The regular season is almost finished, the seeds are set, and NBA Playoff action officially gets underway on Saturday, April 28th. The Eastern Conference features a number of tough teams, but most pundits expect either the Heat, Bulls, or Celtics to emerge victorious in the Conference Finals. The odds makers are also in line with those thoughts as they have Miami listed as a -200 favorite to win the Eastern Conference in the latest NBA Odds. Chicago is presently drawing +150 odds to represent the East in the NBA Finals and the Celtics are listed at +600 odds to win the eight team tournament.
Miami Heat (-200): Miami had its share of ups and downs last season, but it had little difficulty navigating its way to and through the Eastern Conference Finals in order to square off against the Mavericks for all the marbles. The Heat went 12-3 before falling to Dallas in the NBA Finals, beating Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago in the process. Most NBA fans are expecting much the same this time around, despite LeBron James and company dropping four of their last 10 games. While Miami will not enjoy home court advantage throughout (although it could work out that way should the Bulls fall before the Conference Finals), it proved last season that winning on the road is a not a challenge too big to overcome.
Chicago Bulls (+150): The Bulls were the best team in the East this season, and they managed to earn the top seed in the conference despite Derrick Rose missing 26 games. Chicago ranks first in the league in points per game allowed (88.4) and its 25 home wins are second only to Miami’s 28 (Eastern Conference only). If Rose is healthy, the Bulls are, no doubt, a threat to make it to the Finals, but they must prove their ability to foil the Heat is not just a regular season occurrence.
Boston Celtics (+600): The Celtics Big Three are aging, but Doc Rivers made sure to provide his veteran stars plenty of rest down the stretch. Boston also has the young legs of Rajon Rondo on its side, and the Kentucky product has proven time and again to be a thorn in both Miami’s and Chicago’s side. The Celtics have also played well down the stretch, winning 13 of their last 17 games. It should be noted that three of those 13 victories came at the expense of the Heat.
New York Knicks (+1500): The Knicks have talent and they have two huge names in Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, but they have done little to suggest they are on equal footing with Chicago, Miami, and Boston. New York is a collective 3-8 against those teams, a record which raises serious doubts about its ability to beat any of those squads in a seven game series. And, to make matters worse, the Knicks will open the postseason against the Heat, a team they were unable to beat in three regular season meetings.
Indiana Pacers (+1800): Indiana, if for nothing else than New York meeting Miami in the first round, should be listed ahead of the Knicks. The Pacers have been a more consistent team this season, and, unlike New York, they have shown an ability to compete with the Big Three (Miami, Chicago, Boston), posting a 4-6 record against them during the regular season (record does not include the season finale against Chicago).
2012 NBA Playoff Picks Eastern Conference Odds: Provided by TopBet.com
Miami Heat -200
Chicago Bulls +150
Boston Celtics +600
New York Knicks +1500
Indiana Pacers +1800
Philadelphia 76ers +3000
Atlanta Hawks +3000
Orlando Magic +4000