Eastern Conference Winners

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Eastern Conference Winners
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#1 Cleveland Cavaliers VS. #8 Chicago Bulls

Cavaliers Record – 61-21
Bulls Record – 41-41
Season Series – 2-2

Key Matchups:
Shaquille O’Neal versus Joakim Noah
We all know that Shaq is getting older and it doesn’t help that he hasn’t played since February. The Cavaliers will certainly be glad that they got Zydrunas Ilgauskas back because I believe Shaq’s minutes will drastically decrease if his production isn’t acceptable.

Key Players:
The King’s Supporting Cast & Derrick Rose
Surprised? Clearly Cleveland’s success lies on the shoulders of Lebron and it won’t be a surprise when he drops a triple-double. The real question will be if players like Varejao, Jamison, and Delonte West play well. So far the Cavaliers biggest asset has been Antawn Jamison. In 23 games with Cleveland, the former Wizard is averaging 15.8 points per game. That is exactly four points under his career average, but since coming to Cleveland, the Cavs have gone 17-6.

Behind the Scenes Players:
Bulls – Flip Murray
Cavs – J.J. Hickson

Flip Murray isn’t the type of player that makes SportsCenter, but he has quietly averaged 10.1 points for the Bulls this season. In about 23 minutes, that’s all Chicago can ask for. J.J. Hickson on the other hand has received a little attention this season. Although only averaging 8.5 per game, Hickson played a heavy role while Shaq took his first leave of absence averaging 13.8 points. He brings a lot of intensity for the Cavs and is a solid rebounder.

Prediction: Cavaliers Defeat Bulls in Five Games

#2 Orlando Magic VS. #7 Charlotte Bobcats

Magic Record – 59-23
Bobcats Record – 44-38
Season Series – 3-1 Magic

Key Matchups:
Dwight Howard versus Tyson Chandler
Unfortunately for Tyson Chandler, Dwight Howard is stronger, quicker, smarter, and just overall better than you. He is a monster on the boards, more than likely the Defensive Player of the Year, and can score on demand. You and your team’s only hope are to get him in foul trouble. You need to be matched up against Marcin Gortat to have any chance.

Key Players:
Vince Carter & Stephen Jackson
Alright Captain Jack, your time to shine is now. This is why the Bobcats got you, know continue to perform like you have all season and you’ll be in good shape. Unlike many analysts, I see this series going six possible even seven games. The Bobcats are certainly the underdog, but they have one thing going for them. Larry Brown is a proven winner and if the Bobcats can collectively play good basketball, they can extend this series and give the Magic a scare.

Behind the Scenes Players:
Bobcats - Tyrus Thomas
Magic – J.J. Redick

After being traded from the Bulls, Tyrus Thomas has been given a chance to start over. He played decent in Chicago and is continuing to play solid basketball under Larry Brown averaging 10.1 points in 25 games. Another player capable of changing a game is J.J. Redick. His first couple years in the league were rough to say the least. Coming out of Duke, we were all expecting a white Reggie Miller to stun us. He didn’t get much burn his first two years in the league, but this season he is averaging 9.6 points in about 22 minutes. You better put a hand in his face late in the game because he can become contagious.

Prediction: Magic Defeat Bobcats in Six Games

#3 Atlanta Hawks VS. #6 Milwaukee Bucks

Hawks Record – 53-29
Bucks Record – 46-36
Season Series – 2-1 Atlanta

Key Matchups:
John Salmons versus Joe Johnson
The two top scorers are crucial to their perspective teams and if the Bucks even think they have a chance, John Salmons needs to perform spectacularly. Joe Johnson should have an easy time scoring and it also helps to have some pretty talented teammates.

Key Players:
Jamal Crawford & Brandon Jennings
As scary as it might seem, Brandon Jennings is going to be crucial in the Bucks run. Without Andrew Bogut, scoring is going to have to fall on someone’s shoulders. Salmons will have his 15-20 points, but it’s going to be Jennings ability to get to the rim and dish the rock that will give Milwaukee a chance. Jamal Crawford has been my sixth man of the year for a while now. Not having followed the Hawks that closely this season, I was actually shocked to see he came off the bench. Dropping 18.0 points per game off the Hawks bench is certainly an asset any team in the league would love to have. Look for him to continue scoring in this series.

Behind the Scenes Players:
Hawks – Maurice Evans
Bucks - Ersan Ilyasova

Maurice Evans is familiar to most NBA goers, but as of late he has taken a back seat. After coming from Orlando, the Hawks have given Mo a limited role. That is not something the Bucks should take lightly because if given enough time, the combo guard can drop double figures. Ersan Ilyasova is a name I am not familiar with but has been a spark off the bench for the Bucks. In 23 minutes the Turkish forward is averaging 10.4 points per game. He can also hit the glass and use his body frame to his advantage defensively.

Prediction: Hawks Defeat Bucks in Five Games

#4 Boston Celtics VS. #5 Miami Heat

Celtics Record – 50-32
Heat Record – 47-36
Season Series – 3-0 Celtics

Key Matchups:
Kevin Garnett versus Jermaine O’Neal
Both are aging power forwards that are out to prove they can still mess with the best. Clearly KG has the advantage over Jermaine O’Neal in most minds, but J.O. plays a heavier role on the Heat than Garnett does in Boston.

Key Players:
Dwyane Wade & Rajon Rondo
No surprise with either of those players but it will come down to the guard. Both Rondo and Wade are young and have their team’s energy on their back. Rondo proved last year that he is a worthy recipient of an all-star nod and Wade never fails to disappoint in crunch situations. Wade’s experience will give Miami a chance at a first round upset.

Behind the Scenes Players:
Celtics – Lil Nate Robinson
Heat – Quentin Richardson

Both are former Knicks and have found success away from the Big Apple. Although Nate Robinson’s numbers are down, he has been given the opportunity to play on a playoff contending team. He brings an immediate spark off the bench and can get hot from downtown. Quentin on the other hand spent several dreary years in New York, but before found success in Phoenix. Now, he is back and is bring a positive impact to the Heat. Averaging 8.9 points a game, the 6-6 guard has been a great addition to the Heat’s offense.

Prediction: Celtics Defeat Heat in Seven Games

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