NBA Playoffs: Eastern Conference First Round Preview

Pete TreperinasCorrespondent IApril 18, 2009

AUBURN HILLS, MI - MAY 13:  Rashard Lewis #9 of the Orlando Magic attempts a shot against Antonio McDyess #24 and Lindsey Hunter #10 of the Detroit Pistons in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2008 NBA Playoffs at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Cleveland Cavaliers (1) versus Detroit Pistons (8)

These division rivals have seen each other in the playoffs before. When LeBron led the Cavs to the Finals in 2007, he had a string of amazing games. James dropped 48 in Game Five in what is considered to be one of the greatest postseason performances ever.

Cleveland won't meet the Washington Wizards in the first round this year, which will be something new for them. Instead they'll meet a Pistons team that has deteriorated throughout the course of the season. 

Allen Iverson hasn't clicked at all with this team, with the exception of about the first couple of weeks. He won't suit up for the playoffs, and it sure seems like Detroit is already out.

To have a shot to even win a game in this series, Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince will have to step their game up. And most importantly, they'll have to find a way to contain LeBron James, which is a near impossible task.

James should be the MVP this season, and this series is just a warm up for Cleveland. The tables have really turned in the Central division, and the Pistons are beginning to get washed up. 

Cavs in five.

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Atlanta Hawks (4) versus Miami Heat (5)

I knew last season's 15-67 record in Miami was a fluke. The Heat put the pieces back together this year and won 43 games. Dwyane Wade is a serious contender for MVP, and I believe he had the best year of his career. 

Wade's Heat will face an Atlanta Hawks team that has also improved quite a bit off the last two years. The franchise has made the moves to get the Hawks into the playoffs. Atlanta's starting five looks pretty scary, and could pose a threat to the Heat.

The only issue I have with Miami is that Wade can't always put up 40 points a night. the Heat do have Jermaine O'Neal, but his inconsistency and injuries make me a little bit skeptical. He missed some time this week for a calf injury. The Heat don't really have as much depth as the Hawks either. 

While it may be difficult to defend Wade, Joe Johnson and Josh Smith will dominate offensively. Bottom line is, Wade won't be able to do it alone, and Atlanta will handle the Heat.

Hawks in seven.

Boston Celtics (2) versus Chicago Bulls (7)

Upset alert? Nope.

Even without Kevin Garnett, the Boston Celtics are a way above average team. Ray Allen has the sweetest jumper in the game, and Paul Pierce proved last season that he can be the man down the stretch. 

A great potential matchup will be Pierce versus Ben Gordon. Both guys average around 20 PPG, but it's also going to be fun to see Gordon and Pierce play D against each other. 

A turning point in Chicago's season was the trade that brought John Salmons and Brad Miller over from Sacramento. In his three games against Boston this season, Salmons averaged nearly 24 PPG. He could be someone to look out for. 

The reason I think Boston can win this series, and maybe even the conference, is because while Garnett was crucial in last season's title run, the role players helped out a lot as well. The Leon Powe and Rajon Rondo-type players on that roster all meshed with the Celtics' "Big Three."

Celtics in six.

Orlando Magic (3) versus Philadelphia 76ers (6)

Dwight Howard out-did his 2007-08 season this year, and I wouldn't be surprised if he keeps it up in the postseason. The Magic are one of the most fundamentally sound squads in the league if you ask me, and they're deadly from the perimeter.

Rumor has it that Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu will be back for the playoffs—these are two of the top three-point shooters in the league. Speaking of good three-point shooters, Andre Iguodala shoots over 30 percent from beyond the arc as well.

The Sixers are really Iguodala's team. Since the departure of Allen Iverson, he's had a great opportunity to be a leader, and has led Philly to the playoffs in each of the last two years. 

People thought that with Elton Brand on the roster, the Sixers could possibly contend for the Central division. Well, plans changed when Brand got hurt. Regardless, Philadelphia has found themselves in the postseason and finished 41-41.

I see the Magic winning the division. I don't see Howard getting shut down by Samuel Dalembert, and I wouldn't be shocked to see Jameer Nelson continue his solid year either. 

Magic in six.