W roundtable: Who will challenge Miami?

With Derrick Rose's season-ending knee injury, what team has the best chance of defeating the Miami Heat in the NBA's Eastern Conference?

Celtics experience will help them win the East

By Adena Andrews

The optimist in me wants to believe the Chicago Bulls can advance to the Eastern Conference finals, but without Derrick Rose at point guard it looks gloomy. The Bulls' bench mob went 18-9 in the regular season without Rose but the temperature of play is hotter in the postseason. Rose's cool demeanor and fearless play is needed. Without him, the Bulls' margin of error is "a lot smaller," Joakim Noah said.

Therefore, with the Bulls' future in the Eastern Conference not looking so rosy I have to put stock in the veteran experience of the Boston Celtics to take down the Miami Heat.

The Bulls will get past the Philadelphia 76ers only to be stopped by the Celtics in the semifinals. Point guards C.J. Watson and John Lucas III will have trouble producing against the Celtics' Rajon Rondo. In the opening game of the first round, Rondo dropped 20 points and 11 assists on the Atlanta Hawks.

When it comes to the postseason, the Celtics seem to have a road map through the East. Just two seasons ago they were going to work against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. If there is any team that knows how to turn up its postseason play it's the Celtics.

The Celtics' ability to challenge the Heat depends on them getting past the Hawks in the first round. Chances are the Celtics will advance because they have defeated the Hawks the last two times they've met in the postseason. However, in this wacky NBA season, anything is possible.

Without Rose, Chicago still the pick

By Kate Fagan

When the NBA comes down to crunch time, teams with star players usually win. That's just the fact of the league. So the Bulls chances of winning this year's NBA title just went down with their star point guard.

But -- and this is a pretty big 'but' -- Chicago is still the team with the best chance to beat the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference. Let's not forget the Bulls did snag the East's top seed, playing a large portion of the lockout-shortened season without Derrick Rose, who was sidelined for 27 games with a bad back. Chicago has figured out a winning formula even without the 2011 NBA MVP. The Bulls play fantastic defense and have a handful of role players (C.J. Watson chief among them) to plug this gaping hole.

Can they win it all without Rose? Probably not. Can they compete with the Heat? Yup, and better than any other team in the East.

Heat have clear path to Finals

By Sarah Spain

The Bulls (MY Bulls) were the only team in the East that had a good shot to beat the Heat.

Can Chicago make it past the Sixers? Absolutely.

The Bulls spent much of the season beating some of the league's best with Derrick Rose on the bench nursing one injury or another. Can they make it back to the Eastern Conference finals? Maybe.

They're the deepest team in the league and their supporting cast (aka the Bench Mob) is an experienced bunch of scorers who play outstanding defense and rebound better than anyone else in the league. As much as it hurts to admit it, the Bulls without Rose cannot beat the Heat. And if the Bulls aren't going to do it, nobody will. The only team that can stop Miami is the Oklahoma City Thunder -- and I think we'll see that battle in this year's NBA Finals.

East is Boston's to win

By Melissa Jacobs

I believe the Miami Heat will be Eastern Conference champions. But that is not the question.

The moment Derrick Rose was officially pronounced down and out with his devastating ACL injury, new life was given to those veterans in Boston. I know, I know, Ray Allen is hurt and Rajon Rondo may very well be suspended for bumping a ref Sunday night. And they are down 0-1 to Atlanta.

But the Celtics still have the best ingredients for getting to a championship series with Miami and winning. The experience and familiarity factor is huge. Danny Ainge has done a masterful job keeping together the core of a team that has played in the Finals two of the past four years. The move of Kevin Garnett to center has also paid dividends. While Paul Pierce struggled in last night's loss to Atlanta, he has put pressure on himself to step it up, and I believe he will do just that. Ray Allen, who is awaiting offseason surgery, could be back for Tuesday night's Game 2. And once Rondo serves his assumedly one-game suspension, that duo is tough to matchup against.

As rusty as the Celtics were Sunday night, they have played inspired ball since the All-Star break, which was really overshadowed by the run of Heat and Bulls. Now the Celtics have a big opportunity for a successful last hurrah. If only they can get past Atlanta first.

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