Eastern Conference Finals Preview: Boston Celtics vs. Orlando Magic

Staff Writer for Basketball Betting - A true Lakers Fan

Staff Writer: Ryan Ward

The most intriguing matchup of the NBA playoffs so far has been Boston Celtics against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round as Doc Rivers’ squad showed that they aren’t as old as everybody has said they are and they could very well be on the way to another NBA title.

Not only did the Boston Celtics dominate LeBron James and company in this series in almost every aspect of the game, but that classic Celtics lockdown defense that we saw in their 2008 championship run seems to be back in Boston.

Even though the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James were arguably their toughest test of the entire season, the Orlando Magic pose another threat entirely as they are extremely talented on the offensive end of the floor and have arguably the best defensive player in the league the in the paint in Dwight Howard.

Bet the Eastern Conference Finals at Bodog Sportsbook

There’s no doubt in my mind that the Boston Celtics can compete and beat the Orlando Magic in a seven-game series, but it will be no easy task as they don’t have just one player to shut down in the series against the Magic.

Obviously, when you play the Cleveland Cavaliers the defense focuses on LeBron James and if the defense can shut down arguably the best plan the league, the team forces the role players to step up and get it done. In Eastern Conference finals, the Boston Celtics focus on shutting down Dwight Howard in the paint, but unlike the Cavs, the Orlando Magic have multiple offense of weapons with players like Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson which can pick up the slack and hurt opposing defenses in many different ways.

The one great thing about this Eastern Conference finals playoff series will be that is a classic matchup between the great offense and a great defense. The cliché in professional sports these days is that defense wins championships and even though I believe the defense plays a pivotal part in winning championships, especially in the NBA, I do believe an unstoppable offense can be just as good if not better than a lockdown defense.

Even though the Boston Celtics defense might be the key to this series against a relentless Orlando Magic offense, the one thing that I can see that will be the X-factor is the heart and soul of the Boston Celtics in Kevin Garnett.

Over the past two seasons Kevin Garnett has been plagued with injuries, really for the first time in his NBA career, but the future hall of famer is finally healthy and he displayed that fact against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round.

Obviously, Kevin Garnett will have his hands full against Dwight Howard which will test him on both ends of the floor, but KG has a heart, drive and a never say die attitude that will propel his team into the NBA Finals once again.

Another key matchup to watch during this series is at the point guard position with two very young and talented players going at it. Jameer Nelson of the Orlando Magic has played a big role in their success this season and throughout the postseason, but will have his hands full against arguably the best point guard in the league in Rajon Rondo.

Not only does Rondo have the advance on defense against Nelson in my opinion, but I believe he might also have the same advantage on the offensive end of the floor. Nelson is the better shooter, there is no doubt about that, but Rondo is a great playmaker which might be the difference.

Needless to say, this playoff matchup could quite possibly be the best match of left in the NBA postseason and without a doubt a must watch for any avid NBA fan.

Series Prediction: Boston Celtics 4-3

NBA Playoff Preview: Atlanta Hawks vs. Orlando Magic

Staff Writer for Basketball Betting - A true Lakers Fan
Staff Writer: Ryan Ward

The Atlanta Hawks had all they could handle against the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the playoffs as Brandon Jennings and company were able to take them the full seven games, but round two will be a seriously tough uphill battle against the defending Eastern Conference champion Orlando Magic.

The Orlando Magic on the other hand had it pretty easy is in the first round as they were able to pull off the sweep and knock out the Charlotte Bobcats in just four games. The Bobcats were able to make it to the playoffs for the first time in the franchise’s history, but they just didn’t stand a chance against a more experienced and a very talented Magic squad led by superstar center Dwight Howard.

Heading into the second round of the NBA playoffs, these two Southeast division rivals have a lot of experience playing against one another, which could make for a very competitive series.
During the regular NBA season, the Orlando Magic dominated their season series with the Atlanta Hawks as they were able to get the best of Joe Johnson and company three out of the four times.

