The first round of the 2016 Playoffs have ended. Injuries have plagued some, others have just dominated their matches and the East has seen some competitive series. Indiana-Toronto and Miami-Charlotte were very competitive, going down to the last game, whilst teams like Cleveland, San Antonio, Golden State and Oklahoma swept their opponents aside.

Most of the top contenders have made it to the conference semi-finals and it’s time for the real crunch. There is the Eastern conference final rematch, Toronto’s first second round series in 15 years and a clash between the Spurs and Thunder.

A look into the match ups, what are the strengths and weaknesses between the teams in the tie and the possible outcomes to set up some mouth-watering ties in the conference finals.

Eastern Conference

 

Atlanta Hawks (4) vs Cleveland Cavaliers (1)

Atlanta Hawks beat Boston Celtics 4-2 in the first round.
Cleveland Cavaliers beat Detroit Pistons 4-0 in the first round.

Rematch of the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals. While Cleveland swept away the Pistons, the Hawks faced some competition from Boston but through great team play overall, they were able to pull away from the Celtics to meet the Cavaliers. The 3 regular season meetings between the teams have been won by Cleveland.

Cleveland, who underwent a coaching change this season, have been on the same page for most of the season. For the first time, the Cleveland big 3 have made it past a playoff series with everyone healthy. Among the Eastern teams, Cleveland are one of the best scoring teams. In James, Love, Smith and Irving they have 4 starters who easily average in double figures, with James also providing for his teammates. Love, Mozgov and Thompson are the better rebounders for the team.

James, one of the members of the big 3 might have an easier job with Irving and Love healthy for the playoffs.
James, one of the members of the big 3 might have an easier job with Irving and Love healthy for the playoffs.

The Hawks, who have not replicated the same heights as last season still are a strong side. While not as prolific as Cleveland, they are more balanced in their contributions to their team. Milsap, Horford, Teague, Schroder, Krover and Bazemore have all been fairly consistent. However, if one suffers a bad day on the court, the others more than pick up the slack. Their unity has been a strong point.

Paul Millsap (4) Dennis Schroder (17) are some of the key players for the Hawks in their playoffs
Paul Millsap (4) Dennis Schroder (17) are some of the key players for the Hawks in their playoffs

Cleveland, who not only possess home court advantage, have a much better offence and marginally better defence than the Hawks. Irving has been the leading scorer in the playoffs, but its as easy for Love or James to step up. Smith is also capable of posing good numbers. Dellevedova, Shrumpert , Mozgov are being contributors off the bench as well. The Hawks’ biggest strength is their squad depth and the possibility of any member of the team stepping up. Krover, especially, can alternate between having a horrible shooting night, to shooting 3’s with every attempt.

Cleveland, who have a mental advantage over the Hawks (thanks to last year’s conference final sweep and winning the regular season series 3-0), should be able to take the series 4-0 once again.

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