Saturday, May 12, 2012

Eastern Conference Second Round Playoff Preview

The first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs had its share of casualties: Derrick Rose, Iman Shumpert, and any fan who had to watch the Indiana-Orlando series. The second round is here, and it comes with a preview:

Miami Heat (2) vs. Indiana Pacers (3)

Danny Granger will have his hands full with the MVP.
The Pacers now face a real playoff team- maybe too real.

Miami vs. New York was anticlimactic after receiving momentous hype, with the Heat downing the Knicks in five games and outscoring them by nearly 15 points per game. LeBron James, recently named three-time MVP, did whatever he wanted and thoroughly outplayed Carmelo Anthony on both ends, even shutting down the scorer extraordinaire for long stretches.

The Indiana Pacers shot less than 45 percent against the Dwight Howard-less Magic. Indy found it difficult honing in on Orlando's weakness in the middle despite having All-Star center Roy Hibbert, who put up pedestrian numbers against Stan Van Gundy's makeshift defensive schemes. How is Indiana's multipolar offense going to put pressure on Miami's defense? Danny Granger is Indiana's best scorer, and he'll be guarded by James. Where is the scoring coming from?

Indiana's strength is defense; Granger's and Paul George's length may bother LeBron and Dwyane Wade at times, though the superstars will get their numbers. David West must win his matchup against Chris Bosh. Bosh may be too quick for the older West, however. Expect a big series from Bosh- something like what he did last year against Carlos Boozer.

Overall, Indiana isn't a threat to Miami. The maximum this series goes is five games.

Pick: Miami in 4

Boston Celtics (4) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (8)

It's not Larry Bird vs. Julius Erving, but it's still a great SF matchup.
The story here is similar to the Boston-Atlanta first round preview. Philadelphia brings toughness, a rebounding advantage, and a young, quick two-way point guard to combat Rajon Rondo.

Despite Al Horford's return midway through the series, the Hawks only grabbed one more rebound per game than the Celtics did. Boston held its own on the glass and shut down Atlanta's offense by plugging penetration lanes and forcing the ball back out. Atlanta was a much better 3-point shooting team than Philadelphia in the regular season, yet the Hawks managed to shoot just 31 percent against the Celtics. Philly's 3-point shooting was putrid against the Bulls.

Spencer Hawes needs to spread the floor and take Kevin Garnett away from the core of Boston's defense. Who trusts Hawes to do that? With KG able to roam, Philly's offense will run into the same problems Atlanta's did. Jrue Holiday and Andre Iguodala can't penetrate to the rim with KG meeting them 15 feet out.

The Sixers will take a game or two. Thaddeus Young presents problems for Boston, and the Sixers have the defense to slow down Rondo and Paul Pierce. They simply don't have enough weapons to capitalize.

Pick: Boston in 6

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