouse must also perform well above their expectations.
Prediction : The absence of Andrew Bogut is way too much for the Bucks to overcome against a hungry Hawks team. Look for Atlanta to control the glass and ride their offense over an inexperienced Milwaukee squad. Atlanta in Five .
No. 2 Orlando 59-23 vs. No. 7 Charlotte 44-38
The Orlando Magic had a strong 2010 regular season finishing one win shy of a 60 win season and with the second best record in the NBA. The defending Eastern Conference Champions are led by Dwight Howard and his dominating physical presence in the paint. They seemed to have not missed a beat after making some pretty big changes to the successful roster from a year ago, but the postseason is where the final verdict on that issue will be revealed. The Charlotte Bobcats surprised the league by going 44-38 and making their first postseason appearance in franchise history. Their 31-10 home record stands out amongst the league’s best and they are led by the emotional Stephen Jackson and versatile Gerard Wallace.
Orlando will win because.. Charlotte has nobody to slow down the dominant Dwight Howard. He will dominate at will and create open shots for his teammates throughout the series. Vince Carter will perform like the Orlando front office expected him to when they acquired him in the offseason. He will lead the team in scoring in the series and be a constant threat. Mickael Pietrus, Martin Gortat, and JJ Redick will be big producers off the bench and Matt Barnes will provide the energy to frustrate Charlotte on both ends of the court.
Charlotte will win because.. they have the confidence and energy to beat any team in the NBA. This team has a swagger to it an they aren’t scared of any opponent in the NBA. Orlando sometimes tends to forget to feed Dwight downlow and when this happens they turn into an average NBA side. Stephen Jackson can get hot and ride a wave of momentum to lead to an inferior side to victory like he did a couple years back when Golden State took down Dallas. Raymond Felton can outplay Jameer Nelson and Jason Williams from the point guard position and Charlotte has the athletes to prevent a Rashard Lewis mismatch situation.
Prediction : Charlotte has the talent and firepower to give Orlando a scare, but in the end the Dwight Howard factor will prove to be way too much for Jordan’s Bobcats. Orlando in Six.