Friday, April 19, 2013

We're All Set, Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

After a long and grueling season in the NBA, the matchups are finally set.  The East seems to be quite top heavy, as it seems that the Finals can be represented by a handful of teams in this conference.  Of the four series, only one seems like the lower seed has a chance to win.  That doesn't mean these playoffs won't be exciting.  A lot of the top teams are playing ones with contrasting styles.  The East looks to be filled with high scoring ball that will rival some of the more exciting series of the past decade, hopefully.  We have two series with home field advantage in New York City for the first time ever.  We have the defending champs and the reigning (and most likely winner once again) MVP going up against a Bucks team that severely underachieved and could put up a surprising fight against the Big Three.  Then you have two teams in the Hawks and the Pacers who haven't won a title in a combined ninety-five years.  One could say that those teams are kind of due.

These series have the ability to be as one sided as one could possibly imagine, or exciting and down to the wire the entire time.  There is no in between.  There are many Jekyll and Hyde teams in the playoffs.  We could have close, down to the wire games, or ones that let us watch something else by halftime.  Actually now that I think about it, this is the NBA, everybody makes a run.

Lets get into the matchups:

#1 Miami Heat VS. #8 Milwaukee Bucks
Season Records: 66-16 vs 38-44
Season Series: Miami leads 3-1

The real season starts for the Heat on Sunday.  The 27 game winning streak, the number one seed in theLebron, all that is annoying necessity to this team.  They need to play the regular season, they can't wait to play the post season.  The Bucks made the playoffs by the skin of their teeth after they couldn't even post a winning record in the regular season.  This is destined for failure, right?  Not necessarily.  The Bucks have a lot to play for.  Arguably their three best players will be playing for their next contracts.  Monta Ellis and JJ Redick are both unrestricted free agents, and they will be looking to show all thirty teams what they can do on a national stage.  Brandon Jennings is known to play better in front of a nation-wide audience than he does on a regular basis.  He does better in the big media markets when everyone is watching.  In his only postseason series, Jennings carried the Bucks to the seventh game of a series with the Hawks that they were supposed to get blown out of.  He showed he can be an x-factor for an upset driven team.
East, best record in basketball, MVP being a lock for

Milwaukee is strong where the Heat are weak, at rebounding.  The Bucks ranked fourth in rebounds, the Heat are dead last.  This, and if the Heat underestimate the Bucks this could become a series.  Don't get me wrong, the Bucks aren't nearly deep enough to win this thing, but they can give Miami a scare.  Expect the defense of the Heat, as it had all season against Milwaukee, to dominate this matchup.  The Bucks may be able to steal a game, but that's where it will end.

Series Outcome: Heat in 5 games

#2 New York Knicks VS. Boston Celtics
Season Records: 54-28 vs 41-40
Season Series: Knicks leads 3-1
Quite possibly the most intriguing matchup of the post season.  You have on the one hand a team that has shown its dominance all season long, yet has done nothing in the playoffs.  Then you have the polar opposite, a team that was nothing but mediocre during the season, but has done nothing but win during the postseason.  The Celtics were in the seventh game of the Eastern Conference Finals last year, the Knicks didn't make it past the fifth game of the playoffs.  The Celtics swept the Knicks the year before.  It is Celtic's coach Doc Rivers who says don't look at the past, however.  This may be a surprise upset pick by some, but it doesn't seem likely.  The Knicks are hitting on all cylinders right now.  They won't beat a division rival every game, but they will show that they are trying to be the new kings of the Atlantic Division. 

Don't take this as me saying that Boston is going to go down quietly, because they won't.  With the tragedies that are happening in Boston on Monday and still ongoing up until the minute, there will be some extra fight in this Boston team.  The emotion of coming back to the TD Garden after a long layoff with the fans ready to get a distraction from the awful real world they currently live in, that will motivate this team.  That and the veteran presence of this team will help them steal some wins from the two seeded Knicks.  At the end of the day, the Knicks are far too talented to get bounced once again in the first round.  They will have their issues and will have something to work towards, but they are taking this series.  Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett may be playing their last games together.  Carmelo Anthony will finally bring this Knicks team to its first playoff series win in thirteen years.

Series Outcome: Knicks in 6 games

#3 Indiana Pacers VS. #6 Atlanta Hawks
Season Records: 49-32 vs 44-38
Season Series: 2-2

This series is a true tale of two seasons.  The Pacers took two losses early in the season while they won the last two meetings they had.  Indiana had a bad ending to their season winning only one of their last six games.  That combined with the Knicks fifteen game winning streak basically knocked them from having a chance to compete for the two seed.  The Hawks also had an awful ending to the season going two and five in their last seven games.  Both these teams are cold going into the playoffs so there is no telling which team can get hot and take the series home.  They play similar styles with their offense going through their bigs.  The Pacers with Roy Hibbert and David West and the Hawks with Al Horford and Josh Smith.  Atlanta is going to try to beat a very good defense when trying to score, which they've only been average at all year anyway.  The loss of Danny Granger hurts their depth immensely and makes it harder to keep Paul George off the floor at all.

The Hawks have some good players coming off the bench in Lou Williams and Zaza Pachulia who add extra scoring and rebounding to a team that definitely needs it.  These two could end up being under-the-radar key players in the series.  On paper, everyone wanted to play the Hawks, but I don't see this as being the best matchup for them.  I feel as if in the end they will indeed pull it out, but it will be in a hard fought series.  I expect Atlanta to take this team down to the wire.

Series Outcome: Pacers in 7 games

#4 Brooklyn Nets VS. #5 Chicago Bulls
Season Records: 49-33 vs 45-37
Season Series: Chicaco leads 3-1

This has been a banner season for a Nets team that hasn't seen playoff success since the Vince Carter days.  That success wasn't even what they were looking for.  Mikhail Prokhorov came into ownership of this team to take over the NBA.  Their move from New Jersey to Brooklyn has gone better than anyone could have expected.  They bolstered their lineup with additions of Joe Johnson and Andray Blatche and the returns of Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Gerald Wallace.  The Nets are an underrated defensive team, ranking sixth in the NBA in points allowed per game.  The Bulls are not anything close to an offensive team.  The only thing offensive about them is the fact they rank 29th in the league in points per game.  They win their games on the defensive end, especially since they didn't have the services of Derrick Rose for the entire season. 
e could have expected.  They bolstered their lineup with additions of Joe Johnson and

The Bulls defense and three point shooting can win them games on any given night.  That is what is going to make this a series.  Everyone is expecting the Bulls to pull off an upset here because they've been here before.  The Nets may be inexperienced as a unit, but Williams has four years of postseason experience, Johnson has seven years, Wallace has five, and this will be Jerry Stackhouse's ninth playoff appearance.  That is a lot of years of experience to have for an entire unit.  Don't underestimate this Nets team, they can ball with the best of them.  We only remember that the Bulls just ended the Heat and Knicks win streaks two weeks apart from each other.  We don't remember that the Bulls style hurts teams like the Miami and New York, the Nets play a different style.  That style will bring Brooklyn to its feet and into the conference semi-finals.

Series Outcome: Nets in 7 games

Tune into Sports Envy tomorrow as we will go over who will be the big winners in the Western Conference Series.  The East was all chalk, who will the upsets be in the West?

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