East playoff previews: First round
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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_
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
The Heat COULD win in 7.
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