This season the Atlanta Hawks have been able to take it to another level as they have gone from just another good team in the league to great team. Not only have Al Horford, Josh Smith and All-Star Joe Johnson matured considerably over the past season, but they also benefited from the addition of Jamal Crawford off the bench.

The one thing that the Atlanta Hawks have been sorely lacking over the past is a legitimate closer/scorer, who could help put up the points when the team needs it the most. With Jamal Crawford coming off the bench, the Hawks got their closer and dominant scorer and he has been just that for this team all season long.

Despite coming into their first round playoff series with the Milwaukee Bucks as the overwhelming favorites, the up and coming Bucks led by rookie point guard Brandon Jennings were able to put the fear of another early round exit into Hawks.

Over the past couple of seasons, the Atlanta Hawks have been no stranger to playing in a playoff series that goes a full seven games. Two years ago they took the Boston Celtics to the limit in seven games and last season they went the distance with the Miami Heat, but this time around they were facing a young team will almost no playoff experience and were still taken to seven games.

Fortunately, Joe Johnson and company just dominated in game seven and were able to advance to the second round against the Orlando Magic.

In my opinion, the Orlando Magic are by far the better team coming into this series as they outmatch the Atlanta Hawks in every which way and at all positions.

The one match up that will be intriguing coming into this playoff series will be the Atlanta Hawks frontcourt trying to contain Dwight Howard in the paint. Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford will be a handful for the Magic to handle, but in the end the Defensive Player of the Year will be the difference.

Series Prediction: 4-2 Orlando Magic

Will Dwight Howard ever be as dominant as Shaq on offense?

Staff Writer for Basketball Betting - A true Lakers Fan
Staff Writer: Ryan Ward

Over the past few decades in the NBA we have seen some dominant big men come and go in the league like two-time NBA champion Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon of the Houston Rockets, two-time champ David “The Admiral” Robinson and four-time champion Shaquille “The Big Aristotle” O’Neal.

All three of these hall of fame caliber centers dominated the game at one point or other during their NBA careers and have multiple titles to prove it. Since the days of these dominant big men there really haven’t been any players at the center position that have had similar success or dominance in the paint.

The player in the NBA today that has been making an impression on the league has been Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic. During his short time in the NBA, Howard has won two Defensive Player of the Year awards and was able to help lead his team to the NBA Finals last season. Unfortunately, the Orlando Magic were defeated by the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals, but definitely made a vast improvement as the team has only gotten better with every passing season.

There is no question that the Orlando Magic are one of the most talented teams in the NBA, especially on offense with multiple weapons, but whether or not they are actually a championship caliber team remains to be seen. One of the major problems the Magic have right now is the fact that Dwight Howard just can’t get going offensively.

Fortunately, Orlando is one of the best offensive teams in the league and it is not a glaring problem that could stop them from becoming NBA champions right now, but it is something that might be a big concern if they end up playing the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals once again.

The one big difference, besides the NBA titles, between the dominant centers as I mentioned before and Dwight Howard is the fact that these great centers of the past could single-handedly dominate a game on the offensive end of the floor if their team needed them to. Howard on the other hand, has not been able to show that he can do this and it might be the difference between being a great player and being a future Hall of Famer.

The one player at the center position that just dominated on the offensive end of the floor in today’s game was Shaquille O’Neal. Obviously time is starting to creep up on the future Hall of fame center as he is far from the player he used to be, but when he was on top of his game there was no way he could be stopped once he got in the paint and he set his mind to score as many buckets as possible.

At times, Dwight Howard looks like he could be as dominant Shaquille O’Neal on the offensive end of the floor, but for some reason he’s not consistent with his offense of play and his team cannot depend on him in late game situations.

The one thing that I believe that Dwight Howard should develop over the next couple of years is a solid post game. Without a solid post game, Howard will be a great center, possibly the best in the NBA in today’s game, but not a legendary one way to be mentioned in the same category as Olajuwon or Shaq.

