By John Schmeelk
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#1 Chicago Bulls vs. #8 Philadelphia 76ers
The Bulls are hard to figure. At times, they seemed to play better without Derrick Rose. I wonder how easily he will slide back into that team, considering how he dominates everything the Bulls do on offense. The question also needs to be asked if he can stay healthy over the course of a long grueling playoff run. Rose had so many injuries, and with the way he drives recklessly to the basket it won’t be too long before he lands on someone’s foot and turns an ankle. With or without Rose, no team plays harder more consistently than the Chicago Bulls. They play some of the best defense in the league and their Head Coach Tom Thibodeau deserves to be Coach of the Year. Sorry, Gregg Popovich. Luckily the Bulls get to start with the anemic Philadelphia 76ers who have all sorts of trouble scoring and did not play well in the second half of the season. The Bulls roll in a sweep.
#2 Miami Heat vs. #7 New York Knicks
See my in depth preview of the series here: (enter link for me guys)
Summary: Heat in Seven.
#3 Indiana Pacers vs. #6 Orlando Magic
This would have been a great series to watch if Dwight Howard was playing, but he isn’t. It doesn’t leave the Magic with much of a chance against the Pacers. Frank Vogel will also get Coach of the Year consideration, and he has gotten a lot out of a Pacers team without a ton of talent. They place great defense and good team basketball, but their offense often struggles. The Magic don’t have much to offer without Dwight Howard, so the Pacers take it in five games.
#4 Boston Celtics vs. #5 Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks managed to steal home court advantage from the Celtics in the final week of the season, and they’ll need every home game they can get if they want to win this series. I just don’t see it. Without Al Horford, I don’t think the Hawks have enough offensively with Joe Johnson and JR Smith having to do nearly everything themselves. Jeff Teague and Marvin Williams will give some help but the Celtics defense is so good, I don’t think they will be able to overcome it. I’m just not sure how long the Celtics can maintain their strong play. The Celtics closed the season winning nine of thirteen, and are playing some of their best ball heading into the playoffs. Ray Allen’s health will be interesting to watch as he hasn’t played with a bad ankle since March 23rd. When he returns he will come off the bench with Avery Bradley doing a good job in the starting lineup. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett are doing their thing, and Rajon Rondo is running the show. Brandon Bass has also become a very solid contributor. The Celtics win in six games.
I also think the Celtics upset the Bulls in the second round of the playoffs, setting up a matchup with the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. I hate to say it but I don’t think the Celtics can beat the Heat. They are not athletic enough and won’t be able to score. The Heat and Thunder are the best two teams in the league, and they will meet in the finals. I’ll go with the Thunder as the 2012 NBA Champions.
You can follow Schmeelk on Twitter for everything Knicks, Giants, Yankees and New York sports @Schmeelk.