Eastern Conference Playoff Preview
Gone are the days when Detroit or Indiana looked like a shoe-in to go to the finals. Miami made sure of that last post-season as they won the Eastern Conference playoffs and then beat the Dallas Mavericks to take the league championship.
This season the Central Division looks especially tough with the Detroit Pistons (53- 29), Cleveland Cavaliers (50- 32) and Chicago Bulls (49- 33) holding the top-three records in the conference. Detroit has perhaps the best defense in the league and is still tough up front. Chicago possesses the best differential (+5.0) between points for and points against and will look to shut down opponents. Cleveland, with LeBron James, enters the post-season with a four-game winning streak.
The Southeast saw Miami (44- 38) take that division by losing their final two games. Coming in second, the Washington Wizards (41- 41) earned the right to play the Cavs. It will be difficult for the Wizards to get out of round one. Orlando (40- 42) will have to find some sort of magic to beat the Pistons in their initial series. The good news for the Magic is that they enter the post-season with a four-game winning streak.
The final two teams in the Eastern Conference playoffs are from the fragile Atlantic Division. The New Jersey Nets (41- 41) also ended the regular season winning four in a row and eight of 10, making them the hottest team in the east. Toronto (47- 35), which earned the third seed by winning the Atlantic, finds itself in relatively new post-season territory. They finished the year losing their final two games.
The Eastern Conference could certainly have a major changing of the guard this post-season. Miami will still contend, as will Detroit and Cleveland. But the fact is, this can be just about any club’s conference. Chances are the conference champ will come from the Central Division, but then again, anything is possible in the NBA playoffs.
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