We will be publishing an in-depth analysis of the Brooklyn Nets-Toronto Raptors series prior to Saturday’s 12:30PM tipoff. In the meantime, let’s get our views on the other three series on the record.
# 1 INDIANA PACERS VS. # 8 ATLANTA HAWKS
WINNER: Pacers in 5 games
There’s simply no reason I can find to take a contrarian’s stance on this series. Indiana finished 18 games ahead of Atlanta, despite some severe wobbles near season’s end. While they score more points than Indy, Atlanta allows a lot more. The Hawks are missing Al Horford, and will have to find ways to free up 3-ball specialist Kyle Korver. Roy Hibbert’s offense has disappeared, but he can still defend the paint like few others. The Pacers’ depth can’t be matched by the Hawks.
# 2 MIAMI HEAT VS. # 7 CHARLOTTE BOBCATS
WINNER: Heat in 5 games
I think the Bobcats could give the Pacers an interesting battle, but I’m less sanguine about their chances against the two-time defending champions. Charlotte doesn’t have enough offensive variety to scare the Heat. Al Jefferson has been superb scoring the ball, but will be exploited mercilessly on D. Miami’s bench features playoff-toughened veterans like Ray Allen and Shane Battier. Dwyane Wade is healthy, and can be a difference-maker. LeBron James isn’t bad. Charlotte, by making the playoffs, has already won. Fun’s over.
# 4 CHICAGO BULLS VS. # 5 WASHINGTON WIZARDS
WINNER: Chicago in 7 games
The Wizards have been rebuilding for a decade; the Bulls needed about half a season. The trade press is lavishing praise on Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau for his masterly remix following the injury to Derrick Rose and trade of Luol Deng. Joakim Noah has become a point centre, racking up assists and rebounds in almost equal measure. Taj Gibson has emerged as a force off the bench, and will give the Wiz’ front court big trouble.
However, Chicago labours mightily on offense, and Washington should be able to score just enough points to stay in every game, and win at least two of them. Marcin Gortat, a strong man, can box Noah out. John Wall is the best guard on either team, and Trevor Ariza can play glue-guy for me every day. This series may be the most interesting of all.
Best Bet: Heat over Bobcats
Upset Special: Wizards over Bulls