By Billy Perillo
- Season Series: Tied 2-2
- First Game: Saturday 3 pm
- Series Odds: Cleveland -4000
Breakdown: It’s Bron’s time. Some like to say he’s following in Jordan’s footsteps and this postseason will tell the tale. Jordan didn’t win his first ‘ship until his 7th season, and this just so happens to be LeBron’s 7th. Antawn Jamison and Shaquille O’Neal now surround LBJ to give him even more weapons, making this a near impossible task for the Baby Bulls. A healthy Shaq means the Cavs will have 300+ pounds and 6 fouls to send young stud Derrick Rose a message when he drives to the basket. Chicago played great team basketball down the stretch to clinch a seed, but this matchup doesn’t fair well for the Bulls. LeBron & Co. are hungry for a ring.
X-Factor: J.J. Hickson
J.J.’s athleticism will open opportunities for the Cavs’ on both sides of the ball. His ability to guard a center and defend out on the perimeter will be a nice lift for the Cavs off the bench.
[ Prediction: Get your brooms. Cavs in 4. ]
- Season Series: Orlando 3-1
- First Game: Sunday 5:30 pm
- Series Odds: Orlando -900
Breakdown: Congrats to MJ and the Bobcats for their first playoff bid in their existence. Unfortunately, that doesn’t matter to the Magic who got a taste of the Finals last year. Orlando has depth everywhere, so matchups are never anything to worry about. However, they will still have their hands full guarding Steven Jackson and Gerald Wallace, two players who aren’t scared to chuck a 30 foot shot or drive the lane against Superman Dwight Howard. The Magic shouldn’t have any problems getting past round 1. When Vince Carter was asked about playoffs, he responded, “now it’s time to go.”
X-Factor: Jameer Nelson
Nelson is now healthy entering the playoffs unlike last year. The Magic will flourish if Jameer is on his game, as he will present opportunities for the entire team. Jameer vs. Felton should be a good battle at the point guard position.
[ Prediction: Magic have a bad taste in their mouth from last year. Magic in 5. ]
By Luca Esposito
- Season Series: Atlanta 2-1
- First Game: Saturday 5:30 pm
- Series Odds: Atlanta -850
Breakdown: It really is a shame that Andrew Bogut had to suffer a gruesome season-ending injury because this had the potential to be a great series. Now the team will have to try to avoid a possible first round sweep. Kurt Thomas has been doing a pretty decent job filling in for the injured star but at 37-years-old, how much can you honestly expect from him during a 7-game series? One person the team will rely on, though, is newcomer John Salmons, who has been lighting it up in Milwaukee. As for the Hawks, I think it’s safe to say that after three straight years in the playoffs, this is now a veteran team. They will advance to the second round for the second straight year.
X-Factor: John Salmons
As I mentioned, Salmons has been on fire since being traded from the Bulls. With Bogut out, they are going to have to rely on him even more. Listen closely, John Salmons will have to score 30 a night during this series if they want to compete.
[ Prediction: No Bogut, no chance. Hawks in 5. ]
- Season Series: Boston 3-0
- First Game: Sunday 1 pm
- Series Odds: Boston -210
Breakdown: This is easily the best first round matchup in the East. Dwyane Wade and his Heat are back and trying to make it out of the first round for the first time since the ’05-’06 season when they won it all. Last postseason he averaged 29 a game and that wasn’t enough, as they lost to the Hawks in 7. Expect more of the same this time around. They’ll take on a Boston Celtics team that is much different than the one in recent years. To put things into perspective, Boston has lost games to each one of the bottom feeders in the East this season – the Wizards, Knicks, and… the New Jersey Nets. Although age has clearly caught up to this team, they’ll still make it out of the first round, but don’t bank on much more.
X-Factor: Michael Beasley
SOMEONE is going to have to step up on this Heat team besides Flash, and I think that someone needs to be Michael Beasley. They call him “B-Easy,” but it should be “B-Easy-Some-Of-The-Time” due to his inconsistent play. This is his second trip back to the playoffs and I think it’s time to show people why he was a 2nd overall pick.
Edge: Can’t go against those Miami women – Heat.
[ Prediction: Wade averages 30+ but it still isn't enough. Celtics in 7. ]