Unfortunate knee injuries to Derrick Rose and Iman Shumpert have made the Eastern Conference playoffs quite a bit clearer. Rose, who missed over a third of Chicago's games this season with a variety of injuries to his back, foot, ankle and groin, went down with a torn ACL with 1:20 left in the game while the Bulls had a 12-point lead. He is out for the year.
Shumpert, who started 17 games in place of the injured Jeremy Lin went down with his own knee injury in the Knicks 100-67 loss to the Miami Heat.
With Lin gone, the Knicks were already short on point guards before Shumpert's injury. Now they will need to depend on veteran Baron Davis, who will be pressed to play long minutes effectively in each game. At this point in his career it's questionable whether the injury-plagued Davis can do it.
Even worse for the Knicks, this means that their offense will rely on Carmelo Anthony. Ever since Lin's injury, New York has gravitated to an offense that depends on Anthony scoring off isolation sets, mainly from outside. In Game 1, the Heat forced Anthony outside and prevented him from getting shots off in the lane or off penetration.
According to the website 82games.com, Anthony has shot only 37 percent on jump shots, but is a 60 percent shooter when he's in the lane or closer to the hoop. With the Heat preventing Anthony from penetrating, he shot 1-for-9 in the first half and 3-for-15 for the game. While he'll undoubtedly have better games in the series, at this point the Knicks just depend too much on his offense.
Miami, on the other hand, looks primed for a title run. Their stellar defense held the Knicks to 35 percent shooting while LeBron James had a monster game with 32 points on 10-for-14 shooting and a plus-35 point differential in his 32 minutes of play. It remains to be seen how James will fare should the Heat make it to the Finals, but if his regular season is any indication he may fare much differently than last season.
On the year, James averaged 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists and shot 53.1 percent from the floor. According to 82games.com, he held his man to a 10.4 efficiency rating while leading the league by over four points with a 30.6 rating. There may be no stopping James and Miami this year.
Chicago will likely still get past Philadelphia in the first round without Rose, but face a large hurdle should they face Boston in the second round. Avery Bradley has added a different dimension to the Celtics' effectiveness. The 6-foot-2 Bradley is an excellent defender, and when playing shooting guard as opposed to point his eFG% rises from 45.9 percent to 63.2 percent while he holds his opponent to an eFG% of 41 percent.
If Ray Allen can provide solid minutes off the bench, Boston will likely get past Atlanta. Allen is still listed as questionable for Game 1 with a sore ankle, but many expect him to play. How well he plays may be the difference in this series.
With Dwight Howard out for the season, no one expected Orlando to have a chance in their series against Indiana. However, the Magic scored the last 11 points of the game as they upset the Pacers in Game 1, 81-77. Indiana was getting good looks but could not put the ball in the basket, going scoreless over the last four minutes and shooting only 34 percent for the game. I'd still be surprised to see the Magic pull this series out. We'll see how the Pacers react in Game 2.
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