Can the Orlando Magic pull off the sweep of the Charlotte Bobcats?

Staff Writer for Basketball Betting - A true Lakers Fan
Staff Writer: Ryan Ward

Last season was a breath of fresh air for the Orlando Magic as drafting center Dwight Howard with the number one overall pick a few years ago finally paid off and the franchise was able to get back to the NBA Finals.

Everyone was on the Cleveland Cavaliers bandwagon last season as no one thought any team in the Eastern Conference could get the best of LeBron James and company in the playoffs. The Cavs were dominant on their home floor all season long and at times they just looked like they couldn’t be beaten.

Even though this was the consensus around the league, Dwight Howard and company believed in their squad and absolutely dominated the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals and advanced to the NBA Finals against the eventual NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers.

Coming into this NBA season the Orlando Magic had a chip on their shoulder as they believed they were the best all around team in the league. Unfortunately, the Cavs became the number one overall seed in the East once again and the Magic will have an uphill battle for the second straight year.

Despite being the second seed in the Eastern Conference heading into the playoffs, the Orlando Magic might have one of the easiest paths to the second round as they face the inexperienced Charlotte Bobcats in the first round.

All season long the Charlotte Bobcats have exceeded expectations with future hall of fame head coach Larry Brown calling the shots on the sidelines. This isn’t a surprise for Brown as he has been able to do this with multiple NBA franchises during his career, but it was a surprise for the rest of the league as the Bobcats have been arguably one of the worst teams in the league ever since the team was created.

Along with heading into the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, the Charlotte Bobcats went through some other drastic changes throughout the season by getting a new owner in hall of famer Michael Jordan and brining in scoring machine Stephen Jackson from the Golden State Warriors via trade.

Fortunately, the gamble to bring in Jackson and allowing North Carolina native Jordan to buy the team has been nothing, but a step in the right direction. As a result, the Bobcats are in the playoffs and the future looks bright in Charlotte.

Even though everything seems to be heading in the right direction for the Charlotte Bobcats, I believe they will be going home earlier than expected as I can’t see them winning even a single game in this series with the Orlando Magic.

The Bobcats have one thing going for them right now as they are arguably one of the best home teams in the league, but the Magic just have too many weapons and are extremely tough to contain. Charlotte might be able to give Dwight Howard and company a run for their money on their home floor, but ultimately the Magic will advance 4-0 in my opinion.

NBA Playoff Previews – Eastern Conference

Staff Writer: Jeremiah Ira Yap

Cleveland Cavaliers vs (8) Chicago Bulls

Wow, the Cavs already won Game 1 without much of a hiccup. Stop the presses. Is this surprising to you? Well, it shouldn’t be. The Cavs played great with Shaq back in the lineup. O’Neal looked like he didn’t miss a beat after sitting out most of the second half of the season. His performance was reminiscent of the Shaq of old rather than old Shaq.
The testy but valiant Bulls may actually catch the Cavs asleep and steal a game but that seems like wishful thinking. Did you see how focused LeBron James was? He finally has the fire in his belly to compete for a championship. James learned a thing or two from Kobe Bryant during the Redeem Team’s Olympic run – talent isn’t everything, it’s inner drive that makes you a great basketball player and wins you championships.

Confidence will not be enough for the Chicago Bulls. Cavs advance to the second round in four games.

Orlando Magic vs (7) Charlotte Bobcats

This is probably the most intriguing match-up in the playoffs. The versatility of the Bobcats against the new look, but still motivated Magic. Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis against defensive minded Gerald Wallace and the unpredictable Stephen Jackson. With so much focus on how Vince Carter will perform in the playoffs, the Magic’s real key to success is Jameer Nelson. Nelson wasn’t close to a hundred percent in the Finals against the Lakers, this year he’ll get the chance to prove how valuable he is to Orlando’s title hopes. He needs to attack the rim and hit his threes, similar to what Rafer Alston did for the Magic last year.

