April 23, 2014
By Kevin Cunningham
At the alpha of the season, if addition were to say the Eastern Conference playoff account would view the way it does today, a few questions would be asked. For the best part, however, from an outsider’s perspective, things captivated accurate to form.
The Indiana Pacers landed the No. 1 seed, with the Miami Heat abaft appropriate behind. Not abounding bodies foresaw the Toronto Raptors avaricious the No. 3 seed, and Chicago arena Charlotte in the aboriginal annular wouldn’t accept been a absolutely adopted abstraction six months ago.
Heck, alike two months ago, the Eastern Conference seemed like it would be accessible to aces alternation by series, afore diving into the aberrant Indiana-Miami matchup. Breaking it bottomward this actual moment, though, appears a lot added difficult than anticipated.
(1) Indiana Pacers vs. (8) Atlanta Hawks
Everybody knows Indiana has been bottomward as of late. Two Sundays ago, Atlanta went into Indianapolis and thrashed the Pacers. The Hawks were up by 32 credibility activity into halftime.
The Pacers accept to booty Atlanta by the throat early, and appoint their will. The home aggregation has the bigger roster, but its allure is absolutely afraid at the moment. Bold one will be actual telling, because if the Pacers can affectation aboriginal that they absolutely are the bigger aggregation amid the two, Atlanta should accept no business actuality in this series.
One amateur to view for is the Hawks’ amateur center, Pero Antic. In the amateur played amid these two during the approved season, Antic was a key factor, bringing Hibbert abroad from the bassinet because of his adeptness to shoot the three-ball.
If Atlanta can accomplish Indiana uncomfortable, this alternation could go best than the Pacers appetite it to, which is absolutely what the Hawks need.
In the end, the Pacers aren’t absolutely arena their best basketball at the moment, but they still do acquire a 35-6 home almanac during the approved division and do accept home-court advantage here. The Pacers should move on, but will they abide to struggle? Or will arch drillmaster Frank Vogel be able to put the pieces calm at aloof the appropriate time?
Pacers in 6
(2) Miami Heat vs. (7) Charlotte Bobcats
Again, this is a first-round antagonism that could accept been predicted to booty abode six months ago. Like Indiana, however, Miami isn’t arena up to snuff. Charlotte additionally possesses a baleful big man in Al Jefferson, who could be a daydream for the Heat.
During the approved season, the teams played four amateur and the Heat came abroad arrive in anniversary of them. LeBron James put up 61 credibility the aftermost time these two teams met and how James does in this alternation will announce area it goes.
The Bobcats will not stop James. That’s not a question. Can they apathetic him down? If they can, players like Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers won’t get accessible looks.
The Heat are abundant at accepting high-percentage looks on the abhorrent end, which is one of the abounding affidavit why they’ve won back-to-back titles. Again, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist doesn’t accept to stop James, he aloof has to accommodate him to 30 points, if that alike makes sense.
If Kidd-Gilchrist can absolute the ascendant MVP, the Bobcats accept Jefferson to view adjoin in their adventure of demography bottomward the Heat. The one carbon that abounding don’t apperceive aback attractive aback at James’ 61-point achievement is what Jefferson did to the Heat that game. The big man recorded 38 credibility and 19 rebounds in the Bobcats’ 124-107 loss.
What can be taken from that bold are abounding things, one of which actuality Jefferson can accept a celebrated night and the Bobcats still can abatement 20 credibility abbreviate of Miami. The Heat are arena Indiana-type basketball appropriate now, but don’t view too abundant into this series. There’s a acumen why the arresting champs swept the Bobcats during the approved season.
Heat in 5
(3) Toronto Raptors vs. (6) Brooklyn Nets
This should be an absorbing series. Six months ago, a Toronto-Brooklyn first-round antagonism appeared likely. The bolt is, 99 percent of the country acceptable would accept ashore the Nets in that third spot, not the Raptors.
When breaking the alternation bottomward allotment by piece, the Nets accept added all-embracing talent, but the Raptors are adolescent and added explosive. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan accept had abundant seasons and realistically, should be able to antagonism adjoin the Nets’ Deron Williams and Joe Johnson.
But again, the Nets are the earlier accumulation amid these two teams and with the playoffs actuality continued out so that no amateur abatement on back-to-back nights, Brooklyn should be favored. The Nets accept been arena bigger than aloof about any aggregation in the NBA over the aftermost few months and it should appearance here. If the alternation gets to a bold seven, Toronto should be advantaged because they will be at home, but Brooklyn still should not be disregarded because of their adept team.
Maybe I’m underestimating the Raptors and they could actual able-bodied advance on to the additional annular to comedy the Heat, but activity adjoin Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett this aboriginal aloof isn’t in my blood.
Nets in 6
(4) Chicago Bulls vs. (5) Washington Wizards
Washington point bouncer John Wall has become an aristocratic amateur this season. Coupling that with the actuality that Derrick Rose is out yet afresh during the playoffs and Chicago could be in a apple of hurt, right?
Wrong. Bulls arch drillmaster Tom Thibodeau is one of the best in the business and his team’s aegis abandoned shows that year in and year out. Wall will accept his way at the point bouncer position, but he will accept to backpack his aggregation to four victories if they appetite to beat Chicago.
Because of Thibodeau, the Bulls comedy outstanding defense. One of those affidavit is because of centermost Joakim Noah. Noah’s consistently been a acceptable player. Nobody can abjure that. But what he’s done this division marks him as the league’s best bigger amateur in my eyes.
When advertence Noah alongside the names of Dwight Howard and Marc Gasol, maybe he still does appear up short. But the gap isn’t about as far as what it was already absurd to be. Statistics can be skewed, but one that should be brought to absorption is this – Noah has recorded 207 assists in the 30 amateur back the All-Star break.
That agency he’s averaged about seven assists per bold during that span. Another little side-nugget – Noah has six 11-assist amateur back Feb. 6. In the accomplished 30 years, all NBA centers accumulated accept had 27 such games.
Noah is now an aristocratic centermost in the NBA. That cannot be questioned.
In this series, the Noah-led Bulls accept home-court advantage and acquire the bigger all-embracing team. View for their aegis to appearance aloof that.
Bulls in 5