NBA Eastern Conference Playoff Storylines
By Brandon Simmons
Boston Celtics vs. Chicago Bulls
The Boston Celtics have pulled off a pretty sneaky upset this season: that is become the number 1 seed for the playoffs, edging out everyone’s perennial favorite, the Cleveland Cavaliers. While most of the NBA world marveled over Westbrook and Harden, they overlooked the pint-size power of guard Isiah Thomas, who was 3rd in the league in scoring. The Celtics’ late season wins over the Cavaliers have put him in the position to get home court advantage throughout the postseason. But how long can they hold this spot and maintain fear in their opponents? They had a 3 game winning streak coming into the playoffs, but that was after back-to-back losses to Atlanta and Cleveland, two teams they could be seeing in the 2nd round. That is, if they can get the Chicago Bulls and their dysfunction.
Washington Wizards vs. Atlanta Hawks
In his 7th NBA season, Wizards guard John Wall has 3 playoff appearances, including this weekend’s matchup against the Atlanta Hawks. For the most part, he has been stellar at his position but now is the time when playoff success should equal more than a few first round wins. He’s having the best year of his career right now averaging 23.1 ppg and 10.7 apg. With Bradley Beal, another explosive talent by his side, this should put him closer to the Eastern Conference Finals, especially with a vulnerable Cavaliers squad at the moment.
Toronto Raptors vs. Milwaukee Bucks
The world will finally get to see the The Greek Freak, but you may affectionately know him as Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Milwaukee Buck small forward has been a bright spot for this team ever since guard Jabari Parker had surgery to repair his left ACL, which caused him to be lost for the year. There’s not a lot of opportunities for Milwaukee to be on national television so you may as well be speaking greek when discussing the playoff chances of the Bucks. When you combine that with the fact the Toronto Raptors are looking for some redemption after losing last year’s Eastern Conference Finals to the Cavs, then understand this may be the one shot to see Giannis and decide whether or not you want to get on the bandwagon now or later.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Indiana Pacers
Throughout this article, it has been foreshadowed that the Cleveland Cavaliers might not be the same squad everyone is afraid of. That idea was started by the fact the Cavs went 23-23 in their last 46 games and they lost out on clinching the number 1 seed for the Eastern Conference playoffs. Is that enough to cast doubt on the defending champions? But you would think that a team stacked with one of the league’s best snipers in Kyle Korver, former all-star Deron Williams coming off of your bench, one of the quickest guards in Kyrie Irving, and of course, Lebron James, you should be blowing people out all year. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. They have suffered some huge losses, including an overtime beating to the Atlanta Hawks in which they gave up a 26 point lead in the 4th quarter.
It’s no secret that Cleveland, or any team James is on, can get busy in the postseason; but it is a concern that they are taking these hits this late in the regular season. They might not have had all their starters in the final 3 games but there is too much talent on your team to be losing 3 straight. That shows weakness in your depth which will be a huge problem depending how far you go into the playoffs. The only team used to seeing Lebron be surrounded by this much struggle is the Indiana Pacers. While this Pacers team is not the same Pacers squad who challenged James in his days with the Miami Heat, they still have Paul George and brought back Lance Stephenson. Stephenson infamously blew in Lebron’s ear as a means to intimidate the superstar forward. Since he left Indiana, Stephenson has not been close to the success he had as a Pacer. They are the perfect team to hit the Cavaliers in the mouth right now. Even if it they get one good hit in, these will definitely be some punches worth watching.
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