The one thing we have found out so far in these 2011 playoffs is that there is no invincible team. They all can be beat if their fatal flaw can be exposed, and exploited.
The seedings don't matter to some degree. If you don't match up well against your opponent, you can lose, and lose big. Just ask Chicago, and Los Angeles.
The Bulls didn't lose, but should have lost game one. They were bailed out by Derek Rose. As the playoffs go on each team's main weakness will become more and more evident, as coaches digest more and more film on each team and study their tendencies.
Let's take a look at the teams in the east first.
Technically, the Bulls should run roughshod over the Pacers but that hasn't happened. Why? Because one of the biggest flaws this team has is outside shooting.
We know Rose is going to get his, but if Deng is off they have problems scoring. The Pacers have perimeter players that can shoot, so if Chicago goes cold even for a little while, they can be had.
The Bulls are a physical team, but they also don't take advantage of Boozer the bruiser in the post. In a lot of their sets he is playing up high, near the foul line, which is not his strength.
That relegates him to taking more jump-shots than necessary. Noah's offense doesn't come from the post and Kurt Thomas is just there for defense, so they really don't just come down and throw it down low.
If Rose and Deng are off from the outside, regardless of who they play they can lose. The solution to that is Boozer in the post, but they don't feature him enough. That could be their undoing in these playoffs.
Miami is almost 100% perimeter oriented. Wade and Lebron are probably the best slashers in the league, and when they are on they can hurt you from the outside.
They are thin up front though, and can be pushed around. Bosh is not a physical player or a banger, so he can't assert himself in the post unless he is playing against a forward that is like him.
Teams like Boston can and already have exploited that weakness in the Heat. They are over reliant on fast break baskets and perimeter shooting. That is not to say they can't win, because when you have two top five players anything is possible.
If you turn the game into a half court brawl and make Wade and Lebron jump shooters, you can beat Miami.
Miami can counter act that by putting Lebron in the post hand have him overpower his man or make good passes out of the post. That won't happen, because Lebron has to have it his way.
Boston is experienced, but their key players are aging. Kevin Garnett is no where near the aggressive player he was 4 years ago.
They used to punish people inside, but that has changed. They allowed the Knicks, of all teams, to destroy them on the boards without Amare Stoudemire for most of the game.
The fact that Garnett will not be aggressive in the paint on offense is a major weakness, simply because he can but he won't.
Teams that play an up-tempo style give Boston a hard time as well. If you get them in a track meet they will wilt eventually (except for Rondo). They would prefer a half court chess match.
The Celtics will exploit match-ups and go inside in that case. They have lost a lot of their physicality on defense with the loss of Kendrick Perkins. Teams are not afraid to go to the basket because there is no intimidation factor anymore.
That is a major flaw that will hurt them through out these playoffs.
Number one, Gilbert Arenas is almost washed up and not the player the Magic thought they were getting. Add the fact that Turkoglu is not the player he was, and you have a team that may not make it past the Hawks.
The trade that brought them in, along with Richardson, has been a dud.It has put more of a burden on Howard. When they are not making jump-shots they are done, even if Howard goes for 40 and 15.
The pieces on this team don't fit. That is their major issue. They don't know who they will be able to count on from game to game. They are an underachieving team that will probably be broken up again, and soon.
One big problem with this team is a lack of a consistent low post presence from their four's and five's.
Josh Smith has the size and the talent to be in the post 90% of the time, but he insists on hanging out on the perimeter and hoisting threes.
Horford is not consistent enough down low and is really a power forward, not a center. Joe Johnson is their best low post player and he is a guard.
Crawford is a tremendous scorer off the bench but has regressed a little this year, and he doesn't exactly have the greatest basketball I.Q., if you know what I mean.
He has never seen a shot he doesn't like, and if he is not scoring, he is not providing anything else.
Size, discipline, and leadership are the Hawks big flaws. No one gets in the players faces and calls them out when they screw-up. Joe Johnson needs to be an all-star and leader every game in the playoffs.
If he doesn't get it done every game, the Hawks are toast.
New York Knicks
The Knicks don't move the ball on offense enough. They stand still and wait for Melo or Amare to do something and it kills their flow. They have moved the ball better against Boston and that resulted in them being in position to win both games.
On defense they are out of position a lot, and many times they don't have the correct personnel in the game.
Case in point. Sheldon Williams is a bigger body than Jared Jeffries. He should have been in the game to guard Garnett in game two when the Knicks were up by one. Garnett would not have bee able to push him underneath the hoop for an easy basket.
Typically, they are not put in the best positions at the end of games. Dantoni is not a bad coach, but situational substitutions on defense is not his strength.
They also are perimeter oriented. If their three’s aren’t falling they are in trouble. They take too many. So far they have picked up their defense in the playoffs, so lets see if they can keep it up.
They too don’t work out of the low post enough. Amare can, but likes the fifteen to eighteen footer.
If they don’t pick it up on defense and hit threes, an early exit is assured.
The 76ers just don’t have enough firepower. They are well coached and a very good defensive team, but they do not have a grade A star (no offense to Iguadala or Elton Brand) or enough size.
Bigger teams can overwhelm them, and they need guys like Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner to develop quickly and be major contributors every night.
They are well coached and athletic, which makes them dangerous, but if you take away Brand in the post, no telling what will happen.
They need more experience and another grade A superstar on the perimeter to go along with Brand. Without that, they are always going to be looking up at teams like the Knicks and Heat.
The Pacers have a young team and they really need to get more big game experience. They could not seal the deal in game one against Chicago, even though they controlled the game from the start.
Hibbert and Hansborough will anchor their front line for a long time. They will get better and will be a formidable duo for a long time. They just need time together.
They have an all star in Danny Granger, and a good point guard. You get the feeling it is just a matter of time before they put it together.
Sometimes they do not go inside enough and settle for jump shots though. They need to know when to work the ball inside out so they can get open jump shots and more points in the paint.
Next up, the teams in the West....