Your quick and dirty NBA Playoffs preview

The matchups are set and the first round starts this weekend. In the East, the top four teams — Cleveland, Orlando, Boston and Atlanta — seem like good bets to advance, while in the West, I wouldn’t be shocked if the bottom four seeds — Utah, Portland, San Antonio and Oklahoma City — were to make the second round. Here’s a quick look at each series:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Cavaliers vs. Bulls
It’s not often that a team that had a 10-game losing streak end in mid-February recovers and makes the postseason, but that’s exactly what the Bulls have done, winning 10 of their last 14 to capture the final playoff spot in the East. Chicago has the tools to make this a series, and with Shaquille O’Neal coming back from a long break, there’s a chance this could go to six or seven games. But in the end, Cleveland should have plenty of firepower to put the Bulls away.

Celtics vs. Heat
If there’s going to be an upset in the East, this will probably be it. The C’s have limped into the playoffs, losing eight of their last 13 games. Meanwhile, the Heat went 18-4 in February and March, but were just 4-3 against teams with winning records. Boston swept the season series despite Dwyane Wade’s terrific numbers (34-5-9, 50% shooting), so if anyone else steps up, the streaking Heat have a good shot at stealing the first or second game and gaining control of the series.

Hawks vs. Bucks
If Andrew Bogut were healthy, I’d pick Milwaukee, but the Bucks are going to have a tough time winning a seven-game series against a pretty good Atlanta team that has won 13 of its last 19 games. The Bucks’ defense could keep the games (and the series) close, but the Hawks should have enough to move on.

Magic vs. Bobcats
Orlando is peaking at the right time, going 19-3 in February and March. However, one of those losses was at home against Charlotte. The Bobcats are playing well too — they’re 16-7 over their last 23 games. Both teams are excellent defesively; they’re tied for first in defensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions), so expect a few tight games. But Orlando just has too much talent.

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Bulls upend Cavs, 86-85

After an 0-2 start to the season, the Cleveland Cavaliers were riding a three-game winning streak into Thursday night’s home game against the Bulls. Here are the highlights:

The Cleveland faithful might think that LeBron was fouled on his last drive, but after taking a couple of looks at it, I think it was a clean play. The defender is entitled to his space, and he’s allowed to jump in the air as long as he doesn’t jump forward. This is called the “principle of verticality,” which means that a defensive player is entitled to his vertical cylinder. Joakim Noah’s defense on the play wasn’t a perfect example of this (as his body was drifting toward the basket a bit), but it was a good defensive play. LeBron was in a tough spot and obviously jumped into Noah looking for the call and the refs didn’t bail him out.

There are a couple of other things to take from this game:

1. Mo Williams’ ineffectiveness
He was 4-13 from the field (including 1-7 from long range). He did have six assists, but Mo is a scorer and he needs to be more efficient than this.

2. The Bulls’ balance
Chicago had seven players score at least seven points, and Luol Deng led the Bulls with 15. Derrick Rose didn’t shoot the ball well, but still scored 14 points and dropped 11 dimes.

The Cavs drop to 3-3 with the loss, while the Bulls are 3-2.

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