East playoff previews: First round

BDodgers at aol.com BDodgers at aol.com
Fri Apr 17 23:19:05 UTC 2009

East playoff previews: First round
_by Charley  Rosen_ 
Charley Rosen is FOXSports.com's NBA analyst and author of 15  books about 
hoops, the current ones being _The First Tip-Off: The Incredible Story of 
the Birth of the NBA_ 
and _No Blood, No Foul_ 
(http://www.amazon.com/No-Blood-Foul-Charley-Rosen/dp/1583228284/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1207952386&sr=1-1) .


No. 1 Cavaliers vs. No. 8 Pistons

Why the Cavs should win
While Tayshaun Prince is an excellent defender, he's not strong enough to  
seriously bother LeBron James. And if James can hit a few perimeter shots, 
the  Cavs will breeze through the series.  

Since Rip Hamilton is the only Piston who can routinely light up the  
scoreboard, Cleveland's bigs will focus on helping to defend his utilization of  
various screens to curl, pop and reverse. Hamilton's energetic, but less 
than  stifling defense will also be exploited by the underrated Delonte West.  
Rodney Stuckey's shaky handle will be attacked by the much quicker Mo  
The Cavs will push the ball into Zydrunas Ilgauskas hoping to get Rasheed  
Wallace into early foul trouble. Since Wallace is easily provoked by calls 
that  go against him, he could easily become a non-factor, or even a negative 
Efforts will be made to keep Will Bynum out of the middle. But if the  
Pistons' quick-footed guard does penetrate, the Cavs will ambush all available  
passing lanes knowing that Bynum is prone to making passes while he's in the 
Cleveland will out-rebound, out-defend, out-score and out-run Detroit..  
The Cavs SHOULD win in 4.  
How the Pistons could win
The most important decision to be made is exactly how to defend LBJ. Double 
 him whenever possible and force his supporting cast to win the game? Or 
play him  straight up, concede his 30-40 (50?) points, and shut down everybody 
else? Or  perhaps mix and match these two options?  
The Pistons would best be served by having the long-armed Prince play off 
of  James, even to the extent of going under any high screens. The idea being 
to let  James shoot as many outside jumpers as he wishes, thereby 
minimizing his  opportunities to get his teammates involved. Also, James should be 
vigorously  denied his left hand since he shoots much better going that way. 
Instead, he  should be forced right, and kept right.  

Moreover, LBJ must be forced to play defense. Involve him in isolations, 
run  him off multiple screens, and have his man go back-door whenever James 
turns his  head to peek at the ball.  
Stuckey should be given multiple opportunities to overpower Williams either 
 in the low- or mid-post areas, or in wing isos.  
Because the Cavs are a big man short, Wallace should post-up Ilgauskas and  
Antonio McDyess should do the same to Anderson Varejao. Foul trouble for 
either  (or both) forces Cleveland to play Darnell Jackson, an earnest but 
inexperienced  rookie.  
The Pistons must concentrate on controlling their defensive glass and 
prevent  the Cavs from getting second-chance shots.  
Detroit should try to control the tempo by taking the air out of the ball,  
then counter Cleveland's aggressive defense with reversal passes and 
backdoor  cuts.  
As ever, the key to Detroit's destiny will be Rasheed Wallace. If his chops 
 are up, if his focus is steady, and if he's willing to venture into the 
low  post, then the Pistons will be able to complement Hamilton's 
perpetual-motion  offensive thrusts.  
And the Pistons would have a great shot at advancing if LBJ were to suffer 
a  debilitating injury early in the series.  
Otherwise, the Pistons COULD win four games only if they  played a 
best-of-15 series.  
No. 2 Celtics vs. No. 7 Bulls
Why the Celtics should win
Their defense is too quick, too tough, and too disciplined for the Bulls to 
 develop any kind of offensive rhythm.  
Paul Pierce has the skills, the heart and the determination to chump 
whoever  tries to defend him. Indeed, there's no way that John Salmons' defense 
can  accomplish anything other than slightly annoying Pierce. And because the 
Celtics  led the NBA in 3-point accuracy — 39.3% — doubling PP is extremely 
None of the Bulls guards will be able to keep up with Ray Allen's  
off-the-ball cuts, curls, and pops.  
Because Perkins has refined his pivotal offense, he can easily overpower  
Joakim Noah. And because Brad Miller isn't quite as tough as he's presumed to 
 be, so Perkins can also successfully operate against him in the low post.  
With Kevin Garnett on the shelf, Glen Davis will be able to demonstrate 
that  his improved jumper has to be honored.  
Rajon Rondo can out-quick any of the Bulls' point guards, and zip to the 
hoop  against them all.  
Leon Powe is tougher than any of the Bulls. Stephon Marbury is finally in  
synch and in shape, and is ready to play meaningful minutes. Tony Allen is 
an  underrated defender and penetrator. Eddie House can shoot the lights on 
or off.  

