NBA Playoff Preview: Eastern Conference
We are finally here. After a long regular season of NBA basketball filled with arguments over rest, beefs between former legends and current bums and their mothers, and the tightest MVP race possibly of all time, the playoffs are upon us. What can we expect in the East? Here’s a preview with some of my predictions:
Celtics (1) vs. Bulls (8) - Let me preface these upcoming statements by admitting yes I am a Chicago Bulls fan. Personally, I was hoping to tank after the all-star break and try to get a good draft choice but once again we find ourselves a playoff team with no real championship contending quality. However, in terms of just this series, I look forward to it. The Celtics and Bulls split the regular series 2-2, both teams winning on the opposite’s home floor. It will be a dual of two all stars, Jimmy Butler and Isaiah Thomas, but the real key to winning this series will be the role players. Which Al Horford is going to show up? It seems like since the all-star break his production has been average at best. On the other side which Dwayne Wade will show up? The man who started “wade county” or the guy who sits on the bench with an ailment. For the Celtics to win they will need Al Horford to give his team 16+ points a game and consistently make the Bulls respect his outside jump shot. Marcus Smart will have to continue to provide a spark offensive for them off the bench while being a dog on defense and players like Olynk and Jaylen Brown will have to show up with solid contributions. For the Bulls to win its simple, Robin Lopez and Bobby Portis have to control the paint and slow the game down. Vintage wade has to show up every once and while and Mirotic and Cameron Payne have to produce 10+ points a game EVERY game to take pressure off of Jimmy. According to the ESPN NBA analyst this series is the most likely to have an upset series win for Chicago.
My Prediction: Celtics win series 4-3
Cavaliers (2) vs. Pacers (7) - I have a lot of respect for Paul George and Myles Turner who in addition to Jeff Teague are the reason the Pacers find themselves in the playoffs this year, and its going to take a monster effort on a per game basis from them to push this series. If you look outside of those three names that’s where things get hesitant for the Indian Pacers because who else can you trust in playoff time? Bringing back Lance Stephenson who has not only been in the playoffs with the Pacers but also against LeBron could prove beneficial but in the end it all comes down to defense. Which Cav's will show up on the defensive end? Everyone has been referring to this “switch” that great teams can turn on and if anybody has the ability to do that it should be a team led by LBJ. Unless Paul George drops 35+ a night this SHOULDN’T be that competitive. A mixture of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Deron Williams, Kyle Korver, and J.R Smith should be enough to beat these pacers especially if you add the best player on the planet. If the Cavs don’t play around this should be an easy warm-up series for them.
My Prediction: Cavs win series 4-1
Raptors (3) vs. Bucks (6) - Toronto has continued another season of earning one of the top seeds in the east and this year after the free agent deadline they seem to be carrying one of their deepest teams into the playoffs. DeMarre Carroll and Corey Joseph are back, they’ve added P.J Tucker and Serge Ibaka to go down low with big Jonas.You put those pieces around your two all stars in Lowry and Derozan and I think you have a good recipe for success in the east. For the Milwaukee Bucks unfortunately Giannis doesn't have anywhere close to that amount of help. Middleton was only healthy for half the year, Jabari is out again with an ACL, Jason Terry should’ve retired years ago and John Henson isn’t anyone has to gameplay for in the post. This is another case of an elite player in a small market with small market talent around him. Jason Kidd is a great coach but the Bucks wont be able to score with the Raptors unless they play outstanding defense every game. We have seen the Raptors, especially the guards, go cold with outside shooting in the playoffs so it’s not impossible to imagine. At the end of the day I just believe depth will be an issue for the Bucks.
My Prediction: Raptors win series 4-1
Wizards (4) vs. Hawks (5) - Let me start off by saying I don’t believe in Atlanta at all and am extremely biased against them. Ever since they last captured the #1 seed in the East and people were referring them to the “Spurs of the East” and then they got SWEPT in the Eastern Conference Finals on National TV I have considered them phony. So when I mix that with the fact that John Wall and Bradley Beal have an argument for best backcourt in the NBA even more so in the east it should be easy to see why I’m leaning towards Washington to win this series. Washington’s best player is John Wall. Atlanta’s best player is Dennis Schroeder. Washington’s second best player is Bradley Beal and Atlanta’s is Dwight Howard. Enough said there I think. I will admit I think the departure of Nene will be more heavily recognized in this series trying to put a body on Howard, but I think the stars will be stars here. Barring no injury I see nobody on Atlanta that can stop Wall or Beal and I see no one on Atlanta that can’t be stopped.
My Prediction: Wizards win series 4-1