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Eastern Conference Capsules


No. 1 Miami (33-17) vs. No. 8 New York (27-23)

* Season series: Tied, 2-2.

* Offenses: Miami 89 points (23rd), New York 86.4 (27th).

* Defenses: Miami 84 (second), New York 85.4 (fourth).

* Key stat: Patrick Ewing, whose 17.3 average and 44% shooting were career lows, sat out six of the last 13 games because of a sore Achilles' tendon.

* Schedule: Game 1--Saturday at Miami, 9:30 a.m.; Game 2--Monday at Miami, 4 p.m.; Game 3--Wednesday at New York, 5 p.m.; Game 4--May 14 at New York, TBA*; Game 5--May 16 at Miami, TBA*; * if necessary.

* Outlook: Their fates seemingly entwined, Pat Riley's new team plays his old one again, hoping to avoid upset, riot or embarrassing the game, for once. Two years ago, Charlie Ward dived at P.J. Brown's knees, resulting in a melee and so many Knick suspensions, they split them up over two games--including Ewing for the pivotal Game 6. Last spring, Larry Johnson provoked Alonzo Mourning into fighting and Jeff Van Gundy attached himself to Mourning's ankle, resulting in Mourning's suspension (and Johnson's, as if anyone cared) and a 17-point Heat loss in the deciding Game 5. However, Ewing is a year older and a year slower.

* Prediction: Miami, 3-1.


No. 2 Indiana (33-17) vs. No. 7 Milwaukee (28-22)

* Season series: Pacers, 3-0.

* Offense: Indiana 94.7 (sixth), Milwaukee 91.7 (14th).

* Defense: Indiana 90.9 (13th), Milwaukee 90 (11th).

* Key stat: Milwaukee starts a rookie, Robert Traylor, at center and a second-year man, Tim Thomas, at power forward.

* Schedule: Game 1--Sunday at Indiana, 5:30 p.m.; Game 2--Tuesday at Indiana, 6:30 p.m.; Game 3--Thursday at Milwaukee, 6 p.m.; Game 4--May 15 at Milwaukee, TBA*; Game 5--May 16 at Indiana, TBA*; * if necessary.

* Outlook: In retrospect, $5 million doesn't seem too much for George Karl, who took the Bucks to the playoffs for the first time in eight years. However, short of knocking the Pacers out with his wallet, Karl will be hard-pressed to go further. The Bucks play George ball with a small front line, including the 6-foot-8 Traylor at center. The Pacers play NBA-playoff ball, with lots of size: 7-4 Rik Smits, 6-11 Dale Davis, 6-9 Antonio Davis and 6-9 Derrick McKey. The Pacers struggled all season, trying to live up to their favored status and Larry Bird's expectations and will be out to make amends.

* Prediction: Pacers, 3-1.


No. 3 Orlando (33-17) vs. No. 6 Philadelphia (28-22)

* Season series: Philadelphia, 2-1.

* Offense: Orlando 89.5 (22nd), Philadelphia 89.7 (21st).

* Defense: Orlando 86.9 (sixth), Philadelphia 87.6 (eighth).

* Key stat: The 76ers would have swept them if Darrell Armstrong hadn't intercepted a pass at the end of the lone Magic win and taken it in for the winning layup.

* Schedule: Game 1--Sunday at Orlando, 9:30 a.m.; Game 2--Tuesday at Orlando, 4 p.m.; Game 3--Thursday at Philadelphia, 3:30 p.m.; Game 4--May 15 at Philadelphia, TBA*; Game 5--May 16 at Orlando, TBA*; * if necessary.

* Outlook: For all their perceived differences, these are similar teams with tough defenses and Philadelphia backgrounds, Magic Coach Chuck Daly and much of the Magic front office having been 76ers. Daly and Larry Brown did great jobs this season, bringing their teams back from obscurity. Brown's team was in a lot deeper and comes in as an underdog. Brown has Allen Iverson, a fierce competitor. Daly was forced to go to a three-guard lineup because Penny Hardaway doesn't want to play the point any more. Oh, and pouty Penny and Nick Anderson, who used to be buddies, aren't any more.

* Prediction: 76ers, 3-2.


No. 4 Atlanta (31-19) vs. No. 5 Detroit (29-21)

* Season series: Detroit, 2-1.

* Offense: Atlanta 86.3 (28th), Detroit 90.4 (20th).

* Defense: Atlanta 83.4 (first), Detroit 86.9 (sixth).

* Key stat: Grant Hill averaged 28 points, eight rebounds and seven assists against the Hawks.

* Schedule: Game 1--Saturday at Atlanta, 5:30 p.m.; Game 2--Monday at Atlanta, 5 p.m.; Game 3--Wednesday at Detroit, 4 p.m.; Game 4--May 14 at Detroit, TBA*; Game 5--May 16 at Atlanta, TBA*; * if necessary.

* Outlook: First one to 100 wins . . . the series. We're talking defense here. The Hawks didn't even come close to averaging 90 points a game, and the Pistons had to finish fast to get their noses all the way up to 90.1. The Hawks are bigger, with a real center, at least on defense, in Dikembe Mutombo. The Pistons are more like a mirror job. They slow the game down, spread the floor, isolate Grant Hill and wait for the double-team. Since Hill is great, and the Pistons have a lot of perimeter shooters, they get away with it. However, the Hawks were a different team with Steve Smith (25-11) than without (6-8) and he's back. Atlanta won nine of its last 11 games.

* Prediction: Hawks, 3-2.

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