NBA Playoff Match-ups: Eastern Conference
By: Byron Parker
Boston Celtics vs. Atlanta Hawks
Detroit Pistons vs. Philadelphia 76ers
Orlando has taken the season series between these two teams, 2-1. And if you want honesty, the Raptors 41-40 record is a fluke. The Raptors have a really young, energetic team that hasn’t showed their full potential yet this season. So the chance of it showing in the playoffs just doesn’t favor them. Orlando on the other hand, has showed their potential throughout the 07-08 season. They were able to get off to a hot start and play consistent, team basketball which has led them to clinch the 3rd seed in the playoffs. Not many would have picked the Magic to do what they’ve accomplished this year, but their team is amongst the top in the East. The Raptors still show weaknesses in their lineup and many question their toughness. They do have Chris Bosh who has put together another solid season, scoring 22.5 points and grabbing 8.7 boards a game. But they don’t have anybody that can replace him off of the bench. So Bosh could easily get into foul trouble and the middle would basically be open for Dwight Howard. The match up between Howard and Bosh will be a fun one to watch because they are both the big men whom which their franchise is revolved around. They are dangerous scorers inside, Bosh is probably the most versatile and Howard is probably more intimidating. Both are excellent defenders and they bring a lot to the table when it comes to leadership. But when it comes to the all around team aspect, Orlando has a lot more. Hedo Turkoglu is one of the most underrated players in the NBA who can do things like hit clutch three’s, to drive the ball to the basket. Another threat that Orlando has is Rashard Lewis who is among the best at the small forward position. He compliments the team in all aspects of the court. And since coming to Orlando, Maurice Evans has been a key for the Magic’s success by both, coming off of the bench and contributing to starting on the floor. There are just too many threats on the floor for Orlando…at least when it comes against playing Toronto. Both teams rank among the top five in the NBA in shooting the three ball, but Orlando is mediocre at protecting the perimeter. That shouldn’t be a main problem for Orlando because they are among the best when it comes to scoring in the paint; something that is needed in playoff time because you can’t win off of jump shots all day. Orlando is the favorite for this series.
This should be one of the most intriguing match ups in the Eastern Conference. This has showdown has a lot of significance to it because of the trash talking that has already occurred on the Washington side. Wizards guard, DeShawn Stevenson had the nerve to say that the NBA’s leading scorer, LeBron James is overrated. And superstar Gilbert Arenas went on to say that he doesn’t believe that the Cavs can beat the Wizards in the playoffs three years in a row. In saying that, Arenas does have a point. The Cavs have entire different look to their team with the additions of Ben Wallace, Delonte West, Joe Smith and Wally Sczerbiak. So it will be interesting to see how head coach, Mike Brown can get them to run well in the playoffs. It shouldn’t be any different than the regular season, but the energy level will have to be turned up a notch if they want to dominate the 1st round. On the other side, Washington didn’t have Gilbert Arenas in last years 1st round against the Cavs, so they have a different look to their lineup that Mike Brown didn’t see in last years playoffs. Since Arenas has returned from that knee injury that sidelined him for most of the season, he has been held to limited minutes for precautionary reasons. In only about 21 minutes per, Arenas has been able to come off of the bench for the last part of this season and put up 14.6 points a game. That is an encouraging sign for the Wiz going into the playoffs. The only thing that concerns people is that the Washington “Big Three” haven’t all played that much together in a while. Caron Butler has been bothered by injuries over the last several of weeks of the season and he’s basically been on and off of the court. Antawn Jamison will be the key going into this series for plenty of reasons. Jamison possesses all kinds of abilities on the floor. He knows how to play exceptional defense, he can make cuts to the basket and his jumper is a threat. This has been one of his best seasons thus far, averaging 21.4 points and 10.2 rebounds a game. The Cavs are coming into this match up with questions still surrounding their ability to play team basketball. Lebron is the pure star on this team, but they tend to get the job done when it needs to be accomplished. And with all of the recent trash talking that has been going on in the Washington locker room, the Cavs feed off of that. We all know LeBron loves it, as he showed it a couple of times this season when he had fans taunting them and he went on to take over those games and lead the Cavs to victory. If he is on the court with the same people who were talking trash about him and his team, imagine the possibilities. This looks like a match up that is truly evened out on all sides, and it looks like it will go deep. But the Cavs may be the ones that take this one away for the third consecutive year. As you can see, there are a few terrific match ups coming out of the first round in the Eastern Conference. There will likely be a lot of series going to deep, so the great match ups indicate that it will be difficult for a sweep to occur in this first round.