NBA Playoffs Breakdown: Eastern Conference Opening Round

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I wanted to apologize to all of our readers for not giving updates about the NBA playoffs or breaking down match-ups before they started last week. Things have been chaotic to say the least, but having a chaotic life keeps things interesting. Luckily for us, we still have a ton of basketball left to play and these playoffs have been some of the most fun I have ever watched. Today, I am going to give a rundown of the Eastern Conference so far and I will have another piece about the Western Conference match-ups by tomorrow. For any questions you might have about how teams can turn things around (I’m looking at you Indiana), I have all the answers you need here.

Indiana versus Atlanta

Series Overview: Atlanta up 2-1

What can be said that hasn’t already been shouted from the roof of the Bankers Life Fieldhouse? The Pacers are not a good team and do not deserve to be the one seed. End of story. They might have a great defense, but that doesn’t put the ball in the hoop. The unfortunate thing about this series is that the question being asked is, “Why is Indiana so bad?” when the question should be “Why is everyone doubting Atlanta?” Don’t get me wrong; they’re the worst team in the playoffs, but a closer look at their team shows they are not as terrible as people think. They put up over 100 points per game, and move the ball as well as anyone in the league. So while it is surprising that the Pacers are falling apart, it really is not all that surprising Atlanta is playing solid basketball.

What can Indiana do to turn this series around?

Quite honestly, it’s a very simple fix. It’s not to fire Vogel or bench Roy Hibbert for the remainder of the series. It’s put the ball in Lance Stephenson’s hands. The most mind-blowing statistic is the Pacers were 29-4 in the regular season when Sir Lancealot has 5+ assists in a game. Look no further than the past three games to find proof: Game 1 – 1 assist, Pacers lose. Game 2 – 5 assists, Pacers win. Game 3 – 4 assists, Pacers lose. Give that man the damn ball and let him facilitate for those around him. I guarantee if they do that, this series ends in 6 games.

What can Atlanta do to keep their momentum going?

The Hawks need to continue to make that extra pass each possession for a much better shot. There’s a reason Atlanta was second in the whole league during the regular season in assists. They make opponents pay for not rotating quick enough or giving too much open space to their shooters. It definitely helps when all five guys in your starting lineup can shoot treys and can consistently bury them. Guys like David West and Roy Hibbert don’t want to be that far outside the paint. It brings them outside their comfort level, and that’s exactly how Atlanta has beaten Indiana twice in three games.

Who wins the series? 

I still think Indiana can get their shit together. They are the much better team, but definitely need to start playing like it. I still have hope they can right this sinking ship and take it back to Indiana all tied up for a best of 3 games. Give me Indiana in 7, but don’t be surprised if Atlanta does take the series and makes a run because of it.

Miami versus Charlotte

Series Overview: Miami up 2-0

I know everyone is already penciling in the Heat to represent the East in the NBA Finals, but I wouldn’t be so quick in doing that. People don’t realize how different this Miami team is compared to the past two that won a championship. They are an older, much less finesse team. Also, Charlotte is has been one of the most fun teams to watch develop over the past couple seasons. I mean, this is the same team that had the worst winning percentage in NBA history just two years ago and had the same number of wins the past three seasons combined that the Spurs had this year alone. Before Heat fans start booking plane tickets, I would suggest waiting a little longer before doing jumping to conclusions.

How can Miami bust out the brooms?

Miami must continue to win the first half like they have been doing. They are a much better team the first two quarters than the last two with a record of 43-7 when leading at halftime. In fact, the Heat hasn’t lost a game this season when they are at home leading at halftime. Charlotte needs to get their offense going early if they want to turn this series around. To be fair, I honestly don’t see any way the Heat sweep the Bobcats as long as Al Jefferson is on the floor. The Bobcats are too good of a team with him to lose two games at home.

How can Charlotte make a run to beat the Heat?

Redound, rebound, and rebound some more. People don’t realize how good of a defensive team the Bobcats have been this season, even more so than the Heat to be honest. Where they can really excel and can separate themselves is on the boards. Miami is the worst rebounding team in the league. When Chris Andersen is their second best rebounder, barely playing over 20 minutes, Charlotte should be grabbing everything that doesn’t hit the bottom of the net. There is no way Miami will continue to shoot almost 50% from the field this series. Once they begin to cool off, Charlotte needs to grab everything they can off the glass.

