This is the time of year where I ask myself this question: How does it end? I apply that question to every playoff series I analyze and it has allowed me to correctly choose 7 of out the last 10 NBA Champions. We’re finally here, after all of the hype, all of the trash talk, and unexpected moves, the 2011 playoff are upon us in what I deem as the most exciting/emotional NBA season I’ve ever seen. Last night the playoff seeds in the Eastern Conference were set with the Bulls taking the number 1 spot, followed by the Heat, Celtics, Magic, Hawks, Knicks, Sixers, and Pacers. I must say that looking at this line up reminds me of the days of my youth where the Eastern Conference Champion would have to endure playoff wars, not games to advance…really miss the 90’s. Lets do this!
Pacers vs Bulls
What can I say about the Bulls that hasn’t already been said. They are playing phenomenal basketball and are one of the most complete teams in the league. Great coaching, great defense and the media’s pick for MVP on your team doesn’t hurt at all in a playoff match up against the unsettled Pacers. The Bulls won 3 of the 4 games against the Pacers this season but after the firing of Coach Jim O’Brien the Pacers have played better basketball, Roy Hibbert is becoming a force in the post and I suspect he and Bulls center Joakim Noah will cancel each other out. The Bulls will have a decided advantage at point guard and the 4 spot with Rose and Boozer but the most interesting match up will be between Deng and Granger. This will be a series of two very athletic teams, but the Bulls will advance in five games.
Hawks vs Magic
This is perhaps the most perplexing playoff series of both conferences. Let me be 1000% clear at this time: The Orlando Magic are the better team and they throttled the Hawks last year in the second round of the playoffs and that’s what scares me here. This season the Hawks have defeated the Magic 3 of the 4 times they’ve played mainly because they believe they can defeat the Magic…The Power of Belief! This series has seven games written all over it and from night to night you just never know which Orlando team is going to show up, will it be the Magic or the Tragic, with this team you just never know. Orlando’s inconsistent play is why this series will go longer than it should be but at the same time the Hawks have been a mess since trading Mike Bibby away at the All-Star Break. This will be a long drawn out ugly series and I am picking the Magic /Tragic to move on in seven games.
Sixers vs Heat
With all due respect to the Sixers, this will be an annihilation! The Sixers have had a great season after starting 3-13 and Head Coach Doug Collins is my pick for Coach of the Year. There will be no upsets here, the Sixers season will end with a four game sweep just as the regular season series was won by the Heat 3 games to 0.
Knicks vs Celtics
This series brings a smile to my face and I’m eagerly awaiting it. Thus far this season the Celtics have swept the series 3 games to 0 with one game remaining. During the last couple of weeks, the Knicks have played their best basketball of the year post acquiring Carmelo Anthony while the Celtics have been in a downward spiral since trading Kendrick Perkins. Didn’t the Celtics have this same loll last season before flipping the switch and making it all of the way to the NBA Finals? This years Celtics team is different from last years, this season the Celtics had their second most important player shipped to the Thunder and despite the expected falloff in defense, they have maintained their defensive disposition. Two things hinder the Celtics at this time with the first being Kendrick Perkins/Shaq created space for the perimeter players to operate in and now that is absent which created tougher shots for Ray Allen. The second issue that the Celtics have is their very thin bench; the additions of Jeff Green and Troy Murphy was supposed to fix this issue but they have been lackluster since their arrival to Bean Town. The Knicks just want to run and as fast as they can and despite games typically slowing down in the playoffs, they could very well out run the Celtics. If Rajon Rondo decides to play well, the Celtics will win easily, if the other Rondo shows up, the disinterested one then this series could very well go 7 games, but I predict the Celtics will move on in 6.
Every season in the playoffs there’s upsets, it just happens mainly due to teams matching up better against other teams but at times the Power of Belief does comes into play. I said that to say this, the Orlando Magic has a bulls eye on them and this may cause some fans to be upset with me but I feel they have the biggest chance of being upset in the first round. The Hawks seem to match up well with the Magic and I challenge any Magic fan to explain to me how they’ve lost to the Hawks three times this season. When these two teams match up it seems as if the Hawks are playing with the Power of Belief and that’s always dangerous. I expect the Magic to win but the Hawks winning would not surprise me.
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