If the 2017 Eastern Conference Playoffs were a movie, they would be Friday Night Lights and the Cleveland Cavaliers would be the legendary high school team, Dallas Carter. In 1988, Dallas Carter had one of the most talented high school football teams ever assembled, equipped with a defense featuring defensive tackle Derrick Cherry, linebacker Jessie Armstead, and defensive backs Clifton Abraham, Le’Shai Maston, and Derric Evans. Guided by legendary coach Freddie James, the Cowboys won the 1988 5A state championship with a 31-14 win over Converse Judson. Every team is gunning for the Cavaliers or LeBron James. For six straight years, the team that “King James” played for (Miami and Cleveland) has made it to the Finals.
Playoff Preview and Prediction:
#1 Celtics 53-29 Celtics vs #8 41-41 Chicago Bulls:
The Bulls needed all 82 regular season games to clinch a playoff spot. They are led by their “Big 3” of Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo. The three combined for 59 points, 15 rebounds and 15 assists per game. When healthy all three can create shots for themselves and make an impact on the defensive end. Nikola Mirotic has become a very good option from long range and appears to be gaining confidence with every game. Paul Zipser and Denzel Valentine must contribute off the bench for the Bulls to have any chance in this series.
One could argue that the Boston Celtics have the coach of the year in Brad Stevens and MVP in Isaiah Thomas. In the history of the Celtics there has only been one player to average more points per game in a season than Thomas (Larry Bird averaged 29.9 points per game in 1987-88, Thomas averaged 28.9 points per game this season.) Avery Bradley is the best two-way player no one talks about. He averaged 16.3 points per game despite battling injuries.
The Celtics are young, healthy and very well coached. They have a bench that can defend and score. Marcus Smart is a bigger, stronger and better scoring version of the Houston Rockets Patrick Beverly. The Bulls are averaging a little over 7 three pointers made per game, Celtics are averaging 12 three point FGs per game. So, going into this series, Chicago is looking at a 15-point disadvantage. The good News for Chicago is Rondo will be very motivated to play his old team, but it won’t be enough.
Take Boston in 6 games.
#2 Cavaliers 51-31 vs #7 Pacers 42-40:
I will break this down as quickly as possible…The Cavs have three players on their bench (Deron Williams, Kyle Korver and Iman Shumpert) that would probably start on the Pacers. Other than Paul George (23.7 points per game) who is going to score on this team? LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving average over 70 points per game combined. Look for Myles Turner and Tristan Thompson to have a very physical battle at the center position. Both players can average 10 points and 15 rebounds in a series.
Take the Cavs in 4 or 5 games.
#3 Raptors 51-31 vs #6 42-40 Bucks:
The Milwaukee Bucks made the playoffs despite Jabari Parker (their second leading scorer going down with a season ending injury after 51 games). They also made the playoffs with Khris Middleton only playing in the last 29 games. Don’t tell me Erik Spoelstra should win coach of the year when he couldn’t even get his team to the playoffs. The Bucks are led by Giannis Antetokounmpo. The man known as “The Greek Freak” led his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and block shots. Talk about a one man show.
The Raptors are basically a two-man machine. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan average 49.7 points combined. Serge Ibaka puts up the same numbers wherever he goes, he is averaging 14 points and 7 rebounds. The Raptors experience should carry them to the series but I wouldn’t be surprised if Milwaukee gives them a scare.
Take the Raptors in 6.
#4 Wizards 49-33 vs #5 Hawks 43-39:
John Wall and Bradley Beal are both averaging 23.1 points per game. This team has evolved as the season has gone on and Wall is averaging 10.7 assists per game. The addition of Bojan Bogdanović and Brandon Jennings has really bolstered their bench. The coaching staff is very high on 1st year player out of Kansas,Kelly Oubre Jr.
Former New York Knicks draft pick, Tim Hardaway Jr, has been lights out since the all-star break. He has been playing with confidence and could put up 20 points in a quarter or half with this long rang shooting. Dwight Howard has quietly had a very impressive season. Howard is averaging 13 points and 13 rebounds per game. Paul Milsap and Dennis Schroder average 35 points per between the two.
Both teams are very well coached but look for Otto Porter to be the difference here. If he can average 15 or more points per game in this series they Wizards should win.
Take the Wizards in a close series…. 6 or 7 games.
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