With the regular season now officially over, the focus shifts to the postseason. For sixteen teams, a whole new season begins, starting this Saturday. Here is a preview of just one of the Eastern Conference match-ups, along with each team’s X-factor, and my prediction of the series outcome.
Miami Heat (1) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (8)
1. Preview : While Miami tends to walk all over everyone in the East, the Bucks seem to never go down without a fight. Whatever the reason may be, it is a consistently a competitive match-up. The Heat took 3-of-4 games in the regular season from the Bucks, losing the other by 19 points. In another match-up, Milwaukee took Miami to overtime before losing by seven points.
2. Miami’s X-factor : Chris Anderson. This may come as a shock too many, but everyone knows what to expect from LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. They will get theirs, no questions asked, but the acquisition of Anderson mid-season is as big a reason for their success as anything else. Miami’s biggest problem since during the “Big Three” era has been the lack of a true center, forcing Chris Bosh to try to fill that role. Think back to the struggles they had with Indiana in the playoffs, Roy Hibbert dominated Miami’s entire front court. With that said, “Birdman” has added size, energy, athleticism, rebounding, and a defensive presence to the biggest chink in Miami’s armor. Not only was this a great addition for the Heat, but it was just as big, if not bigger, for Chris Bosh. The signing allowed Bosh to move back to his natural power forward position, where his offensive versatility is viewed as an asset, rather than an issue.
3. Milwaukee’s X-factor : Larry Sanders. Miami attacks the paint about as much as any team in the NBA, whether it be in the half-court or transition. LeBron and Wade do their work attacking the basket on dribble-drives the majority of the time, and Chris Bosh gets a lot of catch-and-finish opportunities around the basket as a result. Larry Sanders has made it known to the rest of the league that he is no scrub, especially on the defensive side of the court. In Milwaukee’s only win against Miami this season, he had an impressive 4 blocks to go along with 11 rebounds and 16 points. Milwaukee will need more of the same from their young rim-protector if they plan to make this series even remotely competitive.
4. Prediction : Miami takes this one in five…maximum. Nobody would be shocked if the defending champions swept the Bucks, but it wouldn’t be shocking if they stole one at home if Miami lost its focus and thought every team would just lay down for them. LeBron, Wade, Bosh, and company will take this series, it’s just a matter of how many games. All of that depends on whether or not they come out with the killer instinct we saw in the midst of the team’s 27-game win streak. The Heat won 66 games in the regular season, the Bucks finished sub .500. Enough said.