Eastern Conference First Round Predictions
Here we are NBA fans, the 2016-2017 NBA Playoffs start this weekend, and it was a great season to say the least. Russell Westbrook totaled 42 triple-doubles to set the record for most in a season passing Oscar Robertson. Devin Booker scored 70 points which happens to be the most points scored in a game since Kobe scored 81. He’s 20 years old by the way. Joel “the process” Embiid showed why sitting out an entire year can be a good thing, averaging 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks. Big stars were on the brink of being on another team. There was a very realistic chance of Paul George, Jimmy Butler, and Carmelo Anthony being traded at the deadline. I could go on and on about all off the crazy things that happened this season, but none of it matters now. These are The Grueling Truth’s playoff predictions for every first round matchup.
(1) Boston Celtics vs. (8) Chicago Bulls
This series has the potential to be more entertaining than most think. The Chicago Bulls haven’t had a great season as expected. But it’s not because they don’t have talent, it’s because the Bulls have struggled with consistency offensively. Defensively they have what it takes to give the Boston Celtics a difficult series only allowing an average of 102.4 points from opponents and ranking 6th in the league in defensive rating. They also have two veteran players with championship pedigree in Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade. They also have the highest attendance in the league which means way more in the playoffs than it does in the regular season. Having the crowd in the building cheering you on is very important. The Boston Celtics have a middle of the road defense allowing an average of 105.4 points from opponents and ranking 13th in the league in defensive rating. So despite the Bulls having a stagnant offense, Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade can go iso with anyone guarding them. It’ll be a huge test for Avery Bradley who’s known for his defense. When it’s all said and done, the Bulls probably won’t have enough outside firepower to win 4 games against the Celtics. But they do have experienced veterans that could win them a couple of games if the Celtics don’t get early leagues on Chicago.
Prediction: Celtics win 4-2
(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (7) Indiana Pacers
The story surrounding this matchup is Paul George vs. LeBron James. These two players have had some pretty good battles over the last few years. They met each other in the playoffs back-to-back years in 2013 and 2014. The real test will be whether or not the Pacers can stop Cleveland’s hot shooting from long range. The Cavaliers average 33.9 3-point attempts while averaging 38.4%. The Pacers aren’t the best defensive team, but with the addition of Lance Stephenson their defense may take a leap upward. Stephenson is one of those players that like to get in their opponents head. If you aren’t mentally strong he can knock you off your game. While the Pacers are average in both offense and defense, they can feed off Cleveland’s obvious weakness which is defense. The Cavaliers rank 20th in opponents points per game and 22nd in defensive rating. If guys like Jeff Teague, Paul George, Monta Ellis, and Aaron Brooks get going the Cavaliers could have some trouble stopping them from scoring. The Pacers actually have one of the highest 3-point percentages in the league. But they only average 23 attempts a game. They might want to look into taking more of those this series. Despite having horrible defense, I don’t see the Cavaliers losing more than a game against the Pacers unless someone besides Paul George can step up.
Prediction: Cavaliers win 4-1
(3) Toronto Raptors vs. (6) Milwaukee Bucks
The Toronto Raptors are probably the most underrated team in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. They’re sitting in the 3rd spot in the East yet no one takes them serious as contenders compared to Boston and Cleveland. This is a bad thing to do considering the Raptors are balanced in both offense and defense. They’re good in both categories. The Bucks however aren’t good at offense but can play very good defense when they put their minds to it. They rank in the top 10 in both steals and blocks. The Bucks are very young, aggressive and inexperienced. The last thing the Bucks want to do is become overzealous and put the Raptors on the line. They take and hit free throws at a high volume. Giannis Antetokounmpo can get anything he wants driving to the hole, but he hasn’t mastered the passing skills necessary to hit wide open shooters like other great drivers such as Russell Westbrook and LeBron James. The Raptors have way too many weapons for a young Bucks team to make much noise.
Prediction: Raptors win 4-0
(4) Washington Wizards vs. (5) Atlanta Hawks
This might be the most evenly matched series in the conference. It’s literally a battle between offense and defense. Both teams play at a fast pace but that favors the Wizards. They don’t want to get in a track meet with Washington. The Hawks are a bad offensive team but a great defensive team, and the Wizards have horrible defense but offensively they average a decent amount of points per game. The Wizards do have superstars unlike the Hawks, but the Hawks have way more playoff experience. Both teams have holes that could possibly be exposed; which would then come down to who has the better coach. Hawks win that category, but the Wizards have guys who could hit last minute shots. This matchup will come down to who can take advantage of each other’s weaknesses. This could be a very ugly series. Both teams are bad at shooting free throws. It’s hard to tell which team will win, but someone has to.
Prediction: Hawks win 4-3