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Cavs class of East

Baltimore Sun

Here's a look at how the NBA Eastern Conference seeds look as the playoffs loom.

1. CavaliersRecord since break: 28-8.

Why they can win the East: No one else may show up.

Actually, it only seems they never lose.

Throw out three weeks and they're on a 70-victory pace. That's with Shaquille O'Neal having missed 26 games this season, Delonte West 22, Mo Williams 11 and LeBron James three.

Not that there's any mystery: James, last season's overwhelming choice as MVP, raised his game again, prompting Magic coach Stan Van Gundy to name him the presumptive MVP through 2018.

Or not: No one has to wonder who to plan for if one player scores or assists on 46 percent of his team's points.

2. MagicRecord since break: 20-5.

Why they can win: They did a year ago, under almost similar circumstances.

The Magic not only shocked the Cavaliers in the East finals, they did so so after finishing only one game further behind them than they are now.

Dwight Howard rallied his team after this season's rocky 26-15 start with slothful, if clutch, Hedo Turkoglu, replaced by dazzling, if not in clutch, Vince Carter.

They're 29-8 since with Howard picking up a post move or two, giving him one or two, Carter getting into it and Jameer Nelson back.

Or not: Whether or not Shaq can guard a pick-and-roll, the Magic won't surprise the Cavaliers this time.

The Cavs are 2-1 in the season series before Sunday's finale in (drumroll) Cleveland.

3. HawksRecord since break: 17-11.

How they can win: Learn another play.

Or not: Despite all that athleticism, isolating Joe Johnson - "Iso-Joe" - all night won't do.

The Cavaliers, who play great team defense, have won 10 the last 12 meetings, counting last spring's 4-0 second-round sweep.

4. CelticsRecord since break: 17-12.

How they can win: The Big Celtic In The Sky intervenes. Personally.

It would be great if the Celtics just get to Cleveland because this Celtic Revival has been great and the Celtics, themselves, totally classy.

They could do it with their 2008 Finals defense that garroted the Lakers and ABC's Jeff Van Gundy called the best he ever had seen.

Or not: They haven't played that defense in a while with Kevin Garnett no longer able to rove all over backing up teammates who have been pulled back close to the basket.

5. BucksRecord since break: 21-7.

How they can win: Get the doctor who treated Paul Pierce when he went off in a wheelchair in the 2008 Finals to see injured Andrew Bogut.

Or not: The Bucks would be major underdogs with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in his prime.

6. BobcatsRecord since break: 16-12.

How can they win: When Larry Brown teams get it, they almost walk on water, like the UCLA Bruins he took to the 1980 NCAA finals with four freshmen, or the Pistons who shocked the Lakers in 2004.

Or not: This would make those look routine.

7. HeatRecord since break: 18-17.

How they can win: With 15 victories in their last 19, they have momentum.

Or not. It would be better if they played more than five playoff teams and didn't lose to three.

8. RaptorsRecord since break: 9-18.

How they can win: Earth opens up and swallows Cleveland and environs.

Or not: Without injured Chris Bosh and Turkoglu, who recently said he was sick but was spotted partying, their over/under on victories against the Cavs in the first round is zero.

Of course, they still could blow this spot.

The Bulls would have the same chance they do.

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