The time has finally come. From Derrick Rose playing in his first playoff game since 2011 to Lebron James attempting to bring the Larry O’Brien trophy home to Ohio for the first time in NBA history; the 2015 NBA Playoffs kick off this Saturday at noon and this year’s post-season surely won’t disappoint. Before anyone can hoist the trophy they have to make it out the first round, so let’s get into Eastern Conference matchups and predictions.
(1)Atlanta Hawks vs. (8) Brooklyn Nets
Despite popular belief this won’t be an easy matchup for the Atlanta Hawks. We may see the emergence of the old Joe Johnson in front of his former home crown in the Phillips Arena. Despite the Hawks having the second best record in the league and finishing the season with a franchise record 60 wins, they have trended down since the All Star break. With the loss of Thabo Sepholosha (out for the season with a broken leg), there defensive strength has dropped considerably. On the contrary, Brooklyn has finished the season strong with Brook Lopez being named Eastern Conference Player of the week two weeks in a row and Deron Williams appearing to have turned back the hands of time to his Utah days. I believe this matchup will be more exciting than we anticipate but in the end the Hawks will pull it off and advance to the second round.
Prediction: Hawks in 6
(2)Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (7) Boston Celtics
Just when you thought Lebron James made the wrong decision in returning back home, the Cavaliers acquire Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith and go 34-9 to finish the season. By securing the second seed in East, the Cavs will have home-court advantage over the young Boston Celtics. This Celtics team has had an amazing end to their season and after acquiring Isaiah Thomas from the Phoenix Suns has put together a successful playoff push. Unfortunately, for the Celtics they will have to face The King in the first round, who will finish this battle victorious and continue his quest for a third ring.
Prediction: Cavs in 5
(3)Chicago Bulls vs. (6) Milwaukee Bucks
For the first time since the start of the season, the Chicago Bulls starting five will all be healthy and eligible to play after a season riddled with injury. With the return of Derrick Rose and swingman Jimmy Butler, the Bulls have made themselves an honorable mention in the race to the Finals but let’s not completely count out Jason Kidd’s Bucks. The Bucks have held the 6th spot pretty much all season and Kidd has done an amazing job with a young and inexperienced team; it is possible for this team to win two games in this series. However, Chicago is too big, too strong and too hungry; they will advance to the second round.
Prediction: Bulls in 6
(4) Toronto Raptors vs. (5) Washington Wizards
Easily the most enticing matchup in the Eastern Conference first round; the Toronto Raptors will face the Washington Wizards. Both teams have not been very impressive down the stretch, with Wizards posting a below .500 record since the All Star Break. However, the Wizards have significant advantage when it comes to size with Gortat, Nene and Gooden all having the ability to get offensive and defensive rebounds. The Raptors have the advantage when it comes to depth, with the potential 6th man of the year Lou Williams coming off the bench. These two teams are pretty evenly matched with great qualities and weakening flaws. The outcome of this series will really come down to the X-Factors, Kyle Lowry for the Raptors and Paul Pierce for the Wizards. This matchup is really a toss-up for me but I’m going to ride with the higher seeded Raptors to pull off the win.
Prediction: Toronto in 7