WSB correctly predicted the advance of both of these teams. We had the Pacers beating the Hawks in six. This series certainly started off as a more high scoring affair, but in the last two games the Pacers held the Hawks to 83 and 73 points. The superior height and depth were the ultimate factor in the series.
The Knicks and Celtics series started off completely skewed in favor of the Knicks, but the veteran Celtics were able to stretch the series out to 6 games, even when lacking their star point guard Rajon Rondo. The Knicks were able to play well enough defensively and despite shooting poorly, were able fend off the Celtics. The biggest surprise of the series was how well Shumpert performed offensively (last game in particular) and how dominant he was on the defense.
If you compare the Celtics vs the Pacers, the two teams are similar in that their primary philosophy for winning is defense. However, the Pacers were even more successful than the Celtics as they held opponents to 90.7 PPG in the regular season. They are also deeper and younger, both of which loomed large in the Knicks vs Celtics series as Garnett and Pierce were asked to shoulder a large load.
While I think the Knicks have an advantage in the back court as Felton has upped his play immensely and with six-man of the year (assuming he attacks the basket), pesky Prigioni, and J-Kidd, the Knicks will look to exploit the 3-point line. In the front-court, things get a little more dicey.
While Paul George obviously one most improved player (Paul George: Most Improved Player), he is guarded by Iman Shumpert, a promising young player who is known for defensive tenacity and is finally fully recovered after returning from an injury. While I am not going to allege that Shumpert will shut down George, I feel confident that Shump will make George’s life very difficult.
Carmelo Anthony returned to being a high-volume scorer as he chucked up shots and wasted shot clock. This low efficiency was not only due to a sudden dearth in talent, but due to the Celtics playing Melo tough, which is exactly what David West will be doing.
He is a hard-nosed defender, but, like most PFs, is much slower than Melo which could result in Melo getting him into foul trouble early and rediscovering his rhythm and shot at the free throw line.
Another interesting matchup will be Hibbert vs. Chandler.
Hibbert was undoubtedly the X-Factor in the series. While his numbers are far from gaudy, 15 PPG and 9 RPG, his presence in defensive rotations and offensive rebounds is huge. In fact, the last series with him on the court, the Pacers outscored the Hawks by 12 points and lets up 92 points per 100 possessions. While Chandler is finally feeling 100%, the former defensive player of the year should have his hands full with Hibbert.
This series will mirror the offensive output of the Celtics vs Knicks. While the series will go the distance, The Knicks have home-court advantage and have a superstar where the Pacers do not. Knicks 4-3.