Thursday, April 16, 2009

Playoff Predictions: 1st Round (Eastern Conference)

Cleveland Cavaliers (1) vs. Detriot Pistons (8)

Detriot is just the first hurdle that Cleveland has to jump over on their way to the NBA Finals. They are clearly the better team in this series. And I expect a dominating performance. They are nearly unbeatable at home, and have the league's MVP on their team. The Pistons, meanwhile, have floundered into the playoffs. With a record of 3-5 in April and 12-19 since the All-Star Break. The Pistons only shot at making it out of the first round would have been a matchup against Orlando; a team that they have historically dominated. The loss of Billups has had a devastating impact on the Piston's fortune. They are clearly not the same team that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals the past 6 years. They not only allow 5 more points per game, but they score 4 less points per game. They have a rookie running the PG spot, and Rasheed and company are a year older. Wallace is as enigmatic as usual. Their only consistent scoring option has been Rip Hamilton. And McDyess has been their best big man. Which says a lot about this team. Prince will have his hands full trying to slow down Lebron. It'll be interesting to see if Will Bynum can bring some of that magic to the playoffs. He and Stuckey could cause some match-up problems for Cleveland. On the flip side, Cavs have the league's #1 rated defense and have enough firepower to match that. They are amongst the league leader's in 3pt made per game. Everyone know's about Lebron and Mo Williams, but they also have shooters off of the bench: Boobie, Wally, and Pavlovic. Delonte West doesn't get that much attention, but his shooting and defense are big for this team. Big Z and Joe Smith are solid as always, while Ben Wallace and Varajeo are studs on the defensive end. This team has it all. Lebron by himself can will his team to a couple of wins, and now he has the supporting cast to make a legit run at the championship. It should be a fun ride to watch. - Cleveland wins in 5

Boston Celtics (2) vs. Chicago Bulls (7)

Ouch. It's being reported that KG might miss the entire postseason. There goes Boston's chances of a repeat, and their chance at getting their revenge against the Cleveland Cavaliers who they felt disrespected them a few nights ago. Pierce and Allen must be pissed off (see the above pictures). With that said, I think they still have enough firepower to take out the Chicago Bulls. They still play phenomenal defense (though not as good as with KG) and they are too experienced and talented to lose in the first round. Leon Powe and Big Baby Davis have stepped up their game nicely in KG's absence. And the Celtics still have 2 HOFers on their squad, and a rising star in Rondo. Let's not forget about Perkins either who is a defensive stud in the middle. Eddie House gives them scoring off of the bench. Though the X-factors will be the play of Tony Allen and Marbury off of the bench. I'm shocked that Chicago lost to Toronto on the last day of the season. I thought that they had the #6 seed all wrapped up. They could have given the Orlando Magic a run for their money. But against Boston, I don't think they stand too much of a chance. They are still too dependent on their jumpshot. And they are too young and inexperienced to make a playoff push. They have been 16-11 since the arrival of Brad Miller and Salmons, however. Those 2 guys have given this team some necessary toughness and leadership. Salmons has been their most consistent scorer. And has helped Chicago forget about the absence of Luol Deng. Gordon is still hit-and-miss, but is one of the league's best scorers when he gets on a hot streak. Derrick Rose is the ROY and will get his first tate of the playoffs; and his first defeat. Hinrich will be solid off of the bench; filling in any either the PG or SG position. I'm not sold on Tyrus Thomas and Noah in the frontcourt. They are too inconsistent, and neither is a reliable scorer. But his will be a good learning experience for this Chicago team. They should be back better than ever next year. - Boston wins in 6

Orlando Magic (3) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (6)

Orlando luckily draws the 76ers in the first round. Had they gone up against the Bulls or the Pistons, they might not have been able to make it out of the first round. This team is just too beat up right now. Turkoglu has missed the past 2 games with a sprained ankle, and Lewis has missed the last 3 games with knee tendinitis. They'll need both of their stars back and 100% healthy to make a nice playoff push. But with that said, I think they have enough talent and firepower to take out the 76ers who have been equally bad. They had lost 6 games in a row, before their OT win against a Cleveland team without any of their starters. Now that's just pathetic. Howard is by far the best player in this series. He's a legit MVP candidate and he'll be able to dominate the defensive end. Orlando depends heavily on Dwight not only for his defense, but for drawing double-teams to get their shooters open looks. And this team has a lot of shooters. They are the #1 3pt shooting team in the league. With Lewis, Turkoglu, Lee, Pietrus and Reddick as lights-out shooters. Alston has been a nice replacement for Nelson; but isn't as dynamic of a scorer. Gortat and Battie have proven to be solid big men. The 76ers are just a mediocre team. They can't score in the half court and depend on getting easy buckets in transition. Thaddeus Young is just coming off of a sprained ankle. They'll need him at the top of his game to be competitive. This 76ers team will struggle to score against Orlando's tough defense. They are one of the league's worst 3pt shooting teams. Andre Miller is a stud at the PG spot, and I like Lou Williams off of the bench for scoring. But I'm not sure that Iggy is ready to carry this team on his back. He's not consistent enough of a scorer or a player who can take over games in the clutch. Dalembert has regressed majorly this season. And he'll get eaten alive by Dwight Howard. Speights is a nice young talent, who will gain some experience in these playoffs. If they have to start Evans at PF, they will be in trouble. - Orlando Wins in 5 (or 6 if Turkoglu and Lewis aren't healthy)

Atlanta Hawks (4) vs. Miami Heat (5)

This should be an exciting match-up against 2 of the younger teams in the playoffs. The SG matchup of Joe Johnson vs Dwyane Wade should be especially fierce. While the Hawks have homecourt advantage, I believe that it's Miami's series to lose. They have the best player in the series. And Wade will be the difference maker. He can take over games when necessary and singlehandedly will his team to victory. The teams are pretty well matched up besides that. The PG matchup could play a big role in the series as well. Does Bibby still have any gas left in the tank? And how will Chalmers react to the spotlight in his first playoff appearance? Miami also has another rookie, Beasley, who will need to step up for Miami to come away with the win. Miami has some injury concerns in their frontcourt with J. O'Neal and Haslem. How much will they get out of J. O'Neal in particular? They have some great 3pt shooters in James Jones and 3pt shootout champion, Daequan Cook. It's too bad that Luther Head is injured. He could have played a nice 6th man role for this team. Atlanta, on the other hand, has some injury concerns of its own. How much will Marvin Williams be able to contribute? He's just come back from a back injury. But he gives Atlanta another offensive weapon. Josh Smith will need to bring his A game. He needs to be active in rebounding, shot blocking, and slashing to the basket. His poor FT% shooting could come back to haunt this team. Miami could resort to a Hack-A-Josh tactic. Smith is shooting 58% on the season from the charity line. Horford is a double-double machine. Flip Murray has been an excellent 6th man for his squad. He'll provide them some much needed scoring off of the bench. In many ways, this Atlanta team looks better on paper than the Miami squad. But I'm still convinced that Wade will be able to pull his team to victory. I just don't see anyone being able to stop or contain him. And we have seen in the past that he is able to carry inferior teams to victory. - Miami Wins in 6

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