With the ass-whooping that Detroit delievered on Tuesday, I think it's safe to say that the Eastern Conference Finals are set (sorry, Indiana fans). With most of us being Blazer fans, you might not care (in that case skip down to the analysis of the team extending GM John Nash's contract below), but for those of us who do, let's take a quick look at it.
Both teams have a nice compliment of inside-outside players, and are clearly the class of the Eastern Conference. The way I see it, the entire series rests on two key components: 1. The health of Shaquille O'Neal's legs, and 2. The abillity of Tayshaun Prince to defend Dwayne Wade.
Clearly the Heat need Shaq to be at least 80% going into this series. He's had plenty of rest and is saying all of the right things, but until we see him back on the floor it's tough to assume that he'll be going full-board. The more variable component appears to be number two. Wade is on fire right now, and looks unguardable at times. Of course, we all thought that about Kobe Bryant last year, and the defense Prince played on Kobe was phenomenal. In fact, you can argue that he should have garenered some Finals MVP consideration for that alone. If Prince can lock down Wade the same way he locked down Kobe last year, you've got to think Detroit has a great chance to get past Miami.
Another item to watch in that series will be Ben Wallace on offense. With his inability to consistently hit a jumper, will Miami leave Shaq close to paint to assist on help-defense and leave Big Ben all alone near the elbow? Keep an eye on those aspects, as that could be the best series we see in these playoffs.