The 2010-11 regular season is winding down as most NBA teams have four or less games left in their schedule. 15 of the 16 playoff teams are official, but I think it is safe to say the postseason participants are settled.
With that said, it is time for something better than Christmas, apple pie, the funniest episode of South Park and Eva Mendez in a bikini…the NBA playoffs. Sorry Eva, I still want to get married.
The seeds are not official so I’m not going to predict who is going to beat who, yet. But, I think it’s only right to give a brief evaluation about each team before they head into the playoffs. Some of the low seeds are hot while some of the top seeds are cooling off and could find themselves in big trouble if it gets matched up against the wrong team. I’ll break it down from the top to the bottom, starting with the Eastern Conference.
1) Chicago Bulls
In his third year in the NBA Derrick Rose has lead the Bulls to a 57-20 record and the top seed in the Eastern Conference with a bunch of different players from last year. He is a top MVP candidate while first year Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau is a Coach of the Year nominee. Thibodeau came to the team and did what he does best, teach defense and cohesive play between players who never played together. Not only have these two done a great job, but Carlos Boozer has been an extremely productive second scoring option, when healthy, Luol Deng has made the big shot when needed and the bench has made the best of every opportunity. There is no reason Chicago can’t get past the second round of the playoffs.
2 & 3) Boston Celtics and Miami Heat
The Heat are currently the third seed, but they’re only a half game behind the Celtics, which makes the official two seed unknown until the playoffs officially begin.
Boston has played horrible since they traded Kendrick Perkins. It could be because Perkins was the only healthy big physical presence on the roster but there has been rumblings about the players being upset about the trade. ESPN’s Chad Ford said Rajon Rondo is mad and isn’t playing with the same emotion or intensity because Perkins was his best friend. Ford also the front line isn’t intimidating anymore because Kevin Garnett used to have a big physical teammate to help back up his jawing. Well, he doesn’t anymore. The championship aspirations are over.
The Celtics are 4-4 in their last eight games including a 10-point win against the San Antonio Spurs, the team with the best record in the league, and loses against non-playoff teams or current eight seeds such as the Charlotte Bobcats and the Indiana Pacers.
Miami has had the most storied up and down season ever. They went on a five game losing streak against playoff teams, but then beat the Spurs by 30. Then the Heat stayed true to this season’s form by following a five game winning streak with a loss to the worst team in the league, the Cleveland Cavaliers. I think the Heat could get passed the first round, but I don’t know how much further afterwards.
4) Orlando Magic
Dwight Howard has been a beast all season, but his team has been below average. Orlando is locked into the four seed because they can’t move up or down as they sit four and a half games below the Heat and above the Atlanta Hawks. I respect the decision to make the mid-season block buster trades to unload Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis, but Gilbert Arenas and Hedo Turkoglu have been just as bad. I think the Magic’s tenure of being an elite team in the east is over. Honestly, they wouldn’t make it out of the first round if they were playing someone better than Atlanta.
5) Atlanta Hawks
I don’t even no where to begin with the Hawks because they have no chance of doing anything. Orlando will smash them similar to the way I think six of the seven teams in the eastern playoffs could. The only team I think Atlanta would be favored against would be the Indiana Pacers. The Hawks play big, but they don’t have any direction or strong enough perimeter defense to make a run.
6) New York Knicks
Since the Carmelo Anthony trade the Knicks have been lackluster to say the least. Anthony and Amare Stoudemire are two of the best scorers in the league but the Knicks lack rebounding, defense and size. The only way they could win a series is if Anthony and Stoudemire score 50-points apiece and a ninja uses ultra quickness, so fast we can’t see him, and stealth like defensive skills. Melo-Drama has been fun to follow, but it probably ends in the first round. or
Actually, I hope the first round features the Knicks against the Heat because it would be the battle of the first alliance against two-thirds of a second alliance. The story lines are endless..
7) Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers have had a strong second half to the season once Andre Iguodala’s health improved. Elton Brand and Jrue Holliday have also played well, but it isn’t enough to get them past teams such as the Heat or the Celtics. Philadelphia is the 11th best team in the league with 42 rebounds a game, to bad each rebound doesn’t equal points as it averages 99 a game.
Philadelphia has dropped its last three games to Boston, New York and the non-playoff Milwaukee Bucks.
8) Indiana Pacers
Finally, the Pacers have come back to the playoffs. I think I just made a Rock reference, wow. The Pacers haven’t been to the playoffs since the 2005-06 season, where they lost in the first round to the New Jersey Nets. This has been a good story to see a team that has been so horrible for so long make it out of the regular season. The pick up of Darren Collison has given Indiana some direction, even though he is a score first point guard. Roy Hibbert has show signs of brilliance in the paint and Tyler Hansbrough has already done more in one season than I thought he would do in his entire NBA career.
On the other hand, the Pacers are seven games below .500 and don’t have a chance of winning a seven game series against any team in the playoffs. Indiana should take this playoff berth in stride and strive for a return visit as a higher seed next season.
Come back tomorrow for the Western Conference breakdown