2011 NBA Playoffs: Eastern Conference First Round Predictions
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Since every playoff spot in the East has been locked up, I figured it would be appropriate to break down the matchups and decide who will make the NBA Finals.
And unlike the NCAA tournament, upsets come few and far between and the seven-game series format is unbelievably boring for those not fans of the teams playing—unless it is a good series.
I thought last year's playoffs were going to be interesting. Little did I know it wouldn't be until the NBA Finals that things would even become intriguing. One of the most interesting stories turned out to be the Thunder taking the Lakers to six games and LeBron James broadcasting "The Decision" two months before July, by turning in one of the most disgraceful playoff performances anyone has ever seen.
It wasn't because he was off—he had just given up. If Delonte West really was fooling around with his Mom, I can understand.
Anyway, lets get to it!
No. 1 Chicago Bulls vs. No. 8 Indiana Pacers: Bulls Win 4-0
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Sorry, Pacers fans. I could see them snagging a win at home against this unappreciated team, but the Bulls are just looking too good. While many teams cry wolf when they have injuries, the Bulls just go to their bench.
It doesn't hurt that when Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah go down, there is Taj Gibson, Kurt Thomas and even Omer Asik. These Bulls are young, scrappy and have one key piece that the Pacers don't have.
An MVP candidate.
Derrick Rose is simply a monster, and has really broken out this season. Darren Collison is a solid point guard defensively, but he will be no match for the physically superior Rose.
This should be a quick series, unless Danny Granger turns it on and looks like the player he did two years ago.
Wild Card of the Series: Paul George
He has kind of been a sleeper all year, but sometimes players are able to rise to the occasion in a playoff setting, even as a rookie.
No. 2 Boston Celtics vs. No. 7 Philadelphia 76ers: Celtics Win 4-2
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The Celtics are still the favorite out East, even with the emergence of the Bulls and Heat. The question is whether they can made the push to the Finals again.
With an aging core and a team that has been hobbled all year long, I'm not sure they can make it all the way this year. But I wouldn't bet against them either.
The Sixers are a scrappy, aggressive team and patient on offense, which I'm not sure how that will work against the Celts defense. I think this series will be a little more competitive than some would expect. I can see the Sixers winning their home games then falling in Boston, or maybe stealing one on the road.
Wild Cards of the Series: Jeff Green, Jrue Holliday
If either of these guys can come up big for their clubs, they will really make things happen. Holliday is expected to be big in this series going against Rondo, while Green is expected to contribute, but less than Holliday. Green could be the key to Boston being fresh throughout the playoffs.
No. 3 Miami Heat vs. No. 6 New York Knicks: Knicks Win 4-3
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Before anyone jumps down my throat, let me just say my opinion is a bit skewed. But, let me also say this is the last team you want to face in the first round if you are the Heat.
A less celebrated Big Three to come out of New York has had a little over a month to jell, and are still working out the kinks.
The Heat are in a similar boat, and may not go far in the playoffs this year because of that. I just think these two teams are too good of a matchup for one another for the Knicks to not have a legitimate shot at beating Miami. NBA playoffs 1999 revisited anybody?
The X-factor for the Heat would have to be Dwyane Wade. No one on the Knicks will really be able to guard him. Fields will give a solid effort and performance, but if Wade wants to take it over and dominate the series, he could very well do it and will his team out of the first round.
I'm mostly pulling for the upset here, and think this could be the most intriguing matchup in the first round.
(The Knicks have won six straight as of April 8, following that long losing streak they had)
Wild Card of the Series: Toney Douglas
Douglas needs to turn in a solid performance for the Knicks to have a good shot. He makes their bench go and can throw up points in a hurry. If the Knicks have that spark of scoring outside their main three, the Knicks could be looking very seriously at an upset, unless the Heat bench really comes alive.
No. 4 Orlando Magic vs. No. 5 Atlanta Hawks: Magic Win 4-1
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This series is mostly irrelevant, as I don't see either of these teams really making any noise in the postseason. If the Hawks have a spirited series and upset the Magic, they will probably fall to the Bulls in the following round.
Dwight Howard has become even more of a beast recently with his greatly improved post play and will be a big handful for the Hawks defense, as usual. The Magic are just the better team all around. They have the best player in the series, the most depth and home-court advantage.
The Hawks have been a massive disappointment each year in the postseason—I don't know why the story would be any different this year. Not to mention their fans don't care, as they struggled to sell out the arena the first year they eked in the playoffs in 2008 when they gave the Celtics a scare.
Wild Cards of the Series: Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Hedo Turkoglu
Johnson had one of the worst playoff performances this past year and has been bothered with a sore thumb all season. If he can overcome last year's playoffs and a disappointing season he could really be a huge help to his team advancing.
Smith is kind of the playmaker for the Hawks and their defensive anchor, which not many teams could say about their power forwards. If he finds a way to exploit their defenders and help contain Howard, the Hawks have a shot.
Hedo was instrumental in the deep playoff run the Magic put on, eventually falling to the Lakers in six games. Hedo is their facilitator and can be a very effective offensive option. And considering he doesn't have much of a legit small forward to worry about guarding, he could really have a chance to get his offense going.
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Coming up next: Western Conference Predictions