Saturday, April 19, 2014

Eastern Conference First Round Playoff Predictions

With 82-games in the books it’s time for the second season to begin. 16 teams begin a journey for the NBA crown – the Larry O’Brien Trophy. The two-month odyssey starts with the first round as one team is 16 wins away from achieving their season long goal. Becoming NBA Champions. 

Here are my predictions for the First Round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

(1) Indiana Pacers vs. (8) Atlanta Hawks

All season long Indiana stressed on the importance of gaining home court advantage throughout the playoffs. The Pacers looking to avenge last postseasons game seven Eastern Conference Finals loss in Miami. This time the Pacers find themselves with home court advantage throughout the eastern conference playoffs. Now that they have it, let's see how far they can get with it. The Pacers stumbled to finish line - with lackluster after lackluster performances including a humiliating home loss to Hawks in early April. The Pacers and Hawks split their four game season series but since the Hawks lost All-Star big man Al Horford for the season due to injury they struggled to remain competitive though they had enough left in the tank to outlast the New York Knicks for the eight seed albeit with a sub .500 record. At the moment the Pacers are as vulnerable as ever but expect them to get there act together in time for this series at least and quickly dispose of the Hawks. Roy Hibbert, Paul George and company are sure to be too much for point guard Jeff Teague, a cast of aging vets and inexperienced players to handle. Prediction: Pacers win 4-1

(2) Miami Heat vs. (8) Charlotte Bobcats

If this is going to be the year LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the rest of the Miami Heat finally get knocked off their championship thrones it's safe to assume the Charlotte Bobcats won't be the team to do it. The Bobcats making the playoffs for only the second time in franchise history, is a great accomplishment considering that only two seasons ago they finished with the worst winning percentage in NBA history. First year Charlotte head coach Steve Clifford changed the identity of the team, turning the Bobcats into a top-notch defensive unit, opposing teams averaged 97.1 points per game against them good for fourth best in the league. Charlotte big man Al Jefferson is sure to give Miami's front line fits, in the same game James scored 61 points  - Jefferson was nearly as unstoppable scoring 38 points and grabbing 19 rebounds. Young guards, both with NCAA championships on their resume - Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist make their playoff debuts going up against the mighty Heat which is going to be a tall task. How will they react under the playoff spotlight? In the big three era the Heat are known for making quick work of their first round opponents. Expect no change this year in fact the Bobcats are winless against the Heat since James and Bosh joined Wade in 2010. If the Heat stick to their first round trend that will give Wade additional time to rest his troublesome knees. Prediction: Heat win 4-0
(3) Toronto Raptors vs. (6) Brooklyn Nets
It was no secret the Brooklyn Nets wanted to face the Raptors in the first round even if it meant falling to the six seed and relinquishing home court advantage. Face it the Nets are the more experienced team, wily vets with championship pedigree Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett give the Nets an added edge but how much do they have left in the tank as they prepare to face off against a young hungry team ready to make a name for themselves? The Raptors in the playoffs for the first time since 2008 should take exception to the Nets intentionally falling in the standings just to face the Raptors even though Toronto won the Atlantic division and split the season series with Brooklyn. With what they lack in experience they can make up with pure talent and speed. The Raptors are capable of running the Nets out of the building but at the end expect the more experienced roster of the Brooklyn Nets to prevail. Mainly depending on if Deron Williams plays to his abilities and if Joe Johnson doesn't disappear in big moments. Pierce and Garnett were brought on board to be supporting role players not the main attraction. As fantastic as Kyle Lowry and first time All-Star DeMar DeRozan have played this season, Brooklyn's veteran savvy is just too much to overcome even with home court advantage. Prediction: Nets win 4-2

 (4) Chicago Bulls vs. (5) Washington Wizards 

In a series that is sure to be a dogfight filled with physical play and hard fouls with the likes of Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Maricn Gortat and Nene fighting for position in the paint. It will be interesting to see how up and coming duo John Wall and Bradley Beal play through the Bulls demanding style of play. The Bulls are battle tested; the Wizards are newcomers to the playoff party. Noah has been the difference maker for the Bulls this season averaging 12.6 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game - career highs across the board. Gibson, Kirk Hinrich and journeyman DJ Augustin along with Noah did not fold when injuries began to hit the team hard once again and now they find themselves in favorable position with home court advantage. Derrick Rose isn't expected to return in the postseason so let’s not begin that saga again. Do expect a coming out party for first time All-Star Wall and his backcourt buddy Beal. The Wizards have veteran role players like Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster off the bench that can score and shoot the three ball at a high rate. The Wizards won the season series two games to one and I expect this series to go the distance. Prediction: Bulls win 4-3
Let me know what you think!

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Sheridan Hoops