Tuesday , Apr , 13 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Front Row View- Eastern Conference Playoffs

With the playoffs only days away we take a look at the Eastern teams. In the East it is truly an open field, sure Indiana is “pacing” the field but with Detroit’s great defense, Miami’s hot streak, and just about every other team equally talented, anyone could come out of this conference.

Front Row View- Eastern Conference PlayoffsIndiana Pacers- The #1 seed battling most of the season for the best overall record in the NBA, but the Pacers don’t give you that dominant feel that so many Western teams do. It begins and ends with Jermaine O’Neal, the young forward leads the Pacers offensive attack and also is the difference maker on defense along with Ron Artest. Artest has stepped up his offensive game this year and has replaced Reggie Miller as the second scoring option. But Reggie does have the playoff, and big shot experience that Indiana will need to get out of the East. The x-factor will be top 6th man Al Harrington, who brings not only offence but defensive pressure off the bench. Point guard play will also be a question mark as Jamaal Tinsley, Kenny Anderson, and Anthony Johnson have took their turn this season playing inconsistently at the lead guard.

Pacer Starting 5

c- Jeff Foster

f- Jermaine O’Neal

f- Ron Artest

g- Reggie Miller

g- Jamaal Tinsley

New Jersey Nets- The Atlantic division is having a down season to say the least with Miami in second place at .500. But the Nets after a slow start and Byron Scott’s firing have picked it up. The problem will be the injuries to Jason Kidd, and Kenyon Martin and whether they will be 100% come playoff time. Without those two Richard Jefferson, Kerry Kittles, and Rodney Rogers have not been able to fully carry the load. The back-to-back defending Eastern champs though are still the champs until proven otherwise so they have the experience and ability to pull it off but with injuries and a wide-open field the Nets will have a very tough road making the three-peat happen.

Nets Starting 5

c- Jason Collins

f- Kenyon Martin

f- Richard Jefferson

g- Kerry Kittles

g- Jason Kidd

Detroit Pistons- Defense, defense and more defense is how the Pistons have got this far. Larry Brown came in and did the same job Rick Carlisle did (minus the division championship) with 50+ wins and stellar rebounding and timely offense. The big addition of playoff tested Rasheed Wallace has Piston fans hoping the they can get over the hump and into the Finals, Wallace is another offensive weapon this team will sorely need to go along with Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton. If Tayshaun Prince can duplicate his terrific playoff run from last season the Pistons could have the scoring ability needed to get out of the East.

Pistons Starting 5

c- Rasheed Wallace

f- Ben Wallace

f- Tayshaun Prince

g- Rip Hamilton

g- Chauncey Billups

Milwaukee Bucks- No Eastern team plays more up-and-down then Milwaukee and as the Nets proved the last 2 years you can come out of the East by just scoring on fast breaks. TJ Ford’s injury will hurt but Damon Jones has proved very capable of running the team and is a better shooter right now then Ford is, plus with Toni Kukoc and Brevin Knight coming off the bench, ball-handling is not a big concern for this team. Along with Kukoc and Knight the Bucks have the deepest bench in the East with Keith Van Horn, and Dan Gadzuric. Inside scoring maybe a problem though, Joe Smith has definitely flown under the radar this season but is having a great season, and Brian Skinner of late has been giving the Bucks an unexpected scoring punch. Michael Redd can just flat out shoot, and Desmond Mason is one of the better swingmen in the game.

Bucks Starting 5

c- Brian Skinner

f- Joe Smith

f- Van Horn/Mason

g- Michael Redd

g- Damon Jones

Miami Heat- After starting the season 0-7 few thought Stan Van Gundy would have this team in the playoffs but here they are. Led by the trio of rookie Dwyane Wade, Eddie Jones, and free-agent signee Lamar Odom the Heat have been able to play very good defense and get enough offence to survive. The Heat have been one of the best teams in the East since the All-Star break and have the underdog mentality that many teams have carried many teams before them deep into the playoffs. Rebounding and Caron Butler may be the keys to a deep Heat run, they need to keep teams from getting second chances, and Butler is the one guy that can score from the outside and inside something Miami will definitely need. Rafer Alston has been very good off the bench as the back-up guard.

Heat Starting 5

c- Brain Grant

f- Lamar Odom

f- Caron Butler

g- Eddie Jones

g- Dwayne Wade

New Orleans Hornets- The Hornets started off hot and healthy, but since then has been injury riddled and slumped back into the pack. Baron Davis had early MVP talk but then the health issues started again when the injuries started up, Jamal Mashburn also missed sometime. But not all was lost, with the team needing someone to step up Jamal Magloire did and became an All-Star giving them a legitimate center in the size deprived East. Come playoff time Davis, Masburn, and Magloire will all have to be in top condition because this team, different then other years, is not as deep as they once were. Also after years of depressive losing in Chicago first year coach, Tim Floyd, will be experiencing his first head coaching playoff action.

Hornets Starting 5

c- Jamal Magloire

f- PJ Brown

f- Jamal Mashburn

g- David Wesley

g- Baron Davis

New York Knicks- Stephon Marbury will have to shake off his previous first round playoff losses (Minnesota, Phoenix) to get the Knick club anywhere, then again after Isaiah “Wheel and Deal” Thomas turned over half the roster just getting into the playoffs is a accomplishment. The one thing the Knicks got in their favor is their front court depth, Mutombo, Mohammed, Baker, Kurt Thomas, and Mike Sweetney all are serviceable big men, none are dominant but all together they at least got 30 fouls to hand out. No Allan Houston will hurt, but watch out for Dermarr Johnson who was picked up from Atlanta after a serious car accident that almost left him paralyzed.

Knicks Starting 5

c- Nazr Mohammed

f- Kurt Thomas

f- Tim Thomas

g- Shandon Anderson

g- Stephon Marbury

Boston Celtics- Well they made it in. Paul Pierce will have to absolutely dominate, Ricky Davis will have to keep playing like he has been lately off the bench (20+ PPG over the last week), Chucky Atkins will need to keep hitting some open shots, and Mark Blount must keep playing like he has all season. Other then those things Boston is not getting allot of support in their likely first round match-up against Indiana, but in this absolutely wide-open East anything can happen.

Celtics Starting 5

c- Mark Blount

f- Walter McCarty

f- Jiri Welsch

g- Paul Pierce

g- Chucky Atkins