Orlando is a deeper team with Matt Barnes, Ryan Anderson, Jason Williams, Brandon Bass and Marcin Gortat as their bench players. They also have bigger and more athletic players – expect them to outmuscle Charlotte in the paint. Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown will keep things interesting, but his team lacks the fouls to use on Dwight Howard.

Dwight Howard’s size in the middle will be too much for Charlotte. The Magic advance to the second round in six games.

Atlanta Hawks vs (6) Milwaukee Bucks

The Hawks came out the gate and blitzed the undermanned Bucks in the first half – they scored 62 points and held the Bucks to 40 points. A ton of blocks and defensive stops paved way for the Hawks fast break points.

Atlanta’s first half performance was nearly perfect, but they almost wasted it with a lackluster second outing. The Bucks outscored the Hawks 52 to 40 in the second half. Rookie Brandon Jennings carried most of the scoring load with Andrew Bogut and Michael Redd suffering season ending injuries. Jennings scored 34 points and there was not one Hawk who could guard him. Jennings may have to score 55 points again for the Hawks to even have a chance in the series.

Jamal Crawford scored 17 points in his playoff debut. All five of the Hawks starters scored in double digits.

The Hawks inability to close out opponents almost haunted them in Game 1. The Bucks might actually steal a game before succumbing to the deeper and more talented Hawks. Hawks in five games.

Boston Celtics vs (5) Miami Heat

Dwyane Wade had a great game against the Celtics in Game 1 of their playoff series. He scored 26 points on 11 of 18 shooting, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out six assists. Despite throwing the ball away seven times, he was efficient both ways of the floor. That’s the main problem why the Heat lost. Only Wade had a great game. Quentin Richardson was the other Heat player who scored in double figures. Miami’s other starters, Carlos Arroyo, Jermaine O’Neal and Michael Beasley combined to make nine of their 27 shots for 20 points.

If I were D-Wade, I’d already be asking if LeBron James is willing to go to New York with me. Miami has failed to surround Wade with the supporting cast he has been asking for all season. If Miami gets swept, there’s no doubt that Wade will bolt to another team this summer.

Kevin Garnett scored 15 points, grabbed nine rebounds and threw one elbow that hit Richardson’s jaw. Things got chippy after Paul Pierce fell in front of the Miami bench. Richardson stood directly above Pierce and Garnett took it as disrespect.

With Wade doing everything for Miami except the laundry, the Celtics will likely wear him down in a seven game series. O’Neal and Beasley will have two big games to keep Miami from getting swept. Other than that, the Celtics will beat Miami in six games and win their last playoff series with the Big Three.

NBA Playoff Preview: Orlando Magic vs. Charlotte Bobcats

Staff Writer for Basketball Betting - A true Lakers Fan
Staff Writer: Ryan Ward

It has been another successful season for Stan Van Gundy’s Orlando Magic as they have done nothing but improve and increase their chances of winning that elusive NBA title.

Even though the Orlando Magic seem poised for a title run in the playoffs, they still have a ways to go before they can even get in the Eastern Conference finals to defend their conference title, but the outlook of the postseason is looking good so far as the will face the Charlotte Bobcats in the first round of the playoffs.

A lot of people questioned the moves made by the Orlando Magic this past offseason when they traded away young talent in return for an injury prone superstar in Vince Carter, but since joining the Magic, Carter has accepted his new role and has been able to stay relatively healthy for the majority of the year.

Needless to say, with the Orlando Magic heading into the playoffs as the second seed behind the Cleveland Cavaliers, this season has been a success and the trade has only prove to improve an already dominant offensive basketball team.

Obviously, the Orlando Magic will be gunning for the Cleveland Cavaliers once again in the postseason as LeBron James and company are the only team really preventing Dwight Howard and company from reaching the NBA Finals for the second straight season, but the Bobcats of Charlotte might pose a threat to give the Magic some trouble early in the playoffs.

