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2011 NBA Eastern Conference First Round Matchups

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Aside from the fact that the NBA Playoffs last longer than Raiders’ head coaching tenures, they are everything that regular season games are not.  In the playoffs, as if touched by the hand of God, effort levels rise, players hit the deck for loose balls… and one time I swear I even saw a bead of sweat on Vince Carter’s forehead. I digress; this isn’t a diatribe about the worthlessness of the NBA regular season… anyone that watched the Lakers sleepwalk through the last few weeks could easily figure that out by themselves. I’m just thankful to have watchable NBA basketball every night for the next 4 months or so.  Here’s a quick look at the first round matchups and some fearless predictions.


Eastern Conference

#1 Chicago Bulls vs. #8 Indiana Pacers

Let me start by saying that I watch a lot of NBA basketball. Given my previous statements on the invalidity of the regular season, probably too much. That said, you could’ve offered me any amount of money in the world to name the current Pacers coach, and I wouldn’t have come up with Frank Vogel. To his credit, Vogel did lead the Pacers back into the playoffs with a respectable 20-18 finish to the season. Let’s not let that get in the way of reality here. Short of Tyler Hansbrough pulling off a mask to reveal the he is actually the second coming of the Lord, the Pacers have no chance to win this series. To their credit, they played great in game 1, but still lost. They will continue to get battered on the boards, and unless they manage to stay hot from deep, this one will be over in a hurry; Bulls in 5 games max.


#2 Miami Heat vs. Philadelphia 76ers

At 58-24, the Heat underachieved this season. On one hand it was a testament to the need for them to play together in gel… In reality it was another nail in the coffin of the regular season highlighted by Chris Bosh’s postgame comment: “Coach wants to work, we wanna chill. I hope he can meet us halfway.” Obviously chill-time is over and it’s time for the Heat to get to work and try to win a championship with presumably most of the free world rooting against them. Their march to self-appointed destiny got underway starts with the 76ers; a team that they should easily handle, but for one reason or another will find themselves struggling with from time to time. Fact remains, to beat the Heat you have to dominate inside and while Elton Brand will do his best, the 76ers options of Spencer Hawes & Marreese Speights wont be able to get it done. Heat advance in 5.


#3 Boston Celtics vs. New York Knicks

I’m not sure why Boston decided to mail it in and accept a matchup with the Knicks instead of the 76ers, but they did, and that’s what they are facing. Everyone knows the Celtics are built for the playoffs (read: they know from opening night that they will be in and don’t much care where they are slotted). Out of all the first round matchups in the East, in my mind, this is the one with the biggest potential for upset. The Knicks aren’t a great team by any stretch, but superstars win in the playoffs and with Melo, Amare, and playoff veteran Chauncey Billups, the Knicks can match, and even surpass the Celtics with regards to big name players. Granted Billups health-status is a question mark and they no longer have Raymond Felton to pick up the slack. The Knicks are making plans to build another “superteam,”, but they aren’t there yet and I don’t see them having enough depth to take out the defending Eastern Conference Champs. Unless Melo and Amare show the ability to carry and NBA team in the playoffs the Knicks are done in 6.


#4 Orlando Magic vs. Atlanta Hawks

In a rematch of their second round matchup of a year ago the Magic will be looking to duplicate their efforts where they swept the Hawks; beating them by an average of over 25 points per game. This year may be a bit different given that Atlanta won 3 of their 4 regular season games…the outcome however won’t be. The Hawks only chance at winning is very risky. They have to guard the perimeter with their life and allow Dwight Howard to do just about whatever he wants underneath. If their shooting goes cold for any stretch, they will have to expend far too much energy trying to come back which will lead to being a step slow on the defensive end. When Orlando has open looks they tend to bury them and things could get ugly. The Hawks really don’t have much of a choice, a double on Howard means someone is free on the perimeter, and besides, Howard will still get his anyway. I’m a big fan of their coach Larry Drew, but it would take consistently unbelievable shooting performance to take a 7 game series. Orlando in 6.


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