With both Conference Finals finally set, I am here to give you my preview of the upcoming series. Today I will start with the East and tomorrow I will do the West.

Eastern Conference Finals

Boston Celtics (1) vs. Detroit Pistons

To steal from ESPN.com’s scouts inc., this is the series we have all been waiting for on the Eastern Side since the playoffs began. These are the two top teams in the Eastern Conference and both have a legitimate shot of winning it all against whoever wins the West.

Guards: Advantage Detroit (but only if Billups is healthy)

I have always really liked Rajon Rondo and to me, he really proved his worth during the series with Cleveland. He ran the offense efficiently and played good defense. Ray Allen on the other hand has collapsed into being the worst starter left among the four teams (yes worse than Vladimir Radmanovic). Everyone knew that he could not defend or drive coming into this season. However, his deadly shooting has rendered him about as useful as a poopy flavored lolli pop. In order for the Celtics to have any sort of chance in this series, he really needs to step it up.

Detroits guards on the other hand have really played well. Billups has played like the professional we all know he is. When he went down, Richard Hamilton really stepped up his game and carried the Pistons into the third round. Right now, there is nobody better coming off a screen and shooting a jumper (which used to be Ray Allen’s job).

Forwards: Advantage Boston

Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are what makes this team go. The impact Garnett has had on this team is unbelievable and has made Bill Simmons (ESPN’s the Sports Guy –> and yes, I am gunning for that job, which will be mine some day) turn into a teen-aged girl at an N’Sync concert (wow, I am really dating myself with that reference). Pierce, on the other hand, has been on this team forever and is the only player left from the pre-Danny Ainge days. As much as Garnett brings to the table, he is the heart and soul of this team. His game seven performance against LBJ was amazing and shows that he can take over a game against anybody who tries to defend him.

Detroit’s forwards are not weak though. Sheed and Tayshaun Prince are excellent players who have the experience necessary to win. Prince has become one of the elite defenders in the NBA and regularly guards to the opposition’s best perimeter player. He is also effective at using his long arms on the offensive end of the floor where he is deadly from the corner and has a good understanding of his own personal strengths and weaknesses. Rasheed Wallace has become the Piston’s best three point shooter in the playoffs and has the “balls” to take that last shot (even though Chauncey does have ice water running through veins). His ability to knock down that jumper spreads the floor and gives space for Billups and Prince to take it to the hole.

Center: Advantage Neither

Kendrick Perkins of the Celtics and Antonio McDyess of the Pistons are both big men who stick to the low post and offer defense and rebounding. Neither is much of a scorer but both teams need to be wary of offensive rebounds. Also, neither of these players are playing huge minutes right now. However, McDyess used to be an excellent player, I would look for him to make a huge difference in one game.

Bench: Advantage Boston

I really like the depth and talent of Boston’s bench. Eddie House was a revelation in Game 7 providing great energy. Leon Powe, Big Baby Davis, and PJ Brown offer great depth and versatility for the front line and can throw a myriad of different styles at Detroit’s big men. James Posey is the three point shooter off the bench and can match up against Detroit’s best perimeter player on the defensive end.

Detroit does have some interesting options though. Jason Maxiell is a more experienced and explosive version of Leon Powe and has pretty much taken over for McDyess as Detroit’s low post option. Rodney Stuckey proved he can play when he filled in for Billups over the last two games of the Orlando series. He will be an interesting matchup for Boston because of his ability to play both backcourt positions. Beyond those two, two veterans who provide a steady hand, Theo Ratliff and Lindsey Hunter, add shot blocking (Ratliff) and a reliable fourth guard (Hunter).

Coaching: Advantage Detroit

Let me just say that these are possibly two of the worse coaches in the NBA (them being Doc Rivers and Flip Saunders) and I am not going to waste mine or yours going into the details of this mind game match up. I just want to say that I hope Doc Rivers sticks to a rotation and redeems himself for one of the worst coaching jobs in the history of the playoffs in round one (how do you go to seven games against ATLANTA?????).

Key Matchup: Paul Pierce vs Tayshaun Prince

If game seven of the Cleveland series showed us anything, its that Paul Pierce is the most important player on Boston. Yes KG was excellent but this always has and always will be Paul’s team. If Tayshaun can play Pierce even, then the Pistons will walk away with this series. If not, then Detroit is going to be in trouble. I would look for Detroit to utilize Prince’s long arms to try and lock him up one on one and offer little or no help as they will try to keep the ball out of KG’s hands.

X-Factor: Sam Cassell, PG Boston Celtics

Yes, he did not play in game seven. Yes, he has been horrendous so far in the playoffs. Yes, he is perhaps the ugliest human being in the world and yes, he may not even be human. But that does not matter. If he can provide ten-fifteen minutes of solid basketball then Boston should count there blessings. However, if he reverts to his ball-hogging style, then watch him ride the pine for the rest of the playoffs, leaving Boston dangerously thin in the back court.

Prediction: Celtics in Seven

I believe that is about as even as a matchup one could hope for. Both of these teams play solid fundamental basketball and great defense. I just see Boston having just a little bit more on the offensive end. And even though Boston just went through a highly exhaustive and emotional series with Cleveland, I don’t see KG and Paul Pierce letting this team down and playing with low energy..

BEARD

Advertisements