I did a decent job at predicting the first round series winners correctly. I was within one game for all of the series except for the Atlanta/Miami series. I underestimated how injured Wade was. I thought he would be able to will his team to victory over a superior Atlanta team. But he got little help from his supporting cast, and Atlanta was able to pull off a game 7 win on their home floor. It was quite a strange series with all of the games being double-digit wins. In any case, I don't think either team stands a shot against Cleveland. The Cleveland/Detriot series was a blow-out as expected. Detriot is not the same team without Billups, and they'll have some big decisions to make in the offseason regarding the direction of this team. 3 of the first 4 games in the Orlando/Philadelphia series were decided by last second shots. But besides that, Orlando took care of business and won the other 3 games pretty easily. The highlight of the first round was the Boston/Chicago series. That was one of the best first round series that I've ever seen. Almost every game went down to the wire, as they set a record for most overtimes played in a series. Rondo vs Rose was an epic PG battle. Pierce, Allen and Gordon all hit big shots for their respective teams. What surprised me was the play of Big Baby Davis, who filled in admirably for KG. The better team won the series; but Boston sure made their job harder than it should have been. If Pierce had hit that FT at the end of the first game, that could have completely changed the dynamic of the series. And they could have potentially swept the Bulls in the first round. But enough about that, let's move onto the second round...
Cleveland Cavaliers (1) vs. Atlanta Hawks (4)
There's no stopping this Cleveland Cavaliers team. They are focused on winning and the Atlanta Hawks will become their second victim. This Cavaliers team is well rested after sweeping the Detriot Pistons, and I expect the league's top rated defense to clamp down on this Atlanta Hawks team. They were 3-1 against the Hawks during the regular season, and I expect much of the same. Lebron James is the most dominant player in the league, and the Hawks don't have anyone on their team who can slow him down. I expect a huge series from him. He'll set the tone on both ends of the floor. On the Hawks side, Joe Johnson has been struggling so far in the playoffs. There's no way Atlanta can be competitive unless he's playing at his best. Varejao is an underrated defender. I expect him to get under Josh Smith's skin. He's the kind of hot-headed, immature player who will be easily rattled. Bibby has been scorching hot from downtown; but Cleveland is the #1 team at defending the 3PT shot. Al Horford and Marvin Williams are slowed by injuries, which doesn't help their cause at all. The Hawks are also horrible FT shooters. The only shot the Hawks have at winning is if they get huge production from their bench: Flip Murray, Evans and Pachulia. On Cleveland's side, they just need to consistently play hard and not take this Atlanta team too lightly. They are the better team on both sides of the floor. And they are nearly unbeatable at home. Mo has played nicely as second fiddle, and the Cavaliers have gotten solid production from their role players. Big Z and Joe Smith have provided nice scoring from the 4 & 5 spots. - Cleveland Wins in 5
Boston Celtics (2) vs. Orlando Magic (4)
This is a difficult series to predict. Both teams struggled to win their first round series. If you compare their rosters position by position, there are a lot of mismatches. In the backcourt, Rondo and Allen have a huge edge over Alston and Redick. I can't imagine Redick or Alston being able to slow down their counterpart one bit. And that could spell disaster; as Rondo was a triple double machine in the first round, and Allen was red hot from the field. His 51 point game with 9 made 3PT was pretty impressive. Orlando desperately needs Courtney Lee to return to health. Neither Pietrus or Johnson have been very effective off of the bench. I also give Boston the edge at the SF position. Pierce is The Answer and last year's Finals MVP. While Turkoglu has been awful so far in the playoffs; excluding his game winning shot. He could be the difference-maker, if he can get his game together though. The PF spot is an interesting matchup. Big Baby has the girth advantage and should be able to dominate the paint. But Lewis is one of the league's best shooters. I don't think Davis will be able to keep up with him. Howard is a beast in the middle. But Perkins is one of the better defending big men in the league. He is the X-Factor for this team. If he can stay out of foul trouble, and do a decent job of containing Howard, Boston has a great shot at winning this series. Otherwise, it's up to Big Baby, Scalabrine and Mikki Moore to defend Howard; and that's not a pretty picture at all. Howard will need to lead his team to the next round. His dominance in the middle opens things up for all of their shooters. And he's the anchor for this team on the defensive end. Both teams are excellent on defense, but Orlando might have more scoring punch. Neither team's bench has been that effective. But anything that Boston gets from House or Marbury is a plus. For Orlando, I like the duo of Battie and Gortat. Both are capable rebounders and defenders and provide some much needed depth at the 4 and 5 spots. Call me crazy, but I think Boston can pull off the win. Never underestimate the heart of a champion. That, and they have homecourt advantage. - Boston wins in 7.