NBA Playoff Guide
1) Boston Celtics vs. 8) Chicago Bulls
This is one of the most intriguing matchups in the NBA playoffs. Although the Celtics are the number 1 seed, they are not the favorites to represent the East in the NBA Finals. Many people believe that the Cleveland Cavaliers are the best team in the Eastern Conference and that the Celtics were lucky to get the 1 seed. This matchup is interesting because of the way the Chicago Bulls have been beating teams recently. Although the Celtics have Isaiah Thomas, an All-star, the Bulls have arguably one of the best players in the NBA, Jimmy Butler. Butler is a two-way player who has the rare ability to score from anywhere on the court, while also taking the responsibility of guarding the other team’s best player. In addition to Butler, the Bulls also feature Dwayne Wade and Rajon Rondo; both are players with playoff experience who have won NBA titles with other organizations.
Prediction: Chicago to win in 7 games
2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 7) Indiana Pacers
The Cleveland Cavaliers have far and away the most talent of any team in the Eastern Conference, but that does not mean they are a lock to win this series. The Cavaliers, or Cavs, are limping into the playoffs after a less than stellar regular season campaign. The main thing that the Cavs have going for them is the fact that they still have the best player in the world, LeBron James. In addition to James, the Cavs also start superstars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. On the other hand, the Indiana Pacers have been playing much better basketball since signing Lance Stephenson at the end of the regular season. The Pacers also have a superstar of their own in Paul George. In order for the Pacers to have a shot in this series George will not only have to score at an incredible pace, he will also be tasked with trying to slow down LeBron James.
Prediction: Cleveland has too much talent and experience to lose in the first round. Cleveland Cavaliers in 5 games.
3) Toronto Raptors vs. 6) Milwaukee Bucks
Although the top teams in the Western Conference have more talent, the first round matchup in the Eastern Conference will produce the best series. This series is going to be special. Both the Raptors and Bucks are teams that are overlooked and desperate to prove they belong with the best of the best. The Milwaukee Bucks are one of the youngest and most exciting teams that no one has heard of. They are lead by 22-year-old Giannis Antetokounmpo also known as the Greek Freak. At 6’11″ with one of the longest wingspans in NBA history Giannis is primed to be one of the biggest stars in the NBA. The Bucks have a change to make this series interesting because of how hard they play on the defensive end of the floor. Although this team is young they are not afraid of anyone, especially the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors feature on of the best backcourt tandems in the league with Kyle Lowry at point guard DeMar DeRozan at shooting guard. The late season addition of Serge Ibaka has solidified the Raptors in the paint and should make them a force to deal with as the playoffs unfold.
Prediction: Kyle Lowry will make a buzzer-beater for the Raptors before the series is over. Toronto Raptors win in 7 games.
4) Washington Wizards vs. 5) Atlanta Hawks
The final matchup of the Eastern Conference playoffs opening round features the Wizards and the Hawks. As you would predict with a 4-5 matchup this series could go either way. The Wizards are led by point guard John Wall and St. Louis native Bradley Beal. The starting 5 for the Wizards is as good as any starting line-up in the NBA. The Achilles Heel for the Wizards is the lack of production they receive from their bench players. The good news for the Wizards is that they are playing the Atlanta Hawks who also struggle with their bench. The Hawks need point guard Dennis Schroder to have a stellar series in order to have a chance to win. If Dwight Howard could find a way to play like he did 5 years ago then the Hawks would win this series. However it doesn’t look like that is going to happen so the Hawks need everyone to step up in order to get past the sharpshooting Wizards.
Prediction: The Hawks will put up a good fight and should win a couple of games, however I think the Wizards will ultimately win the series. Washington Wizards in 6 games.
Photos by Nolan Berry.