By Tyler Berry
Well it’s that time of year again, sports fan. The time of year where the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat are in the playoffs. Oh wait, sorry, that’s not a thing this year. I’m just used to it being…a thing. Well, at least my colleague Steve Cravens and I can take solace in knowing that this year isn’t completely different. The Boston Celtics are still terrible and didn’t make the pla- Wait, no, no, that’s not right either. They definitely made the playoffs...
Anyway, here are my predictions for the 2015 Eastern Conference Playoffs, Round 1.
1. Atlanta Hawks vs. 8. Brooklyn Nets
I’ve yet to understand how the Hawks got so damn good without any “superstar” so to speak. But at 60-22 for the regular season, the birds from Georgia look poised to make a run deep into the playoffs. First up, the woeful Brooklyn Nets, as my man Skip Bayless would say.
The Atlanta Hawks take this series with ease. They may be down Thabo Sefalosha and rumor has it that Paul Millsap isn’t feeling 100 percent, but with double digit wins in 3 of their 4 meetings during the regular season, it’s a safe bet to say that Atlanta runs away with this pretty quickly. I’m predicting a nice, clean sweep of a Brooklyn Nets team that had to wait for the Pacers to lose to even find out that they made the playoffs. Millsap has a great series, Kyle Korver buries A LOT of three’s, and Deron Williams reminds us why no one talks about Deron Williams anymore.
Atlanta Hawks win the series 4-0
2. Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 7. Boston Celtics
I think this is my most anticipated first round series in the Eastern Conference. You’ve got one of the hottest teams in basketball in the Cleveland Cavaliers and you’ve got one of the other hottest teams in basketball in the Boston Celtics. Yeah, you heard me. Since February 3, Boston is 24-12, a hot streak that secured their 7th seed in this year’s playoffs. Not too shabby. And with two wins against the Cavs in the last week, there’s potential for a very entertaining series…or a complete and utter massacre.
The Cavaliers run away with game 1, showing Boston fans that they aren’t to be messed with. Isaiah Thomas shows up in game 2 and keeps the Celtics in it but Kyrie turns it on in the last minute and the Cavs defend home court through the first two games. Over in Boston, Isaiah and Evan Turner show that they are the most unlikely backcourt that can actually do some damage to Cleveland. Thomas gets hot in the second half and leads Boston on a run that Cleveland can’t come back from. Game 4, arguably the last chance Boston has to make this a series. They don’t. Unfortunately, the freight train that is LeBron isn’t making any more stops in Boston and carries the rest of the Cavs right back to Ohio. Game 5 is another hard fought affair, with Boston even making a bit of a run, but it’s futile in the end. Kyrie and LeBron put on a tandem showcase and finish off Brad Stevens' Celtics. A hard fought series, one that ends up being a lot closer than anyone thought.
Cleveland Cavaliers win the series 4-1
3. Chicago Bulls vs. 6. Milwaukee Bucks
Derrick Rose is back for Chicago in the playoffs. While not the Derrick Rose of old, he’s still not someone you want to take lightly. And with the core of Jimmy Butler, Jaokim Noah and Pau Gasol around him, it’s going to be hard for the Bucks to fight off this squad.
The Greek Freak tries his hardest to give the Bucks a chance but poor shooting from Michael-Carter Williams leave them vulnerable. When the Bulls go on a run in game 1, the Bucks are more or less laughed out of the building. Game 2 isn’t much different. With an injury-free game under his belt, D-Rose has a competent game, giving the Bulls a quiet double-double and Jimmy Butler shoots the lights out. Over in Wisconsin, MCW and the Bucks give the Bulls a scare in game 3 but impeccable defense down low from Gasol and Noah help fuel a 4th quarter run for the Bulls. Game 4 sees the Bucks taking their only game of the series. A triumph for a young and inexperienced Milwaukee team. But the celebration is short-lived as game 5 in the United Center sees the home squad blowing out the Bucks, led of course by Jimmy Butler’s offensive and defensive prowess.
Chicago Bulls win the series 4-1
4. Toronto Raptors vs 5. Washington Wizards
Seemingly the closest series on paper, I don’t think it’s going to go that way. Coach Randy Wittman has virtually run the Wizards into the ground and lit them on fire since the All-Star Break. Posting a sub .500 record since the break, the Wizards only managed to improve on last year’s record by 2 games. The Raptors didn’t finish any better, posting a 12-15 record post-AS Break. This series will be hard fought, but mostly because the teams cancel each other out. The Raptors boast an elite offense but an atrocious defense and the Wizards are vice versa.
The Eastern Conference sees their only first round 7-game series. It’s a back and forth affair, one that sees the Raptors splitting the first two games at home. Same over in D.C., as John Wall shows why he is becoming an elite point guard but also shows why he can’t be the only one contributing on offense. The stifling Toronto defense takes one of the two games and we go back to Canada all tied up. Game 5 is a ridiculous game, one that sees more than a couple technical fouls. The teams are getting chippy, each one looking to get the upper hand. A DeMar DeRozan last minute three gives the Toronto Drakes a nail-biting win. Game 6 reminds us that Bradley Beal still plays good basketball. Leading the the Wiz on a third-quarter scoring run, he puts them in control and they never look back on their way to tying the series at 3 and sending it to GAME 7. Game 7. There’s no way it doesn’t end in a buzzer beater. It could go either way. I say Toronto takes the win thanks to a Lou Williams wild “how did he make that” three pointer.
Toronto Raptors win the series 4-3
There you have it, folks: My predictions for the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. A quick recap: Hawks in 4, Cavs in 5, Bulls in 5, Raptors in 7.