Cohen: East Playoff Analysis

By Josh Cohen
April 12, 2011


With the playoff matchups set, I decided to analyze each series in the Eastern Conference, including Magic-Hawks, Bulls-Pacers, Celtics-Knicks and Heat-76ers.


ORLANDO MAGIC VS. ATLANTA HAWKS

Ignore the regular season series between the Magic and Hawks because every game they played was inconsequential evidence of what to expect in this rematch of last year’s conference semifinals.

The first meeting was before Orlando’s blockbuster trades; the second collision was during the Magic’s stomach virus epidemic, the third was the first game following the deals and the final contest was injury-plagued for the blue and white.

While Jason Collins was credited for his willingness to body up on Dwight Howard in the regular season, I expect Superman to flourish and dominate against his counterpart in a seven-game series. I also anticipate Jameer Nelson to thrive against Kirk Hinrich, who the Hawks acquired at the trade deadline from the Wizards.

One of the more intriguing matchups will be at the shooting guard spot with Joe Johnson and Jason Richardson – two explosive scorers and primetime players.

Some of the most glaring curiosities will be injury related as Atlanta’s Josh Smith recently returned from a sprained knee and it remains unspecified whether Orlando’s J.J. Redick will be back after missing more than a dozen games with a lower abdominal strain.


ANTICIPATED MATCHUPS


TEAM
PG
SG
C
PF
SF
R
R
MAGIC
Jameer Nelson

Jason Richardson

Dwight Howard

Brandon Bass

Hedo Turkoglu

Gilbert Arenas

Ryan Anderson
HAWKS
Kirk Hinrich

Joe Johnson

Jason Collins

Al Horford

Josh Smith

Jamal Crawford

Marvin Williams





















Who will win the Magic-Hawks series and in how many games?
Who will win the Magic-Hawks series and in how many games?
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CHICAGO BULLS VS. INDIANA PACERS

Derrick Rose is an MVP candidate, Tom Thibodeau is a contender for Coach of the Year honors and Carlos Boozer – when he wasn’t injured – confirmed his value as one of the best signings last summer.

The Bulls were spectacular during the regular season – winning 20-plus more games this year than last. Some believe that because of their defensive brilliance and Rose’s elusiveness, Chicago should be considered a favorite to advance to the NBA Finals.

Yet, because of their lack of postseason experience and because No. 1 seeds in the Eastern Conference have generally been eliminated prior to The Finals over the last several seasons, the Bulls resemble past teams that flourished during the regular season but fell short in the end.

Nonetheless, it almost seems impracticable at first glance for the Bulls to be eradicated in the opening round to the Pacers. Though, contrary to popular opinion, I think Indiana has the talent – not necessarily the chemistry, experience or poise – to compete tooth and nail with Chicago.

Aside from the point guard position – which naturally favors the Bulls – some could argue that the Pacers have the edge at each of the other spots in the starting lineup. Roy Hibbert is a more all-around center than Joakim Noah, Tyler Hansbrough – although he doesn’t have the same reputation as Boozer – has been Indiana’s most consistent player over the second half of the season, Danny Granger is an All-Star caliber player while Luol Deng is more of a great supplementary asset and either the rookie Paul George or the veteran Mike Dunleavy Jr. is just simply better than Keith Bogans.

All things considered, obviously Chicago should win the series, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Indiana is far more competitive than one would originally expect.


ANTICIPATED MATCHUPS


TEAM
PG
SG
C
PF
SF
R
R
BULLS
Derrick Rose

Keith Bogans

Joakim Noah

Carlos Boozer

Luol Deng

Taj Gibson

Kyle Korver
PACERS
Darren Collison

Mike Dunleavy

Roy Hibbert

Tyler Hansbrough

Danny Granger

Paul George

James Posey





















Who will win the Bulls-Pacers series and in how many games?
Who will win the Bulls-Pacers series and in how many games?
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BOSTON CELTICS VS. NEW YORK KNICKS

Just a couple of months ago, the Celtics were as daunting as the first time I watched Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video and were dominant like a lion nagging on a squirrel.

