Friday, 19 April 2013
2013 NBA EASTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS PREVIEW BY QUETT WALKER
The NBA playoffs are here!! The NBA playoffs are here!!
After a very exciting season, the teams are set for their first round matchups. Let’s start by previewing the 4 Eastern Conference matchups.
Miami Heat vs Milwaukee Bucks
Every year there is always a series in the first round that could result in a sweep and this matchup between the Heat and Bucks has the most potential to result in just that.
The Heat have been able to win the season series 3 -1 and although we all know that games in the playoffs and season possess totally different intensities and level of play, the season is a good indicator to see exactly how the two teams fare against each other.
This past season, Miami has achieved the amazing accomplishment of going on a 27 game winning streak, second highest in NBA history. Not only has Lebron James turned into a superhuman freak during this streak but the role players have had to step up on a number of occasions and this has no doubt boosted their confidence and the overall team morale.
The Milwaukee Bucks have not been in the playoffs since 2010 and have returned after having a decent season due to the great guard play of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis and the emergence of centre Larry Sanders. Solid play from power forward Ersan İlyasova and the addition of J.J. Redick at the trade deadline in February has ensured that the Bucks have returned to the playoffs.
Although the Bucks have the better point guard and centre in Brandon Jennings and Larry Sanders (two weaknesses of the Heat) and have played Miami very tough during the season, the Heat have the deeper team and more playoff and championship experience. There is absolutely no doubt that Miami will be favoured to win this series as the Bucks just don’t have the talent to deny the Heat entry to the second round.
Anything less than repeating as NBA champions will be considered a failure for the Miami Heat.
Miami Heat win 4-0
New York Knicks vs Boston Celtics
This series will definitely be the most entertaining in the East due to the rivalry of these two teams which dates back to the 1950s.
The Knicks made their return to the playoffs in 2011 after failing to qualify for 7 straight years. The Celtics swept the Knicks 4-0 in the first round of 2011 playoffs making it the second series sweep for the Knicks as they were also swept in the first round of the 2004 playoffs by the New Jersey Nets.
In both these situations the Knicks were the lower ranked seed. This time around the Knicks are the 2nd seed in the conference Eastern conference.
Carmelo Anthony has elevated his play to a superstar level which has not only seen him win the scoring champion title this season but also has put his team in a position to advance past the first round since 2000 NBA playoffs. Veterans such as Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby and Tyson Chandler have added leadership and toughness to the team while role players such as JR Smith, Steve Novak and Kenyon Martin make up a solid bench that enables the Knicks to compete with the elite in the league.
The Boston Celtics possess a wealth of championship swagger and experience that will definitely need to be tapped into if they want to advance in the playoffs, especially with the absence of their All Star point guard Rajon Rondo. The Celtics’ performance has been up and down this season but their play has been decent enough for them to make the playoffs. They have veteran leadership in Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, good role players in Jason Terry, Brandon Bass and Avery Bradley and a potential all-star in Jeff Green who has shown flashes of great play in the second half of the season.
The Knicks definitely have the deeper and younger team however the Celtics have a more experienced and physical team as their players have been together longer and play more tenacious defense. The Knicks have the edge with this matchup as the ageing legs of Boston and the inconsistent play of Kevin Garnett maybe issues too great for the Celtics to overcome.
We all cannot forget the ‘Honey Nut Cheerios’ debacle at the Garden earlier this year. Allegedly, during a game Kevin Garnett apparently told Carmelo Anthony that his wife LaLa ‘tasted like Honey Nut Cheerios’. This infuriated Carmelo Anthony which threw him off of his game and allowed the Celtics to win that night. That same alleged statement led to Carmelo Anthony attempting to confront Garnett at the team bus outside the arena later that night which resulted in Carmelo Anthony getting a one game suspension from the NBA. There is no doubt this is still in the mind of Anthony and will be extra motivation to beat the Celtics.
Knicks win 4 - 2
Brooklyn Nets vs Chicago Bulls
Both of these teams are evenly matched in this series.
The Brooklyn Nets made one of the biggest splashes with their cash in the offseason by securing Deron Williams to a big contract, resigning Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace and making a trade for Joe Johnson. In addition their centre Brook Lopez has raised his performance this year which saw him earn an all-star berth. The Nets have also done a very good job with surrounding Williams and Lopez with solid role players. As a result the Nets have started off the season very well but slumped a bit until they were able to pick up their performance once they fired Avery Johnson and replaced him with PJ Carlesimo.
This Brooklyn team is better than a lot of people think.
The biggest questions surrounding the Bulls as they begin their playoff run is whether or not Derrick Rose will make any sort of on court appearance in the playoffs. Chicago has had to weather the storm during the season due to the absence of their superstar point guard and have surprised many at how well they have performed. No one would have expected the Bulls to be seeded 5th in the Eastern conference this season.
Although this Bulls team is not as deep as they were last year, they still have amazing front court in Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, a good point guard in Kirk Hinrich and a spark plug off the bench in Nate Robinson.
As these two teams are evenly matched, it could really go either way as to who advances to the second round. However the Bulls have more chemistry and cohesion as they have been together longer as a team since most of the players on the Nets have only been assembled this past season. Deron Williams will have an advantage at the point guard position over Nate Robinson and Kirk Hinrich, unless Derrick Rose comes back. However Brook Lopez will have his hands full up front dealing with Noah and Boozer.
Due to their tenacious defense, the cohesion that exists between the players as a result of their past playoff experience and their tough minded coach, the edge will have to go to the Bulls in this matchup.
Bull wins 4 – 2
Indiana Pacers vs Atlanta Hawks
This series is probably the least interesting matchup in the East.
Both of these teams have experienced inconsistent play towards the end of the season. The Indiana Pacers were seeded 2nd a few weeks ago but have dropped to the 3rd seed while the Atlanta Hawks dropped from the 5th seed to the 6th seed.
The Indiana Pacers can attribute their season success to their small forward Paul George who has performed at a level this season that saw him get his first All-star berth. Also Roy Hibbert and David West round out their front court and with their defensive prowess and outstanding offensive abilities they pose a great threat to their opponents’ big men. Other players such as George Hill, Tyler Hansbrough, Lance Stephenson and Gerald Green provide contributions which makes the Pacers a solid team.
The Atlanta Hawks have been in the playoffs for the 6th consecutive year now after being absent for the previous 9 years. The Hawks have managed to reach the second round but have yet to go beyond that. Although this team has achieved some sort of success in the playoffs, they have been gradually declining as they have shown inconsistencies on the defense end and droughts in scoring. This puts doubt into whether this ball club has what it takes to compete with contenders in the eastern conference.
Their best player is Josh Smith whose talents and athletic ability make it very difficult for other teams to match up against him. Al Horford is an undersized centre but is effective and Jeff Teague is a young talented point guard that has a bright future. Kyle Korver, Devin Harris and Deshawn Stevenson are decent role players but will they have enough to combat against the role players of Indiana.
The Pacers are younger, more talented and a deeper team than the Atlanta Hawks. They have a bigger front court and the Hawks do not have anyone who can match up against Paul George. Although the Pacers are without Danny Granger due to injury they are still a dangerous team and will most likely still win this series.
Pacers win 4 - 1