Gotta love the underdog. I mean, we’ve all been there — face-to-face with a more formidable opponent and mustering the courage, the strength, the energy, the [fill in your own miscellaneous adjective here] to rise above and get the win. Makes you feel all tingly inside, doesn’t it?
But basketball is different; expect no such surprises from the NBA this year. Round one of the Eastern Conference Playoffs will go pretty much as planned.
Despite the best efforts of the Bulls, Bobcats, Bucks, and Heat, the results of their first round match ups will unfold as anticipated. These teams may go big, but they will go home.
Cavs (1) vs. Bulls (8)
The Cavs not only have the best record in the East, they’re the best team in the East. Hands down. On their side they have talent (a la LeBron James), height, and depth. The best player on the Bulls is undoubtedly Derrick Rose. While he may be a very good point guard, Rose has been in the league for less than two years. His experience in the NBA, and in the playoffs, is extremely limited. Luol Deng, Brad Miller, and Kirk Hinrich will certainly help him out — they’ll have to — but when compared to the cast of characters backing LBJ, they have no chance. The Cavs have Shaq, Mo Williams, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Antawn Jamison, Delonte West, Daniel Gibson, and Anderson Vaerjao. In the Eastern Conference, no number eight seed has beaten a number one seed in the last ten years. Since 2000, the last ranked team has been swept four times. The Bulls will put up a good fight, but the Cavs will beat them in 5 (a generous estimation, if you ask me).
Magic (2) vs. Bobcats (7)
A part of me has hope for the Bulls, but as for the Bobcats? They just suck. For me, they’re the playoff team that when you found out the playoff teams, made you ask one of two questions. One, the Bobcats made the playoffs??!? And, two, who the hell is even on their team? To save you some research on the second question, the Bobcats may have Stephen Jackson, Larry Hughes, Boris Diaw, and Tyson Chandeler. Still, few people actually know who these players are or what they do. By comparison, the Magic are led by Dwight Howard, the player formerly known as Superman (until Shaq threw a hissy fit), and good old Vince Carter, who started playing basketball before most of us were born. As a team, the Magic are pretty much the same this playoff season as they were last season. They play hard, especially on defense, and come to win.
Hawks (3) vs. Bucks (6)
I like to think of the Hawks as the college grad that got good grades, always shows enthusiasm, but that never seems to land the dream job, or well… any job. The Hawks are a young, upstart team with a lot of potential, but ultimately, not the ones who you expect to see in the final hour, rocking a spot in the final round. But, they’re a solid team that has risen up the ranks, from eighth seed two years ago, to four this year. The Hawks play well at home, with a 34-7 record, and they are 2 and 1 against the inferior Bucks. I forsee a long series, but one ending in a definitive win by the Hawks.
Celtics (4) vs. Heat (5)
Ah, now this is this match up most basketball fans are waiting for. The Celtics and Heat are comparably matched and both solid teams. Both have superstar players who are hungry for a win and are willing to drag along a few benchwarmers to get them there. Still, with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce, one of the best (self-proclaimed) shooters of all time, the Celtics have the edge. Dwayne Wade is but one man. It will be hard for him and his team to hold off Garnett beneath the basketball, Allen at the three, and Pierce, wherever his greatness inspires him to go. The Celtics sometimes have the tendency to get into their own heads and psych themselves out, but so do the Heat, who sometimes show up to play, and sometimes don’t. As far as the coaches go, Doc Rivers is more experienced and effectively led the Celtics to a win not too long ago… Plus, they’re 3 and 0 against Miami this season.