The NBA Playoffs: East 1st Round

(1) Chicago Bulls vs (8) Philadelphia 76ers 
Season Series: Bulls 2-1 

How the Bulls will win: The Bulls are number 1 in rebounds per game and first in points allowed on defense. The Sixers are a jump-shooting team and that plays into the Bulls' hands. Missed shots can be easily converted into fastbreak points when Rose leads the attack. Bulls are first in offensive rebounds so boxing out and rebounding will be a priority for the Sixers which could limit their chances for leaking out and running a fastbreak.

How the Sixers will win: The Sixers are good defensively (3rd best) but it is their offense that lacks punch. The Sixers dont have a superstar that can create shots out of nothing so they will need ball movement and transition points to create easy and open shots. They have more athletic players (Williams, Young, Turner, Iguodala, Holliday) than the Bulls and they must use that to their advantage by always pushing the ball and running.

What will probably happen: The pace in the playoffs is generally slower and more methodical. Fastbreak points are harder to come by and the need for efficient halfcourt offensive sets are crucial to a team's success. Derrick Rose is a master playmaker and he can create shots for himself or for his team. The Bulls will get easier baskets and have more open looks for their shooters (Deng, Korver, Watson).

X-Factor: Bench production. Both teams have deep benches (slight advantage to the Bulls) and if the Sixers outplay the Bulls' bench, the Sixers have a puncher's chance of an upset.

Prediction: Bulls in 5

(2) Miami Heat vs (7) New York Knicks
Season Series: Heat 3-0

How the Heat will win: The Heat will attack the paint with LeBron and Wade to create looks for their shooters. This is also a ploy to get Chandler in foul trouble which allows Bosh to be more productive offensively if Chandler is not guarding him. On defense, the Heat will trap the ball-handler during pick and rolls to limit scoring chances for the roller (Amare/Chandler).

How the Knicks will win: It is no secret that the Heat give up a lot of three-point shots and the Knicks take a lot of treys. If the shooters (Novak, Anthony, Smith, Fields) make at least half of their treys, that should create more scoring opportunities in the post for Amare and Chandler. The Heat is relatively thin on their frontcourt  and the Knicks have the advantage.

What will probably happen: LeBron will shutdown or at least cancel out Melo so it's up to Amare to make up for the offense. Amare recently came back from an injury and his production has dipped from last year. The secondary scoring option falls on Wade vs Amare. Do you think Amare can outscore Wade? The Knicks will take lots of threes but long range shots have the lowest chance of going on. The Knicks are 2nd in turnovers and the Heat will turn those miscues into highlights.

X-Factor: Chris Bosh. If Bosh plays like an all-star and outplays Amare and Chandler, Knicks have no chance.

Prediction: Heat in 5

(3) Indiana Pacers vs (6) Orlando Magic
Season Series: Magic 3-1

How the Pacers will win: The Pacers have a strong frontcourt with Hibbert, Granger and West. They can pound the ball inside especially with Dwight Howard out. Paul George, George Hill, Leandro Barbosa and Darren Collison are decent slashers who can attack the paint with relative ease and have no fear of getting blocked. Pacers will focus their defense on Ryan Anderson who is the best player on the Magic by default.

How the Magic will win: Like the Knicks, the Magic will launch treys. They have no inside presence since Anderson and Glen Davis are jump shooters and they have no Howard. Unlike the Knicks, the Magic have better shooters (Reddick, Turkoglu, Richardson) but that is their only strength. If the shots dont fall from the arc, this series is over.

What will probably happen: The Pacers will dominate on defense and offense because Howard is not around to anchor the Magic's attack. There isnt enough firepower for the Magic to compete with what the Pacers can dish out.

X-Factor: Ryan Anderson. If he can average numbers that mimic what Dwight can do (20 and 15), then the Magic might avoid the sweep.

Prediction: Pacers in 4

(4) Boston Celtics vs (5) Atlanta Hawks
Season Series: Celtics 2-1

How the Celtics will win: The Celtics are 2nd in assists per game. A big chunk of that is due to the brilliance and playmaking ability of Rajon Rondo. He will deliver the ball to the Big Three in the right place where they can be effective. The Celtics play excellent defense which means that Joe Johnson and Josh Smith need to elevate their games to provide that extra scoring punch.

How the Hawks will win: When Josh Smith is active on both sides of the court, the Hawks win most of the time. Jeff Teague and Kirk Hinrich need to slow down Rondo. They can do this by making their shots and limiting their turnovers. The Hawks can also make Rondo a scorer by forcing him to take jumpers instead of driving to the hoop. Or they can foul him because he is a below average foul shooter.

What will probably happen: Rajon Rondo has been on a hot streak of late. He is the best player on the floor and if he plays to his capacity, the Hawks have a small chance of winning. Rondo will attack the paint and lead fastbreak attacks where he can get Pierce, Pietrus and Allen open shots in transition. KG has been making his long jumpers and if Josh Smith settles for jumpers, the series will be over quick.

X-Factor: Avery Bradley. He has been the starter when Ray Allen was injured and he remains a starter. He can play great defense on Joe Johnson which allows Pierce to save himself for offense.

Prediction: Celtics in 6
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