NBA Playoffs 2011: East Predictions and First Round Breakdown

Patrick HightowerContributor IApril 16, 2011

NBA Playoffs 2011: East Predictions and First Round Breakdown

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    For the first time in a handful of years, fans can actually enjoy NBA talent throughout the Western Conference Playoffs and the Eastern Conference Playoffs.  

    All it took was a couple of surprising, blockbuster trades to potentially make the Eastern Conference champion the favorite to win the NBA Finals championship.  

    While the Western Conference may have a better win-loss record than the Eastern Conference, one thing remains the same.  

    Each of these Eastern Conference teams deserves to be in the playoffs. And, no matter what happens, in a best-of-seven game series, as the playoffs dwindle down to the Eastern and Western Conference finals, the four remaining teams will certainly be the NBA's elite group.

NBA Playoffs 2011: East Coast: No. 1 Chicago Bulls vs. No. 8 Indiana Pacers

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    CHICAGO - FEBRUARY 24: Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls goes up for a shot against Roy Hibbert #55 and Dahntay Jones #1 of the Indiana Pacers at the United Center on February 24, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Pacers 120-110. NOTE T
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The Chicago Bulls have won 60 games for the sixth time in franchise history.  That streak should continue onward and upward during the Eastern Conference Playoffs.  

    Do not be surprised, however, if the Pacers find some way to win one of the first two games in Chicago.  When it is all said and done, the Bulls will have no problem handling the Pacers.  Look for the Bulls to win this series 4-2.

    The Pacers may be able to steal one of the first two games in Chicago.  Tyler Hansbrough and Roy Hibbert should be able to contain a small portion of the Bulls offensive attack from Bulls point-guard Derrick Rose.  

    If Granger can continue his offensive numbers from the regular season, he may be able to single-handedly lead the Pacers to at least one or two wins.  

    Unfortunately for the Pacers, the Bulls have far more weapons than the Pacers.  As Rose is able to score at-will, Boozer will have very few problems getting his own shot as well. If Rose and Boozer are scoring, that will make it easier for center Joakim Noah to get rebounds and easy baskets of his own.  

    The matchup between the Pacers' Danny Granger and the Bulls' Luol Deng will be fun for NBA fans to watch.  

    The Bulls will have no problem advancing quickly to the second round. 

NBA Playoffs 2011: East Coast: No. 4 Orlando Magic vs. No. 5 Atlanta Hawks

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    ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 06:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic drives against Zaza Pachulia #27 of the Atlanta Hawks during the game at Amway Arena on December 6, 2010 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by
    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    This series between the Magic and the Hawks may be just as lopsided as the series between the Lakers and the Hornets.  

    The Hawks will be incredibly lucky if they can walk away from this series winning one game.  Needless to say, look for the Magic to win this series 4-1.    

    For starters, the Magic finished their season winning eight games more than the Hawks.  To make matters worse for the Hawks, Atlanta's record after the all-star break was a mere 10-17.  

    This record was the worst among all Eastern Conference playoff teams.  Finally, the Hawks averaged just 91.4 points per game after the all-star break.  This average was the worst in the entire NBA.

    Simply put, the Hawks have absolutely no answer regarding how to stop Magic center Dwight Howard.  Howard has averaged 19 points and 14 rebounds against the Hawks during the regular season.  

    If Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson knock down outside shots like they have been doing since arriving in Orlando, this series will end quickly.  The Chicago Bulls and the Orlando Magic will ease into the second round.  

NBA Playoffs 2011: East Coast: No. 2 Miami Heat vs. No. 7 Philadelphia 76ers

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    MIAMI, FL - MARCH 25:  Forward LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat reacts  against the Philadelphia 76ers at American Airlines Arena on March 25, 2011 in Miami, Florida. The Heat defeated the Sixers 111-99. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agre
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    Any time LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh are on the basketball court, this definitely makes for must-see television.  

    This series is no exception to that rule. While the Sixers will do their best to challenge the Heat, the Sixers will eventually run out of steam.  Look for the Miami Heat to win the series 4-2.

    With the Heat's newest acquisition of point-guard Mike Bibby, the Heat are now able to throw out many different lineups during the course of the game.  

    Heat shooting-guard Mike Miller can come off the bench to give LeBron James a rest.  LeBron could then re-enter the game either at the point-guard spot and run the offense, or give Dwyane Wade a rest at the shooting-guard position.  

    The biggest test for the Heat will be winning one of the first two games when the series moves to Philadelphia.  One thing that LeBron James still needs to prove is that he can lead a team to a quality win on the road.  After all, championship teams must learn how to win on the road.

    If the Heat can manage to steal a game in Philadelphia against a young, deep, talented and well-coached Sixers team consisting of dangerous offensive threats Jrue Holiday, Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, and 11-year veteran Elton Brand, the Miami Heat will be winning this series with plenty of energy left in their tank. 

NBA Playoffs 2011:East Coast:Must-See: No. 3 Boston Celtics vs. No. 6 New York Knicks

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    DALLAS, TX - MARCH 10:  Forward Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks at American Airlines Center on March 10, 2011 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is cons
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Make no mistake about it—the Celtics-Knicks rivalry has returned.  Not only that, but this rivalry may be here to stay.  

    While there is no doubt that the free-agent addition of Amare Stoudemire, along with the mid-season trade to acquire Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups have helped the Knicks to push themselves into the postseason, the Knicks are still a player or two away from making a deep post-season run.  

    Look for Boston to win this series 4-2.  But, if shots are not falling for the Celtics, do not be surprised if the Knicks push the Celtics to a seventh game in Boston.

    One concern for Boston is their center position.  According to reports from Boston, center Shaquille O'Neal worked out briefly before practice on Thursday.  It may be safe to say that Jermaine O'Neal and Nenad Krstic will assume the majority of the minutes at the center position.  

    Either way, any of these centers will have their hands-full trying to stop Amare Stoudemire.  Also, Carmelo Anthony will be able to put up big numbers against any guard that the Celtics use to try and defend Anthony.

    What many basketball fans may not be aware of, however, is Boston's depth.  What the Celtics may have lost in size when they traded Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City, they definitely gained in youth and depth with the addition of Jeff Green.  

    Green gives the Celtics another offensive weapon.  Green is the type of player that can create his own shot at any given time.  Also, when Paul Pierce needs a break, or years down the line when Paul Pierce's minutes need to be reduced, Jeff Green will be ready to step in and assume the majority of the Celtics' offensive load.

    Celtics point-guard Rajon Rondo will have no problems having another successful NBA playoff series.  Look for Rondo to get Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Jeff Green, and Delonte West involved in the offense early.  

    If that happens, and Kevin Garnett and Glen "Big-Baby" Davis can handle the dirty work on the defensive side of the court, the Celtics should win this series in six games.