Eastern Conference

Pro Basketball

April 21, 2001|By Milton Kent

Playoff matchups

No. 1 Philadelphia (56-26) vs. No. 8 Indiana (41-41)

Coaches: Philadelphia's Larry Brown is 788-612 in 18 NBA seasons, 163-132 with the Sixers in four seasons. Indiana's Isiah Thomas is 41-41 in his first season as a coach.

Season series: Philadelphia won all three meetings.

Sixers outlook: Having skipped the last two regular-season games to rest, Allen Iverson returns to the lineup. In their three meetings this season, Philadelphia outrebounded the Pacers by a combined 21, though the Pacers have knocked the Sixers out of the postseason in each of the past two seasons.

Pacers outlook: Austin Croshere, who came of age in last year's run to the championship series, has improved his game of late, scoring at least 10 points in his past 10 games. Only three Indiana players (Reggie Miller, Jalen Rose and Travis Best) are still on the roster from when Larry Brown guided Indiana from 1993-97.

Bottom line: The Sixers' defense will smother Indiana's youth. Philadelphia in four.

No. 4 New York (48-34) vs. No. 5 Toronto (47-35)

Coaches: New York's Jeff Van Gundy is 237-164 in five seasons, all with the Knicks. Lenny Wilkens of the Raptors is 1,226-1,016 in 28 NBA seasons. This was his first season in Toronto.

Season series: Toronto won, 3-1.

Knicks outlook: New York averaged just under 80 points a game in four meetings with Toronto this year. Othella Harrington and Kurt Thomas have taken up some of the slack for the ailing Marcus Camby (hip) and Larry Johnson (back). Camby went through a full practice yesterday for the first time since hurting his hip and said he'll be ready for the opener tomorrow.

Raptors outlook: After their best season in franchise history, Toronto makes its second playoff appearance, having been swept by the Knicks last year. The Raptors outrebounded the Knicks by 10 per game in the four meetings this season and have a big advantage upfront, with starters Antonio Davis and Charles Oakley and reserves Keon Clark and Jerome Williams. Vince Carter averaged 24 points a game against New York.

Bottom line: Can Latrell Sprewell stop Vince Carter? Probably not for an entire series. Toronto in five.

No. 2 Milwaukee (52-30) vs. No. 7 Orlando (43-39)

Coaches: George Karl of Milwaukee is 625-418 in 14 NBA seasons, 122-92 in three seasons with the Bucks. The Magic's Doc Rivers is 84-80 in two seasons, both with Orlando.

Season series: Milwaukee won all four games, and has won nine straight over the Magic.

Bucks outlook: Milwaukee claimed its seventh Central Division crown, but the first since the 1985-86 season. Sam Cassell (Dunbar) has been slowed by a hip flexor injury down the stretch, but the Bucks have the best collection of shooters in the league. Ray Allen was the league's most recent Player of the Week, averaging 30 points a game last week.

Magic outlook: Tracy McGrady has the highest scoring average among players 21 years old or younger in league history. Mike Miller is averaging 14 points in his 61 starts, and Miller and McGrady are two of five players who are 24 or younger.

Bottom line: Bucks have more experience and better shooters. Milwaukee in four.

No. 3 Miami (50-32) vs. No. 6 Charlotte (46-36)

Coaches: The Heat's Pat Riley is 1,049-466 in 19 NBA seasons, 293-167 in six years in Miami. Charlotte's Paul Silas is 195-249 in six NBA seasons, 117-82 in three years with the Hornets.

Season series: The teams split four games.

Heat outlook: The return of Alonzo Mourning and Eddie Jones makes Miami the formidable team most people thought it would be when the season started. Tim Hardaway's bruised left foot might put a crimp in the Heat's style, but Anthony Carter can fill in at the point in a pinch.

Hornets outlook: Baron Davis, who averaged 14 points, seven assists and two steals, will certainly test Hardaway's stamina. Jamal Mashburn has thrived since the trade from Miami to Charlotte this season and is the Hornets' most reliable scorer.

Bottom line: Miami's too good and Charlotte's too "Jekyll and Hyde." Miami in four.

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