The playoffs are finally here in the NBA. Time to wonder who might stop the Cavaliers in the East and who might survive in the West. This is going to be one of the most difficult NBA playoffs to predict in recent memory. There will be some great first round matchups (Clippers vs. Spurs) and some rather lopsided ones (Cavaliers vs. Celtics). It’s time to breakdown the first wave of postseason matchups, this time in the East. These will be a fun batch of games to watch.
Atlanta vs. Brooklyn
Prediction: Hawks in four games
The Nets are a talented team that has yet to figure out how to get that talent to play well together. The Hawks have the best record in the Eastern Conference. The regular season series between these two teams finished four games to none and Atlanta blew Brooklyn out in three of them. The Hawks have an incredible starting five. Their Al Horford and Paul Millsap will give the Nets hell and I do not think they will find an answer for Kyle Korver. Joe Johnson will make some plays but not enough to even get Brooklyn a win against his former team.
Cleveland vs. Boston
Prediction: Cavaliers in five games
Boston comes into the playoffs on a six-game winning streak. That momentum should be enough to earn the Celtics a win somewhere in the early goings of this series. Unfortunately, that’s about all it gets them. Boston has some talented guards that will keep them in games for a little while. Isiah Thomas will find a way to ignite the offense. But defensively, the Celtics have no answer for LeBron James or Kyrie Irving. Cleveland’s two-man wrecking crew will provide enough offense to overpower a Celtics team that tied with New York for 21st in the league for scoring defense. That is not convincing in any way, so the Cavs will roll in just five. (Bonus prediction: Kevin Love will win his first playoff series as an overall non-factor).
Chicago vs. Milwaukee
Prediction: Chicago in six games
I really like Milwaukee, I really do. Just not more than I like Chicago unfortunately. I think the Bucks might have a shot at knocking either the Raptors or the Wizards out of the playoffs but the Bulls are simply too strong. This matchup will feature several low scoring games as both teams rank in the top nine in defensive scoring. The Bucks lack the consistent scoring threat needed to knock off the Bulls. Having rookie Jabari Parker in this series would have been a huge boost. If Derrick Rose comes back playing a consistently above average level, Milwaukee doesn’t really have a shot of pulling off the upset.
Toronto vs. Washington
Prediction: Washington in seven games
This is probably the toughest Eastern Conference series to call. The Raptors looked less than convincing as they geared up for the postseason. Since April began, Toronto lost to Brooklyn once and Boston twice and narrowly defeated Orlando and Miami. None of those teams had records above .500 either. Washington is hard to figure out as well. The Wizards in their last four games got crushed by the Nets before beating Atlanta. They then went on to lose in overtime to the Pacers and Cavs. It is difficult to get a sense for how good either of these teams are. With all of that inconsistency, I think the series will go to seven games with a lot of momentum shifting back and forth. In the end, I think John Wall will be the x-factor giving the Wizards the edge.