warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

2013 NBA Playoff Preview: Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

Jordan Gary, Adam Levin, Andrew Seah |
April 21, 2013 | 10:00 a.m. PDT

Staff Writers

The Bucks' hopes of stunning the Heat lie with this guy (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
The Bucks' hopes of stunning the Heat lie with this guy (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
The NBA playoffs are already underway, and if Day One is any indication, 40 Games in 40 Nights will be an exciting ride. In the Eastern Conference, Miami and New York seem destined to meet. But can the other six squads in the postseason also make some noise? Dig in and find out.

(1) Miami Heat v. (8) Milwaukee Bucks 

On one side of the ring, we have King James and the great Dwyane Wade leading the defending champions on their road to a second consecutive title. On the other side, we have the only team to qualify for a playoff spot with a losing record (38-44), the Milwaukee Bucks.

This year, the Heat had one of the most impressive regular seasons we've seen. 66 total wins to go with a 27-game winning streak is nothing to ignore. Miami is also the most efficient team in the league on offense, while Milwaukee comes in 21st. With three All-Stars in the King, Wade, and Chris Bosh, it is hard to deny the talent the Heat bring with them. Milwaukee, on the other hand, does not have a single All-Star to boast about.

The Bucks do have one star to look out for though, even he isn't royalty quite yet, and that is Larry Sanders. Second in the NBA in blocks, the only problem for Milwaukee is that there aren't four more of him on the court bringing the same defensive abilities. Despite the fact that he has yet to the see the postseason in his career as well as his history for being a hothead with the referees, Sanders might be the only Buck to hold his own and bring validity to the phrase "Fear the Deer".

Milwaukee's best chance to win relies on a Big Three member or two getting injured, or the Bucks' scorers to start playing at a much high caliber. The odds of either of those happening are not in Milwaukee's favor.

Going into this match-up there are some interesting facts to look at.

1. Milwaukee is coming into this series with nine consecutive road losses

2. While the Heat generally struggle with rebounds with 38.7 per game, they've averaged 10 rebounds above that mark in their four games against Milwaukee this season

3. Miami leads the league in field goal percentage at 49.5 percent, while Milwaukee falls a bit far behind at 43.5 percent from the floor.

Most people (read: everyone) have Miami as NBA title favorites, so it is hard to fathom the Heat not winning this early series. Miami could very well sweep, but chance says you give the underdog one game where they figure it all out.

Jordan Gary's Prediction: Heat in 5

Does Kevin Garnett have an upset in him? (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
Does Kevin Garnett have an upset in him? (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
(2) New York Knicks vs. (7) Boston Celtics

Breaking Down the Celtics

Boston had their worst regular season in a while, receiving the worst seeding of the Kevin Garnett Era. But don't be deceived by their regular season record; this is not your average 500 ball club. Savvy coach Doc Rivers was extremely judicious about resting Garnett and Paul Pierce, sitting both for a combined 15 of the team’s final 20 games, during which the Celtics went 7-13. These kind of matchups are literally what KG lives for

Breaking Down the Knicks

New York had their best regular season since the '96-'97 season and the lowest seeding since the '93-'94 season. They come into the postseason with some injury concerns in the frontcourt. Tyson Chandler is battling a bulging disk in his neck (he missed 16 of the last 20 heading into the postseason), Marcus Camby is having issues with his fascia in his left foot, and Kenyon Martin is recovering from a sprained ankle. All are expected to be available for Saturday. Pablo Prigioni, the 36-year-old rookie who surprisingly has earned a spot in the Knicks rotation, missed Game One after spraining his ankle in the final regular season game, while Camby also sat. 

The Knicks will be trying to win their first playoff series since the '99-'00 season, with Anthony trying to avoid losing in the first round for 10th time in his 11 trips. 

Breaking Down the Series

This series will be decided by two battles: The Celtics’ 3-point defense and the Knicks’ guarding of the interior. The Knicks set an all-time record this season in 3-point field goals made and attempted, but the Celtics have been the league's best defense against the 3-point shot since the return of defensive stopper Avery Bradley on January 2. A great deal will depend on the Celtics’ ability to rotate to Knicks shooters for an entire series, and on the Knicks’ ability to continue their season-long hot shooting from beyond the arc. New York in 37-8 this season when they hit 11 or more treys.

Just as important will be the Knicks' level of commitment to defending the interior. The Knicks allowed opponents to shoot 62 percent from within five feet, which was the fifth-worst figure in the league this season. The New York big men will have to stay out of foul trouble, because newly signed Solomon Jones is not someone who you want to rely on in a playoff series. 

Ultimately, though, I believe the Knicks’ versatile offensive attack will prove too much for this Boston squad to handle.

