With a bit over ten days left in the regular season, six teams in the East are already in. Let’s look at the match-ups if the season ended now:
1 vs. 8- Chicago vs. Philadelphia: The Sixers are fading quickly. Don’t be surprised if this ends up being Bulls vs. Bucks. But if the Sixers hang on to the eighth spot, I don’t see them putting up a fight. The Bulls with Derrick Rose healthy could be a championship team. They’ve been very good even with Rose dinged up a lot. Bulls in four.
2 vs. 7- Miami vs. New York. The Knicks have been thinking all along they were heading for a first round battle with the Bulls. Now it looks like they get the Heat. The Heat is no picnic. The Knicks may be able to get a win or two in this one. But that’s about it. Heat in six.
3 vs. 6- Indiana vs. Orlando. The Magic has the talent and the experience. But do they have the heart? Are they cohesive enough? Has there been too many back-stabbings to get it together for a playoff run? I think so. The Pacers are an up-and-comer. They’ve been flying under the radar all season. This is their coming out party. Pacers in five.
4 vs. 5- Boston vs. Atlanta. These two have met before in the playoffs in recent years. Atlanta is very up-and-down. They look like world beaters some nights, others they look disinterested. Boston seems to keep coming back from the dead. They have been all the way to the Finals in recent years despite not having home court advantage in the Eastern playoffs. These guys know how to get it done. Celtics in six.
Round Two: Assuming that the first round match-ups go as we’ve predicted, here are the second round match-ups.
Chicago vs. Boston: The Bulls will win this one. They just have too much talent for the aging Celtics. The Celtics had trouble with the Bulls when they were the up and coming team a few years back. Now the Bulls are at the top of their game and the Celtics are fading. Boston can’t hang with them. Bulls in five.
Miami vs. Indiana: The Heat has just too much talent for the Pacers. Lebron James will finally step up and be counted in the clutch in this one and lead the Heat to victory. Indiana will keep the games close but will have no answer for a motivated Lebron. Heat in five.
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS:
No surprise here. Heat vs. Bulls. We’ve all seen this coming all year. It will go down much as we expect: a seven game slobber-knocker that the Bulls will pull out late in Game Seven with some Derrick Rose heroics. The Bulls will go on to meet Oklahoma City in the NBA Finals where they will win in six games. Bulls in Seven.
So your 2012 Eastern Conference Champions will be the Chicago Bulls.