CHRISTMAS in APRIL: NBA Playoff Round 1 Preview, East Edition

Posted: April 15, 2011 by Matt Whitener of CSP in NBA
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THE NBA playoffs are set & ready to jump off tomorrow, and may be the most wide open field of any year of the last 20, at least. The difference between the #1 and #3 seeds are as narrow as ever. Each top seed has questions about their experience & stamina, respectively. The champions have had an up & down season, and enter the postseason in more questionable condition than they have in many years. The same goes for the runners up of a year ago. And in both conferences there are teams that, while they don’t sit on top of the seeds, have reloaded and are real dangers over the course of a series.

Then there are the Heat, who after all this buildup nobody still knows if to fear or not. The definition of a wild card.

Despite all of the seemingly random madness & “It’s wide open” look of the season, there is a method to the madness and matchups to assess. Will there be major upsets? Is that even possible this point, and if so, who’s primed to spring one in the first round?

Today in the CHEAP SEATS were taking a look at how each team is standing heading into series play, how they’ve done against each other and basically attempt to a) finally predict the unpredictable that is the 2010-11 NBA, and b) finally be able to figure out for myself what exactly is going on here for myself.

Come along for the ride in part one of two today in the East.

#1 Bulls (62-20) vs. #8 Pacers (37-45)

Last 20: Bulls: 18-2, Pacers: 10-10
Vs Playoff teams: Bulls 6-2, Pacers: 5-6

Season Matchup: 3-1 Bulls.
The Bulls have been basically unstoppable over the last two months, sporting the NBA’s best record over that time. Defensively they can stick with anybody and they have the MVP in waiting ready for a team the doesn’t have an answer back for them in any one area in the Pacers. And in the end, its the team with the best record playing the team with the worst remaining. Buff said. BULLS WIN.

#4 Magic (52-30) vs. #5 Hawks (44-38)

Last 20: Magic 12-8, Hawks 7-12
Vs. Playoff teams: Magic 4-6, Hawks 3-10

Season Matchup: 3-1 Hawks.
This is an example of where the present says way more than the past. The Hawks have been the worst of all 16 playoff clubs leading into this match with Orlando, who they didn’t beat by more than 10 all year. And they are carrying a seven game losing streak into the series. Combine that with Atlanta’s weak playoff performances in the past, and you’ve got a team primed for another early exit. MAGIC WIN.

#3 Celtics (56-26) vs. #6 Knicks (42-40)

Last 20: Celtics 10-10, Knicks 9-11
Vs Playoff teams: Celtics 6-6, Knicks 5-7

Season Matchup: 4-0 Celtics.
An interesting matchup, as neither of these teams is who they were even a few months ago. The Knicks blew apart their core to add Carmelo Anthony, while the Celtics have been completely different after moving center Kendrick Perkins and losing much if their primary advantage: size. Having a quality center would make a world of difference for them against the Knicks weak interior, but they’ll have to rely on experience to make the difference instead, something they have a surplus of. The Knicks, new lineup has been worse against the Celts than the early season one (losses by 2 & 4 early, closer to 10 later). Plus there is something to be said for the task of beating a team four times in one series you haven’t been able to put down all year otherwise. CELTICS WIN.

#2 Heat (58-24) vs #7 Sixers (41-41)

Last 20: Heat 15-5, Sixers 9-11
Vs Playoff teams: Heat 8-3, Sixers 4-6

Season Matchup: 3-0 Heat.
Up & down for much of the season, seemingly constantly going from getting it all together to falling apart again. However, in landing the Sixers they get a team they’ve had success against in their playoff debut in the LeBron/Wade incarnation of the team, and should be able to get them out the way quick to be well rested for what will be a beast of a second round challenge against Boston. That extra rest could give them a decisive edge against an older and tired Celtics squad coming off a series against the quicker Knicks, but let’s wait and see on that. HEAT WIN.

Come back a bit later for a look at the West & the beginning of the Lakers push for number three in three.

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