I can’t tell if time seems to be going quicker as I get older or the NBA season is also starting as quick as its ending. When the Christmas day game between the Warriors and Cavaliers had ended I must admit I wanted to fast forward to the playoffs and finals right away. As usual though, I reminded myself why we watch the regular season and that it sometimes goes by extremely unappreciated.
However, as I write this (April 3rd) playoffs prediction/preview the standings could change as the East decides its fate with teams being 1 game or less apart from each other. The West on the other hand is more or less decided and so far this years playoffs teams look to be vey exciting with some of the better first round match-ups in the last few years.
Boston Celtics (1) vs. Miami Heat (8)
I will save my recent indulgence into the Cavaliers conspiracy for now, but it seems that the Celtics will manage to swipe the first seed from Cleveland and at this point would face the Miami Heat. The Heat are having one of the most amazing seasons for a team that should really be an 11th seed looking from the outside in. Somehow though, the Heat have rattled off some amazing wins, even going on a 20+ game winning streak at one point.
The Celtics have also had their own amazing year, with Isaiah Thomas coming into his own in his new home in Boston. Thomas has fit so well into the team that he propelled himself into an MVP caliber player as he lead the C’s to victory after victory in what may be the best collection of 4th quarter performances the league has seen in years. The Celtics once again have a true leader and a player that drives the rest of the team with his sheer will to go against any opponent.
Even with all of this said the 1 seed in the East won’t know its opponent until the last day of the season unless one of maybe 4 teams go on an undefeated streak to lock up the last spot. Even more so, the one seed is still up for grabs for both Boston or Cleveland, which then again will swap the matchups and could have huge implications on the road to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Washington Wizards (4) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (5)
For purely selfish reasons I hope that the Wizards and Bucks do not move positions in the East because there is possibly no better first-round match-up in the East that will beat this series in entertainment value. This series would have it all, the pace, the athleticism, the shooting! Everything about this series is must-see NBA, and it is very evidently selfish that I would want this series to push to a full 7 games.
The Wizards have been very underwhelming the last few seasons as they continued to look like they were ready to become a force in the East boasting some of the best young talent the East has to offer. But year after year they fell short, that even looked to be the case as this season began when the Wizards racked up losses at an alarming rate. As the questions began to surround the team, it seems as though new Head coach Scott Brooks had something to do with the full 180 that this team would soon see as they approached the end of 2016.
Almost just as much as I’m excited for Wizards playoff basketball, I’m equally excited for the Bucks to make an appearance especially when the possess one of the greatest players of the next generation after LeBron retires. The Bucks have been a bit up and down this year and it’s heartbreaking that Jabari Parker won’t be joining them for this series. I believe that the Bucks can give the Wizards a legit series if not by matching their talent then by matching their athleticism and youth.
Toronto Raptors (3) vs. Atlanta Hawks (6)
Don’t count on me watching this series closely much less at all as the team that makes it out of this series should logically be Toronto with all their late season acquisitions and projection that Kyle Lowry will be available. I’ve been on the skeptical side of things when it comes to the Raptors after watching last years playoffs and my position hasn’t been swayed enough to change.
But in a series with the Hawks they shouldn’t lose this series, but I wouldn’t been mind-blown if it happened. The Hawks have a record that poorly reflects their overall greatness in the East and in some ways is a testament to the low level of basketball in the East. However, I am being kind to both sides here giving the Hawks 2 games where they can steal one on the road due entirely to the Raptors having one of those Raptor-like games that has been a big fork in their regular season and playoff road over the years.
Cleveland Cavaliers (2) vs. Chicago Bulls (7)
I’ll try and keep this part short because for the most part you’ve probably had it in your mind that while LeBron lives and breathes on a hardwood court and resides in the East, that his Finals ticket is booked.
The theory here is that the recent slide in wins for the Cavaliers is all front to avoid a potential 8th seed series with the Heat or Pacers, then a potential second-round match with the Buck or Wizards. See the problem there? If the Cavs stay in the 2nd seed it will almost definitely give them the easiest road to the Eastern Conference Finals given that they’ll meet with either the Raptors or Hawks in the second-round. It’s possible that this theory is true but after 2 strong wins by the Cavaliers it seems that they’re trying to recapture that playoff mode that everyone thought they’d all of a sudden lost.
As far as this series goes, much like the Celtics, due to the unknown of the 7th, 8th and 9th seed its hard to tell who the Cavs will eventually meet but if the Bulls grab the 7th it shouldn’t be long before the Bulls vacation starts. The Bulls did beat the Cavs in one of their TNT Thursday extravaganza’s where they’ve seemed unbeatable for some reason, don’t expect that Bulls team to show up in mid-April. With LeBron in full “Zero Dark 23” mode, the unstable mix of Butler and Rondo without Dwyane Wade will only go so far.
Like most of theses early predictions I feel I’ve been generous to some teams by spotting them a game or 2 here and there, but when it comes to the Cavaliers, much like last year they know how to finish a team early to get that much needed rest. So while I’ve got the Bulls taking one at home, don’t be surprised if the brooms come out in the Windy City.
ON THE FRINGE: Chicago Bulls (7th Seed), Miami Heat (8th Seed), Indiana Pacers (9th Seed)
|@ Charlotte Hornets
||@ New York Knicks
||[HOME] Toronto Raptors
|WIN | 112 – 99 (8th seed)
||LOSS | 100 – 91 (7th seed)
||WIN | 108 – 90 (9th seed)
|@ Toronto Raptors
||@ Philadelphia 76ers
||[HOME] Milwaukee Bucks
|LOSS | 96 – 94 (9th seed)
||WIN | 102 – 90 (7th seed)
||WIN | 104 – 89 (8th seed)
|@ Washington Wizards
||@ Brooklyn Nets
||@ Orlando Magic
|WIN | 106 – 103 (9th seed)
||LOSS | 107 – 106 (8th seed)
||WIN | 127 – 112 (7th seed)
|[HOME] Cleveland Cavaliers
||[HOME] Orlando Magic
||@ Philadelphia 76ers
|WIN | 124 – 121 (9th seed)
||WIN | 122 – 75 (8th seed)
||WIN | 120 – 111 (7th seed)
|[HOME] Washington Wizards
||[HOME] Brooklyn Nets
||[HOME] Atlanta Hawks
|TBD – 000 – 000 (* Seed)
||TBD – 000 – 000 (* Seed)
||TBD – 000 – 000 (* Seed)