NBA Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions: Round 1
1 Pacers vs. 8 Hawks (Prediction: Pacers 4-0)
The Pacers have become one of the most talked about teams in the league for all of the wrong reasons of late. They’ve been losing games to inferior teams, and even recently lost to Miami in embarrassing fashion. However, a close, late season win against the Thunder could have been what this team needed in order to right the ship. This team has always had a stellar defense, but they’re offense needs to get back to form.
There’s not much the Hawks can do here, having almost slipped out of the playoffs themselves. Against a Pacers team that is engaged, they have a chance at stealing one game. I don’t think they get that far.
2 Heat vs. 7 Bobcats (Prediction: Heat 4-1)
The Heat have also been playing poorly of late, but the Pacers have taken most of the NBA’s disappointment headlines. The Bobcats are finally respectable this year, and the Al Jefferson Kemba Walker combo has been impressive. Jefferson will give the Heat fits down low, as post defense has always been one of their biggest weaknesses.
However, the Heat have the ability to up the pace and play at a speed that the Bobcats can’t defend. Look for the Heat to run on every opportunity. Al Jefferson should win Charlotte at least one game, but it won’t be easy.
3 Raptors vs. 6 Nets (Prediction: Nets 4-3)
Here’s where things start getting interesting. The Raptors haven’t been in the playoffs in years, and the Nets are looking to make a post-season run under 1st year coach Jason Kidd. The Nets have turned around what started as a disastrous season and steady bench guys like Shaun Livingston have been a huge part of that. The veteran wisdom of Brooklyn will go up against the younger, more dynamic duo of Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry. They’ve made the Raptors fun to watch again, and they play hard on both ends.
Ultimately, I believe that the Raptors playoff inexperience will come back to haunt them. The Nets aren’t your typical 6 seed, and they have guys like Paul Pierce, Deron Williams, and Kevin Garnett who are battle tested.
4 Bulls vs. 5 Wizards (Prediction: Bulls 4-2)
This should be another very exciting series. The Bulls are a defensive juggernaut, and it seems like coach Tom Thibodeau can plug in anybody into his system and make things work. The young, upstart Wizards will have to play near flawless basketball to take them down. The Bulls physical and relentless defense wears down opponents, and the young Wizards backcourt of John Wall and Brad Beal doesn’t have any playoff experience.
I can’t see the Wizards winning any more than 2 games, and the Bulls might make it a shorter series. Still, Wall and Beal are very dynamic players, and their struggle against a suffocating Bulls perimeter defense will be interesting to watch.
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