In spite of a similar meltdown last season toward the end of the regular season, Boston doesn’t resemble a team that will coast in any playoff series.

Especially considering the fact that they will have to play against an opponent that has been on fire lately and one that is certainly not a traditional No. 6 seed, the C’s may be in for a rollercoaster ride in the First Round against the revamped Knicks.

Assuming Amar’e Stoudemire returns from his sprained ankle and Carmelo Anthony proves his worth as an elite postseason performer, New York should give Boston everything it can handle.

Chauncey Billups is renowned for his playoff excellence and should provide the necessary leadership for a franchise that has not been in the postseason since 2004.

Some of the matchups are fascinating: Rondo vs. Billups, Pierce vs. Anthony, Garnett vs. Stoudemire. It will be imperative for Boston’s reserves such as Jeff Green and Jermaine O'Neal to flourish against a much more inferior Knicks bench.

Also, although Shaquille O’Neal is expected to return for Game 1, it remains mysterious whether he will be an effective presence. The 15-time NBA All-Star missed 27 games with an Achilles’ tendon and foot injuries before he strained his calf in his first game back last week.


ANTICIPATED MATCHUPS


TEAM
PG
SG
C
PF
SF
R
R
CELTICS
Rajon Rondo

Ray Allen

Shaquille O'Neal

Kevin Garnett

Paul Pierce

Jeff Green

Glen Davis
KNICKS
Chauncey Billups

Landry Fields

Ronny Turiaf

Amar'e Stoudemire

Carmelo Anthony

Toney Douglas

Shawne Williams





















Who will win the Celtics-Knicks series and in how many games?
Who will win the Celtics-Knicks series and in how many games?
Latest Opinions






MIAMI HEAT VS. PHILADELPHIA 76ers

As far as I am concerned, the Heat caught a break. Instead of being challenged by the formidable Knicks, Miami will contend with the 76ers in what appears to be far less intimidating.

As a result of their victory over the Celtics on Sunday, the Heat climbed above their enemies from New England in the standings and essentially forced Boston to rest its stars for the rest of the regular season.

More than probably any other playoff series in the Eastern Conference, it would be absolutely stunning if Philadelphia eliminated Miami.

I anticipate LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to prosper and wear down the injury-plagued 76ers. Although both Andre Iguodala (knee tendinitis) and Lou Williams (strained hamstring) are expected to be back for Game 1, it’s unknown how valuable they will be.

In Philly’s defense, I think Elton Brand, who has enjoyed a rebound season following two very discouraging seasons with the franchise, will give Chris Bosh some problems.


ANTICIPATED MATCHUPS


TEAM
PG
SG
C
PF
SF
R
R
HEAT
Mario Chalmers

Dwyane Wade

Zydrunas Ilgauskas

Chris Bosh

LeBron James

James Jones

Mike Miller
76ERS
Jrue Holiday

Jodie Meeks

Spencer Hawes

Elton Brand

Andre Iguodala

Lou Williams

Evan Turner





















Who will win the Heat-76ers series and in how many games?
Who will win the Heat-76ers series and in how many games?
Latest Opinions



I also decided to ask some of my colleagues what their predictions are in the First Round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs.


Dan
Savage

Kristy Cannon

Josh
Cohen

Melanie Curtsinger

Nick
Ortiz

Adly Santiago

Noah Sharfman

Elizabeth Brett
ORL-ATL Magic in 4 Magic in 4 Magic in 5 Magic in 6 Magic in 6 Magic in 5 Magic in 6 Magic in 5
CHI-IND Bulls in 5 Bulls in 5 Bulls in 6 Bulls in 5 Bulls in 5 Bulls in 4 Bulls in 5 Bulls in 4
BOS-NYK Celtics in 5 Knicks in 7 Celtics in 7 Celtics in 6 Celtics in 7 Knicks in 7 Knicks in 7 Celtics in 6
MIA-PHI Heat in 4 Heat in 5 Heat in 4 Heat in 4 Heat in 4 Heat in 4 Heat in 4 Heat in 5