The NBA playoffs are upon us. The regular season is a marathon not a sprint. With marquee players like Kyrie Irving and DeMarcus Cousins out for the season, it has become the survival of the fittest. Before we preview all of the Eastern Conference first round matchups, we must bring up some historic moments from the 2017-18 season.
- The Spurs have made the playoffs for the 21st consecutive season in a row. This is a record that may never be broken.
- LeBron James became the 1st player in the history of the NBA to win ten straight division titles.
- For the 1st time since 1960, there will not be a playoff team from New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. So much for the big markets dominating the NBA.
- The two top seeds in the Eastern Conference (Toronto Raptors and the Boston Celtics) may be the worst two teams in the playoffs.
- Coach of the Year: Utah’s… Quin Snyder. Runner-up: San Antonio’s… Gregg Popovich
- MVP: Cleveland’s LeBron James. Runner-up: Houston’s James Harden.
Eastern Conference Preview and Prediction:
#1 Toronto Raptors vs. #8 Washington Wizards:
The Raptors overachieved this season winning 59 games. The Wizards underachieved winning only 43 games. The Raptors were led by DeMar DeRozan, he played in 80 games this season and averaged 23 points and 5.2 assists. Kyle Lowry averaged 16 points and 6.9 assists per game. Other than these two guards, there is no one on this team who can light up a scoreboard on a consistent basis.
The Wizards have a very talented starting five but injuries and inconsistent play have landed them in the 8th seed. John Wall played in only 41 games. When Wall is healthy he is the only point guard in the NBA who can average 20 point and 10 assists per game every night. Bradley Beal has really become a very good two-way guard. He led the Wizards in scoring averaging 22.6 points and 1.1 steals per game.
This is a classic example of depth vs talent. The Raptors have 11 players averaging over 16 minutes and 5.5 points per game. This is a team that likes to go ten deep. The wizards get consistent contributions from about 7 or 8 players. For years, I have been hearing friends and sports anchors say John Wall is the best point guard in the NBA. The time is now to prove it. If they don’t get out of the first round look for Washington to make wholesale changes in their coaching staff and personnel.
Wizards upset the Raptors in 6 Games.
#2 Boston Celtics vs. #7 Milwaukee Bucks:
The Celtics won 55 games but lost star point guard Kyrie Irving to a season ending injury. The Celtics were 15-8 since the all-star break while the Bucks struggled, finishing 11-12 in their final 23 games.
Irving led the Celtics averaging 24 points per game. In his absence it has been scoring by committee. Jaylen Brown averages 14.5 points and Jayson Tatum is contributing with 13.9 per game.
The Bucks have four players who can score 25 points per night. Giannis Antetokounmpo averaged 26.9 points and 10 rebounds per game. Khris Middelton and Eric Bledsoe averaged a combined 37 points per game. Jabbari Parker is the x-factor here. When healthy he can beat defenders with his jump shot and interior game.
Brad Stevens is one of the best coaches in the NBA, Joe Prunty hasn’t gotten the most out of Milwaukee since he took over for the fired Jason Kidd. But, with that said, I can’t see how the Celtics can outscore the Bucks 4 out of 7 games.
Take the Bucks in 6.
#3 Philadelphia 76ers vs. #6 Miami Heat.
This was the year the entire Philadlephia community has been waiting for. The Eagles won the Super Bowl and the 76ers won 52 games. Joel Embiid only played in 60 games this season, but he averaged 22.9 points and 11 rebounds. Ben Simmons should win rookie of the year and he put up “monster numbers” The former LSU star averaged 15.8 points,8.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds per game.
The Heat are led by Goran Dragic, he is averaging 17.3 points and 4.8 assists per game. Hassan Whiteside is averaging 14 points, 11.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. He is Miami’s highest paid player but only plays about 25 minutes per game.
The Heat have no one on their team who will scare defenses. The 76ers have a plethora of players who can not only make plays off the dribble but shoot the three. Free Agent JJ Redick averages 17 points per game and Robert Covington is shooting 41% from behind the arc.
The 76ers are a team on the rise and the Heat are just happy to be in the post-season. Miami’s coach, Erik Spoelstra, has never been out of the 2nd round without LeBron James on his roster. He won’t make it past the first round this year.
76ers win in 5 games.
#4 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. #5 Indiana Pacers:
The Cleveland Cavaliers won 52 games this season despite having two coaches and over 15 new players on their roster from last season. This team is very different from the one that made it to three straight finals but one thing is constant, LeBron James. “The King” is having one of the best seasons of his 15-year career. He played in all 82 games, averaged 27.5 points, 9.1 assists and 8.6 rebounds. He doesn’t appear to be slowing down. Kevin Love is now healthy and continues to be a “double/double” machine averaging almost 18 points and over 9 rebounds per game.
No one expected the Indiana Pacers to be here. Acquiring Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, for Paul George has been a win/win for both teams. Oladipo is averaging 23 points and Sabonis leads the team in rebounding with almost 8 per game.
Cleveland is still finding their identity. Bu,t they have more than enough talent to win this series. I expect former Pacer guard George Hill and former Laker Guard Jordan Clarkson to have a very productive series.
Cavs win in 5 games.
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