For the last four years, the Eastern Conference basketball universe orbited around
This season, the East still revolves around James, because he has the opportunity to direct the
James is also carrying the weight of a city starved for its first professional sports championship since the Cleveland Browns won the NFL championship in 1964.
The Cavaliers got off to a slow start this season, though, and was a .500 team in mid-January. But the Cavaliers won 33 of their last 42 games to wind up as the No. 2 seed and the betting favorite to represent the East in the NBA Finals.
Meanwhile, the top-seeded
All the Hawks did this season was produce the best record in the East (60-22) and the second best in the NBA. The Hawks had a 19-game winning streak, the longest in the league this season, and were 22-8 against the West, the so-called superior conference.
By the way, the Hawks defeated James' Cavaliers three out of four times this season.
One knock on the Hawks is they don't have a superstar, but they do have four All-Stars in
The Hawks were second in the league in assists per game (25.9) and sixth in offensive efficiency, earning them the nickname "
Rose missed 31 games with knee injuries, and his hard-driving style of play has many wondering how effective he will be in the playoffs.
Chicago, the third seed, faces the No. 6 seed
If Rose and the Bulls get to the second round, they could run into the Cavaliers and James.
The No. 4-seeded
Few expected Milwaukee to make the postseason and a lot of credit goes to Coach Jason Kidd.
He took over a Bucks team that had the worst record in the NBA last season at 15-67 and has guided Milwaukee to the playoffs.
Another surprise is a young
But for all that effort, the Celtics will face James and the Cavaliers in the first round.