1991 Nba Playoffs Pro Basketball

April 25, 1991

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Atlanta Hawks

Record: 43-39, fourth in Central Division.

Strengths: Dominique Wilkins has scored less, but improved his overall game and leadership. Spud Webb, 5-7, proved he belonged in league. Kevin Willis and Moses Malone provide strong offensive rebounding.

Weaknesses: Jon Koncak has proved a major bust at center. The Hawks are vulnerable to a trapping defense. The Pistons won all 5 meetings between the teams this season.

Boston Celtics

Record: 56-26, first in Atlantic Division.

Strengths: The return of Brian Shaw and emergence of Kevin Gamble and rookie Dee Brown gave Celtics a much-needed injection of speed. The Frontcourt of Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Reggie Lewis, plus sixth man Kevin McHale, is the league's best when healthy. Memories of an embarrassing Game 5 loss to the Knicks at Boston Garden in last year's first round -- after leading series 2-0 -- figure to make the Celtics more focused this time around.

Weaknesses: Bird and McHale, both injury-prone, could wear down in a long series.

Chicago Bulls

Record: 61-21, first in Central Division.

Strengths: Michael Jordan can win games by himself. Scottie Pippen has emerged as an All-Star forward. Chicago is difficult to beat in Chicago Stadium (35-6), where it won a team-record 26 straight this year. The Bulls have the league's second-best field-goal percentage (.510). The best regular-season record in franchise history could signal the first finals appearance.

Weaknesses: Bench play was sporadic throughout the season, particularly on the boards. Beat up on all the league's weaklings, but managed only a 21-18 record vs. opponents with records over .500.

Detroit Pistons

Record: 50-32, second in Central Division.

Strengths: Leadership ability of Isiah Thomas, clutch shooting of Joe Dumars, and best team defense in the league, allowing only 96 points a game.

Weaknesses: They were one of the lowest-scoring teams in the NBA. Injuries have haunted Detroit in bid for a three-peat. Besides Thomas' wrist, center James Edwards and forward Mark Aguirre both missed late-season games with recurring back problems.

Indiana Pacers

Record: 41-41, fifth in Central Division.

Strengths: The Pacers have an explosive offense, led by Reggie Miller, Chuck Person and sixth man Detlef Schrempf.

Weaknesses: Inside game is unimpressive despite 7-4 Rik Smits and 7-1 Greg Dreiling. Smits averages only 5 rebounds a game.

Milwaukee Bucks

Record: 48-34, third in Central Division.

Strengths: Forced a league-high 19 turnovers a game thanks in large part to Alvin Robertson, the league's No. 1 pickpocket for the second straight season.

Weaknesses: Slowness afoot from Bucks frontcourt players helped quicker opponents score more than a few uncontested baskets in transition. Opponents shot close to 50 percent against Bucks, the second-worst percentage among playoff teams.

New York Knicks

Record: 39-43, third in Atlantic Division.

Strengths: The inside power of Patrick Ewing and rebounding of Charles Oakley.

Weaknesses: Worst home record of any playoff qualifier, and only playoff team under .500 overall for the season. Starting guard Gerald Wilkins, recovering from a sprained ankle, will come off the bench, and Oakley is returning from a minor knee injury.

Philadelphia 76ers

Record: 44-38, second in Atlantic Division.

Strengths: The overpowering play of Charles Barkley and explosive scoring of Hersey Hawkins.

Weaknesses: The 76ers need Barkley to lead them, but how he'll perform after a recent leg injury is uncertain. The bench is woefully thin. Last week, veteran Robert Reid was added.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Golden State Warriors

Record: 44-38, fourth in Pacific Division.

Strengths: The so-called "Run T.M.C." combo (Tim, Mitch, Chris) gives the Warriors 3 players with a 20-points-plus scoring average. That's Tim Hardaway (23 points, 10 assists), G Mitch Richmond (24 points) and F Chris Mullin (26 points).

Weaknesses: The bench play is almost nonexistent. They outscored the opposing bench only once this season. Terrible road record (13-27) for a playoff team. Defensive play almost nonexistent: their 18.8 turnover average is the worst in the NBA.

Houston Rockets

Record: 52-30, third in Midwest Division.

Strengths: The Rockets were the hottest team after the All-Star Game, pulling together in absence of injured superstar Hakeem Olajuwon. Kenny Smith has solidified the backcourt.

Weaknesses: Fast-break offense can sometimes lead to an overload of turnovers (17 a game). The bench lacks depth.

Los Angeles Lakers

Record: 58-24, second in Pacific Division.

Strengths: Magic Johnson still is the prototype guard in a pressure situation. The addition of Sam Perkins eased the scoring burden on James Worthy.

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