The NBA: 2013 Playoffs: East 1st Round Preview

The journey to 16 wins starts on April 20, 2013
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(1) Miami HEAT vs (8) Milwaukee BUCKS 
Season Series: HEAT 3-1 

How the HEAT can win: Miami is top 5 in both points scored and points allowed. They held the Bucks to an average of 97 points in their 4 meetings while the Heat won 3 of 4 games. Miami has the best 3 players in this series who all had career-highs in shooting. The Heat will be patient and methodical in executing their offense. The Bucks are 20th in team defense so they have not shown that they are capable of playing exceptional defense. In the 3 games they beat the Bucks, the Heat has out-rebounded the taller and bigger Bucks lineup.

How the BUCKS can win: The Bucks are #3 in forcing turnovers so if they can generate fastbreak chances to get easy points, they can keep this close. The Heat is last in rebounding while the Bucks are 5th so Milwaukee has a big edge on the glass. They have the personnel in Ilyasova, Henson and Sanders who can crash the boards to set up second chance points. If the Bucks crash the glass and fail to get the rebound, they will be in trouble since the Heat is pretty good when it comes to transition baskets. Miami is susceptible to giving up open threes so if the Bucks can make a lot more threes than the Heat, they have a chance to win.

What will PROBABLY happen: The Heat has an efficient and unselfish team while the Bucks have (inefficient) shot hunters in Jennings and Ellis. Wade will dominate Ellis (or Redick) on the post and LeBron will do the same to whomever the Bucks throw at him. If the Bucks decide to double team, the Heat shooters will have all the clean looks they want. Miami went 31-0 during the regular season when they made at least 10 threes. The Heat has 4 players who made at least 100 treys. Miami can shut down Ellis and Jennings but the Bucks will have trouble with Wade and James.

X-FACTORS: Brandon Jennings (Bucks). He predicted that the Bucks will win in 6 games so he needs to back that up. Jennings needs to be aggressive and efficient since he has an advantage over the PGs of the Heat. If Jennings averages 20 and 10, the Bucks could steal a game or two.
Chris Andersen (Heat). The Birdman will be the primary big man coming from the bench for Miami. He will be tasked to defend Larry Sanders or Ilyasova. If Andersen is able to limit their rebounds and even get fouls from them, the Bucks will be severely limited without their talented front line.

Prediction: HEAT in 4

(2) New York KNICKS vs (7) Boston CELTICS
Season Series: KNICKS 3-1

How the KNICKS can win: The Knicks made the most threes in the NBA this season and they set a league record in made threes. Carmelo Anthony is a better passer in the post or when he gets double teamed. That extra pass frees up their shooters for uncontested threes. Amare will probably miss this series so that helps the Knicks in regards to their rotation and playing small ball. The Knicks made more threes and out-rebounded the Celtics in all the 4 games. If the Knicks continue doing that, the Celtics would have a hard time winning 1 game.

How the CELTICS can win: The Celtics need to play great defense on Melo and JR Smith. That duo has exploded for a combined average of 45 points in 4 meetings but shot below 50% so the Celtics need to coerce them to more bad shots. Boston also needs to limit the offensive rebounds that they give up to the Knicks because that results into more open shots. In their lone win vs the Knicks, the Celtics had less turnovers, shot 52% from the floor and had more assists even without Rondo (DNP-suspension). If they can sustain that level of play, an upset if quite possible.

What will PROBABLY happen: Both teams have injuries to good players but the Celtics lost their biggest advantage over the Knicks with Rajon Rondo not playing. JR Smith has a big advantage on Jason Terry when it comes to height and scoring so advantage to the Knicks. Tyson Chandler is more mobile and active than Kevin Garnett which could limit KG's effectiveness and influence on the game. The Knicks could easily load up on the strong side when Pierce has the ball because Courtney Lee and Avery Bradley are mediocre three-point shooters. Overall, Carmelo has had an impressive season and if he continues his hot streak, the Knicks will move on to the 2nd Round.

