First Round Playoff Predictions– East

Posted: 04/19/2013 by levcohen in Basketball

The playoffs start tomorrow, mere days after the regular season ended. There are eight series, each unique, and some are a lot more intriguing than others. Each series does have its story lines (yes, even Miami-Milwaukee), and we’ll look at those as well as the match-ups.

Miami Heat (66-16) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (38-44):
What are the chances this isn’t a sweep? 2%? 4%? I guess the only intrigue in this match-up is: Will the Heat lose in this series? To be fair to Milwaukee, they are fun to watch. They have a dynamic, if sometimes disgruntled, backcourt duo of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. They are short on guards (so to speak), playing just three every game, with hot shooter J.J. Redick completing the trifecta. The Bucks also have Ersan Ilyasova, a power forward who can cause match-up problems because he is a great shooter, and Larry Sanders, a shot blocking big man who exploded this season. Sanders almost averaged a double double, and finished second in the league in blocks. Here is the problem, though: The Heat could beat this team with their eyes closed. The only way to beat the Heat is if you: Can take advantage of added height with scoring big men (Bucks don’t have any), can move the ball seamlessly throughout the shot clock to create stops (Milwaukee has a ton of guys who like to dribble around without passing), and have a few shutdown perimeter defenders (the Bucks best perimeter defender is.. J.J Redick?). The Bucks can do none of those things.

Intriguing subplot: Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings guaranteed a six game win over the Heat. I think Brandon has just clinched a Heat sweep.
My prediction: Heat sweep

New York Knicks (54-28) vs. Boston Celtics (41-40… one cancellation):
This is all set to be a very emotional and high octane series for a lot of reasons. First and foremost, the Celtics have obviously been affected by the bombings. I’d bet that they now have added motivation. They want to do anything to help their fans. The Celtics are led by two very emotional players in Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Hopefully fully healthy, I have a feeling those two are going to play with fierce passion. Then there is the history between these two years. Over the past decade, the Celtics have had the Knicks’ number. This year, the story has been different. The Knicks beat the Celtics three out of four times. Remember, these two teams also had a big fight in the infamous “Honey Nut Cheerios” game. As for actual players, I think the Knicks have a rather large talent advantage. They have the scoring champion, Carmelo Anthony. They have the likely 6th man of the year, J.R. Smith. They have the reigning defensive player of the year, Tyson Chandler. They have a big point guard, Raymond Felton, who is a lot more agile than he looks. This is an older team, but it is one that has proved people wrong all season.

Intriguing subplot: How is Garnett going to play? Garnett and Smith are the X-Factors in this game. Neither his his team’s star, but neither team is any good without his X-Factor. Garnett is especially important because he is going to need to play terrifically if the Celtics want to beat the more talented Knicks.My prediction: Celtics in 7, which is actually a big upset

Indiana Pacers (49-32… one cancellation) vs. Atlanta Hawks (44-38):
Bleagh. This series is not going to be great for television. It’s going to be full of 93-86 scores, and I wouldn’t be surprised if neither team breaks 100 points in the series. I do believe that there will be some close games, though. This might be the end of this group of Hawks. This is their sixth straight trip to the playoffs, but they have yet to get past the second round. Josh Smith will likely leave after this year, and then the Hawks might go through a year or two of rebuilding, so this might be the last chance for the current core. The Pacers looked set up for a #2 seed at the all star break but faded down the stretch while the Knicks blew past them. Still, they seem pretty confident, and I wouldn’t count out their stifling defense down low.

Intriguing subplot: Hawks big Al Horford is really a power forward, but he plays primarily center for the small Hawks. I think, with this match-up, the Hawks should elect to play a bigger center, which would move Horford to power forward and Smith to small forward.
My prediction: Pacers in 6

Brooklyn Nets (49-33) vs. Chicago Bulls (45-37):
This is yet another intriguing match-up. In the regular season, the Bulls had the Nets number. The Nets, though, are the more talented team. They are led by Deron Williams and Brook Lopez, two guys who are playing at all star levels. Then they have one of the best isolation players in the NBA, Joe Johnson, who also knows a thing or two about game winning shots. Their big four is rounded out by Gerald Wallace, an aging but still underrated defensive stopper. The Bulls have two players who are among the leaders in the NBA in minutes, in Luol Deng and Joakim Noah. Those two guys have been amazing this season, as they play almost all game, every game. I don’t know if we can expect top shelf scoring from them, so that will have to come from guys like Nate Robinson and Carlos Boozer. If that happens, the Bulls can win.

Interesting subplot: Will Derrick Rose come back? I doubt it, but you never know.
My prediction: Nets in 7


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