Adam Levin’s Prediction: Knicks in 6 

Al Horford and the Heats aren't being given much of a chance (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
Al Horford and the Heats aren't being given much of a chance (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
(3) Indiana Pacers vs. (6) Atlanta Hawks

On the surface, the Indiana Pacers seem a tough prospect for the Atlanta Hawks, but that did not deter them from seemingly tanking the last few games of the season to avoid a first-round matchup with the Brooklyn Nets or Chicago Bulls. Each team won two games in the season series, but Hawks fans are feeling optimistic about their team's chances would be wise to acknowledge the following caveats. 

In both regular-season victories, Lou Williams played a prominent role in exploiting holes and distributing the wealth - he torched the Hawks to a tune of 7.5 assists per game. He is sidelined due to an unfortunate ACL tear. Zaza Pachulia, a key interior presence, is also out for the series. Each player is instrumental for the Hawks on each side of the floor and their absence will be felt. Jeff Teague and Devin Harris will have to shoulder more shot creation responsibilities, and their big-man rotation - Al Horford, Josh Smith, Ivan Johnson - would do well not to get into early foul trouble. 

Atlanta might view the Pacers as a favorable matchup since, despite their third seed, Indiana may not be an elite team in the sense that none of their players are superstar talents. Their one potential game-changer - Paul George - has yet to translate his upside into being a legitimate two-way threat. Their offense isn't great either, as they are below league-average in offensive efficiency and effective field-goal percentage. But Indiana is truly elite in one category: Defense. 

The Pacers sport the league's best defense (yes, they are statistically even better than the Bulls' whirlwind of limbs), with tremendous size across their starting five that matches up really well with Atlanta's formidable Horford-Smith big-man tandem. Roy Hibbert may have regressed on the offensive end this season, but he is still a valuable rim protector with his long arms and 7-foot-2 frame. David West is always undersized at the 4, but he moves his feet quickly and takes smart angles on defense to make his sound fundamentals compensate for his lack of size. Former Spur George Hill is another defensive stalwart, capable of nullifying the Hawks' ultra-speedy point guard Jeff Teague. In essence, the Pacers have the right players in the right positions to blunt the focal points of the Hawks' attack. 

However, there is one hole in the Pacers' defensive philosophy that falls in line with the Hawks' greatest tendency: the midrange game. Indiana Pacers' coach Frank Vogel has constructed a defense centered around rim protection, taking away the lethal corner three, and sagging off on pick-and-rolls. As with the most successful defensive coverages, they play the percentages and opt to cede the midrange jumper. The Hawks love the midrange jumper, and as a team they possess several midrange assassins that could potentially exploit the spaces that the Pacers so willing concedes. Horford might be the best midrange shooter in the Eastern Conference not named Kevin Garnett or Chris Bosh (43.7 percent on the season). Generating open looks for their sharpshooting wings Kyle Korver and rookie John Jenkins would be another efficient option - so long as Josh Smith does not join in the jump-shooting party. 

The Hawks still shoot way too many jumpers, and over the course of the series, an over-reliance on the midrange game does not bode well for success. The Pacers are decent enough on offense and simply too solid on defense for the Hawks to be anything other than confidence-building fodder heading into the next round. 

Andrew Seah's Prediction: Pacers in 5 

Luol Deng has taken over the Bulls in Derrick Rose's absence (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
Luol Deng has taken over the Bulls in Derrick Rose's absence (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
(4) Brooklyn Nets vs. (5) Chicago Bulls 

This series will probably be the first round's tightest, with each team having it's obvious strengths. The Nets obviously have Deron Williams and Brook Lopez, who have put up great numbers this year. The Bulls have no obvious star players, just a very well-collaborated team that is stellar on defense. Williams is hot though for the Nets, averaging 22.9 points per game since the All-Star break. And while not everyone on the Nets is playing up to par with their point guard, Lopez gives the Nets a definite 1-2 power tandem. Chicago's lack of offensive stars also means that they will provide less of a problem for Brooklyn's average defense.

Where Chicago might find a leg up is by forcing the Nets' Reggie Evans to have offensive responsibility. Evans averages under five points per game, and the Nets don't have the defense to make up for too many wasted offensive possessions. The Nets' most-used offensive play involves the spot-up jumper, a defensive focus where the Bulls rank third in the NBA in. The Bulls also have Joakim Noah back from injury, and so long as his foot pain doesn't provide too big of a problem, he should give the offense a little extra 'oomph'.

The Nets will put up a good fight, but there are too many "ifs" on offense against this Bulls' defense, while Brooklyn's defense probably won't hold up long enough to stop the Bulls.

Jordan Gary's Prediction: Bulls in 7



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.