NBA Playoffs--East Conference 1st Round
First post, let's get right to the prognostication.
(1) Detroit vs. (8) Milwaukee
The Pistons should basically cruise in this series. The Bucks do have the size to compete with the Pistons upfront, which should help them steal one game, but overall the Pistons are too much. I expect Detroit to ratchet up the defense a couple notches from their solid, but not great defensive numbers in the regular season. I think they will sag off TJ Ford & dare him to shoot, and punish him on the other end with a full dose of Billups in the post. The Bucks do have Redd playing well, but although The Pistons overall def. FG% was average, they guarded the 3 point line the best in the NBA.
PISTONS IN 5.
(4) Cleveland vs. (5) Washington
It just might come down to which team decides to play just a modicum of defense. A battle of two of the worst defensive clubs in the playoffs. Nevertheless, should be a very competitve series cause of two of the most explosive scorers in the NBA: LeBron & Arenas. I don't buy into this hype about LeBron & the Cavs first-time-in-the-playoffs angle that a lot of media types are making a big deal out of. It's not like this Wiz team is filled with wily vets who will take advantage of LeBron's "inexperience". As good as a scorer Arenas is, he might be one of the worst decision makers with the ball in the NBA. The guy is a turnover machine, has one of the worst asst/to ratios in the league, and just from my personal perspective, has the worst shot selection in the league; especially now that Larry has reigned in Crawford in NY. The Wiz have to consider throwing some zone or sagging man2man at Cleveland. Have LeBron & the rest of the Cavs prove they can hit outside shots. I would love to see Mike Brown put LeBron onto Arenas for some possessions & see if his length effects Arenas. This series could go either way. In this instance, I am going with the best-player-on-the-floor tiebreaker. LeBron over Arenas all day.
CAVS IN 7
(3) New Jersey vs. (6) Indiana
As good as the Nets have played down the stretch, I am sure they got the opponent they least wanted to see of the bottom 4 seeds in the East. Although, Indiana has had major injury problems(physical & mental) all year, which in turn led to chemistry issues & juggled line-ups, they are dangerous. Very dangerous. They had similar problems last year, and played the Pistons tough for 6 games. Carlisle always gets his teams to bring up their defensive intensity in the playoffs. The Pacers have O'Neal at the 4, which just happens to be the Nets' glaring weakspot. As underrated as Jason Collins is as a defender, he's better at guarding centers, not athletic 4s who like to float out--this should be an interesting subplot. With all that said, the Nets backcourt has looked nearly unstoppable the last couple weeks. Larry Frank really must emphasize to his troops to get out and run like the Nets of a couple years ago, cause the Pacers really don't like to play uptempo at all. It could come down to which team imposes its preferred tempo. This series could easily go 7. I could have easily chosen the Pacers, but they seem to go through too many lulls offensively and can look disjointed. Also, the shaky status of Tinsley does not help their case.
NETS IN 6
(2) Heat vs. (7) Bulls
Bottom line, the Bulls just don't have enough offensive firepower to compete with the Heat over the longhaul. I think the Bulls will sneak one game cause their superb defense will keep them in games & Gordon will probably go off one game from the 3 point line. Shaq & Wade will just be too much each night. The Bulls don't really have a big guy that Shaq needs to follow around on the perimeter defensively or get him caught in pick/roll situations (the bane of Shaq's existence). Although, I'm a huge Skiles fan (was robbed of Coach of the Year in '05) & he might just squeeze two wins out of his young squad.
HEAT IN 5