By Chris Lehman
In previous years, the East has been known for having one or two great teams, followed by a series of poor teams. This usually resulted in several teams making the playoffs with a losing record. This year, we finally see a change. Every team in the playoffs this year boasts a winning record, the way it should be. The East still appears lopsided, here’s the preview:
#1 Chicago Bulls vs. #8 Philadelphia 76ers
– The Bulls were supposed to run away with this series. Not necessarily a sweep, but no one ever really doubted that the Bulls would move on to the next round. In game one, however, Derrick Rose came down with what appears to be a knee injury (I’ve heard ACL). During the regular season, Rose missed a lot of games and the Bulls didn’t miss a step. They are such a talented team, they should still handle the 76ers, just with a little more difficulty. Bulls should win in 6.
#4 Boston Celtics vs. #5 Atlanta Hawks
– For the last few years, I’ve been a believer in the Hawks. But every year, they disappoint by coming so close but then losing the handle. For me, this series all comes down to Rajon Rondo. He missed several games but played in the final game of the season where he totaled 15 assists in about one half. When Rondo is on, the Celtics are on. As we saw in each of Rondo’s playoff years, he tends to increase his level of play. I expect nothing less this year. He will lead his team out of the first round, but as usual, the Hawks will put up a valiant fight. Celtics win in 7 games.
#3 Indiana Pacers vs. #6 Orlando Magic
– Last year this would have been a huge mismatch, but for the Magic. The Pacers are having their best year since the Reggie Miller days and are looking very impressive. Even if the Magic had their best player in this series, they wouldn’t have been able to keep up due to other mismatches. But now with Howard out, due to injury, this should be the easiest matchup of the first round. Size will be the main factor here. Look for the pacers to sweep the Magic and comfortably move on to the second round.
#2 Miami Heat vs. #7 New York Knicks
– I’m writing this during game one of the series. At first, I had this series going to 7 games. As I watch this game, I am close to reconsidering that pick. The Knicks are discouraged and not playing how they are capable of. Part of the reason is their inability to get a single call this game, but I won’t blame it all on that. Also, with the potential loss of lockdown rookie defender, Shumpert, the Knicks are now forced to rely on old-timers, Mike Bibby and Baron Davis. I thought the Heat were going to win this series anyways, but now it will be slightly more convincing. The Knicks will still put up a good fight because they are a very talented team. I can honestly see the Knicks being swept in 4 very close games, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. The Heat will win in 5.