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NBA playoff preview: Eastern Conference semifinals

Sizing up the Boston vs. Philadelphia and Miami vs. Indiana matchups. The winners advance to the East finals.

May 11, 2012|By Ben Bolch
  • Boston forward Kevin Garnett is congratulated by fans following the Celtics' Game 6 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday. Boston plays Philadelphia in the second round.
Boston forward Kevin Garnett is congratulated by fans following the Celtics'… (Charles Krupa / Associated…)


No. 4 Boston vs. No. 8 Philadelphia

Boston def. Atlanta, 4-2, in first round

Philadelphia def. Chicago, 4-2, in first round

Season series: Philadelphia, 2-1.

Key stat: Nine days before his 36th birthday, Boston's Kevin Garnett collected 28 points, 14 rebounds and five blocked shots in a turn-back-the-clock performance Thursday during the Celtics' series-clinching victory over Atlanta.

Outlook: Funny seeing you here. Philadelphia became only the fifth eighth-seeded team to beat a top-seeded opponent in the first round, though some might say its triumph over Chicago deserves an asterisk because of injuries to Bulls stars Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. But give the 76ers some credit. They persevered through their own shortcomings, winning three games in the series when they shot under 40% and twice when they scored fewer than 80 points. The allegedly old (Garnett) and certifiably injured (Paul Pierce continues to play despite a sprained knee ligament) Celtics seem impervious to defeat early in the playoffs. The Big Three of Garnett, Pierce and Ray Allen have made it at least into the second round in each of the last five years.

Prediction: While Boston has been here, won that, Philadelphia is playing in the conference semifinals for the first time since 2003. And the 76ers' journey is about to end. Celtics in six.

No. 2 Miami vs. No. 3 Indiana

Miami def. New York, 4-1, in first round

Indiana def. Orlando, 4-1, in first round

Season series: Miami, 3-1.

Key stat: Miami's LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh averaged 63.8 points per game in the first round, accounting for nearly 66% of their team's average scoring output of 96.8 points.

Outlook: In the NBA equivalent of a "Hoosiers"-type mismatch, Indiana hopes to play the role of tiny Milan High to Miami's powerful Muncie Central. The small-market Pacers certainly don't have the stars to match the Heat's James, Wade and Bosh. Then again, the low-key franchise also didn't hold a welcome party for free agent David West before the season complete with pyrotechnics, smoke and a runway in which he could low-five fans. That kind of thing sound familiar, Miami fans? Indiana must avoid the just-happy-to-be-here mind-set after rolling over Orlando, which wasn't much of a feat considering the Magic was missing the injured Dwight Howard. The Pacers, who had five players average double figures in scoring during the regular season, will need more than good balance to win this series. Center Roy Hibbert, Indiana's only All-Star this season, must play even bigger than his 7-foot-2 frame, and Danny Granger and West will have to come up big in fourth quarters.

Prediction: This isn't Hollywood. Heat in six.

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