The 2011 NBA playoffs are upon us, and while we at SB Nation Los Angeles might be a little more invested in the Western Conference, consider this look at the Eastern Conference a scouting exercise for a potential Lakers' berth in the NBA Finals. There are several intriguing matchups in the first round in the Eastern Conference, even if upsets might be hard to come by.
Here are the first round matchups for the Eastern Conference, which gets underway Saturday afternoon. For the full schedule, be sure to check out SB Nation's NBA playoff coverage.
No. 1 Chicago Bulls (62-20) vs. No. 8 Indiana Pacers (37-45): The Bulls have made defense cool again, and first-year head coach Tim Thibodeau, a lock for Coach of the Year, guided Chicago to the best record in the NBA. The Bulls' three wins over the Pacers were by a combined 53 points, but the Pacers were able to secure an overtime win over Chicago on March 18. The Bulls finished their regular season winning 21 of their last 23 games.
No. 4 Orlando Magic (52-30) vs. No. 5 Atlanta Hawks (44-38): This has a chance to be a terrible series, as both teams are an absolute mess. Atlanta has been terrible since the beginning of February, finishing their season 11-20 and have lost six straight. The Magic are the better team, but have also lost three of four to Atlanta this season.
No. 3 Boston Celtics (56-26) vs. No. 6 New York Knicks (42-40): The Celtics, like last year, coasted into the playoffs, but insist they're healthy and ready to go as the playoffs begin. I'm inclined to believe them. The Knicks are just 14-14 since acquiring Carmelo Anthony.
No. 2 Miami Heat (58-24) vs. No. 7 Philadelphia 76ers (41-41): The Heat should be able to make quick work of Philadelphia, whom they have beaten three times this season without a loss, and give everyone the Eastern Conference matchup they wanted to see, a second round scrum with the Celtics.