Sneak: NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs 1st Round

Published 04/19/2015, 9:30 AM EDT


ATLANTA HAWKS (60-22) Vs BROOKLYN NETS (38-44)

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The Hawks led by Coach Mike Budenholzer set a record in the East wining 19 matches in the winter. As a consequence, the starting 5 shared the Kia Player of the Month honors for the month of January. A franchise record four players (Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, Paul Milsap and Al Horford) made it to the All-Star game. On the other hand, Brookyln made the playoffs as they play in a historically inept Eastern Conference entailing NBA commissioner, Adam Silver to acknowledge the need for a change in the playoff seeding system.

The Nets still pose a threat as ex-Hawk Joe Johnson can catch fire at any point. Brook Lopez has had a solid season and was the primary reason for the Nets’ late season surge into the playoffs.

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Underrated players to watch out for: Dennis Schröder and Thaddeus Young.

Prediction: Hawks in 5.

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (53-29) Vs BOSTON CELTICS (40-42)

Led by a resurgent LeBron James, the Cavaliers has the best record in the NBA since mid- January and are reckoned to be the favorites to reach NBA Finals from the East despite being the second seeds. James is supported by fellow All-Stars, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, and mid-season acquisitions, J.R. Smith and Timofey Mozgov, who form one of the most potent lineups in the league. Boston was supposed to be in rebuild mode, but GM Danny Ainge’s wheeling and dealing combined with Coach Brad Stevens’ high basketball acumen has ensured a playoff berth for the Celtics. For the Celtics to have any chance of beating the Cavs, their three wing players Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Evan Turner would have to play out of their skins and Isiah Thomas would need to continue his free scoring ways.

Underrated players to watch out for: Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert and Jae Crowder.

Prediction: Cavaliers in 5.

CHICAGO BULLS (50-32) Vs MILWAUKEE BUCKS (41-41)

The Bulls battled to 50 wins despite the key players, Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, being injured. Off-season additions Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic combined with Most Improved Player candidate, Jimmy Butler, to stabilize their season and Rose back in the lineup, the Bulls would expect to beat their division rivals. The Bucks were the league’s surprise package this year, going from the league worst 15-67 to 41-14 and clinching the East’s sixth seed in the process. Milwaukee’s primary asset is the length of its key players, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Michael Carter-Williams and Khris Middleton. They will look to stifle Chicago’s defense and create easy fast break opportunities for themselves since they struggle to score in the half-court.

Underrated to players to watch out for: Tom Hesnon and Taj Gibson

Prediction: Bulls in 5.

TORONTO RAPTORS (49-33) Vs WASHINGTON WIZARDS (46-36)

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The Raptors raced out of the black but slowed down in the second half of the season as leading scorer, DeMar DeRozan, recovered from a torn tendon in his left leg. Kyle Lowry led the way for Toronto turning in his first All-Star season; he was supported by Jonas Valančiūnas and Sixth Man of the Year candidate, Lou Williams. Washington has an excellent back-court comprising of John Wall and Bradley Beal and along with veterans, Paul Pierce and Marcin Gortat, they ensured another playoff appearance for the Wizards. Pierce sounded the battle cry in an ESPN.com interview where he claimed that the Raptors don’t have the ‘IT’ to worry the Wizards.

Underrated players to watch out for: Amir Johnson, Patrick Patterson and Otto Porter Jr.

Prediction: Wizards in 7.

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edited by Bhavna Rachuri

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Arnav Jain

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