After not paying much attention to the tankapalooza that is the tail end of the NBA regular season, it's time to get back into it for the playoffs. Let's start by looking at the Eastern Conference matchups.
Milwaukee Bucks (8) at Miami Heat (1)
I just don't see how Milwaukee takes a game in this series. Everyone knows that Miami's weakness is its weak interior, and Milwaukee's interior presence is even worse. Larry Sanders is an excellent defender and rebounder, but there's only one of him while all the other tall forward types on the Bucks are shooters (Ilyasova, Dunleavy, Reddick). The only way I see the Bucks even taking a game would be if they just shot lights out in a shootout, which isn't impossible with their streaky shooters.
Prediction: Miami 4-0
Possible bets: Bet small and try to hit big with Milwaukee outright + over parlays for the two Milwaukee home games.
Boston Celtics (7) at New York Knicks (2)
The Knicks are one of the hottest teams in the NBA entering the playoffs while Boston limped slowly into the playoffs. However, it might actually be the Knicks who are limping now that the playoffs are here. Boston has given plenty of rest to their aging veterans Pierce and Garnett (who didn't play the last two times these teams faced off), while it's unclear whether any of New York's interior big men (Chandler, Martin, Wallace, Camby) will be at full strength. Emotions will be running high for this matchup of two proud teams, but I think the Knicks pull it out with superior scoring talent.
Prediction: New York 4-2
Possible bets: Bet Boston in their first home game as the crowd will be electric and the Celtics aren't the type of team to not show up.
Atlanta (6) at Indiana (3)
This is just a really bad matchup for Atlanta. They are not a very deep team going against a deep Pacers team that plays relentless defense. Atlanta's edge for much of the season has been its tall front court alignment anchored by Horford and Josh Smith, but they face a legit 7 footer in Hibbert. I expect Indiana to start out strong as they played significantly better at home during the regular season, and then grind Atlanta away with their depth and defense.
Prediction: Indiana 4-1
Possible bets: Bet Indiana to win the series. The odds for Indiana to win the series (around -350) represent decent value considering I don't think there's much of a threat of an upset at all.
Chicago (5) at Brooklyn (4)
This is another situation where the teams match up very specifically in favor of one side. In this case it's Brooklyn that has the edge. Chicago has managed to achieve success without Derrick Rose because of their excellent defense. But one of the main strengths of that defense is their defense against the three point shot, which is kind of wasted versus how Brooklyn runs their offense. Speaking of which, Brooklyn runs a lot of their sets through Brook Lopez, who will be a tough matchup, especially if Joakim Noah is not 100%. Perhaps more important than anything else, Deron Williams is looking the best he's looked in a couple of years, and could emerge as the only legit superstar in this matchup.
Prediction: Brooklyn 4-2
Possible bets: Bet Brooklyn in the first half of their home games. Most of the Nets' problems this season come from not maintaining focus and closing out games. It's unclear whether that trend will continue, but they will try to run their sets and establish their size dominance early and I expect them to start games off strongly as a result.
Please click here for my Western conference preview.