Friday, April 16, 2010

Playoff Predictions: 1st Round (Eastern Conference)

Cleveland (1) vs. Chicago (8)

Chicago squeaks into the playoffs barely edging out a slumping Toronto team that had just lost Bosh for the rest of the season, and their prize is a first round beat-down by the Cavaliers. I expect Cleveland to be focused and take care of business quickly. This series will give the Cavs a few games to integrate Shaq back into their game plan. He'll be a key component in latter series. Lebron will show everyone why he is the league's MVP. He will dominate both sides of the floor. Likewise, Rose will have his way against Mo Williams and West. It will take a team defensive effort to slowdown Rose. Chicago misses the firepower of Gordon off of the bench. I just don't think they have enough talent or weapons to compete with Cleveland. Noah is recovering from an injury, which won't help their cause at all. Deng will have his hands full defending Lebron. And their coaching situation is volatile. The weakness of the Cavs last year was a lack of firepower. But now they have added both Shaq and Jamison in the mix. Jamison's outside shooting and hustle will be huge for this team. Hopefully Mo will bounce back from a poor showing last year. In addition to the improved offense, Cleveland has much more depth than last year. This is the best team Lebron has played on. Varejao will continue to be a solid contribute for this team. [Cleveland in 4]

Orlando (2) vs. Charlotte (7)

While it's a nice accomplishment that Charlotte made it to the playoffs, I just don't see them beating Orlando. They have no one who can matchup with Dwight Howard. That leaves them with one of 3 options: single cover Dwight and let him score, foul him, or double-team him (which will lead to wide open 3's for his teammates). It's a pick your poison situation. Larry Brown is the superior coach, but I think the rumor of him leaving Charlotte next year might prove to be a distraction. Charlotte plays great defense, but they can't match up with the offensive firepower or depth of Orlando. And in a long series where teams make adjustments, this gives Orlando a big advantage. I suspect their role players of Redick, Pietrus, Barnes, Williams and Anderson will hit some big shots before this series is over. Orlando will need Lewis to return to form. He's been hit and miss all season long. This will give Vinsanity a chance to show his worth. But he's in a touch matchup with Jackson. Crash has the edge over Barnes or Pietrus; though I suspect that to be a feisty matchup. Nelson vs Felton is a wash. Neither guy has been consistent enough to be a difference-maker. Diaw will be an X-factor in this series, I think. The better he plays, the better this whole Charlotte team plays. [Orlando in 6]

Atlanta (3) vs. Milwaukee (6)

It's a shame that Andrew Bogut had to go down with an injury. Milwaukee would have been one of my darkhorse picks otherwise. I just like the way their team has been playing since the addition of John Salmons. The 2-headed PG of Ridnour and Jennings has been surprisingly effective. I don't think they have enough firepower to compete with ATL though. And their team lacks the postseason experience and depth to be competitive. Delfino and Ilyasova have played well for the team, though. Atlanta, meanwhile, is hungry and ready to take the next step in the postseason. JJ and Josh Smith will destroy whoever they are matched up against. And Crawford will continue to be huge off of the bench. He has been an exceptional contributor for this team, and is on his way to a 6th man of the year award. Horford has been solid in the middle, though I still don't think he deserved the all-star nod. But he's definitely better than Thomas or Gadzuric on the MIL side. They aren't going to intimate anyone. It'll be interesting to see how this MIL team gels once they have Redd and Bogut back. They have some interesting potential. But they will be a quick out this year. Atlanta needs to be careful about foul trouble and injuries, though. Their bench is not the best. [Atlanta in 5]

Boston (4) vs. Miami (5)

Yikes. Boston slipping all the way down to the #4 spot. They just aren't the same team this year. They are really struggling with injuries and just old age. KG, especially, is not the same player he was in previous years. Rondo has been their best player all year long, and will need to play well for Boston to make some noise in the playoffs. Allen and Pierce are still reliable scorers for the Boston squad. But their new acquisitions: Rasheed, Nate Robinson, and Daniels haven't panned out as well as they had hoped. If they can get some solid production from Big Baby, that would help their chances immensely. Boston is a team on the decline, and things will only get worse from now on. On the flip side, you have a mediocre Miami team surrounded by Wade. He is a miracle worker; so I give him a slim shot at pulling off an upset. Beasley will need to step up and prove to be a consistent #2 guy. Q-Rich, O'Neal, and the duo of Arroyo/Chalmers each have had their moments during the season. But they will need to be clicking on all cylinders just for this team to be competitive. In any case, I don't foresee either team giving Cleveland much trouble in the next round though. They are just speed bumps. [Boston in 6]

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