Season Series: 4-0 Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks stayed consistent the whole season, starting and finishing #1 atop the Eastern Conference, no small feat. However, now is not the time to celebrate, as this Brooklyn team isn’t one to take lightly. The Brooklyn Nets could be a difficult obstacle and the Hawks first test at a title run though.
If the Nets win, credit their defense. The Nets have a few veterans with playoff experience under their belt which looms huge against the new look Atlanta Hawks. But to stop the Hawks, it starts with limiting the penetration of Jeff Teague. If they can keep him from getting hot and driving and kicking, they’ve got a chance.
If the Hawks win, credit their team chemistry. This team plays well as a unit, there is no star for them really. Kyle Korver is a good three point shooter, Jeff Teague is an aggressive point guard, and Demare Carroll is the energy guy for this team. If all three are clicking for the Hawks, I don’t see them being challenged until the Eastern Conference Finals where they could possibly face the Cavaliers.
Prediction: Atlanta in 6
#2 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. #7 Boston Celtics
Season Series: 2-2 Split
LeBron James is back in the playoffs with the Cleveland Cavaliers. First order of business: A young Boston Celtics team. What they lack in experience, they’ll make up for in energy. This Celtics team could give Cleveland some trouble but don’t expect an upset.
If the Celtics win, nobody could stop Isaiah Thomas. Since being traded to Boston, Thomas has been a spark off the bench for Boston when they need offense. Marcus Smart and Evan Turner will get their shots but if Thomas can come off the bench and score in a hurry, look out! They’ve definitely got the athleticism to keep up with Cleveland.
If the Cavaliers win, LeBron James has returned to his old dominant self. It seemed that LeBron James packed it in towards the conclusion of the season, allowing his teammates to find their rhythm and get shots up. If LeBron can get going and keep his teammates involved in games, this could be another historic playoff run for James.
Prediction: Cleveland in 5
#3 Chicago Bulls vs. #6 Milwaukee Bucks
Season Series: 3-1 Bulls
The Chicago Bulls haven’t been the healthiest team of the year but the emergence of Nikola Mirotic certainly gives Bulls fans something to smile about. And if you’re a Bucks fan, you like where Jason Kidd is taking this young Bucks team. Both of the teams have something to smile about but who wins?
If the Bulls win, Derrick Rose is back and healthy. It seems Rose has been taking his time getting back on the court which is a good thing. However, the Bulls still need him in order to make a deep run in the playoffs. If Rose can stay healthy and contact free, the Bulls will succeed. Milwaukee lacks an impact scorer which works in Chicago’s favor.
If the Bucks win, thank their guard play. This team isn’t built on a reliance on one player and with Michael Carter-Williams at point guard, you have to expect some very patient offense from a Jason Kidd coached team. It will be slow and methodical but if the Bucks win, it’s due to the successful play of their guards to get the ball to the right people.
#4 Toronto Raptors vs. #5 Washington Wizards
Season Series: 3-0 Raptors
The 4/5 Playoff series in the Eastern Conference will be another bar fight. The Raptors and Wizards looked like they’d run away with the 2 and 3 seeds in the East but things changed drastically. Both teams limped their way into the playoffs but this series showcases two young teams looking to succeed in the NBA Playoffs.
If the Raptors win, look for their bench to make a lot of noise in the playoffs. If you don’t know who Lou Williams is, you will by the end of this series. Williams is a potential Sixth Man of the Year candidate with a neon green light. Think Jamal Crawford but a lot more shot attempts.
If the Wizards win, it means they finally figured out their roles on offense. Watching the Wizards this season has been like watching Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. They’re great defensively, then on offense the ball just gets stuck in one man’s hands and nothing happens. Look no further than their recent double OT loss against the Indiana Pacers for a bit of proof.
Prediction: Raptors in 7