Eastern Conference 2nd Round Preview

The first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs was…underwhelming to say the least, completely depressing to say the most. Not just in the games themselves, which were just a pitiful affair: 2 series were done in 5 games, while the other two weren’t terribly competitive for 6 games.

The second round won’t feature All-Stars Derrick Rose, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Joe Johnson, and Luol Deng. But as long as this side of the NBA features LeBron James’ quest for his first Larry O’Brien trophy, the East will have all the must-see TV you we will need.

2) Miami Heat vs. 3) Indiana Pacers – MIAMI IN SIX

El Miz: By now, it is clear that in addition to training with Hakeem Olajuwon last summer, LeBron James also spent time studying Ric Flair’s bag of tricks.  The egregious flopping that went on during the first round matchup between the Knicks and Heat was unfortunate, as a playoff rivalry that used to be known for the tough fouls and physical play devolved into a whole lot of whistles, many of them rewarding the flops and calling the Knicks for questionable fouls.

Clearly, Indiana Pacers Head Coach Frank Vogel is a student of the game.  Vogel pulled a move out straight of the old Phil Jackson Playbook on Gamesmanship, airing his ref grievances out in the press before the series even tips off.  “[The Heat] are the biggest flopping team in the NBA,” Vogel told the typical gaggle of reporters circled around him after the Pacers’ practice on Thursday, before wondering aloud how the refs would treat such dubious behavior in the Conference Semi’s.  
Even in a physical series where the refs “let them play,” the Heat will dispose of the Pacers, probably in 6 games.  The Pacers were only 1-3 against the Heat this year, and in the game the Pacers won they had a 49-33 rebounding advantage.  In order to hang with the Heat, Indiana will have to play physical, crash the boards, and hope for someone to get a hot hand to carry them in the 4th quarter.  The physicality will be key, and that is probably why Vogel decided to call the Heat out for their flopping before the series even started.  I expect a lot of contact in the paint, and a tough defensive series, with the tone set by Indiana.  Regardless, the Pacers do not have the offensive firepower to hang with LeBron & Co.  Pacers will get a game or two at best, but the Heat are going to the
Conference Finals for the second year in a row.

Could Miami show the killer instinct they’re capable of and finish Indy off in 4-5 games?

BockerKnocker: No. Let’s move on.

4) Boston Celtics vs. 8) Philadelphia 76ers – CELTICS IN FIVE

BockerKnocker: You see that “8” right by Philadelphia? Those giddy yolos don’t last too long in the NBA Playoffs, because the best teams win the vast majority of the time. The 76ers just. barely. beat a DEPLETED Chicago Bulls squad to move to the 2nd round. They have more holes in their game than the golf course on which Josh Beckett played last week. While Philadelphia can run the fast break efficiently and is well-coached by Doug Collins, they will need a ton of help to win more than two games in this series. Elton Brand and Spencer Hawes never had to worry about defending a hurt Joakim Noah, a hurt Taj Gibson, and a worthless Carlos Boozer, but Kevin Garnett proved last night that he’s still got it. 28 points on 10-19 shooting weren’t nearly as impressive as the 14 rebounds, 3 steals, and 5 blocks. It was a vintage Big Ticket performance. While Andre Iguodala will do a great job of containing Paul Pierce, KG intimidate his way to the Eastern Conference Finals.

And we need the Celtics to make it there anyway. If LeBron’s road back to the Finals is through the city of Brotherly Love, then he might as well be making plans for San Antonio or Oklahoma City.

How could Philly slug out two wins and drag this to 6 games? 

KOBEsh: Like BK said, the Sixers run a great fast break and defend with the best of them in the L. Like all Philly games this year, the team has to play perfectly in order to scrape out their wins. No one in a Sixers uni averaged more than 15 points in 2012, highlighted by the fact that the team’s best one-on-one offensive player is Lou Williams. Andre Iguodala should be a handful for Paul Pierce, but a relatively immobile Elton Brand and the platoon of Jrue Holiday and Williams shouldn’t be a problem for Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett, “Bar Fight” edition. So how the hell would the Sixers even take two games off Boston?

The Sixers must be perfect defensively and rebound, rebound, rebound. Without a fast break attack, there’s no way that Philly can get past the half-court defense of a much more physical and fearsome Celtics team. Yes, Lou Williams or Iguodala could be liable to go off for an Earth-shattering 30 points every 6 games or so, but the Sixers’ entire offensive attack is predicated on scoring in transition, and in a half court set, attacking the rim. Philly MUST be aggresive on both side of the ball, and can’t withstand too many turnovers or offensive rebounds. If they do everything right, at most, I can see them winning two games. Remember, these Sixers did everything right in the first half of the season and stood with the third-best record in the league at one point. Because they know how to implement their plan efficiently, I think two games are a possibility.



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