With the first round complete, it is time to take a look at the Eastern Conference Second Round matchups.
(2)Miami Heat vs (3)Indiana Pacers
After dropping game one, the Indiana Pacers won four straight to easily dispose of the Orlando Magic in the first round. The road will be difficult in round 2.
Offensively, the key for the Pacers will be ball movement. Indy features a entirely different offensive attack than the Knicks. The Heat defense plays extremely well against isolation teams, so the Pacers must pass the ball around and take the best shot. Danny Granger will have to play like a star and attack LeBron James on the offensive end.
Defensively, the Pacers must limit the “others”. The Pacers are a much better defensive team than the Knicks could ever dream to be. It is a given that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade ate going to play well. The task for the Pacers will be to stay locked on guys like Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, Mike Miller and make sure they don’t get open shots. The Pacers also have big bangers down low in Roy Hibbert and David West. They can’t allow Miami to score at the basket as easily as the Knicks did.
The Heat easily did away with a overhyped Knicks in five games. The Pacers should be a tougher challenge in round 2.
There are two keys to victory on the offensive end for the Heat. We know that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will put up numbers, but the “others” will have to show up. Chris Bosh will have to lead the supporting cast and average become more of a scorer. Chalmers, Battier, and Miller will get open shots off of penetration from James and Wade. It is pivotal that they make their open shots and make the Pacers pay for helping. In the first round Lebron James showed signs of overcoming his fourth quarter demons. We saw this fools gold last year, so James has to continue to attack. If he can continue to produce late then the Heat will go far.
On the defensive end Miami faces a different challenge. The Knicks were an isolation offense predicated around Carmelo Anthony creating his own offense. This allowed the Heat to sit back and not have to rotate much. Indiana shares the rock and will spread you out. Miami has to make sure that their rotations are tight and that they don’t leave open shooters.
In the end I feel that the Heat will be too much for the Pacers and will win a tougher series 4-2 to advance to the East Finals.
(4)Boston Celtics vs (8)Philadelphia 76ers
The Boston Celtics were able to hold off the very game Atlanta Hawks in round one to take the series in six games. They will meet an upset minded Sixers team in round two.
In round one the Celtics were able to get pretty much anything they wanted on the offensive end, they just weren’t consistent. The Celtics will have to be a lot more sharpe and consistent offensively to beat the Sixers. The first key for the Celtics is to get the ball into Rajon Rondo’s hands. Rondo is the catalyst for everything the Celtics do when in possession of the ball. When he is pressing the issue and attacking the Celtics offense is hard to stop. They will also have to get the ball to Kevin Garnett in the post and let him go to work like he did in game 6 against Atlanta. Spencer Hawes is a nice player but he cannot check KG. Lastly, the Celtics will have to rely on Paul Pierce during clutch time. As good as Rondo is controlling the offense, he tends to panic in late game situations. This is where it will be time for The Truth. Pierce is arguably the second best clutch player in the game so he will have to live up to that.
The Celtics hang their hat on their defense. Atlanta used a lot of pick and roll to free up their shooters in round one. The Celtics help and switch a lot on defense and that created a lot of mismatches for the Hawks to exploit. Atlanta bailed the Celtics out by taking way too many jumpers. Minus Jodie Meeks, Philadelphia doesn’t feature the same type of shooters as Atlanta did. This will allow Boston to rotate harder without out as much worry about the outside shooters. I also expect the Celtics to have Avery Bradley pressure Jrue Holiday up the court and make it difficult for him to get them into their sets.
The Philadelphia 76ers took advantage of a shorthanded Chicago Bulls team and upset the East’s top seed. I know people say that injuries aren’t an excuse but when you lose Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, they become a problem and not an excuse. That being said, the Sixers got the job done.
The Sixers have good rebounders in Spencer Hawes, Elton Brand, and even Andre Iguodala. On the other hand, the Celtics are a terrible rebounding team so Philly will exploit that. Philly must crash the glass and get second chance opportunities. Easy baskets are at a premium in the playoffs so second chance baskets will be important. Also, the Sixers must have a perimeter star each game. Whether it’s Iguodala, Lou Williams, or Jrue Holiday someone needs to breakout and force Boston to respect the perimeter.
The 76er’s defense has a tall task awaiting them. Someone has to also down Rondo when he has the ball. Jrue Holiday has the speed to keep up with Rondo, but Jodie Meeks and Lou Williams will have to keep up with Rondo’s running buddy Avery Bradley. Philly also has to throw multiple bodies at Garnett. Hawes, Brand, and Thaddeus Young will have to share duties and must make things hard for KG. If there is one type of defender that gives Paul Pierce the most fits it is the long and athletic defender. Andre Iguodala fits that mold. If he can limit Pierce’s production the 76ers chances get better.
Beating the Celtics in Boston during the playoffs is a daunting challenge. The Celtics have home-court advantage in this series and I feel that will loom large. I expect the Celtics to win this series 4-2 and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.