In case you missed the Western Conference predictions you can read it here.
Getting straight to the point…
Atlanta Hawks (1) (60-22) vs. Brooklyn Nets (8) (38-44)
Regular Season: Hawks win 4-0
I’m seething. I’m pissed off! I’m so upset as I write this preview that I may need a new keyboard when I’m done!!
Maybe the Hawks should’ve sat with JR Smith for lessons on what to do when partying past 4 a.m.
The incident in New York this last week could not have come at a worse time for a Hawks team for all intents and purposes should have been a title contender this season. Their seamless offense coupled with near impenetrable defense was set to become the stuff of legends as nearly every basketball fan was waiting with bated breath to watch them unleash this brand of basketball, the right brand of basketball, in the playoffs, only ever seen executed by the Spurs and the Celtics in the late 80’s. For crying out loud, they had five players named the Eastern Conference Player(s) of the Week! In the same week!!
Still, the Nets are a mess and continue to be so. That they sneakily made the playoffs upsets me even more. They are a terrible team posing as a competent one, and even more infuriating is that no one on that team even cares enough about the game. Right from Deron Once-Upon-A-Time Williams to Joe I-Had-my-Payday Johnson to their equally indifferent owner I dislike everything about the organization. The only saving grace is Lopez and even he has shitty ankles.
Enough of this upsetting matchup, Atlanta in 6. (should’ve been Atlanta in 4!!! Argh!)
Toronto Raptors (4) (49-33) vs. Washington Wizards (5) (46-36)
Regular Season: Toronto win 3-0
Anyone who ever told you that an incompetent coach cannot make the playoffs no matter how talented his group, show them Randy Wittman. To be fair, Wittman does draw up the occasional good play that make the Wizards look like a competent NBA Team. But, on most nights (read almost every night) the Wizards just stand around, looking at each other, trying to communicate with their eyes and hands, and failing miserably because no one player really knows what the other fellow is saying! Don’t get me wrong, the Wizards have a group of phenomenal and intelligent players. But how are these guys to play as a team if there is no actual play! The only way makes anything of itself is to immediately change their Head Coach
Still it is hard to bet against Wall and Beal, who can be legit starters for a title contender and Pierce, Gortat and Humphries who complete a perfectly competent supporting cast. With some playoff chops under their belt and The Truth to guide them, they will be no pushover in Round 1
The Raptors on the other hand, have been pretty stalemate this season. It isn’t like they had a terrible season, but a team’s current season is always measured against it’s previous season, and the Raptors have not done much to over shadow their surprising 2013-14 campaign. Lowry is still among the top ten point guards in the League and has emerged as the undisputed leader and franchise player for the Raps. I still don’t think you can win a championship with Lowry as your best player, but a team that is loaded with talent like (Lou) Williams, DeRozan, Patterson and bench guys like Hansbrough, and suddenly the Raps become a team you do not want to see in Round 2.
With Atlanta being incapacitated, this is as easy as it gets for the Raps to sneak into that maiden Eastern Conference Finals spot. Raptors in 6.
Chicago Bulls (3) (50-32) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (6) (41-41)
Regular Season: Bulls win 3-1
This here is my favorite series for the playoffs. Not many would share that sentiment with me though. In the four times they played each other, no team shot more than 40%. And considering both teams are defensive minded, most folks are expecting a gritty and possibly ugly first round series. I, for one, am not complaining.
The Bulls are the hardest working team on court in the League. Not all of it by choice though. Thibs running his players to the ground is now an open secret. It is a major point of contention between him and the Bulls front office and is said to be the biggest reason for his possible departure in the summer. The Bulls play at a frenetic pace; sometimes treating the meaningless mid-January game like it was the playoffs. You would think that Gasol’s demeanor and his veteran understanding of “picking your spots” in the season would have slowed down the team. Not with Thibs around. This is not necessarily a bad thing, Gasol is having a semi resurrection with a near career year and covering up for a dip in Noah’s numbers this season, Butler is playing the best basketball of his life, and with Rose back, the Bulls are healthier than they have been in the previous couple of seasons.
The Bucks are the feel good story this season. They suffered, what seemed like at the time, a massive blow to their playoff aspirations with the Parker injury. For a team with slew of fresh faces and some strong role players, the Bucks went back to the basics and played some devastating defense, finishing second in the league in defensive efficiency, unprecedented by a team coming off a lottery season (I’m still looking this one up)
Just how much Rose will be able to fit back into the system just when things are heating up, and whether the Bulls have the legs to keep up with the Bucks is to be seen.
It is hard, though, to bet against Tenacious Thibs and his team of veterans. Sorry Bucks, Bulls in 6.
Cleveland Cavaliers (2) (53-29) vs. Boston Celtics (7) (40-42)
Regular Season: Tied at 2-2
Mother: What is the Opposite of Wittman?
What a wizard! What. A. Wizard!! There is pure unbridled joy watching Stevens coach a team. At no point during season did the Celtics field a team that had any business being considered a sleeper in the Playoffs. To say this is the “only the East”, and discount the sheer magic that Stevens has worked with this Celtics team is sacrilege. I mean look at the starting five Smart, Bradley, Bass, Zeller, Turner with Thomas coming off the bench. None of guys, I repeat, none of those guys start for a title contender. Yet, here they are against all odds ready to face the potential Champs. The best part? There is not a soul that believes they will get swept when, in an ideal world, they should be.
The Cavs are getting there. It was always gonna take time. An incredibly gifted guard, who needs the ball in his hands, having to adjust to the best basketball player on the planet, and vice versa. And then both of them adjusting to one of the five best power forwards in the League and vice versa. Throw in an experienced coach who is but a novice in NBA ways, and a bunch of pieces that have to blend into a team that everyone expects to win a Championship in Year 1, and you have organized chaos.
Now that they have figured it out, the Cavs can, on a given night, put up an offensive clinic unparalleled by anyone League not named the Warriors. They still have glaring defensive issues (hardly surprising when two of your best three players are barely average defenders or less) thus making it difficult for them to stay in a game when their shot isn’t falling.
All things considered, they still have the best player on the planet. And while he may have relaxed a bit this season, let’s not be too hasty to forget that he is a 2-time Champion.
Just don’t write off Steven for a sweep. Just don’t. Ok? Cavs in 6.