Even though the playoff run the NBA Finals last season was a relatively easy one for the Orlando Magic, the one team that gave them trouble, unexpectedly, was the Philadelphia 76ers.

This time around, it just might be the Charlotte Bobcats that turn out to be the thorn in their sides.

The Bobcats have been a solid team in the Eastern Conference all season long, still a team with a lot of work to do to compete with the best of the best in the league, but arguably one of the best home teams in the NBA and a force to be reckoned with in Charlotte.

The only real chance of an upset in this playoff series by the Charlotte Bobcats is the potential of Larry Brown’s squad dominating the Magic when they come to Charlotte.

Personally, I believe that no matter what happens the Charlotte Bobcats will not be able to prevent the Orlando Magic from advancing to the second round of the playoffs, but the Bobcats can definitely extend this series with solid play at home.

The one big problem the Bobcats will have against the Magic, which will be a huge problem for any team Orlando will face, is the presence of Dwight Howard in the paint and the Magic’s shooting touch from outside.

The outside shooting of the Orlando Magic is something that can be contained, but Dwight Howard is something the Bobcats will be helpless to stop and ultimately the reason for the Magic being able to advance.
Series Prediction: 4-1 Orlando Magic

Who is the dark horse in the Eastern Conference playoffs?

Staff Writer for Basketball Betting - A true Lakers Fan
Staff Writer: Ryan Ward

There is no doubting that right now the Cleveland Cavaliers are by far the favorite to come out of the Eastern conference and represent the East in the NBA finals. No team in the East has a player like LeBron James who can just take over again whenever he feels he needs to. Few players in the league have ever been tagged with the distinction of being unguardable, but LeBron James pulls that off quite nicely.

The one team that seems to give them the most trouble with the past two seasons is the Orlando Magic who have arguably the best collection of offense of weapons in the NBA today and the best defensive player in the league in center Dwight Howard.

After the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Orlando Magic, the competition in the Eastern conference drops off fairly drastically as the Atlanta Hawks and the Boston Celtics become the next two teams to beat in the conference.

Even though the top four teams in the Eastern conference will be the only teams in the East that most people keep their eyes on in these playoffs, there is one team that I believe could shock one or more of these great teams in the conference during the postseason.

Throughout this NBA regular season we’ve seen a few surprises for certain players in certain teams exceeding expectations and becoming legitimate playoff teams.

In the Western Conference, the Oklahoma City Thunder who have gone from one of the worst teams in the league to one of the promising young teams in the future in just one season. Not only has the Thunder been able to become a playoff team for the first time since moving to Oklahoma City, but Kevin Durant has gone from just a good player to arguably the best score this week today. As a result, the Texas product has one scoring title and become the youngest player to do so in NBA history.

In the Eastern conference, the Milwaukee Bucks are the team that have really surprised people as they have had nothing but disappointment over the last few seasons with their superstar guard Michael Redd going down in consecutive seasons with serious knee injuries.

Despite Michael Redd going down once again with a knee injury and quite possibly claim his last game as a Milwaukee Buck, the team has been able to rally around point guard rookie phenom Brandon Jennings.
Even though a lot of people questioned whether or not Brandon Jennings couldn’t play the NBA level after playing in Italy for one season due to his in eligibility to enter the NBA draft because of age, young kid has completely turned around his franchise and looks like a future superstar in this week with the help of All-Star caliber center Andrew Bogut.

Not only has Brandon Jennings almost single-handedly brought interest back to the Milwaukee Bucks fan base, but he has helped lead the team back into the playoffs and in my opinion given them a solid shot at competing with the best the best in the conference.

I do believe for the Milwaukee Bucks might be able to surprise some people in the playoffs, but they will have their work cut out for them against another young and upcoming team in the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks by no means will go down without a fight, but in my opinion this will be the most entertaining first round matchup in the playoffs.

