1. Chicago versus 5. Atlanta
Atlanta won their series with the Magic for 3 reasons: the ability of the Hawks to dribble penetrate against the Magic, their ability to get open to knick down 3 point shots and the ability to single cover Dwight Howard with Zaza Pachulia or Jason Collins.
The first two had to do with the Magic's lack of perimeter speed and the second one had to do with Howards inability to score from the mid-range and lack of refined post moves.
The Hawks are going to have a much tougher time with the Bulls.
With Ronnie Brewer, Derrick Rose and Keith Bogans, the Bulls can stop the dribble penetration that made the Hawks a difficult match-up for the Magic and the Bulls will not give up such open looks from distance.
Jamal Crawford really killed the Magic, shooting 43.5% from the field, 45.9% from the 3 point line and scoring 20.5 points per game. Those numbers are more likely to look like 40%, 35% and 10 to 15 points per game this series, which will really hurt the Hawks because he was such a big reason they beat the Magic.
On the defensive end, the Hawks are going to have their hands full with Kirk Hinrich (who has a hamstring injury and may miss game 1) or Jamal Crawford trying to guard Derrick Rose. Hinrich is not quick enough to cover rose, though he is a good defender, and Crawford is not a sound enough defender, though he is closer to Rose's quickness. Crawford also prefers to use his energy at the offensive end, and covering Rose will take Crawford out of his offense.
Boozer should also destroy this defense. Pachulia and Collins were good against Howard (though Howard did have a monster series anyways) because they were tough around the basket. Boozer is not as one-dimensional offensively as Howard, and can face up from the elbows, put his back to the basket in the post, score from the mid-range and has great footwork and a number of low post moves.
I suspect Boozer will play in game 1, he is not a baseball player and a toe stub is not going to keep him out of a playoff game.
This series is going to be a tough one for the Hawks.
Prediction: Bulls in 5
2. Miami versus 3. Boston
This series features 7 All Stars, the most in a playoff series since 1983.
Boston will win if one of two things happen: Shaq is able to play the whole series or Mario Chalmers plays under 25 minutes a game.
Shaq completely changes this teams' offense. With Shaq in, Rondo is the most dangerous person on the court: he can penetrate at will because defenders cannot come off Shaq, he has two players to set great screens (Shaq and KG or Shaq and Davis), he does not have to shoot from mid-range as much because with Shaq (and not Jermaine O'Neal) downlow KG and Davis can play their natural games at 18 feet.
He is also a big upgrade on Nenad Kristic (who has not gotten much playing time in the postseason, with the Celtics going small with Jeff Green) on the defensive end: he will not let people get easy dunks around the basket like Kristic does.
Chalmers, meanwhile, got more playing time (25 to 20) than Bibby at the point guard spot during the first round. The Sixers' point guard, Jrue Holiday, gave Bibby fits at times and the Heat originally went with Chalmers for more time in the beginning of the series, then reverse course later in the series.
They are going to have to go with Chalmers for 25 plus minutes a game (in every game) if they want to slow down Rondo and win this series. They should have been playing Chalmers more minutes (though still off the bench because he is hesitant to shoot from the outside, and works perfectly playing with Mike Miller, James Jones and Eddie House) than both Arroyo and Bibby the whole season.
The Heat on the offensive end will rely on big games from Wade and/or Lebron. KG should have the advantage in his match-up with Bosh, especially if he is able to force Bosh to his right.
Meanwhile, Lebron and Wade each should be able to carry their team to victory once in this series, but the Celtics will limit the weapons around them enough so that is all the Heat will get.
The Heat are going to be stubborn with Chalmers' playing time, even after Rondo starts to scorch them, and it is going to cost the Heat this series.
Prediction: Celtics in 6
2. Los Angeles versus 3. Dallas
Los Angeles had more trouble and Dallas had less trouble than I expected in the first round.
Both these teams, because of their age, are probably happy they are facing each other instead of facing the Grizzlies or the Thunder.
Age still favors the Lakers, as they have enough experience and enough players in their prime to deal with Dallas and their aging core in Nowitzki, Kidd, Shawn Marion and Terry.
The Lakers also have such an advantage with skilled big men, and as long as Andrew Bynum can stay healthy Lamar Odom is going to kill the Mavericks off the bench.
The Mavericks' Caron Butler may return for this series to give the Mavericks added depth, but with so much time off and such a serious injury even if he does return he is not going to be a factor.
The only place where Dallas has an advantage is at the point.
Jason Kidd really killed the Trail Blazers and he should be effective again on the offensive end against the Lakers, but Fisher is not going to let him do what he did against the Trail Blazers in the first round.
That one advantage will not be enough, and the Lakers are going to dominate the Mavericks inside.
Prediction: Lakers in 6
4. Oklahoma City versus 8. Memphis
The Grizzlies and the Thunder are the future of the Western Conference. Both teams are young and have their core intact for a long time.
The Grizzlies were lucky in who they drew as an 8th seed. The Spurs are the best team in NBA playoff history ( a number 1) who drew a terrible match-up for them in the first round. The Grizzlies were everything the Spurs were not: young, athletic and fast.
The Thunder are going to be much tougher for them.
Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka are going to frustrate Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol down low.
Westbrook should be able to protect the ball better than Tony Parker did and will not let Mike Conley get inside on the defensive end.
And Kevin Durant is the best scorer in the NBA.
This series is not even going to be close.
Prediction: Thunder in 5