DETROIT PISTONS v MILWAUKEE BUCKS
SEASON SERIES: Pistons 3-1. The Bucks lone win was this past Monday when the Pistons essentially rested their starters.
STORYLINES: The Pistons dominant regular season means nothing now. How will they respond? Will they return to being the aggressive, killing machine or have they lost a bit of that? In Milwaukee, how will their "young Bucks" handle this big stage.
KEY FACTOR: Bucks defense. They have one of the worst defenses in the league. If they cannot put in an outstanding defensive effort in this series, then they have no shot at all to win a game in this series.
PREDICTION: Detroit in 4. The Pistons are the superior team here...and are disciplined defensively to keep any Bucks hopes from gaining momentum.
MIAMI HEAT v CHICAGO BULLS
SEASON SERIES: Heat 2-1. The Bulls lone win was on Sunday with a huge comeback.
STORYLINES: After an offseason of spending and bringing in a lot of questionable veterans, this is the time the Heat must shine. Will the Baby Bulls be able to step up after last year's first round exit?
KEY FACTOR: Shaq. While in LA, Shaq's main focus was to be physically right for the postseason. However, he's still had a history [in recent years] to be a bit gimpy in the playoffs. The Bulls will try to involve him in more pick and rolls and other setups where he won't be in his defensive comfort zone. If Shaq can be semi-dominant, the Bulls will have a tough time matching up with him.
PREDICTION: Heat in 5. I like the Bulls and I think the games will be close and exciting. I just like Wade's ability to take over late [like Chicago's Ben Gordon] and the Bulls tough matchups for Shaq.NEW JERSEY NETS v INDIANA PACERS
SEASON SERIES: Pacers 2-1. And Indy has won at Jersey.
STORYLINES: Who are the Pacers? The team that has the talent to go deep in the playoffs.....or the team that just kills itself? Can the Nets get by with their very small bench?
KEY FACTOR: The Nets frontcourt. Can Jason Collins and Nenad Krstic hold down Jermaine O'Neal and the other Indy big men? Signs point to no.
PREDICTION: Nets in 7. The Pacers could buzzsaw thru Jersey....but they've struggled of late and aren't as coheisive as the Nets are. But this does have a shot at being, what my friend calls, a "frog strangler".CLEVELAND CAVALIERS v WASHINGTON WIZARDS
SEASON SERIES: Wizards 3-1. And all three of those wins have come in the last 2 months.
STORYLINES: Make no bones about it....this is LeBron James' true coming out party. All superstars make their legends in the postseason, and this is LBJ's first shot. But, the Wiz were in this exact position last year. The 5th seed facing a young, new Central division foe....and they pulled that one out. Of course, Cavs guard Larry Hughes was on the Wiz side last year. Also, the Wiz had their way with the Cavs, winning 3 of 4.
KEY FACTOR: Drew Gooden. For the Wiz, Antawn Jamison should be a big part of their success. Gooden must hold that down....plus do a little on his own.
PREDICTION: Cavaliers in 7. This has that distance feel to it. Two gunslingers, a couple of dirty workers underneath, and some tempers ready to flare. Should be fun.