Now that the first round Eastern Conference matchups have finished, it’s time to make the prediction on who will be the competitors in the Eastern Conference finals.
Atlanta Hawks (4) at Cleveland Cavaliers (1) – Cleveland was dominant in the first round, just as everyone predicted. Atlanta just barely knocked off the Miami Heat. Atlanta is good enough at home to win at least one game. I’m not sure they can win all of their home games, though — or any of their games in Cleveland. I really, really like Atlanta. I want them to make it a series. They are so talented that they definitely have the potential to steal a few games. But I really don’t they will actually do it. Prediction: Cavaliers in 5
Orlando Magic (3) at Boston Celtics (2) – Can I pick against both of these teams? No? Orlando’s free throw shooting is going to end up being their Achilles Heel. You’ve just got to believe that. But the Boston Celtics giving it just barely enough to win isn’t necessarily very inspiring either. We know that Boston can give away games at home. They’ve already done it. They’re bound to do it some more. I’ve got to think, though, that they aren’t going to lose the seventh and deciding game against the worst free throw shooting team in the league, are they? Prediction: Celtics in 7
I’m going to have to separate the East from the West because the Western battles are all done early, as I predicted, and the Eastern Conference battles are still raging, as I also surmised.
Dallas Mavericks (6) at Denver Nuggets (2) – This series should be much better than either of their first round matchups. The Mavs were taking on an injury-depleted Spurs team and the Nuggets were taking a totally outmatched Hornets team. I don’t think the playoff series will be quite as lop-sided as the regular season series was — the Nuggets won all 4 contests throughout the season. The Mavs have hit their stride at the right time, but the Nuggets are also playing very well of late. Weighing the regular season matchup disparity and knowing that the Nuggets have home-court advantage, I’m going to have to go with the home team — though not by much. Prediction: Nuggets in 7.
Houston Rockets (5) at Los Angeles Lakers (1) – On paper, the Rockets match up very well against the Lakers — they have size down low, great perimeter defense — all of the things that were exploited in the previous round of the playoffs against the Utah Jazz. The Rockets managed to win at San Antonio, not an easy feat, so they have proved they can win on the road. Most importantly, Tracy McGrady won’t be taking bad shots. Even with all of those pros, though, they haven’t been able to turn that into actual wins in the regular season against the Lakers. They won’t be able to handle the experienced Los Angeles Lakers in the post-season either. The Lakers are too good, and the Rockets too inexperienced in post-season play. Kobe won’t let the Lakers lose in Los Angeles, and he will manage to steal a game in Houston to boot. On paper, this seems like it will be a good series, but, in actuality, it won’t be. Prediction: Lakers in 5.