With the NBA Playoffs less than a week away there's plenty of talk about possible match ups. Let's have a look at what teams would face off in the first round if the season were to end today. We will start with the Eastern Conference.
Chicago Bulls (1) vs Philadelphia 76ers (8)This is an interesting match up between two of the better defensive teams in the league. The Bulls have a slight edge defensively keeping their opponents to 88.4ppg compared with Philly's 89.2 points allowed per game. Offensively the Bulls have a bigger advantage scoring almost three points more per game than Philadelphia. Nobody plays defense quite like Chicago. If Philadelphia is to cause an upset here they need to shut down the Bulls in the rebounding department. Chicago lead the league on the offensive glass which in turn translates to a lot of second chance points. Winning the battle of the boards is as good a place as any to start for a Philadelphia team that will be a long shot to take out this series. Prediction - Chicago Bulls 4-1.
Miami Heat (2) vs New York Knicks (7)Miami is considered by many to be favourites to win it all this season. New York have had a season of ups and downs but have looked impressive since Mike Woodson was hired as head coach going 15-6 and clinching a playoff spot that many thought unlikely to happen. The Heat are an amazingly talented team albeit one with little depth. The Knicks need to ensure they play excellent transition defense as Miami loves to run the fast break which leads to a lot of points. Team chemistry could be a negative for the Knicks as they've had quite a few line-up changes due to injury. The Heat will as always look to the big three to dominate the series. Prediction - Miami Heat 4-1.
Indiana Pacers (3) vs Orlando Magic (6)It's hard to see an Orlando Magic side without Dwight Howard winning this series. The Magic have struggled since Howard was ruled out with a back injury. The Pacers on the other hand have been a surprise to most this season. We have two teams on completely different paths with this match up. The Pacers have won eight of their last ten whereas Orlando has lost six of their last ten. One team is on the way up while the other is on a slide. The Magic will rely way too much on their outside shooting and without Howard to score in the paint the Pacers defense should be up to the challenge. I see Indiana as a dark horse in the Eastern Conference and I predict they will sweep the Magic. Prediction - Indiana Pacers 4-0.
Boston Celtics (4) vs Atlanta Hawks (5)This one shapes up as the most exciting series of the first round. Boston have been called many things this season, old, slow, good and bad but one thing is for sure, they know how to win. The team has a great deal of post season experience and though they are one of the older teams in the league they play to their strengths. You won't see a lot of fast breaks being run but you will see some great shooting, well set up plays and great defense. The Hawks will want to try and keep the game as up tempo as possible. Jeff Teague really needs to look to run if the Hawks plan on winning this one. Josh Smith needs to step up and look to take the bulk of the scoring load. Both teams play great defense, the Hawks are the better team offensively but time will tell if they can turn that into a series win against the veteran Celtics. Boston will rely on their great home record and home court advantage to win this series in seven games. Prediction - Boston Celtics 4-3.
How do you see these potential match ups panning out? Keep an eye out for my Western Conference Playoff predictions over the next few days on NBA Down Under.