#5 Boston Celtics vs. #8 Philadelphia 76ers
Overview: This matchup not might be as exciting as Bird vs. Erving, but it has the ingredients to be pretty intriguing. Both teams closed out their series at home, and played efficient, tough defense against their opponents. I think Boston should win this one, but I wouldn't be suprised if the Celtics' better players succumbed to injuries and Philly won the series. Hey, it happened in the first round, so why couldn't it happen again?
Boston's advantage: Veteran experience and star power. Rajon Rondo might not be as old as Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen. but he has playoff experience and has thrived in the moment. He is the best point guard remaining in the playoffs, and if he can facilitate the ball and dismantle the 76ers' pressuring defense, the Celtics have a solid chance of moving on to the next round.
Philadelphia's advantage: Depth and prowess in transition. The 76ers' leading scorer during the season, Lou Williams, comes off the bench. That alone should prove how deep this team is. With other solid players including hybrid forward Thaddeus Young, sharpshooter Jodie Meeks, and former Temple center Lavoy Allen, this team's second-unit players can give solid minutes and good boosts of production when put in the game. Philadelphia is also full of fresh legs, and has a huge advantage in fastbreak situations. If they can push the ball effectively they can exploit the older, slower Celtics, and will have a chance of pulling off a second straight upset.
X-Factor: Evan Turner. The second year guard out of Ohio State has made great strides of improvement after his rookie season. He can hit shots from any spot on the floor, and is one of the few players on the 76ers who is able to create his own shot. He has to be able to take advantage of the moments when either the hurting Paul Pierce or Ray Allen cover him, but also smart when Boston's best on-ball defender Avery Bradley plays on him. If he can consistently knock down his mid-range jumper, as well as create havoc by driving to the basket, then Philadelphia has a chance.
Prediction: Celtics over 76ers, 4-2.
|Can Andre Iguodala (right) lead the 76ers to their second consecutive|
upset against Paul "The Truth" Pierce (left) and the Celtics?
#2 Miami Heat vs. #3 Indiana Pacers
Overview: Both teams simply owned their opponents of the first round. I was personally suprised that the Pacers didn't crush the Magic, but they still won in five games like I thought they would. Fresh off receiving his third MVP in the last four years, Miami forward LeBron James looks to make another statement by dominating the Pacers in his quest for a ring.
Indiana's advantage: Depth. It's something Miami doesn't have. They have a plentiful amount of young guns coming off the bench, including George Hill and Tyler Hansbrough. They also have shooters that can torch the Heat if left open. However, the Heat played the oft-shooting New York Knicks well on the three-point line. But the Pacers have something the Knicks don't, and that guy is my X-Factor, who you'll read about shortly.
Miami's advantage: Star power. Indiana has a bunch of good players, but they don't have the superstars that Miami does. LeBron James will prove why he deserved MVP, and shut down Danny Granger. Indiana has nobody that can match up for a long period of time against Dwyane Wade, who I believe will greatly shine in this series.
|Roy Hibbert (left) has to control the glass and be a monstrous force|
in the paint if the Pacers want any shot at beating the Heat.
X-Factor: Roy Hibbert. The Heat have nobody who can single handedly guard this mammoth center on the Pacers. Joel Anthony is the best defensive-oriented big man on the Heat, but is nearly half a foot shorter than Hibbert. Tyson Chandler asserted himself against the Heat, but Hibbert is a better offensive player. Hibbert averaged 11 points and 11 rebounds, as well as nearly 4 blocks in the opening round against the Magic, but he will need to become a dominant scorer and impose his will against the smaller bigs of the Miami Heat.
Prediction: Heat over Pacers, 4-2
Now as we move to the second round, health is of a major importance, as teams try to make a run to the Conference Finals. The four remaining teams in the East are all somewhat healthy. Some teams win with depth, while others win by using their stars to their full potential. In this round, either depth or stars will be exploited, and it will determine who wins their respective series. Check in after Game 7 of the Clippers vs. Grizzlies for analysis of the Western Conference semifinals. Stay tuned!