Celtics (1) vs Bulls (8)
This will be another great series; somehow Jimmy Butler managed to squeak this roller coaster Bulls team into the playoffs. With Dwayne Wade back early from a season ending elbow injury, Rajon Rondo going from starting point guard, to dog house, back to being in the starting line up giving the Bulls a needed boost at the right time. The Bulls have two go to scores in crunch we all know what Wade is about and brings to the table and Jimmy Butler will play 48 minutes at both ends of the court if he needs to. It’s the others that are going to have to pull their weight if they want to advance.
It’s not shocking that Boston grabbed the 1 seed due to Cleveland dealing with injuries all year combined with taking rest days, sick days, and spring break days. Isaiah Thomas has led this Boston team with 24 ppg and he’s even better when it’s the fourth quarter. Thomas averages 11 points in the final quarter, so if it comes down late we know who’s getting the rock. The thing for Boston is how they will try to keep Jimmy Butler under control Brad Stevens is one of the bright young coaches in the game so expect him to give Butler different looks. Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley, and Marcus Smart will all take turns trying to stop Jimmy B. Another thing Brad Stevens won’t have to do like he did in the regular season is take Isaiah Thomas out late in games due to mismatches, the Bulls don’t have a dominant threat at the one position so Thomas should be fine late in games.
Regular Season series: tied 2-2 Playoff Prediction: Celtics in 7
Cavaliers (2) vs Pacers (7)
It’s hard to tell what Cleveland team will show up we haven’t seen them together fully healthy all year. They’ve had 24 different guys suit up for them and they’ve been pacing themselves all year, plus their defense has been horrendous. Although it’s just the regular season most teams can’t just flip the switch but this team can, when you have a player like LeBron James going to 6 straight Finals, he knows what time of year it is. If there’s somebody that Cleveland needs it’s Kevin Love we aren’t going to get the Minnesota Timberwolves Love, but he’ll have to be close to it in this series and playoffs.
Indiana has disappointed a lot of people personally I thought they would be a 4 or 5 seed but they started off the year slow. Led by superstar Paul George 23.7 ppg Indian has a chance because of that guy, he’s not scared to go at LeBron and will bring it every night in this series. The way this series shapes out will have a huge impact on his future in Indiana, big man Myles Turner and guard Jeff Teague are great complimentary pieces for George, they’ll have to match PG13’s intensity if they want to beat a vulnerable Cavs team. Let’s not forget Lance is back too (watch out Bron).
Regular Season Series: Cavaliers, 3-1 Playoff Prediction: Cavaliers in 5
Raptors (3) vs Bucks (6)
The Raptors duo is back together, point guard Kyle Lowery is back from his risk injury and Demar Derozan is still a bucket. The Raptors haven’t played with all their pieces together though they acquired Serge Ibaka and PJ Tucker before the trade deadline. We all know Toronto struggles in first round match ups, but they bring a lot of size, solid guard play, and defense this year. It still won’t be easy but Toronto is deep.
The Bucks are led by arguably the best player in this Series Giannis Antetokounmpo, averaging 22.9 ppg and 8.8 rebounds per game and notching his first All-Star bid. Greek Freak will see a lot of bodies his way but still manage to get his. The injury to Jabari Parker is a huge hit this time of the year, but Milwaukee still has lots of talent Greg Monroe will be controlling the paint. Point guard and Rookie of the Year candidate Malcom Brogdon has been a key piece to this operation too. Fowards Michael Beasley and Khris Middleton can score when needed too. This will be another great first round series too.
Regular Season Series: Raptors 3-1 Playoff Prediction: Raptors in 7
Wizards (4) vs Hawks (5)
Beginning of the year it looked like Washington was headed for the lottery. Since the All-Star break they have been the most improved and one of the hottest teams in the league. Led by Coach of the Year Candidate Scott Brooks he has them playing great basketball. Not to mention when you have All-Star point guard John Wall who can get to the cup anytime he wants, and great wing man Bradley Beal (should have been a All-Star) running the show the Wizards are a dangerous team. You combine those two with shooters on the outside Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, and Bojan Bogdanović (best trade at the deadline) the Wizards are sneaky good. The only concern Washington has is their depth, backup center Ian Mahinmi is going to miss time with a calf injury. I’m not sold on the Brandon Jennings trade either, but Washington is in a good Spot with the 4 seed too, avoiding Cleveland until the Conference Finals.
You don’t know if Atlanta is trying to tank or win games sometimes. They have won 4 out of their last 5 games, notching 2 wins against Cleveland and one against Boston. Tim Hardaway Jr. has been coming into his own lately, the Hawks still have Paul Millsap who can score when needed. The X factor though is point guard Dennis Schroder he averages 17.9 ppg, but also turns the ball over 3.3 times per game usually in crucial moments. He’s going to be tasked with guarding John Wall and trying to run the offense good luck with that one.
Regular Season Series: Wizards 3-1 Playoff Prediction: Wizards in 5