What’s the key to the Thunder’s sudden resurgence?

Ryan Ward - A true Lakers Fan

Staff Writer: Ryan Ward

The Thunder will make their first playoff appearance in its young existence. Oklahoma City is currently the sixth seed in the west but are locked in a three-way battle with the Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs. Well, it doesn’t really matter what seed they will end up in because the Thunder are young, athletic and skilled, which makes them a very dangerous first-round opponent.

Obviously, their success can be attributed by the sudden explosion of Kevin Durant. Durant went from rising star last season to an MVP candidate. He will likely win his first scoring title this season. Forward Jeff Green is averaging 15 points a ball game and Russell Westbrook is having a career year. These three young guns are a big reason why the Thunder find themselves in the playoffs.

It’s their offense that gets a lot of recognition, but its actually the Thunder’s defense which makes them dangerous. The Thunder allows only 97.6 points a game, which is good enough for 11th in the league. There’s not one individual on Oklahoma City that is a great defender. But as a team the Thunder are a cohesive, effective defensive unit.

Against the highest scoring team in the league, the Phoenix Suns, the Thunder held them to their lowest scoring output in the second half – the Suns scored only 34 points. The young Oklahoma City Thunder also held the Suns under 100 points. Two-time MVP Steve Nash and All-star Amar’e Stoudemire were forced into committing five combined turnovers.

All you need to know about what the Thunder defense did to the Suns offense is this: the Suns shot 58 percent in first and second quarters. After that, Phoenix shot only 31 percent. Durant and Green had seven steals – amazing considering they are both forwards.

This years Thunder reminds us much of last seasons Portland Trail Blazers. Exciting crowd, budding superstar in Durant (in the Blazers case Brandon Roy), and a core group of young talented guys. All of this resulted in first-round fodder.

Durant, in particular, had no turnovers on his way to scoring 35 points. It’s been a joy to watch Durant this season. There are already talks that is he the second best player in the league – yes, in front of Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard. This statement might be a reach considering Durant has played at this level for only one season. Plus, greatness can’t be measured during the season, it is seen where it counts – in the playoffs.

Durant and the Thunder will get the opportunity to prove exactly that as they make their first playoff appearance in history.

Tracy McGrady to the Magic?

Ryan Ward - A true Lakers Fan

Staff Writer:  Ryan Ward

The NBA regular season is quickly coming to an end and the playoffs are right around the corner, but even though the new NBA champion might be crowned at the end of the season, a lot of people are thinking about what’s going to happen starting July 1st when all the big name free agents become available to the highest bidder.

Obviously the one name that gets mentioned constantly talking about the upcoming free agent market is the Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James as he is without a doubt the best player of the bunch and arguably the best player in the NBA today.

Depending on where LeBron James goes next season the league could look completely different and teams like the New York Knicks could become a superpower in the Eastern conference once again. Even though it is pretty much a long shot at this point that LeBron James will sign with the New York Knicks when he becomes a free agent, is still very likely and that could definitely change destinations for other big name players like current New York Knicks guard Tracy McGrady.

Throughout his entire NBA career Tracy McGrady has been a dominant scorer in the NBA, but he is also been extremely injury prone and a risk for every team that he has been on.

Despite having some success with the Houston Rockets, McGrady was never healthy enough to lead the team to championship caliber like many people believe they would be with the combination of McGrady and Yao Ming.

This season Houston Rockets had enough with waiting for Tracy McGrady to get healthy and when he finally became healthy the team decided it was time to part ways and the ultimately traded him to the New York Knicks in a three-way deal with the Sacramento Kings which brought Kevin Martin to the Houston Rockets.

The deal worked out for every single team involved as it could be said that everything got better which is the goal one involved in the trade anyway, but Tracy McGrady future is still very much up in the season final year of his contract and if New York Knicks not extend that contract or re-sign him he will become a free agent starting July 1st.

