As both of my more "in depth pieces" are taking longer than originally anticipated, I'm going to fill time by throwing in my 2 cents to the already far too large pile of playoff predictions! First up, the Eastern Conference!
The Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals
In every NBA playoffs, there's always a gimme series. This year, this is the one. The Bulls got in purely by virtue of a collapse by the Raptors. They finished their season hot, but they were mostly playing teams that didn't care about their season's end result or that were total trash in the first place. Also, they lost to the Nets. There's no way that I see the Cavaliers botching this series.
Cavaliers in 4.
The Celtics are a team looking at one last run before they are forced to mortgage their team midway through next season. Like the Heat 2 years removed from their Championship run, I don't see the Celtics as much of a deep playoff threat. The Heat aren't the greatest team in the land either, but they finished the season on an incredible 12 and 1 run. Now that the Heat are healthy, their team is looking pretty dangerous. But in the end, it can't be denied that the Celtics have swept the season series with the Heat, and that an aging Jermaine O'Neal provides no match for a healthy Kevin Garnett. Paul Pierce will account for Ray Allen, and the rest of the roster will speak for itself.
Celtics in 6.
The Bucks are another team that struggled early on, but got hot later in the season. But the big story for them is going to be the absence of their star Center, Andrew Bogut. His loss wouldn't be so bad if you didn't look at who was below him on the depth chart: Kurt Thomas and Dan Gadzuric. Yikes. Even in his day, Thomas was only a decent starter. These days, all he does is rebound and foul. I have no doubt that Al Horford and Josh Smith will eat them alive. In short, a rookie and a bunch of role players does not a playoff team make.
Hawks in 5.
The Bobcats have steadily improved throughout the season after a disastrous start. In that disastrous start, they lost to the Magic twice. Since then, they've won once and lost once against the Magic. And, you know what? I think they're going to win this series. It will come down, essentially, to defense versus offense. The Magic have a bunch of high scoring wings, and the Bobcats have a bunch of defensive stalwarts. The keys to victory for the Bobcats will be controlling the pace of the game and making sure that their players score efficiently. In the end, I think that the Magic will find early success, but once the Bobcats learn to shut down two of the Magic's main starting lineup scorers, the Magic will be in deep trouble. All apologies to my main man, Adonal Foyle, but I've got to take of my bias cap sometimes.
Bobcats in 7.
Below: The Semi-Finals and Finals.
The Eastern Conference Semi-Finals
1. Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 7. Charlotte Bobcats
Yes, the NBA has some screwed up seeding. After a heck of a series against the Magic, the Bobcats will, in all likelihood, run into a well-rested Cavaliers team. But you know what? The Bobcats have had the Cavaliers' number all season. They lost to them once in the early going, but they've since beaten them 3 consecutive times. The Cavaliers have no answer for Stephen Jackson, and they struggle mightiliy on the offensive end. And Shaq was getting dominated by Tyrus Thomas and Nazr Mohammed. Ouch. In the end, LeBron will score well and try to have his way, but Stephen Jackson will equal him, and the rest of the Cavaliers won't be able to keep up.
Bobcats in 6.
3. Atlanta Hawks vs. 4. Boston Celtics
This is an interesting series that, by all accounts, shouldn't have happened. But, let's say it did. The Hawks have played consistently well all season, while the Celtics had a good early season run, then had some injuries, but now have their players back. And while these teams might look equal on paper, there's no denying that the Hawks have won all 4 games against the Celtics this season, with 2 of those games facing Garnett. But on the flip side, there's no denying that the Celtics have far more playoff experience. When it all comes down to it, I think the Hawks' lack of depth will hurt them a bit, but their innate ability to contain Kevin Garnett and advantage over the Celtics will pay dividends.
Hawks in 7.
The Eastern Conference Finals
3. Atlanta Hawks vs. 7. Charlotte Bobcats
Bet you never expected this matchup! Well, that's what you get for reading Zorgon's crazy blog. Anyway, this will be an evenly matched 7 game series, no matter how you slant it. Both teams are evenly matched at every position, and they both have high-scoring wings that will no doubt have some epic battles. In the end, I think the Hawks ability to score in the post will overcome the Bobcats, but only barely. I really wish I could put the Bobcats in the finals, but even I have my limits.
Hawks in 7.
How do you think the East will shake out? Vote in the poll or post a comment! The NBA Finals prediction will come out with the Western Conference prediction later today.