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NBA Starts Playoff Drive

Erik Powell & Jeff Bohen

April is one of the most thrilling sports months of the year. The baseball season begins anew, college basketball winds down with the Final Four, the NHL playoffs start-up, and the NFL holds its annual draft.

 But quite possibly the event most pencil in on the calendar is the NBA playoffs with round one games starting today at 1pm.

On ESPN the Chicago Bulls looking like a serious contenders for a title run face of  against the Indiana Pacers in Chicago.

The hometown 76ers take on the trio of the year, Duane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosch of the Miami Heat with tipoff scheduled for 3:30 on ABC.

Is there an upset in the works? Not likely in this case.

The Atlanta Hawks land  in Orlando for game one with a start time of 7pm on ESPN. 

To close out the first day of playoff action the Portland Traiblazers take on the Dallas Mavericks in Dallas with a 9:30 jump ball scheduled.

Our Guest Contributor, Erik Powell says

(1) Chicago Bulls vs. (8) Indiana Pacers- This will be a low scoring series with the Bulls outstanding scoring defense (1st in the NBA) and excellent rebounding (2nd in the NBA) battling the Pacers who are 12th in the league in defense and 5th in rebounding. Indiana, and any team who opposes Chicago, will have to find a way to defend future MVP PG Derrick Rose. For the Pacers to have a chance, PG Darren Collison will have to make Rose work for points while taking care of the ball. Indiana will need SF Danny Granger to get hot from long distance, something he is capable of with a near 40% success rate during the regular season, and he must outperform Luol Deng. For the Bulls, Deng will be critical as his defense on Granger will determine whether the Pacers have any legit chance to win and when he has had good scoring games, the Bulls haven’t lost. While Chicago doesn’t have substantial playoff experience, having not made a deep run since the Michael Jordan heyday, Indiana has even less. What the Pacers do well in slowing games down, forcing opponents to execute to perfection, crashing the boards, the Bulls do even better. Plus, Chicago has the ultimate game breaker in Rose who Indiana will be ill-equipped to stop.  He will carry the Bulls late in Bulls and enable to win this series with relative ease.  

Bulls win 4-1  

I agree, but for a different reason. 

The X-Factor for the Bulls is Carlos Boozer, an enigma of sorts. Indiana has no answer for him in that Boozer will become part of the everyday talk on the NBA scene.

This will be his coming out party dominating the boards and Indiana physically.

(2) Miami vs. (7) Philadelphia- The Heat enter the playoffs with a ton of pressure due to the scrutiny surrounding the acquisitions of SF LeBron James, PF Chris Bosh, and the resigning of SG DeWayne Wade. They go up against a overachieving, well-coached 76ers team that will need to execute at its finest to have a chance. While Philadelphia has a core of good young players in SG Andre Iguodala, PG Jue Holliday, PG Lou Williams and F Thaddeus Young to go along with PF Elton Brand who finally stayed reasonably healthy through the course of the season, they are overmatched by Miami’s core three. The 76ers will also be short-handed, dealing with a hamstring injury to Williams. Miami performs best against teams, like Philadelphia, that lack interior size and explosive perimeter players they should beat. While one can’t discount the possibility the Heat might have a mental lapse or two, knowing they are the heavy favorite, they have just too much firepower to be overcome by the scrappy 76ers. 

Miami wins 4-1  

So my friend here has the Sixers winning one game.

For Sixers fans, it’s going to be painful to watch, but this series ends game two.

Miami in a Sweep.

4) Orlando vs. (5) Atlanta-In the 2010 NBA playoffs, the Magic smoked the Hawks in an embarrassing four game series for Atlanta that led management to change coaches. The Hawks shouldn’t be overlooked with All Stars SG Joe Johnson, and C Al Horford as well as ultra skilled PF Josh Smith to go with a top 10 defense. If Atlanta comes in with the right mindset, motivated by the difficult loss last year, they have the ability to surprise. Orlando has adapted to early season trades, bringing in PG Gilbert Arenas, SF Hedo Turkoglu, and SG Jason Richardson in an effort to keep up with the acquisitions Boston and Miami made.

Results are mixedwith Richardson and Turkoglu being decent pickups and Arenas an expensive disappointment. The Magic still have critical components from last year’s Eastern Conference Finals run with PG Jameer Nelson, PF Rashard Lewis, and MVP Dwight Howard. As long as Howard is 100%, Orlando with the ability to play with anyone. His interior presence opens up everything for his teammates and if they’re hitting shots, the Magic are nearly unbeatable. Atlanta believes it has someone who can contain Howard in C Jason Collins who did a fair job covering him in the regular season. But can that continue during the playoffs? Howard’s motivated like never knowing his time in Orlando could be nearing an end with his impending free agency in 2012. He will make the ultimate difference in this series. It shouldn’t be as ghastly a result for the Hawks this time around, but expect the same outcome. 

Orlando wins 4-1   

As much as my partner says the “Hawks shouldn’t be overlooked,” they are the thinnest team out there in terms of overall mental toughness.

Sure they win games in the regular season, and lots of them over since signing  Joe Johnson, but when all is said and done they are a team of individuals who melt under the gaze NBA Playoff pressure.

They done in again by the Magic in a sweep.

(3) Dallas vs. (6) Portland-The Mavericks will look to overcome their recent history of early postseason disappointments and take on one of the hottest teams in the league. Dallas will rely on PF Dirk Nowtitzki to lead role players PG Jason Kidd, SF Shawn Marion, and C Tyson Chandler to victory. The Mavericks are deep at just about every position but take on an opponent in the Trail Blazers that can say the same countering with PF LaMarcus Aldridge, C Marcus Camby, PG Andre Miller, G Wesley Matthews, and SF Gerald Wallace. The injury to SF Caron Butler, who will miss the series, figures to give Wallace a significant edge. Portland is playing with confidence ever since acquiring Wallace at midseason and they have thrived on being overlooked by insiders. The Trail Blazers have the edge at more matchups than Dallas and combikned with superior cerebral assurance will carry them to the second round.

Portland wins 4-3

As series go, this one will be hotly contested.

The Mavericks maybe making their last run at a title , the window of time and age closing.

The upstart Trailblazers closed out the season with a momentum not since in Portland since the early part of the decade will run and pound the Mavs into submission in a seven game struggle.

This will be the best matchup for today.

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