The NBA Playoffs start Saturday, and Hoophead and The Wiz are here to preview every series! We'll start with a look at D-Rose, Miami's Big Three and the rest of the Eastern Conference battles...
Hoophead: After finishing the regular season with the league's best record, Chicago has its sights set on an NBA championship. With MVP candidate Derrick Rose leading a strong supporting cast that includes Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, the Bulls have their best team in years. Indiana has a star in Danny Granger and some good young players in Roy Hibbert and Tyler Hansbrough, but the Pacers will be overmatched in this series. Hoophead’s prediction: Bulls in four.
The Wiz: Did you know that, after interim head coach Frank Vogel took over in January, the Pacers had the sixth-best record in the East? Pretty good, right? Of course, they have no chance to beat the Bulls. Derrick Rose is too good. Chicago’s defense is too good. Chicago’s rebounding is too good. Chicago’s deep dish pizza is too good. The band Chicago is too good… well, you get the point. Wiz’s prediction: Chicago sweep.
Hoophead: It's championship or bust for Miami, so you can be sure that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh will bring their best stuff in the postseason. The question is, can the Big Three's supporting cast make plays when called upon? Philadelphia quietly had a nice bounce-back season and has a good, well-rounded team (Philly's leading scorer, Elton Brand, averaged just 15 points a game). Still, the Sixers will be no match for the Heat in Round 1. Hoophead’s prediction: Heat in five.
The Wiz: I wish they were a little more consistent down the stretch (losses to Cleveland and Milwaukee were crazy!), but I still think the Heat really turned a corner late. LeBron is at the top of his game. Dwyane Wade should be well-rested. Chris Bosh is a heck of a No. 3 option to have. And Mike Bibby has provided the consistent three-point threat they need. If Joel Anthony continues his strong recent play, this is a championship caliber team. As for Philly? Sorry Sixers fans, but they don’t stand a chance. Wiz’s prediction: Miami sweep.
Hoophead: After a bumpy start, Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups have started to gel with the Knicks' system. New York had a seven-game winning streak in the home stretch of the regular season that gave fans hope for a strong playoff run. The Celtics struggled after trading center Kendrick Perkins for forward Jeff Green, but their stars are playoff-tested, so they should be able to hold off the Knicks. Hoophead’s prediction: Boston in six.
The Wiz: The Celtics LIVE for playoff time. I’m not sold that the Knicks’ problems are totally behind them—they played a pretty easy schedule down the stretch. Boston’s playoff experience, not to mention the greatness of Rajon Rondo and their amazing defense, will have them on top. Wiz’s prediction: Celtics in five.
Hoophead: Atlanta played poorly in the homestretch of the regular season, but it defeated Orlando three times in four matchups in 2010–11. The Hawks need a huge scoring performance from Joe Johnson and for center Jason Collins to contain Dwight Howard on defense. If Howard is held in check, Orlando will look to Hedo Turkoglu and Jameer Nelson to step up. The Magic will be helped by its depth, as Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas are also capable of handling the scoring load, and JJ Redick and Ryan Anderson can hit open shots. Hoophead’s prediction: Magic in seven.
The Wiz: This would have been a very interesting matchup a few months ago. Even though Orlando destroyed them in the second-round of last year’s playoffs, the Hawks beat the Magic three out of four times this season. Veteran Atlanta big man Jason Collins really gave Dwight Howard some fits in those games. But the Hawks were just terrible of late (10-17 since the All-Star break). Even though the Magic rely on the three-point shot and can be very streaky, I can’t see them losing this series. Wiz’s prediction: Orlando in five.
How about your picks? Leave them in the comments section!