The Bulls lack a pivotal scorer so the Celtics can play aggressive 
perimeter  defense while Perkins and KG jam the middle and snuff drivers.  
The Celtics will wipe the glass clean at both ends.  
After the Bulls were humiliated by Toronto at home to close out the regular 
 season, they know in their hearts that they can't possibly win the series —
 so  they won't be able to stay motivated from tip to buzzer.  
The Celtics are the defending champs, are playoff-hardened, and know how to 
The Celtics SHOULD win in 5.  
Why Chicago could win
They have great depth at the point and the wing positions. Ben Gordon, John 
 Salmons, Kirk Hinrich and Derrick Rose are each capable of scoring points 
by the  dozen. This is the strongest aspect and the focal point of Chicago's 
game plan.  
Rose is bigger and stronger than Rondo and might be able to bully his  
counterpart in the paint.  
Gordon, Salmons and Brad Miller all shoot over 40 percent from beyond the  
Since Miller is primarily a high-post player, Perkins will be discomforted  
playing earnest defense so far from the basket.  
Tyrus Thomas may be able to out-quick and out-jump Davis. Plus, Boston's  
defense will be seriously compromised without Garnett.  
Salmons is a jack-of-all-trades and master of many.  
The Bulls COULD win but only through the auspices of divine intervention.  
No. 3 Magic vs. No. 7 Sixers
Why the Magic should win
The Sixers' interior defenders — Samuel Dalembert and Theo Ratliff — are  
bouncy lightweights, and will not be able to prevent Dwight Howard from  
dominating the paint. This will necessitate doubling Howard, which will then  
give the Magic's dead-eye 3-point shooters plenty of open looks.  
Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, Courtney Lee, Anthony Johnson, J.J. Redick,  
Mickael Pietrus, and (to a lesser degree) Rafer Alston can accurately shoot 
over  any defense the Sixers might present.  
The Magic will own both backboards and game-to-game will get many more 
second  shots.  
Lewis is a professional point-maker with size, quickness and cunning. Andre 
 Iguodala cannot contain him without getting substantial defensive help.  
Since Turkoglu is a 3-point-shooting, tricky-driving, excellent-passing  
point-forward, he presents an unusual challenge and a difficult cover for  
Thaddeus Young.  
Alston should run rings around the slow-footed Andre Miller.  
Philadelphia lacks a reliable post-up scorer, and is also the worst  
perimeter-shooting team in the league — only 31.9 percent from beyond the arc.  
This means that Howard will be able to hang around the paint on defense, which 
 is not good news for Andre Iguodala, because his erratic jumper forces him 
to  look for the drive.  
Pietrus is a legitimate defensive stopper who can come off the bench and 
give  Iguodala a world of trouble.  
To win, the Sixers must run. To run, they must either control their 
defensive  glass (an impossibility), or else play aggressive deny-defense and look 
for  steals (a dangerous tactic against the clever-passing Magic).  
Orlando SHOULD win in 6.  
How the Sixers could win
They're quicker at every position except point guard — and quicker at all  
positions when Lou Williams replaces Miller — so they just might be able to 
get  out and go even after Orlando's makes.  

Willie Green has the kind of tough defense that can take Courtney Lee out 
of  the game.  
Royal Ivey is a defensive stopper who's able to shut down Alston and 
Turkoglu will be hard-pressed to defend the talented and athletic slants of 
 Young. And the late-season development of young Marreese Speights could 
take the  Magic by surprise.  
In the clutch, Howard can be fouled for profit.  
When he's doubled on the move, Howard usually makes poor decisions with the 
 ball. If the Sixers are able to speed up the pace, they could 
significantly  negate Howard's influence.  
The Magic's bench is short on creative scorers, so early foul trouble for 
any  of their starters could be troublesome.  
Lou Williams can easily get to the hoop against the defenseless Alston and  
the painfully slow Johnson.  
The Magic fell apart as the regular season ended, while the Sixers are 
buoyed  by their scrappy win against the Cavs' subs that gained the sixth seed.  
The Sixers COULD win in 7.  
No. 4 Hawks vs. No. 5 Heat
Why the Hawks should win
They play extremely well at home, while Miami is not an especially good 
road  team.  
Overall, the Hawks' rotation players are much more athletic than their  
counterparts, and Atlanta's running game will be devastating.  
If Josh Smith has his head screwed on right, he will attack the rim, play  
positional defense, and prove to be much too quick for Udonis Haslem to 
Al Horford is too active for Jermaine O'Neal to keep up with.  
Joe Johnson is an authentic two-way player, as well as being an outstanding 
 go-to scorer who's both willing and eager to pass. His adhesive defense 
will  pressure Jamario Moon into making his usual quota of bad decisions.  
Mike Bibby's long-distance shooting will discourage the Heat from packing 
the  middle on defense. Also, Bibby is still too tricky to be bothered much 
by the  rookie defense of Mario Chalmers.  
Flip Murray is a high-volume point-maker off the bench.  
Except for Bibby and possibly Murray, the Hawks are big enough to switch 
high  screen/rolls while suffering only minimal damage.  
When the Hawks are on offense, Dwyane Wade is an excellent situational  
defender. Otherwise, Udonis Haslem is the only opponent whose defense must be  
attended to.  
The Hawks will successfully attack their offensive glass.  
Atlanta's unexpected success against Boston in last year's opening round 
will  provide a huge confidence boost.  
Wade's effectiveness can be reduced if he's played soft and allowed to 
shoot  from the outside.  
The Hawks SHOULD win in 7.  
How the Heat could win
Jermaine O'Neal can overpower Horford in the low-post.  

D-Wade can single-handedly ground the Hawks. If he's doubled, the Heat's  
deadly 3-point shooters — Michael Beasley, Daequan Cook, Chris Quinn, and  
Jamario Moon — could make this tactic extremely costly.  
Moon is sufficiently quick and athletic to give Joe Johnson a run for the  
Beasley continues to be a productive point-maker, and perhaps will thrive 
in  the playoff pressure.  
Haslem can bully Smith and get him riled and wild.  
On-the-ball-pressure and deny defense can force the Hawks into committing  
lots of turnovers.  
Smith is a roamer on defense, looking to block every shot he can see.  
Consequently, the Hawks have no reliable shot-blockers so the middle could be  
wide open.  
The Heat COULD win in 7.

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