Eastern Conference Preview: It should be, uh, exciting?
(1) Chicago Bulls vs. (8) Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers, once one of the top four teams in the East, have fallen off since the all-star break and barely stumbled into the playoffs. Whether you blame their slide on their lack of a superstar talent or the fact that their leading scorer (Louis Williams) comes off the bench or on the disappearance of their scary/great mascot Hip Hop, you know that Doug Collins will always keep them somewhat competitive. But somewhat competitive won’t win them many games against a far superior Chicago Bulls team led by an even better coach, Tom Thibodeau. The Sixers just don’t have the half court scorers necessary to break the Bulls’ ridiculous defense. And with a supposedly healthy Derrick Rose back for the Bulls, the Sixers may find it difficult to even keep these games close past the first quarter. The Sixers will need to outrun the Bulls to generate easy baskets, and their consistently strong bench, led by Williams, will need to ignite fast breaks. And Spencer Hawes needs to play like NBA 2k12 Spencer Hawes. But that still probably won’t be enough. The Bulls are really good. They finished the season tied with the Spurs for the best record in the league, and they did that mostly without the reigning MVP.
Prediction: Bulls in 5
(2) Miami Heat vs. (7) New York Knicks
I’m so excited for this shit. Lebron! Wade! Carmelo! Novakane! RONNY TURIAF! This series will be the only thing Sportscenter talks about for the next month, so it better be good. Expect Lebron to be all like, “I’m really good at basketball,” and score a bunch against the Knicks’ defense which, while improved since the Dantoni days, is still weak. That guy Dwayne Wade will also prove that he’s good at basketball. So will Chris Bosh, but he’ll do it in a much more effeminate way. The Knicks will look to shoot 50 threes and hope they make some. But that’s what they will have to do, as their only chance to win this series is by virtue of the three point shot. Novak leads the NBA in 3pFG%, J.R. Smith has the ability to shoot 75% from three or 5% on any given night, and the same goes for Carmelo. This team is as streaky as streaky gets and they have the ability to shoot the Heat out of the building or lose by 30. But if the Heat’s recent game with the Bulls is any indication, they’re going to be quite physical with the smaller Knicks. Expect Novak to get punched in the face by Juwan Howard.
Prediction: Heat in 6
(3) Indiana Pacers vs. (6) Orlando Magic
Oh, the Pacers. They are so consistent. Paul George is so good. Roy Hibbert is so funny. Danny Granger is so underrated. They deserve to get to play the hapless, Dwight Howard-less Orlando Magic. The Magic’s only chance is if they fire Stan Van Gundy tomorrow and Dwight comes back … or if Dwight would just come back and stop being a little whiny-bitch. The way he’s dealt with this whole situation really puts into perspective how much worse the Lebron-Cleveland situation could’ve been. But the Pacers will easily win this series. There isn’t much analysis needed. Without Dwight, the Magic are a lottery team and I don’t see much that they can do to stop Indiana.
Prediction: Pacers in 4
(4) Boston Celtics vs. (5) Atlanta Hawks
Any team with a point guard as good as Rajon Rondo is dangerous. Any team with a shooter as good as Ray Allen is dangerous. Any team with a guy who can take a stabbing as well as Paul Pierce is dangerous. The Celtics are dangerous and they shouldn’t have too much trouble with an Al Horford-less Atlanta Hawks team that has been adequately average for the past four seasons. Jeff Teague is a good young guard, but he, like everyone else in the league, can’t stop a determined Rondo. So if Rondo doesn’t get all sad and instead plays angry, then this, too, should be a seemingly uneventful series. The Hawks are pretty boring. Joe Johnson is pretty boring. Only Rondo and Greg Stiemsma can save us from this being a really boring series. Let’s go guys!
Prediction: Celtics in 5
Check back tomorrow for a Western Conference preview from JJ.