NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs First Round Breakdown, Predictions
As the NBA’s regular season came to a close and the playoffs sitting right around the corner, there is one question on the minds of many – can anyone end LeBron James’ consecutive Finals’ streak?
This time around, the path to the Finals may be a difficult one for the Cleveland Cavaliers. With questions surrounding the team and the rise of candidates who may hold a potential shot at eliminating them, the Eastern Conference bracket boasts a number of intriguing teams who can make some noise over the next couple of months. This year, the Toronto Raptors hold their first ever number one seed in team history. The Philadelphia 76ers have “Trusted the Process” and have transformed into a legit playoff team and a contender for many years to come. Despite numerous injuries, the Boston Celtics continue to fight, while the remaining teams in the East are scrappy and rugged, with an eye at forcing an upset.
The 2018 NBA postseason is about to kick off, how will Round One in the Eastern Conference shake out?
(1) Toronto Raptors vs. (8) Washington Wizards
It seems like it was only yesterday, but just a few years ago, the Washington Wizards swept the Toronto Raptors out of the first round – how times have changed.
Fresh off a franchise record 59-victories, the Raptors boast quite possibly the best roster in team history, while the Wizards have struggled with consistency all season, especially with All-Star John Wall in the fold. Both teams split the season series at two apiece, meaning something will have to give as the playoff rematch is set to begin.
For the Raptors, this playoff run will make them or break them.
Will they be able to get over the hump and shed off their “great regular season team, inconsistent playoff team” identity? Will the Raptors finally break through?
The keys in the series for the Raptors are simple – do what they have been doing all year. With Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan leading the charge, the Raptors two-way style of play will make things difficult on the Wizards, and of course the Raptors bench should hold a large advantage over Washington’s.
Top five in both offensive and defensive rating, the Raptors will be taking on a team that is middle of the pack on both ends of the court. Not only that, the Wizards have surprisingly struggled with John Wall healthy and on the floor.
The pressure is all on the Raptors, in the past, they have struggled with handling it, but with a revamped style of offence and a hard-nosed and gritty defense, it is fair to expect a different Raptors team in this year’s post season.
Prediction: Raptors Win Series 4-2
(2) Boston Celtics vs. (7) Milwaukee Bucks
An injury-riddled Boston Celtics team will have to find a way to slow down Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Easier said then done.
The “next man up” mentality has been working for the Celtics all season long, but now, the grind is set to start. A top-ten offensive team in the league, the Bucks struggle mightily on the defensive side of the ball. Meanwhile, the Celtics are one of the more elite defensive teams in the game, who have issues scoring the ball.
In a series such as this, it will come down to execution and with Brad Stevens at the helm, the Celtics will have a slight edge and may just find a way to sneak out of the first round. With no expectations to worry about, the Celtics will ride their young players in attempt to pull out the series win.
Prediction: Celtics Win Series 4-3
(3) Philadelphia 76ers vs. (6) Miami Heat
The Process has worked!
The Philadelphia 76ers are finally back in the postseason and are set to take on a veteran, scrappy Miami Heat team.
While Joel Embiid is expected to miss game 1, the Sixers have build a team that should be able to find success in the postseason. Built around rookie sensation Ben Simmons, the Sixers have shooters spreading the floor anywhere you look and will force matchup nightmares for the Heat, especially once Embiid joins the fold.
For the Heat, their edge is experience, and the Sixers are expected to make mistakes on the playoff stage. This is where having a player like Dwyane Wade will be a huge advantage, and the Sixers will need to show up and find a way to not shy away from these big moments.
Nevertheless, the talent difference favours the Sixers, and ultimately there is no reason to believe that the Sixers cannot maintain their confident persona in the postseason. Especially when the always-cocky Embiid returns to the team, the Sixers should be able to find a way to get through to the second round!
Prediction: Sixers Win Series 4-2
(4) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (5) Indiana Paces
LeBron James has never lost in round one of a playoff series in his entire career and he is not about to start a new trend in his 15th NBA season.
Since the return of Kevin Love, the Cavaliers have begun finding more of a flow offensively, and while their defensive has been highly questionable all season, the talent on their side will surely overpower that of a scrappy and young Indiana Pacers team. With James on the floor, the Cavs are tough to beat in a series and he consistently has the right pieces around him offensively which will keep the Cavaliers favourited in each round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
For Indiana, they’re not even supposed to be here following the Paul George fiasco of the summer. Victor Oladipo was never supposed to be this good and the Pacers were never supposed to end the season as a five-seed.
The Pacers have clawed all season to reach this point, but they are just no where near ready to compete against elite NBA teams of the calibre of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
An important learning experience nevertheless, the Cavaliers should have no trouble making it out of the first round.
Prediction: Cavs Win Series 4-0