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Eastern Conference capsules

By Gary Washburn
Globe Staff / April 28, 2012
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1. Chicago vs. 8. Philadelphia

The difference between these teams is slight and monumental at the same time. It’s Derrick Rose. Without Rose, the Bulls are the Philadelphia 76ers, but with him they are an NBA title contender. Rose will make the difference in this series because he will not only dominate his matchup with Jrue Holiday, but he will set up his teammates for easy baskets. Meanwhile, the rest of the Bulls will bully the 76ers on the boards. Philadelphia has balance, but not a go-to scorer. What’s more, sixth man Lou Williams was the team’s leading scorer at 14.9 points a game, and who is able to carry this team in the playoffs? What coach Doug Collins is learning - or perhaps already knew - is that star power is critical in the postseason and the 76ers have little of that. Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala, and Spencer Hawes are a solid core but hardly good enough to beat the Bulls four out of seven games.

Prediction: Bulls in 5.

2. Miami vs. 7. NY Knicks

This is must-see TV. The Miami Heat won’t have an easy first-round opponent to warm up for a long playoff run. The Knicks are so talented and yet so unpredictable this could be an epic series because of the potential of Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler to jell. Stoudemire is coming off a back injury but looked solid down the stretch, while Anthony finally played as if he’s ready to assume the role of New York’s next superstar. The Heat were thumped by the Celtics and Wizards in the final two games, but believe they are rested and healthy enough for a successful title run. The problem for Miami is it loses the point guard and center matchup every game so that places pressure on its Big Three to dominate. Because the Knicks aren’t quite there with chemistry and cohesion, the Heat will prevail in an entertaining series. LeBron James has to be the best player on the court.

Prediction: Miami in 6.

3. Indiana vs. 6. Orlando

If you are asking why the Pacers are the prohibitive favorites when the Magic won three of the four meetings, it’s because Orlando will be without Dwight Howard (back surgery). Without Howard and potentially Hedo Turkoglu (cheekbone surgery), the Pacers have the potential to run away with this series, but they won’t. The Magic will play with pride and put up a major fight. This is an opportunity for Magic coach Stan Van Gundy to display his coaching skills and for players such as Glen Davis, J.J. Redick, and Jason Richardson to prove they are capable of being front-line players. And remember, Indiana is not exactly playoff experienced. This is the Pacers’ second postseason series as a core and they have yet to experience victory. This could be one of the more entertaining series of the playoffs.

Prediction: Pacers in 7.

4. Boston vs. 5. Atlanta

This is not a series Celtics fans should take lightly or view as an appetizer for the Bulls. Atlanta will provide a formidable challenge because it has an accomplished All-Star in Joe Johnson who can not only post up smaller defenders but has tremendous range. Meanwhile, Josh Smith causes problems for most teams because of his length and athleticism. The problem for the Hawks is that there is not a consistent third option. Marvin Williams has faded. Kirk Hinrich and Jeff Teague can pose problems, but not enough to push the Hawks over the top. The Celtics enter the series rested and mostly healthy and rested - besides Ray Allen (foot) - and the development of Avery Bradley compensates for that. Atlanta is missing cornerstone big man Al Horford (pectoral surgery) for the series while center Zaza Pachulia (foot) is expected to miss the first two games. The Celtics should prevail because they have no fear of playing in Atlanta.

Prediction: Celtics in 6.

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