NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs Preview 2017: The NBA Playoffs are set to begin this weekend, so begins the quest for the Cleveland Cavaliers to repeat as NBA champions. The Cavs haven’t exactly looked the part of a champion, underachieving in the regular season.
Nonetheless, the Cavs are the clear favorites to represent the East in the NBA Finals. Can anyone dethrone ‘King James’ and deny him a mind-blowing seventh consecutive appearance in the NBA Finals? Sports & Swag’s NBA Eastern Conference Preview is here to answer all those questions. Let’s start by taking a look at the 2nd-seeded Cavs and their matchup against Paul George and the Indiana Pacers.
2. CAVALIERS vs 7. PACERS
If there’s a nightmare scenario for Lebron and the Cavs, it’s having to face Paul George (PG-13) and the Pacers in the first round. Indiana won’t win this series. Let’s just get that out of the way. They just don’t have the roster to pull it off. But, what they do have is Paul George. PG-13 is probably the guy that scares you the most of any player in the Eastern Conference not named Lebron James.
George, can absolutely carry the rest of the Pacers on his back and win a game or two. That could make the Cavs work a little harder than they would like to in the first round. Then again, this team needs something to wake them up. A challenge in the first round could be what the doctor ordered. Expect the Pacers to get a game. Anything more than that, showing a lack of focus from the Cavs, and things could get interesting down the road.
CAVS win in 5…..
3. RAPTORS vs 6. BUCKS
The Toronto Raptors are one of the more intriguing teams coming into the playoffs. The Raptors are a team we’re used to seeing make the playoffs, but we’ve also come accustomed to seeing their star back court disappear when it counts. Kyle Lowry, and DeMar Derozan have to be focused against a Milwaukee team that’s athletic and dangerous.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (The Greek Freak), is one of the most exciting players to watch in the league today. If the Raptors can keep him under wraps, it should be a quick series. The Bucks just haven’t found consistent enough scoring around him. But, if guys like rookie of the year candidate, Malcolm Brogdon can step up and provide some offense, the Bucks could make it a long series. It’s just a shame Buck’s star forward Jabari Parker isn’t available due to injury.
RAPTORS in 5….
1. CELTICS vs 8. BULLS
The Boston Celtics are quite possibly the worst one-seed we’ve ever seen in the NBA Playoffs. The Celtics are a very good team, yet they’re quite vulnerable due to their lack of rebounding and scoring support for Isaiah Thomas. That said, the Celtics are here because because of the little things. Brad Stevens’ team just out works you with energy guys like Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley.
But, for teams like that, the regular season is often much more kind to them than the playoffs.
The reason being, every team steps up their energy level once the playoffs start. So, that takes away an advantage for Boston against a Bulls team that’s arguably just as talented. Some would even say the Bulls are more talented, offensively speaking anyway. But, the roller coaster ride Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade, and Rajon Rondo have endured this season has been incredible. So, incredible it’s hard to imagine them putting it together and beating the Celtics four times.
Look for the Bulls to win a couple of games, but CELTICS in 6 sounds about right.
4. WIZARDS vs 5. HAWKS
The Wiz have clearly been one of the better teams in the NBA since the first of the year. There are several reasons for that, but probably the most important is the health of Bradley Beal. The stud shooting guard is having the type season (23.1 ppg) most thought he was capable of coming out of the University of Florida in 2012. The dynamic duo of Beal and John Wall will be hard to contain for an Atlanta team that’s had it’s ups and downs guarding fast guards.
It’s difficult to find an area where the Hawks have a significant advantage. If there is one, it’s inside with Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard. But, it’s not like Wizards center Marcin Gortat is a scrub. Gortat, is capable of causing problems in his own right in the pick and roll and with his ability to knock down perimeter shots.
The Hawks have been up and down all season long. A big reason why is the instability from point guard Dennis Shroeder. If he’s focused, the Hawks are capable of making this a long series. But, it’s just hard to trust that, and a lot easier to trust Wall and Beal.
WIZARDS in 5…..
2. CAVALIERS vs 3. RAPTORS
If there’s a team that can keep the Cavs out of the NBA Finals, the Toronto Raptors are that team. In fact, besides Golden State, the Raptors look like the only team that can beat Cleveland. The trade deadline moves to bring in Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker are the exact moves the Raptors needed to make to give them a shot at competing with Cleveland. These two teams met in last season’s Eastern Conference Finals. The Raptors somehow managed to win two games, despite the series being one of the most lopsided six game series ever played. The Cavs destroyed Toronto in their four wins.
This time around, things could be different. The Raptors are athletic enough, and deep enough to win this series. Ibaka and Tucker could tag team defending Lebron and give him some problems. Especially, if the rest of the Cavs are still stuck in neutral like they’ve been most of the season. Still, despite all the new faces the Raptors have, this series has to be about Lowry and Derozan playing to their potential. Something tells me they will this time around, but it won’t be quite enough. With the Raptors paying so much attention to Lebron and Kyrie Irving, look for Kevin Love to come up huge. But, it will take the Cavs a while to throw that knock out punch.
CAVS in 7…….
1. CELTICS vs 4. WIZARDS
This matchup could be all about the back court. Guard play is easily the strength of each team. So, the back court that has the best series is probably going to win the series. The fact that we’ve never truly seen either of these teams play much playoff basketball makes it tough to predict. The one advantage the Celtics do have, however is their ability to defend. Not so much Isaiah Thomas, but they do have Avery Bradley, who is one of the NBA’s best lock down defenders.
We’ve also seen the Wizards have their issues in the playoffs. Some of that is due to injury, but Wall and Beal have had their disappointments in the postseason. Look for those disappointments to continue with Boston enjoying home court advantage.
CELTICS in 7…….
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
1. CELTICS vs 2. CAVALIERS
That sets us up for a 1 vs 2 Eastern Conference Final between the Celtics and Cavs. On paper, this series is a mismatch, despite Boston winning the home court. But, the game isn’t played on paper. The Celtics are capable of hanging with the defending champs for a number of reasons. Isaiah Thomas, of course is the main one. But, again this series depends on the mindset and focus of the Cavaliers. If they’re focused, the Celtics have no chance. But, if any of the lack of focus we’ve seen at various points this season, lingers on into this series, we could be in for a long series.
It really doesn’t matter about home court. The Cavs have proven they know how to win on the road in the playoffs. Lebron James has proven it throughout his career. Winning Game 7 last season in Oakland was just the icing on the cake. But, what does matter is a team that takes care of it’s business and doesn’t give Boston any belief that they can win. Breaking down the matchups and determining who might be the X-Factor in a series like this is pointless.
CAVS in 6……..
So, according to this NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs Preview, it looks like Lebron James will make an absolutely incredible seventh consecutive trip to the NBA Finals. That’s just ridiculous…. An unbelievable feat for an unbelievable player.