The fact that the Pacers made the playoffs symbolizes everything that is wrong with the East. A team that clinched the 8th and final seed with a 36-43 record and three more games to go. The Pacers are a much better home team than they are on the road; however that is not going to help them in a first round upset bid. The Bulls have come on strong after the All-Star break and are have a seven game winning streak and are 9-1 in their last ten. The Bulls are led by MVP candidate Derrick Rose (avg. 25.1 points a game) and allow only 91.3 points per game, good for 2nd best in the league. The Bulls are hot and have too much talent for the Pacers to handle.
Bulls in 4
(4) Orlando Magic vs (5) Atlanta Hawks
This has the potential to be the best first round series in the East, and the only one that I am picking to go all seven games. The Magic have post season experience and with Dwight Howard in the middle (avg 23 and 14) teams have trouble scoring in the paint leading the Magic to have the 5th best scoring defense in the league. Sixers fans were treated to Howard's thunderous slam over Jrue Holiday being 'SportCenter's top play today and Howard seems to be able to have his way at will on the interior. His one weakness is his temper--as seen by the recent one game suspension resulting from his 18th technical of the season. He engages officials far too often and if the Magic want to make a run into the semifinals Howard will need to keep his attitude in check. The Hawks also defend well, giving up an average of 95.8 points a game, good for 9th best in the league; however, they do not possess the offensive talent to keep up with the Magic's Howard, Vince Carter (15 ppg) and Jason Richardson (14 ppg). The Magic have more depth than the Hawks, which will make all the difference
Magic in 7
(3) Boston Celtics vs (6) New York Knicks
The Celtics have been fading since the trade of Kendrick Perkins and the Knicks have recently been playing with a new found purpose under the leadership of Carmelo Anthony. In fact, these two teams will meet in the regular season finale on Wednesday, but don't look to that game for a preview of the series. Coach Doc Rivers has decided to rest the Celtics aging stars Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett in the team’s final two games--even though Boston still had a chance at the number two seed going into last night's game. The Knicks struggled initially after they won the Carmelo trade lottery, but have won seven in a row and guaranteed a winning record for the first time since 2000-01. The Knicks certainly have a chance to pull an upset, but the Celtics have valuable playoff experience. Allen, Pierce, and Garnett have been there before and that will make all the difference.
Celtics in 6
(2) Miami Heat vs (7) Philadelphia 76ers
If you haven't been watching the Sixers in the past couple of years, here's hoping you tuned in this season. No, they did not have the best year or really even a great year. However, first year Head Coach Doug Collins took a team that finished 27-55 last season, only really added Evan Turner (and subtracted Slammin' Sammy Dalembert), and led the team to no worse than a .500 season. That's pretty good in my books, especially when considering the team started 3-14 to begin the year. Exciting as they have been to watch this season, the Sixers luck will run out against the Heat. Philadelphia has lost all three regular season matchups with Miami by an average of a little more than 10 points a game. I think the Sixers can pull off one or two nail-biting victories, but they are too inexperienced and play too similar a style to the Heat to win this series.
Heat in 6
(1) Bulls vs (4) Magic
The Bulls have the advantage in the backcourt, but Joakim Noah has been struggling recently so look for Dwight Howard to keep the Magic close. Derrick Rose will beat out Howard in the MVP voting and he will do it again in this series. Oh, did I mention Chicago is 35-5 at home this year?
Bulls in 6
(2) Heat vs (3) Celtics
The Heat just beat the Celtics to wrap up the second seed and this series will be a clash of two styles. The Heat love to play up-tempo while the Celtics run a deliberate half court offense. Teams like the Celtics generally have the best chance to beat the Heat, but Miami’s big 3 will prove too much for Boston’s lesser 3 (but hey, at least they all have a ring) and wear the aging stars down.
Heat in 7
(1) Bulls vs (2) Heat
All chalk so far in the East and it’s going to stay that way in the Conference finals. Maybe it’s because I am rooting against the Heat. Maybe it’s because after his hour long TV special I will never like Lebron James again. Maybe, it’s because the Bulls are playing the best basketball heading into the playoffs. Derrick Rose and company will have home court advantage in this series and that’s huge (I mentioned they only lost 5 games at home this year right?). Chicago is better on the defensive end and Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah should over power Chris Bosh and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
Bulls in 7