It is uncertain how many teams would be willing to take a chance on injury prone superstar like Tracy McGrady but there have been a lot of rumors flying around of possible destinations like with his old team the Orlando Magic where he won to scoring titles.

Obviously the Orlando Magic don’t really need him with all the talent they on that team, but Tracy McGrady could be a welcome addition to the bench and maybe find his way back into the starting lineup if he can stay healthy long.

Along with being on the very good team with a shot contending for a title every single season, McGrady will also reunite with his cousin Vince Carter who he played with on his first-team the Toronto Raptors.

So the pieces to the puzzle of there which will almost certainly interest McGrady if he does not sign but the New York Knicks. It will be interesting to see where the two-time scoring champ will end up this summer.

Possible NBA Playoff matchups in the Eastern Conference

Staff Writer for Basketball Betting - A true Lakers Fan

Staff Writer:  Ryan Ward

The NBA regular season is quickly coming to an end with less than 15 games left for most of the teams around the league. With the regular season ending all the playoff bound teams in the NBA are either trying to hold on their seeds or improve their position before the postseason.

Here are how things shape up in the Eastern Conference if the playoffs were to start today:

#1 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. #8 Toronto Raptors

It would be hard to argue that the Cavs aren’t the best team in the league right now. LeBron James and company have the best record in the league and will almost certainly head into the playoffs that way, but the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers might be able to close the gap if Cleveland begins to struggle.

Right now the Cavs are red hot and riding high as LeBron James is on his way to winning his second straight NBA MVP and Cleveland is gearing up for what might be a championship run in the playoffs.

There first opponent will more than likely be the Toronto Raptors who have played well at times this season, but won’t be able to put much of fight against LeBron James and company.

The health of Shaq and Antawn Jamison will determine the outcome of this series. I really can’t see Chris Bosh and company being much of a challenge, but if Shaq and Jamison aren’t 100%, Bosh might have a good series.

Series Prediction: 4-1 Cleveland Cavaliers

#2 Orlando Magic vs. #7 Charlotte Bobcats

The defending Eastern Conference champion Orlando Magic are poised to make another run at an NBA title this season as they will come into the postseason with a lot of confidence knowing they dominated the Cleveland Cavaliers last season in the playoffs.

Before the Cavs and Magic face off, they will have to contend with the up and coming Charlotte Bobcats in the first round. The Bobcats, like the Magic, could give the Cavs a run for their money if they meet in the playoffs, but I am not sure they will be able to compete with Dwight Howard and company.

The Magic will have the edge in the paint and on the perimeter which means they could quite possibly sweep the Bobcats in four games.

Series Prediction: 4-0 Orlando Magic

#3 Boston Celtics vs. #6 Miami Heat

The Boston Celtics aren’t getting any younger and this season was a big indication of that as they struggled with injuries to their big three (KG, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen), but they saw Rajon Rondo get even better as it has become more and more apparent that the Celtics will be his team in the near future.

Despite not being the dominant team we remember from a couple of seasons ago, Boston can still hang with the best of them and will almost certainly advance to the second round of the playoffs.

The Miami Heat will come into this series once again trying to prove they can play with the big boys in the East, but even though they have Dwyane Wade, who will be a matchup nightmare for the Celtics, the Heat still have a ways to go before they can become a title contender once again.

Series Prediction: 4-2 Boston Celtics

#4 Atlanta Hawks vs. #5 Milwaukee Bucks

I believe the series between the Atlanta Hawks and the Milwaukee Bucks will be the most intriguing of all in the Eastern Conference as both of these teams are young squads on the rise!

The Hawks have the better all around team with a more polished game plan and chemistry, but the Bucks have Brandon Jennings who could very well be a wildcard in the playoffs as he is explosive and unpredictable. With Jennings on the floor, anything can happen, but in the end I believe the Hawks experience outweighs the Bucks talent.

Series Prediction: 4-3 Atlanta Hawks