Apr 19 2013 3:14PM

2013 NBA Playoffs: Eastern Conference First Round Preview

MIAMI HEAT vs. MILWAUKEE BUCKS

I am not saying the Bucks are going to beat the Heat because they won't. But the Bucks do have the makeup--and the history in four games this season--of being a team that takes LeBron and Miami out of their efficient zones (LeBron post-ups, D-Wade slashes, Battier/Allen corner 3s). They have dominating defender Larry Sanders and an assortment of bigs who stop the Heat's best intentions. Unfortunately, Milwaukee's shot-happy guards aren't efficient enough to consistently outscore Miami in a seven-game series, so expect low-scoring Heat victories, with perhaps the Bucks winning a game if Monta or Brandon gets hot.

PREDICTION: HEAT IN 5. Links for closer look at Heat & Bucks.

#1 HEAT

C Chris Bosh +2.40 (+477)

F LeBron James +7.88 (+720)

F Shane Battier -0.90 (+339)

G Dwyane Wade +3.39 (+571)

G Mario Chalmers +0.14 (+569)

G Ray Allen -0.60 (+174), C Udonis Haslem -2.00 (+272), C Chris Andersen +3.06* (+93), F Mike Miller -0.95* (+55), G Norris Cole -4.57 (+7)

#8 BUCKS

C Larry Sanders +5.16 (+36)

F Ersan Ilyasova +1.77 (+10)

F Mike Dunleavy -0.61 (+99)

G Monta Ellis +0.86 (-45)

G Brandon Jennings +0.95 (-286)

G J.J. Redick -1.18 (-93), F Luc Richard Mbah a Moute -3.03 (-85), G Marquis Daniels -3.33 (-101), F Ekpe Udoh +0.52 (-53), F John Henson +0.82* (-36)

Isaac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty Images
NEW YORK KNICKS vs. BOSTON CELTICS

Expect a game of halfcourt basketball that has one side trying to run an efficient "Seventeen Seconds or More" offense (Knicks) against another side (Celtics) with a historically great D that wants foes taking end-of-shot-clock attempts. Carmelo at power forward is a pure offensive force, playing with one of the best five-man units in the NBA, but KG-led C's negated their superpowers in the two games Garnett played. Pierce, on the other hand, does well leading Boston's O against New York's and Chandler's D, giving the C's a puncher's chance in this tough series.

PREDICTION: KNICKS IN 6. Links for closer look at Knicks & Celtics.

#2 KNICKS

C Tyson Chandler +3.61 (+252)

F Carmelo Anthony +2.31 (+308)

G J.R. Smith +0.37 (+296)

G Jason Kidd +1.91 (+187)

G Raymond Felton -0.68 (+281)

F Kenyon Martin -0.08* (+59), G Iman Shumpert -1.26* (-16), F Chris Copeland -2.95* (+59), F Steve Novak -2.47 (+246), C Marcus Camby -1.28* (-16)

#7 CELTICS

C Kevin Garnett +2.03 (+112)

F Brandon Bass -1.06 (-176)

F Jeff Green -0.25 (+4)

F Paul Pierce +2.55 (+122)

G Avery Bradley -3.33 (-44)

G Courtney Lee -1.70 (-94), G Jason Terry -1.54 (+60), G Jordan Crawford -2.69 (-167), C Chris Wilcox -0.16* (-47), G Terrence Williams -3.34* (-13)

Brian Babineau/Getty Images Sport
INDIANA PACERS vs. ATLANTA HAWKS

Both benches are bad, but both starting units are very good, so get used to the idea of seeing Hibbert-West-George-Stephenson-Hill playing Horford-Smith-Korver-Harris-Teague anywhere from 38-to-42 minutes per game in this series. It should prove to be quite contentious, with Pacers Coach Frank Vogel's smashmouth offense setting up power-post play with West and Hibbert on offense, while his league-leading, physically-pounding defense attempts to throw this pass-happy Hawks crew off rhythm. These five Hawks all fly under the radar and they fly together. They can hang.

PREDICTION: PACERS IN 7. Links for closer look at Pacers & Hawks.

#3 PACERS

C Roy HIbbert +2.27 (+390)

F David West +1.91 (+368)

F Paul George +2.11 (+366)

G Lance Stephenson -1.18 (+379)

G George HIll +1.25 (+419)

F Tyler Hansbrough -0.28 (-10), C Ian Mahinmi -1.77 (-138), G D.J. Augustin -2.02 (-38), G Orlando Johnson -2.82* (-5), G Gerald Green -4.09 (-8)

#6 HAWKS

C Al Horford +2.40 (+164)

F Josh Smith +2.44 (+82)

F Kyle Korver +0.83 (+199)

G Devin Harris +0.26 (+156)

G Jeff Teague +0.87 (+74)

G DeShawn Stevenson -3.00 (-54), F Anthony Tolliver -3.23* (-63), F Ivan Johnson -0.88 (-22), G John Jenkins -2.70* (-124), C Johan Petro -3.04* (-93)

Ron Hoskins/NBAE/Getty Images
BROOKLYN NETS vs. CHICAGO BULLS

First things first: If Derrick Rose chooses Game 1 to make his long-awaited NBA return, it will become the biggest basketball story of the month and potentially changes the whole look of this series. But if Rose stays out, then this may be the toughest dogfight of all the Eastern Conference knockdown, drag-out matchups this month. Both teams are two of the four slowest-pace squads in the league. That said, the Bulls' Top 5 defense may find itself compromised if the Nets choose to push the pace, with recovering Noah and hobbled Gibson both returning from injuries. Since the All-Star break, Williams does have his energy back and may put an end to this series quicker than predicted.

PREDICTION: NETS IN 7. Click links for closer look at Nets & Bulls.

#4 NETS

C Brook Lopez +3.08 (+288)

F Reggie Evans +1.75 (+116)

F Gerald Wallace +0.34 (+141)

G Joe Johnson -1.78 (+290)

G Deron Williams +2.55 (+169)

G Keith Bogans -4.70, G C.J. Watson -1.03 (+23), C Andray Blatche +1.50 (-25), F Kris Humphries -0.76 (-94), G MarShon Brooks -3.57* (-57)

#5 BULLS

C Joakim Noah +4.69 (+64)

F Carlos Boozer -0.28 (-74)

F Luol Deng +0.05 (-2)

G Jimmy Butler +0.87 (+55)

G Kirk Hinrich -0.33 (+100)

G Nate Robinson -0.20 (+29), F Taj Gibson +0.16 (+111), G Marco Bellineli -3.19 (-42), G Richard Hamilton -5.58 (-33), C Nazr Mohammed -1.02* (-11)

Ray Amati/Getty Images Sport

SOURCE: The Regularized Statistical Plus Minus numbers listed come from David Williams' You Have No Game website; numbers in parentheses are actual plus-minus totals on the season and come from Basketball-Reference; * denotes player that did not play 1000 minutes in 2012-13 season.