A brief review of the first round series before we get into the real matchups:
Bulls vs. Sixers – When you lose Derrick Rose to a torn ACL, a few things begin to cross your mind. You lost your floor general, but luckily you still have guys like Rip Hamilton, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer to help make up for the loss. When you lose Joakim Noah (the undisputed heart and soul of the Bulls), things start to get real shaky. Rip Hamilton having to create one on one? Carlos Boozer having to take some sort of leadership role? Not good. Not good at all.
There’s a reason the Sixers won this in 6, and it has much less to do with the Sixers talent than it does to do with the downfall of the Rose legacy. Now I’m not going to write off the Bulls for good…but something metaphysical died when Rose went down with a torn ACL. For a guy who literally lives off planting (sometimes very awkwardly) and driving to the basket, a torn ACL is like a voice in your head that whispers all your fears every time you try to do something highlight worthy. Quite literally, Rose is never going to be the same. Did I think they could win the East at full health? I’d give them a 50/50 shot with Miami, but can they win it next year? I have my doubts. Especially if “that’s all that matters, yo” Carlos Boozer is still here. Amnesty please.
Magic vs. Pacers – No Dwight Howard = No Chance. It wasn’t even close, despite the efforts of Glen Davis, the Richardsons and Ryan Anderson. This entire team has been predicated on the notion of getting the ball to Dwight Howard in the low post, so when he’s gone there’s really no point in attempting a breakdown of how the Magic can adapt their style to suit their sharpshooters. As Dwight Howard does his rehab, the Magic are reportedly giving him the cold shoulder. This team will look nothing like it has in the past, and Howard is most likely gone before the next Magic training camp.
As for the Pacers, they seem to be the more experienced version of the Sixers. Danny Granger stepped it up in the playoffs, as did Roy Hibbert and my favorite UNC alum PSYCHO T. We will discuss them more in the next round preview.
Hawks vs. Celtics – You had them Atlanta! You had them and it all fell apart. Well, that and you have Joe Johnson and Josh “no all star appearances” Smith as the pillars of your franchise. Game 4? Yeah only down by 25, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce looking 10 years younger. Al Horford coming up huge in game 5. Then the owner called Kevin Garnett the dirtiest player in the league and the floodgates hath open. So what’s the upside for Atlanta fans? Your team is still pretty nice in 2K12.
Knicks vs. Heat – The Knicks recent postseason accomplishments make the Jets look like a perennial powerhouse. So let’s just do a quick review of the Knicks second half of the season leading to the postseason. D’Antoni exits, Baron’s back flares up, Landry Fields regresses, Shumpert goes down with a torn ACL in game 1, Amare slices his hand punching the glass case of a fire extinguisher after game 3, Baron’s knee and ACL tear in Game 4, topping it all off with Carmelo reverting to his one man show, getting no one else involved in game 5,ending the series at 4-1 in favor of Miami. It’s going to be a long offseason in New York, and the excuses will come fast and furious.
With all that said, let’s move onto the real excitement of the playoffs…the semifinals –
Boston vs. Philly – There’s an ideological battle that is going to be waged in this series. Do you hang on to aging veterans or piece together a team of young 20 somethings, hoping for a few breaks as you try and use speed to get your way through tough playoff games. The only issue? Boston is feeling like 2008 again and the 76ers have no answer for the combination of Rondo and Ray Allen. Do I see 76ers giving them a tough run at home? Sure, but Boston is coming in rested and full of confidence, especially after they proved that they can absolutely demolish teams like the Hawks at 90% strength. Celtics in 6.
Heat vs. Pacers – I would personally enjoy nothing more than the Pacers taking this 7 games off the pure effort of Roy Hibbert and PSYCHO T, but I can’t help but realize the Heat haven’t even had a real challenge yet and got to mostly coast through the Knicks series (which could at some point work against them into a false sense of confidence). The Heat are going to win this series, it’s just a matter of how long it’s going to take them. Heat in 6.
Now, there is something amazing brewing in the East. It’s the heart and soul of the blue collar heroes against the flash of the Heat. Big 3 vs. Big 3. Short of OKC winning the West, nothing would give me as much joy as seeing Boston win the East. Celtics/Spurs finals? OKC/Heat finals? Or…Lakers/Celtics re-rematch? This is why the playoffs are great.