Well, it begins on Saturday. The NBA Playoffs are finally here and I'm excited. You get the 40 games in 40 nights on TNT and playoff basketball on the weekends on ESPN and ABC. There goes my golf outings for the next few months. Let's take a look at the match ups for the Eastern Conference.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Detroit Pistons
No one wanted to play the Cavaliers. They have played about as good as a team can play this entire season. They have home court advantage throughout the playoffs. First up for them the Detroit Pistons. The Cavs are led by the MVP of the league (yes, I'm giving him that honor now) in LeBron James. The difference between this team and last years Cavs teams is that this team can score. The addition of Mo Williams has helped tremendously. Not only does Williams allow James to play off the ball, Williams has been a knock down shooter and he's been good on defense too. Mike Brown has this team playing as a TEAM which is evident by the closeness and the antics on the sidelines before, during, and after games.
The Deeetroit Pistons are in trouble. They have been in a free fall since they traded away Chaunsey Billups and got Allen Iverson. A lot of people have blamed this on Iverson, but there have been other factors that have led to their downfall. They have a rookie coach who is having a hard time balancing egos within the team. They have been hit with injuries that they haven't had in past years, and it's just not that cohesive unit that we were used to over the past years. The Pistons limp into the playoffs with Iverson benched (on the playoff roster though), Rasheed Wallace a tech away from being suspended again, and their team not having an identity. Antonio McDyess has quietly played well this season, but it just seems all for naught.
Series Winner - Cavaliers 4-0
Orlando Magic vs. Philadelphia 76ers
Orlando comes in at a somewhat awkward moment. They were able to snatch the #2 seed from the Celtics, but they come into this series with one of their top players Hedo Turkoglu having back problems. The Magic have been playing well as of late and Dwight Howard (the Defensive Player of the Year, yes, I'll give him that award now). The Magic are unbeatable if they are hitting their 3's from Turkoglu and (Rashard) Lewis. The Magic are deep and they have found a way to play defense. How Rafer Alston plays will dictate how quickly the Magic win this series.
The Sixers come into this series with an injury issue also. Thaddeus Young tweaked an ankle that may become an issue. The Sixers are young and athletic and they are led by a point guard in Andre Miller that knows how to control the tempo of a game and run this team. Andre Iguodala is the scoring treat that everyone is scared off and he's backed by Young, Dalembert, Williams and a young big in Mareese Speights. I look for this series to be very intertaining.
Series Winner - Magic 4-3
Boston Celtics vs. Chicago Bulls
The big news about this series is who isn't playing, KG. Garnett has been hobbled by a knee and it looks as thought he may miss the entire playoffs. With that said, Glen Davis and Leon Powe are going to have to step up. This Celtics team still has Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, so they may be wounded, but they are still dangerous. The Celtics have the pleasure of playing without Garnett for the last 22 games, so they are at least used to that. The question becomes can their bench perform when the pressure is on. I think they get out of the first round, but going much further is a stretch.
The Bulls find themselves surging into the playoffs. They were in the 8th spot a few weeks ago but have since moved into the 6th spot and find themselves facing the wounded champs from last year. The Bulls are on a roll with their bigs, Thomas, Noah, and Miller giving them quality minutes in the post and on the boards. Ben Gordon is still hitting those shots from deep, but the heart of this team is their starting rookie point guard, Derek Rose (Rookie of the Year). This will be Rose's first foray into the playoffs and although he has played well his rookie season this is a step up. The scary part is that he may handle it like he has his rookie season.
Series Winner - Celtics 4-3
Atlanta Hawks vs. Miami Heat
The Hawks probably wanted to be in the 6th spot to face the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs so that they could avenge themselves, but instead they get a very dangerous squad in the Heat. The Hawks are led by Joe Johnson and have a group of young ballers in Bibby, Williams, Smith, and Horford. The Hawks are still a dangerous team because any one of their starters can go for 20 on any night. When they decide to play defense, they are extremely hard to beat.
I would have never expected the Heat to make it this high in the Eastern conference after they went through all of the changes during this off season and season (trading Marion for O'Neal and Moon). This team has found a way, well actually a Wade to make noise in the East. D wade has done his best to carry this team with several dramatic performances over the year. The addition of Moon and O'Neal gave the Heat a post presence and Moon was able to do some of the things Marion did. Rookie, Michael Beasley has been on again off again, but now is his time to step up in the playoffs.
Series Winner - Hawks 4-3
What do you think about the match ups? Do you see any surprises in the first round?