Who wins the series?

Miami is still the champs and deserve the benefit of the doubt. Charlotte has vastly improved this season, but that is still not enough to beat LeBron and company. Charlotte can grab a couple wins, but nothing to worry Miami fans this round. I still think Miami in 6, but these games will continue to be close and fun to watch.

Toronto versus Brooklyn

 Series Overview: All tied at 1-1

To me, this is the series of two surprising teams. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see their seeds reversed at the beginning of the season, but that’s why they play the game. I never expected Toronto to be this good for the whole season, especially after the Rudy Gay trade, or for Brooklyn to start off so bad as they did. Granted, Brooklyn did come back strong after the All-Star break, but being the 6 seed is disappointing with the expectations the team had at the beginning of the season. This series will continue to be back and forth, and will be a good test for whoever moves on to face Miami.

How can Brooklyn overcome the youth of Toronto?

It’s no secret that Brooklyn is one slip and fall away from some of their guys going in a nursing home. It’s great to have the experience and leadership, but not having those fresh legs really showed in game two against a more youthful Toronto team. But to his credit, Jason Kidd has been doing a great job of getting guys rest when they need it to keep their legs fresh. The Nets wanted to take one game from Toronto at home, and they did just that. If they can keep Garnett and Pierce from playing heavy minutes while finding a way to win this series, they can really challenge the Heat in the next round. Don’t be surprised if Brooklyn represents the East in the finals. 

Can Toronto’s youth be used to their advantage?

It’s no secret Toronto lacks the experience that the Nets have on their team. They only have one guy over the age of thirty playing, and he has attempted exactly one shot so far. Brooklyn, on the other hand, has five guys over thirty; three of which start for them. Toronto needs to use that youth to their advantage to play more minutes against Brooklyn’s bench. Last game, Toronto had four out of five starters play 35+ minutes. Brooklyn had just two. Bench play is important, but having those younger guys is actually more of an advantage than people may think. Lowry and DD10 are a great 1, 2 combo that can carry Toronto to the next round.

Who wins the series?

On one hand, I have been a big fan of Toronto all year and would really like to see them advance to the next round. They’ve been a fun team to watch and really took on that mentality of them against the world. On the other hand, I have always been a big KG fan and have followed him since his days in Minnesota. Even though it has been a down year for him, I would love nothing more than for him to go out on top. I think the experience of Brooklyn gives them the push they need to win this series, so I’m saying Nets in 7. I do believe, regardless of who wins this series, that the winner presents a strong possibility to represent the East in the Finals.

Chicago versus Washington

Series Overview: Wizards up 2-0 

To me, there has not been a more surprising first two games of any series than this one. Both games Chicago has had a nice lead in the 4th quarter, and both games they have let Washington take it away from them. The Wizards has played though, it’s hard to see any team beating them in the East other than the Heat or maybe the Nets. They can very easily take down Indy or Atlanta if they advance to the next round.

How can Chicago salvage their playoffs?

The problem with Chicago so far, the same problem they faced in the regular season, is that they can not score when they need to most. They rank dead last in the league in offense. The positive thing for the Bulls  is they don’t need to score as many points because they are the best defensive team in the league with the best defensive player. Chicago needs better play from Boozer in the paint on both ends of the floor. He has really taken a step back and is no longer the dependable player he once was of seasons past. Gibson has gotten more minutes than Booz because he has been a liability against Nene. If Boozer can slow him up and produce more than he did in the first two games, Chicago has a great chance to turn this series around. 

Can Washington close out the series?

So far, Washington has played like the biggest threat to give Miami a run for their money this postseason. The worst thing they can do though is buy into that hype too much. Chicago is a really good basketball team that can still win this series. What most people don’t realize is the Wiz have had a top 10 defense all year-long that has continued to improve every game. So far this series, they have locked down the Bulls to shooting less than 43% at home while shooting over 48% from the field. Washington has also proved that they can win at home or on the road, posting the same record of 22-19 during the regular season. If they can continue to find the open man and shoot high percentage shots, they can win the next two games at home.

Who wins the series?

The Bulls were my dark horse to make a deep run in the playoffs. Washington has blown that notion out the water and have played as well as any team so far this postseason. I don’t think Chicago gets swept but Washington only needs to win two of the next five games, with three of those being at home. Washington upsets Chicago in 6 and could be the Cinderella of the Eastern Conference.

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