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The Beasts of the East

   by Al McMordie - 04/18/2005


The arduous regular season is just about over, which means we can finally get to some real NBA action: The postseason! The East is a bit easier to analyze than the West, with its glut of talented teams. In the East, Chicago has been the biggest surprise of the season, especially when you realize the Bulls were 200-to-1 to win the title at the start of the season.

What the Bulls have is tough defense and a slew of young players, such as Chris Duhon, Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon in the backcourt, and Tyson Chandler up front along with veteran Antonio Davis. This may surprise you, but the Bulls are the No. 1 defensive team in the NBA holding opponents to .422% shooting. Coach Scott Skiles deserves a lot of credit for getting this mostly young team to focus energy on the defensive glass (the Bulls are 23-17 under the total at home). But youth and injuries are going to be an important detriment to this team in the playoffs. Eddie Curry, their leading scorer, is still out with a heart ailment, along with rookie Luol Deng, their fourth leading scorer. That’s a tough break.

The Celtics come into the playoffs as the No. 3 offensive team in the NBA, shooting .468%. They got a huge shot in the arm emotionally and offensively after the acquisition of Antoine Walker. However, this is not a very good team that wouldn’t even make the playoffs if they were in the West. Let’s not forget how awful the Atlantic division has been all season. The Celtics are a poor road team and allow over 100 ppg, one of the worst marks in the league. They are overrated and will not be coming out of the East.

The East is about two giants, really, Miami and defending champion Detroit. Miami has Dwayne Wade, several hard working role players and Shaq in the middle. They have excellent balance, shooting over 48% as a team (best in the league) and allow .428% shooting by opponents, fourth best. That tough defense is a credit to coach Stan Van Gundy, not Shaq, as the Heat was strong a year ago at the defensive end. It’s interesting that Miami is 52-16 as a favorite, yet 4-7 as a dog. Barring an injury to Shaq, they will be meeting the defending champs in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Detroit seemed to take the first half of the season off, somewhat, but since January they’ve been focused and playing great basketball. At the start of this week they are on a 10-0 straight-up, 7-3 spread run. They allow 89 points per game, second best in the NBA. Detroit seems very ready to defend its title, getting a lift when coach Larry Brown returned last month after a short illness. It seems to have breathed more life into them. Detroit is 46-14 as a favorite, 6-11 as a dog.

So how did these two giants fair against each other? Miami won 89-78 at Detroit, while the Pistons won the other two meetings, 78-77 and 80-72. Sports bettors take note: What stands out about those games? DEFENSE! All three games went way under the total. Don’t be surprised if these teams meet for the title in a memorable series featuring blocked shots, rebounds and little scoring. Good luck as always...Al McMordie.

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