If the playoffs started now the match ups would go as followed: 1Boston/8Indiana, 2Miami/7Philadelphia, Chicago3/6New York, 4Atlanta/5Orlando. I don't buy Indiana finishing over Milwaukee or Atlanta getting the 4 seed over Orlando due to strength of schedule over the rest of the season. So if I had to predict the final seeding it would be 1Boston, 2Miami, 3Chicago, 4Orlando, 5 Atlanta, 6 New York, 7 Philadelphia, 8 Milwaukee.
I see absolutely no chance for an upset in this first round. New York is better this year and still have a chance of landing Melo before the dead line, but even if that happens I don't see them knocking off any of the top four. That leaves second round matches of Boston vs. Orlando and Miami vs. Chicago. These match ups will blow any Western Conference excitement out of the water.
Boston vs. Orlando:
Its hard for me to say that Boston is going to be as dominant as they should be because their health is so suspect. That being said, if they are healthy I don't think Orlando stands a chance. Dwight Howard is a fantastic player but he has yet to show consistancy in the playoffs and is a liability late in games due to his horrendous free throw percentage. The Celtics can throw Perkins, both O'Neil's, and Big Baby at Howard to cause foul trouble, assuming they are all active come post season. Aside from that, Orlando has no answer for Rondo. It's been said ad nauseum that he has the keys to this championship caliber team but if you watch him enough it becomes very hard to over value his worth. He will pick apart Orlando's lack of perimeter defense. I could easily see this series going to a game seven due to Orlando's superior three point shooting and the expected two to three monster games from Howard, but when it matters Boston will turn it on.
Chicago vs. Miami
I think this might be the one team that can dissect the three kings of South Beach. LeBron and Wade have learned to play with each other and contrary to the beginning of the season, are much better when both are on the floor. Every game they seem to get faster. With every bucket made by the opponent comes the opportunity for LeBron to lob a 3/4's court pass to a streaking Wade for an easy dunk, or vice versa. When one of them is off the court their offense is definitely less potent, but they can afford the dry spells due to the efficiency created when the two play together. The weakness however has been pointed out by analysts across the country; they are built for the regular season. They will not be able to run like that in the playoffs when every possession is of much greater importance, and especially not against a team as good defensively as Chicago. Miami will be forced to play more of a traditional half court style offense, something they struggled with early on.
Besides that, although they are rebounding better lately, Chicago is capable of destroying them on the boards. Joakim Noah can dominate Bosh and make him a non-factor. With the addition of Boozer, he doesn't even have to run the pick and roll anymore, leaving him free to rebound and get tip ins, which he will be able to do easily against Miami.
The biggest advantage for Chicago though is Derrick Rose. He is playing like an MVP and Miami has been hurt by good point guard play all year. He has proven he can play up in big games and if you watched the Heat vs. Bulls last Saturday in the thrilling Chicago victory, then you know the South Side rivalry between Wade and Rose is not overblown. Rose went at him with everything he has, similar to how he went at Rondo in the 2009 series. He has a chip on his shoulder and wants to prove to the league that he is the top point guard and an MVP. Arroyo and Chalmers will have no answer for him and Miami putting Wade on him would inevitably end with Rose wearing him down and favoring Chicago.
The only way I see Miami winning this game is if the big three play can play an overload of minutes and stay healthy, Bosh will have to play better than Noah, and they will have to get production when LeBron and Wade are on the bench. I don't see that as being likely. I predict we will see a replay of one of the best playoff series of all time (Boston/Chicago 2009) but this time it will take place in the Eastern Conference Finals.