Eastern Conference First Round Playoff Predictions

D.Michael LeeSenior Analyst IApril 16, 2009

CHICAGO - MARCH 17: Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls puts up a shot over Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics on March 17, 2009 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Celtics 127-121. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agreees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The 2009 NBA Playoff match ups are now set, and the preparation for the start of the second season has begun.

LayupDrill.com takes a look at each of the eight first round series, offering a brief breakdown and prediction for each.

I will breakdown the Eastern Conference first round matches today, and the West on Friday.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 8. Detroit Pistons

Season Series: Cavs 3-1 over Pistons

Why Cleveland Will Win

They are simply better. This team has waited nearly a year for the march to 16 wins to begin again, and not many feel the veteran Pistons will be able to slow down LeBron and company.

One Burning Question

Will the Cavs sweep Detroit? With a 39-2 record at home, many feel Cleveland will look to win every home game in dominant fashion this post season. The key to see how far this year's team has come will be if they smell blood in the water when they head back to Detroit, and close out the Pistons in four.

Prediction: Cavs in five

4. Atlanta Hawks vs. 5. Miami Heat

Season Series: Hawks 3-1 over Heat

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Why Atlanta Will Win

Depth and experience. The Hawks remember how it felt to walk off the court last season in Boston, after pushing the best team in the league to seven hard fought games.

Those lessons learned have coach Mike Woodson’s team ready for this year. The Heat have overachieved by most people’s standards, and Dwyane Wade will soon realize that while he is the best player on the court in this series, the best team will be on the other side of the floor.

One Burning Question

Can D-Wade get help? We all expect Wade to go for 30 points a game plus in this series, but who can step up and be that second scorer that can make a big shot when needed in the crunch?

Are the young rookies Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers ready for the big lights of the playoffs?

Prediction: Hawks in seven

3. Orlando Magic vs. 6. Philadelphia 76ers

Season Series: Magic 3-0 over Sixers

Why Orlando Will Win

The Magic did not end the regular season on the type of roll you would like to see from a title contender.

Philly, meanwhile, lingered around the six seed for much of the second half of the season. While both teams look much different than when they hooked up at the start of the year, there is one common denominator—Dwight Howard.

The Magic simply have too much firepower on the perimeter, and the double teams on Howard will leave shooters like Rashard Lewis, Courtney Lee, and J.J. Reddick to torch the Sixers.

One Burning Question

Will the Magic win on the road? Orlando’s 27-14 road mark during the regular season was impressive, and was identical to both the Celtics and Cavs records away from home.

The playoffs, though, are different. Ask Boston last year. Orlando should head into Philly up 2-0, and like Cleveland, will we see a Magic team poised to close out the Sixers, or will this series go the distance?

Prediction: Magic in six

2. Boston Celtics vs. 7. Chicago Bulls

Season Series: Celtics 2-1 over Bulls

Why Boston Will Win

Never underestimate the heart of a champion. The Celtics enter the playoffs much different than the team favored by most last year.

With Kevin Garnett hobbled for much of the past two months, Boston’s defense has slipped considerably. Nagging injuries from other role players such as Tony Allen and Leon Powe have also made Doc Rivers rotation very thin, but Boston did manage to go 62-20, and lock up the two seed.

One Burning Question

How effective will KG be? The Chicago Bulls are probably the worst possible matchup for Boston, as their bench is deep, and their players length create matchup problems all over the floor.

The Derrick Rose vs. Rajon Rondo point guard battle could be great, as Rondo takes the role of the veteran against the rookie making his playoff debut.

Prediction: Celtics in seven

(ALayupDrill.com Exclusive)