The second season has arrived for not one but two sports. While we covered the NHL pretty exhaustively, and will continue to throughout the post season, it was time to give the NBA the same love that the NHL got. The first round of the NBA Playoffs are under way. Eight teams in the East, eight teams in the West. The four match ups from the West come soon. Right now it's time for the NBA Eastern Conference Quarter Finals:
#1 Chicago Bulls
#8 Indiana Pacers
Regular Season Series- Bulls win 3-1
Two young teams that surprised many for various reasons meet for the first round. While the Chicago Bulls, with the addition of Carlos Boozer to Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah made them a lock to make the Playoffs once again few expected them to be the first over all in the East. That was expected of the Celtics or Heat. Instead, here they are poised to echo the famous Bulls of old.
The Pacers are a young team who have no one who jump out at you at first glance. Their most famous name is either the GM in Larry Bird or most known for his four years at Duke in Taylor Hansborough. Instead they're a group of solid, role players. With no super star, they don't have anyone who can take over any game but they're a crew that can compete on any given night.
It's a complete mismatch on paper and possibly on the court. The potential MVP play of Rose alone could be enough to put the Bulls over the Pacers on a regular basis, but expect that young Pacers to not go down without a solid fight. Though the score board will show victories for the Bulls, Pacers fans should be excited for the reality of the series.
Prediction: Bulls 4-2
#2 Miami Heat
#7 Philadelphia 76ers
Regular Season Series- Heat win 3-0
The most talked about team coming into the season. They were under the most scrutiny and had the most hate directed at them. Despite a hiccup early on in the season as the team gelled while injuries and consistency formed they still managed to make it to the second over all seed, dominating some nights and looking average others.
Another year and another year that an A.I. has led the 76ers to the playoffs. This time it's Andre Iguodala. Flanked by the likes of Elton Brand they've eeked their way back into the post season as under dogs playing the team no one wanted to see going into the year. While likely over matched they should make a decent series out of it.
The Heat are in the playoffs and it's time for them to show that they're more than just the few of their parts. One way or the other they should top the 76ers, the question becomes whether or not it happens quickly or whether they depend on one player or the sum all every piece. It may take a game or two but they'll get it done.
Prediction: Heat 4-2
#3 Boston Celtics
#6 New York Knicks
Regular Season Series- Celtics win 4-0
Last year's runners up made some interesting moves in the season, especially at the deadline, that made their entry into the post season come with some question. Part an aging core, part a team still meshing after a large turn over during the trade deadline how they will continue to build come the post season is a big question. It's perhaps to their advantage that the Knicks are their first round match.
The arrival of Amar'e Stoudamire was met with medium fanfare at the start of the season. A city thirsty for a superstar had one. It wasn't the one they wanted, having their target set on Lebron James pre-Decision, but they were happy to have someone there to believe in them. The acquisition of Carmelo Anthony made the drive for the Knicks greater, but that too had mixed results. They go into the playoffs with expectations they may not meet.
Despite an aging core the Celtics should still have the upper hand in this series. The propensity for a lack of defense on the part of Knicks and coach Mark D'Antoni's system presents a large issue for the Knicks, one the Celtics should exploit. The defense of the Celtics, while not the same as last year, is enough to advance them.
Prediction: Celtics 4-3
#4 Orlando Magic
#5 Atlanta Hawks
Regular Season Series- Hawks win 3-1
A team that was considered an early season favorite to take on the Celtics or Heat, they floundered early on but after a large trade in the middle of the season that sent a lot of core players off to Phoenix and brought back some familiar names, they really improved in their standings and became a much more solid team that has meshed well while relying on the three and Dwight Howard in the center.
One of last years surprises, despite a prior solid season, has been lacking much punch or surprise this season. While still being led by Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford, generally extremely solid accessories on deep teams, they've never really taken over at any time during the season. They're unimpressively impressive. Solid, steady, never mind blowing.
Despite the rebuilding of the Magic they've got enough punch to still advance another round. The Hawks were not nearly as spectacular or surprising as last season despite the lack of much real turn over on their roster. Look for the Magic to have learned from the lessons of their regular season against the Hawks and make it to the second round, using their perimeter to advance.
Prediction: Magic 4-2