X-FACTORS: Iman Shumpert (Knicks). Shump will be tasked to guard Pierce on most occasions to prevent Melo from getting into foul trouble. Iman is also their best perimeter defender and his outside shot is much improved this year. Shumpert needs to make the Celtics pay when his defender leaves him open to double Melo or JR.
Jeff Green (Celtics). Green had a streak of about 15 straight games of scoring at least 10 especially when KG missed games. If Green can rekindle his scoring touch, that should be a big boost to their offense especially when Melo is guarding him instead of Pierce.

Prediction: KNICKS in 6

(3) Indiana PACERS vs (6) Atlanta HAWKS
Season Series: Tied at 2-2

How the PACERS can win: The Pacers are a top defensive team that finished 2nd in points allowed and 1st in lowest shooting percentage. They were also top in rebounds per game. Needless to say, the Pacers are an elite defensive team who have trouble scoring sometimes. They have 2 clutch performers in David West who is a great post player and Paul George who is a budding superstar. If the game is close during the last minutes, the Pacers know who they can trust.

How the HAWKS can win: The Hawks are 2nd in assists per game which speaks of their willingness to pass in search of a quality shot. They will need a lot of ball movement and motion to break the defensive wall of the Pacers. Josh Smith needs to control himself from launching crazy bad shots that could lead to transition baskets for the Pacers. Al Horford has to be assertive and aggressive when attacking Roy Hibbert to get him into foul trouble.

What will PROBABLY happen: The Pacers won the last 2 games of this season series by scoring at least 100 points. During those 2 wins, they had balance scoring with 6 and 7 players scoring at least 10 points, respectively. That shows that the Pacers can score points on certain occasions to go along with their topnotch defense. Roy Hibbert has played well after the All-Star break and his interior presence can make life so much harder for Horford and Josh Smith. Paul George will be a tough cover for the Hawks. Who should guard him? Josh Smith? DeShawn Stevenson? Kyle Korver???

X-FACTORS: George Hill (Pacers). Jeff Teague has the advantage on the PG spot and it's up to Hill to try and prevent Teague from penetrating and creating open shots for the Hawks.
Kyle Korver (Hawks). Korver will get close to 20 minutes a game and he needs to make any open shot he gets. He is a liability defensively so his usefulness on the perimeter must be capitalized on offense.

Prediction: PACERS in 5

(4) Brooklyn NETS (5) Chicago BULLS
Season Series: BULLS 3-1

How the NETS can win: Deron Williams has been playing like an All-Star in the past 2 months. His numbers during that run were 25 points and 8 assists which reminded us of his playing days circa 2010. Brook Lopez had a super efficient year (top 5 in PER) while Reggie Evans was a monster on the glass. The Nets can run and score transition baskets vs the Bulls especially when Marco Belinelli or Nate Robinson launches bad shots. The Nets have capable finishers during the break with Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace and Deron Williams.

How the BULLS can win: The Bulls play tough defense regardless of their personnel. Joakim Noah could miss a game or two and that certainly hurts their chances of winning. Carlos Boozer is finally earning his salary (8 double-doubles in his last 10) while Nate Robinson has been streaky good. A healthy Luol Deng can be a pesky defender on the perimeter and together with Jimmy Butler, they can limit the effectiveness of Joe Johnson and Williams. A healthy lineup (Gibson, Noah, Hamilton, Deng) will also help.

What will PROBABLY happen: The Nets have more firepower and they have a playmaker in Williams who can disrupt the Bulls' defense. If Noah doesnt play much and Boozer does not commit to boxing out and rebounding, expect Reggie Evans and Andray Blatche to have a field day grabbing rebounds left and right. The injuries to the Bulls will definitely prevent them from winning the series. BUT if Derrick Rose, decides to make his debut during this series, the Bulls might just win. Im still hoping for a Rose vs Williams showdown.

X-FACTORS: Reggie Evans (Nets) If Noah misses a lot of games or is hampered by an injury, Evans should have monster games on the boards. Reggie had 9 games with at least 20 rebounds.
Jimmy Butler (Bulls). Butler has been good since he started getting heavy minutes. He averaged 15 during April and he can play physical defense on the perimeter. Expect Butler to guard Deron every now and then.

Prediction: NETS in 6 

You can find  the West 1st Round Preview here.

Also check our FULL PLAYOFFS PREDICTIONS up to the NBA Finals.

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