Eastern Conference Preview:
Bulls are a safe 
bet to Advance

Chicago-Indiana: Danny Granger may have said he wanted to play the Bulls rather than the Celtics but after this series, he will be singing a different tune. Chicago has too much size for Indiana to handle and having the presumptive MVP in Derrick Rose helps as well. I don’t think the Bulls will have the least bit of trouble. After an extended absence from the NBA’s second season the excitement will be back in Conseco Fieldhouse, maybe even enough of it to steal a game. But even that is a bit of a stretch. I expect Chicago to dominate this series from start-to-finish.

Series Prediction: Bulls sweep 4-0

Miami-Philadelphia: The Miami Heat has been playing amazing ball as of late and the rest of the NBA should be extremely scared. Wade and James are in top form and Bosh has shown signs since his mid-season struggles that he is ready to be a factor in the post. Wade and James are going to kick it up another level but the x-factor is Bosh and the supporting cast. Philly had a very good season but it will come to an end in this series. Despite Miami’s lack of size, point guard and bench play, I don’t think they will see any problems this series. Especially when Wade and James raise their game, they leave the Sixers in the dust.

Series Prediction: Heat in 5

Boston-New York: This Boston team is not the same Boston team many were expecting to see in April. Ever since their trade of Kendrick Perkins for Jeff Green, they have not been the same. While the Thunder has begun to play their best ball of the season, the Celtics seem to have fallen off. Despite the fact that they still statistically have the NBA’s best defense, they have been in a funk. The uncertainty of Shaquille O’Neal’s calf is also a source of concern. The Knicks also haven’t been the same since the deadline. Despite the fact that they acquired Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks lost many of the players that constructed their identity. I think they will have trouble in this series but the firepower of Anthony and Stoudemire will be enough to keep it interesting. Playoff basketball is different and you need stars like Stoudemire and Anthony to win a series. The fans at MSG are back in the playoffs and the atmosphere in the building, especially against the defending Eastern Conference champions, will be electric. Despite Boston’s trademark defense, I expect Anthony or Stoudemire to go for 40+ more than once. However, Boston’s defense and experience will get them through a tougher series than they expected.

Series Prediction: Boston in 6

Can the Knicks bang with Boston?
Orlando-Atlanta: Orlando went through a face-lift earlier this season. They completely changed their team, adding Jason Richardson, Gilbert Arenas, and Hedo Turkoglu. Also, Dwight Howard has made huge strides this year in his offensive game making the Magic even more dangerous in the playoffs. Last year, Orlando swept Atlanta easily; even though there is only a 1-seed difference, the difference in these teams is much bigger than that. I expect Orlando to win this series with ease again. Atlanta always seems to be in some kind of disarray, even if they put together a decent record in the East. Al Horford has emerged this year as one of the NBA’s best big men but I don’t think that they have enough to stay competitive against Orlando. Despite the fact that they are in the fourth seed, I think that Orlando got a very good matchup.

Series Prediction: Orlando in 5

Western Conference:

San Antonio-Memphis: This series is a very intriguing one. San Antonio stumbled a bit down the stretch but managed to keep the No. 1 seed in the West. However, I think they will be in for some battles against a big, young, and hungry Memphis Grizzlies team. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol give them a front line that is hard for anyone to match up with. Also, despite the ridiculous extension they gave him, Mike Conley is playing some of the best ball of his career, even if it still doesn’t merit his extension. The Spurs have been playing well all season and I think they will surely move on to the next round. However, I think that this series is going to take a lot out of them. Also, reports are that Manu Ginobili is doubtful for Game 1. The Spurs are vulnerable here. Ginobili is what makes them tick. The Spurs are definitely at risk to drop the first one at home. San Antonio will win this series but if Memphis still had Rudy Gay, it might be a different story.

Series Prediction: San Antonio in 6

Ginobili is doubtful for Game 1
LA Lakers-New Orleans: Out of all of the teams in the West’s top four, the Lakers ended up with the most favorable opponent. Although Chris Paul has done a good job holding things together since losing David West to an ACL injury, I don’t think they have much of a chance in this series. The Lakers, aside from their recent five-game skid, had been playing their best basketball of the season. The best news for the Lakers this week is that center Andrew Bynum will not be out for an extended period of time after getting injured in their game on Tuesday against San Antonio. The defending champs won’t have much trouble here. I see CP3 willing New Orleans to one win on their home court but not much more.

Series Prediction: Los Angeles in 5

Dallas-Portland: This series has probably one of the best storylines in recent memory. LaMarcus Aldridge has had by far the best season of his career. However, his mother has been battling cancer and is not healthy enough to travel to watch him play, but her son is coming home to Dallas. Aside from that very touching story, there’s also the fact that Portland is much improved since the All Star break. After trading for Gerald Wallace, the Blazers have been playing excellent and have gone 6-2 against the West’s top four teams after going 1-7 before Wallace’s arrival. His defense against the likes of Kevin Durant has been superb but he has also undergone an offensive revival. After enough time to gel, they have become one of the NBA’s scariest teams. They have the size to match up with the contenders in the post and a physical backcourt that can get up in your face defensively. However, Dallas has Dirk Nowitzki, a stout defense of their own, and a deep bench. But they have not been playing well as of late and the Blazers possess several physical mismatches in the lineup. They ended the season on a four-game winning streak and seem to have righted the ship a bit with Jason Terry starting to get back on track after struggling down the stretch. Despite getting things together, Dallas is still vulnerable because Portland has not been playing like a 6-seed as of late, especially against the West’s top teams.
How big will crash be for Portland?

The last time Portland played Dallas in the playoffs it went seven games and the Blazers had to come out of a 3-0 hole to force a decisive game. I don’t think either team will get in that kind of a hole this time around and the series will be competitive throughout. The last Portland-Dallas series in 2003 also gave us one of the best post-game press conferences of all-time. I full expect both teams to play hard but a different result than in ’03.

Series Prediction: Portland in 7

OKC-Denver: The games in this series will probably be the most entertaining of them all. Oklahoma City has undergone a defensive makeover since adding Kendrick Perkins and unleashing Serge Ibaka to roam free defensively. Their defense, coupled with the duo of Durant and Westbrook, makes for what looks to be a complete team. They are extremely fun to watch offensively and can put the ball in the hoop with the best of them.  Speaking of the best of them, the Denver Nuggets boast the NBA’s most potent offense and since the Carmelo Anthony trade their team has gotten even more explosive. If you like offense, threes, and fast breaks you are going to love this series. Both teams love to run offensively and are athletically breathtaking in the open court. I see this series going seven games. Denver has been one of the most fun teams to watch since they traded Anthony and Oklahoma City has risen from the “fun-to-watch lovable, young team” to a contender in the last months of the season. I think that Denver will push the Thunder to the brink but the defensive leadership of Perkins and the closing ability of Durant and Westbrook will put the Thunder over the top in a wild series.

Series Prediction: OKC in 7

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