The Weekly Slap: Eastern Conference Previews
(1) Chicago Bulls Vs. (8) Philadelphia 76ers
Sixers swingman Evan Turner made news the other day when he claimed Philly would rather face Chicago in the first round as opposed to Miami. On the surface it made sense seeing as how the Sixers have never had Miami’s number, but disrespecting the top team in the conference isn’t exactly a smart idea either. Chicago’s too deep and too talented defensively for Philadelphia to somehow steal four games in seven tries although I do believe all of the games will be close.
Chicago in 5
(4) Boston Celtics Vs. (5) Atlanta Hawks
Look, I love Josh Smith and I really hope the guy eventually lands on a squad that’ll help maximize his talents. That said, does anyone really believe in Atlanta? A good chance stands there will be more Celtics fans at Atlanta’s home games than Hawks fans. Not that that has anything to do with much, but with a rested Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett, these rejuvenated Celtics are just too experienced for an Atlanta team led by Joe Johnson whose contract situation warrants no discussion. That said, it wouldn’t surprise me if Atlanta made this a series somehow, someway. Remember, they took Boston to the brink of elimination a few years ago. Regardless, Rajon Rondo wills Boston to victory averaging 13+ assists this series.
Interesting subplot this series? Kevin Garnett Vs. Ivan Johnson and Zaza Pachulia
Boston in 6
(3) Indiana Pacers Vs. (6) Orlando Magic
I was going to pick Indiana regardless if Dwight Howard played or not. Now, since he’s not playing, it’s a no brainer. I’m not trusting any team with a center who goes by the name of “Big Baby” and if push comes to shove, Orlando will off themselves this series by launching up three pointers at an alarming rate while Stan Van Gundy innocently sips his Pepsi on the sideline. A series victory for Danny Granger, Paul George, Darren Collison, Roy Hibbert and company is vital for a young squad like Indy. And given the fact Orlando is the definition of backing into the playoffs, this first round shouldn’t be too difficult. Keyword: shouldn’t.
Indiana in 4
(2) Miami Heat Vs. (7) New York Knicks
This is the best series of the first round. We finally get to see LeBron vs. Carmelo on a stage with significance and nevermind if the Heat swept the Knicks 3-0 in the regular season, none of it matters. What’s interesting is the fact that while many people are picking Miami to win the series, damn near half the people I have spoken to have said they won’t be surprised if the Knicks somehow stole the series. The question for Miami stems whether or not they can guard the three point stripe against sharp shooters like J.R. Smith and Steve Novak. Meanwhile, the question for New York is if they can lock down defensively enough to control LeBron, D-Wade and Chris Bosh for four victories in a seven game stretch. A bunch of “ifs” surround this series. I’m picking Miami because there simply is no other option.
Miami in 6