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Thursday, April 17
Breaking down East's first-round matchups
By Dr. Jack Ramsay
Special to ESPN.com
Editor's note: Dr. Jack Ramsay, whose Hall of Fame head coaching resume includes making the playoffs in 16 of his 20 seasons and winning an NBA title with Portland in 1977, breaks down the playoff matchups for ESPN.com. Throughout the 2003 postseason, Dr. Jack will analyze each series all the way through to the NBA Finals.
Season series: Pistons, 2-1.
Keys for Magic: The Magic needs a quick pace. They also need a big output from Tracy McGrady, who scored 46 points in Orlando's lone win over Detroit, and scoring help from Darrell Armstrong, Pat Garrity, Gordan Giricek and Drew Gooden.
Keys for Pistons: Detroit must control game tempo. The Pistons should dominate the boards with Ben Wallace, keep the Magic in a half-court game and get balanced scoring from Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Clifford Robinson and Corliss Williamson against a loose Orlando defense.
X- Factor: Detroit's bench superiority with Williamson, Jon Barry, Chucky Atkins and Mehmet Okur.
The pick: Pistons in five games.
Season series: Tied 2-2.
Keys for Bucks: The weak-defending Bucks need an open-court, free-scoring game with emphasis on penetrations by Sam Cassell, Gary Payton and Desmond Mason and open shots from the perimeter with Toni Kukoc, Tim Thomas and Michael Redd.
Keys for Nets: The Nets need solid team defense against George Karl's varied lineups, but they also must take advantage of opportunities to run with Jason Kidd at the throttle.
X-Factor: Which team adjusts better to changing defenses.
The pick: Nets in seven games.
Season series: Tied 2-2.
Keys for Celtics: Boston needs monster games from Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker and scoring help from Eric Williams, Tony Delk, J.R. Bremer and Walter McCarty.
Keys for Pacers: The Pacers must find gaps in the Celts' switching, rotating defense to score inside with Jermaine O'Neal, Brad Miller and Jeff Foster and from the perimeter with Reggie Miller, Ron Mercer, Al Harrington and Tim Hardaway.
X-Factor: The defense of Ron Artest on Pierce; the input of Hardaway.
The pick: Pacers in six games.
Season series: Hornets, 2-1.
Keys for Hornets: The Hornets' defense must control tempo and keep the Sixers' Allen Iverson out of the open court. Philly scored less than 100 points in both Hornets' wins.
Keys for 76ers: The Sixers need their bigs -- Derrick Coleman, Keith Van Horn, Tyrone Hill and Brian Skinner -- to hold their own against a stronger Hornets frontline of P.J. Brown, Jamaal Magloire, Robert Traylor and George Lynch. They must also keep Jamal Mashburn and Baron Davis from dominating offensively.
X-Factor: The injuries and fatigue in a seven-game series, particularly the health of Coleman and Iverson for Philadelphia and the condition of Davis and Mashburn for New Orleans. They all must be available and play well for their teams to succeed.
The pick: 76ers in seven games.