Cary, NC – They say write about what you know. I know the NBA. And I know it’s going to be some thrilling basketball during the 2011 NBA Playoffs.
It’s the Chicago Bulls led by point guard and likely league MVP Derrick Rose that are the seeming favorites. Rose is explosive, strong, crafty and in such good condition he never seems to break a into sweat. Triangle favorites Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng also start for the Bulls, will face eighth seed Indiana in round one.
Not-to-be-counted-out are the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics. The Heat, led by Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, have been playing lock-down defense. Turnovers always lead to points with James and Wade on the fast break. They will move on to the second round.
The Celtics, who lead the East for most of the season, seemed to lose their mojo when they traded Kendrick Perkins. They accepted third place in the division, resting their starters instead of competing for second against the Heat at the end of the regular season.
The Orlando Magic is holding down the fourth spot. At center, Dwight Howard is a handful for anyone, but the Magic played their best basketball earlier in the season and did not seem to get better with a slew of trades.
The bottom half of the East features the Knicks, Philadelphia, the Atlanta Hawks and Indiana.
The New York Knicks, my hometown favorite, have big guns in Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. It’s the first time the Knicks have made the playoffs in 7 years. They have a shot at climbing past Boston in the first round.
The Philadelphia 76s have been playing good ball, but Miami is going to make them go home, probably early.
The Hawks have been up and down, but they are a talented bunch. Their series with Orlando is a toss-up.
Eighth seed Indiana will likely get blown out early by Chicago. Tar Heel hero Tyler Hansbrough has come into his own for the Pacers this season. I saw him go for better than 25 and 10 (25 points, 10 rebounds) in a game earlier this season, creating havoc under the rim. His teammates still call him Psycho T.
Of local note: the Charlotte Bobcats battled Indiana for the eighth spot in the East but came up short. They made the playoffs last year, but got worse with turmoil in management (Tar Heel Larry Brown leaving the coaching spot mid-season) and a bunch of iffy trades (losing leading scorer Gerald Wallace and G Raymond Felton). Tar Heel Michael Jordan (remember that guy?), president of the Bobcats, has his work cut out for him.
Defending NBA Champions, the Los Angeles Lakers are going for a three-peat. They did not play great basketball at the end of the regular season, but have an incredible arsenal of talent, deep bench and play together like three-time champions.
The San Antiono Spurs played great ball for most of the season. They’re a mature, low-drama group that plays smothering defense. Wake Forest legend Tim Duncan still rules the paint and sets the standard for fundamental basketball under the rim.
The Dallas Mavericks are on fire and Dirk Nowitzki is playing tough, something that has been a learning process for him throughout his career. The Mavs will not be an easy out.
Oklahoma City rounds out the leaders in the West. Who, you say? The OKC Thunder used to be the Seattle Supersonics. Led by World Basketball Gold Medalists Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and prospering from the trade with Boston for center Kendrick Perkins, the Thunder play fast and score a lot. They’ll make it to the second round.
Denver, New Orleans, Portland and New Orleans round out the west. Denver did well in the trade with the Knicks. They now have two Tar Hell point guards in Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton. Their opening series against the Thunder will be exciting to watch.
New Orleans features Wake Forest’s Chris Paul. He’s a talented guy, but they’ll lose to the Lakers.
Portland’s got game and could be trouble for Dallas. Memphis will be crushed by San Antonio.
Chicago is favored to win the East, but I think Miami could make a run. I’d be surprised if the Celtics have the legs and downright shocked if it’s anybody else.
In the West, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers are favored to make it to the Finals. Upsets happen, and everybody loves a Cinderella story, but I expect Los Angeles to be playing at the end.
Who wins it all? The Lakers are too tall for Chicago, and probably Miami as well. So I don’t see anyone in the East who can stand between Laker’s coach Phil Jackson and his fourth career three-peat.
NBA coverage by Hal Goodtree for CaryCitizen.com.