It’s time to breakdown the East in our NBA playoffs preview! The top 4 seems locked in and beyond the top 4 there doesn’t seem like there is a team that could present a big challenge. Cleveland is set to complete their worst month since the return of King James to the Cavaliers in March. With two games left their record this month 6 Wins 9 Losses, raising doubts of the reigning champions dominance with the playoffs around the corner and relinquishing top spot in the East to the Celtics in the meantime. Looking at last night’s result both Toronto & Boston blew a big chance to climb higher within the Top 4, so who is going to step up. Washington, is 5-5 over their last 10 opening the door for the Raptors to catch them for the 3rd spot, so though the Top 4 seem cemented in, there could be an upset or two in the first round.
As of this morning, 30th March, the match ups look like this:
1 Cleveland Cavaliers vs 8 Indiana Pacers
2 Boston Celtics vs 7 Miami Heat
3 Washington Wizards vs 6 Atlanta Hawks
4 Toronto Raptors vs 5 Milwaukee Bucks
Cleveland Cavaliers vs 8 Indiana Pacers
One vs Eight is usually seen as a cake walk, and there is no reason to think otherwise here. Cleveland were upset early in the season at Indiana but since have followed up with two expected easy victories versus Indiana. One game remains and yes, Cleveland is as low as they have been at any point in the season but Indiana is a mess! Star Paul George who was openly shopped at the trade deadline is unlikely to return & the talk is he has it he has already given up on the season and his career in Indiana. A meeting with the Pacers may just be the medicine Cleveland needs to get everything corrected and in form to defend the championship! If Cleveland can keep their number one spot, 4-0 sweep over an uninspired Pacer team is the prediction.
Boston Celtics vs 7 Miami Heat
Four matches played and all games were settled by ten points or less, Celtics coming away with a win in all. Boston, at the moment, are rightly or wrongly seen as the best chance to beat Cleveland. This could be just as much about the proud history of the Celtics as much as this seasons performance. This series could end up being one sided but Miami has enough experience and firepower to take a game or two. Look for all games to see 200+ points, and Boston to take the series 4-2 in an exciting series. If you are brave or a Heat fan don’t shy away from Miami pulling off the upset!
Washington Wizards vs 6 Atlanta Hawks
Washington has been talked about extensively but they are only 5-5 over the last 10 & if Raptors can stay the course, Washington could easily end up in the 4 spot. John Wall, is the buzz that drives the Wizards and how he goes they will go. Atlanta has held their own against Washington this year winning their two home meetings this year but losing both games in Washington. What is interesting is the margin of victory when Atlanta won. Atlanta won by 25 & 15 in their two victories & only lost by 9 and 8 in Washington. Atlanta has the roster to keep their nerve and battle a long series. This is where I see an upset, if Atlanta can throw the first punch and take one of the first two games they should prevail. Prediction is 4-2 victory for the Hawks and an early exit for the up and coming Wizards!
4 Toronto Raptors vs 5 Milwaukee Bucks
The Toronto Raptors fought hard against Cleveland last year, and they have been solid all year even in the absence of star point guard Kyle Lowry, since late February. Milwaukee have been hot and are improving having a 13-4 record in March! Including a strong west coast trip, a good victory versus Toronto, & knocking off the Celtics in Boston last night! Over the four meetings Toronto has won 3 of the 4, Milwaukee winning the latest meeting. The last two matches have been rather low scoring and what should be expected in this potential playoff series. Toronto is likely to have Lowry back and that will give them a huge boost for a potential run to the finals.
Without Lowry, Toronto is still likely to survive this series. The uncertainty of the star point guard’s status should only determine the length of the series. With Lowry Raptors 4-1, without Raptors 4-3!