NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs: Is That All There Is?
It’s finally here: the 2015 playoffs have arrived!
With the season coming to a close Wednesday night -- and Shawn Kemp throwing a party in Seattle because Oklahoma City missed the post-season -- the seeds are set and games are ready to begin this weekend.
Let’s take a look at each first-round matchup and decide where we’ll have blowouts and where we might actually see some entertaining basketball.
Just to get it out of the way, we’ll talk about the East first.
I’m going to be brutally frank, here. There isn’t a single first-round matchup in this conference that's even mildly interesting to me. For the sake of continuity, I’ll go through each one, anyway, and see if we can’t find at least one reason to watch.
1 Atlanta vs 8 Brooklyn
My Prediction: 4-0 Hawks
My Analysis: Boring. Atlanta is most likely going to sweep all four games. Most of the talk while it's happening is going to be about Thabo Sefolosha’s off-court season-ending injury, because there won’t be much to say about the basketball being played.
My No 1 Thing to Watch: Can Kyle Korver shoot 70% from three in this series? He’s 'struggled' lately, but he should have plenty of chances to find his shot against Brooklyn.
2 Cleveland vs 7 Boston
My Prediction: 4-1 Cavaliers
My Analysis: The Celtics have some feisty in them. I think a few of these games will be close, especially in Boston, but ultimately LeBron will guard Isaah Thomas in the fourth quarter and win most of these games. The Celts definitely have the scoring ability to take a game or two, though.
My No 1 Thing to Watch: There's going to be a considerable amount of spotlight surrounding Cleveland, LeBron and Kevin Love this offseason. The second they start struggling, everyone is going to be pointing at Love. If the Celts somehow find a way to make this series 2-2, the Cavs will hit some very early media adversity.
3 Chicago vs 6 Milwaukee
My Prediction: 4-2 Bulls
My Analysis: I lied. This series actually interests me a little bit. I like this young Milwaukee team, and they’re facing a very uncertain Bulls team that a) just got Derrick Rose back again and b) has been plagued by injuries as well as a potential front office/coach clash. However, Chicago’s considerable volume of playoff experience gives them a huge advantage over these Baby Bucks. We'll see flashes of skill from this crew, but they're still building something. Their ultimate loss to the Bulls will be a valuable learning experience.
My No 1 Thing to Watch: Playing in Milwaukee, these young Bucks -- pun intended, I guess -- will have a much bigger spotlight on them than usual. I don’t know for sure how many times they’ve played on national TV this year, but I’d put the line at 2.5 and probably take the under.
4 Toronto Raptors vs 5 Washington Wizards
My Prediction: 4-3 Wizards
My Analysis: Just because a series goes seven games doesn’t mean it's going to be a good one. Remember DWade’s Heat vs the Joe Johnson Hawks in 2009? Wikipedia does. That series went seven, and no game was decided by less than 10 points. I’m not saying that’s exactly what'll happen here, but these are two talented teams who really sorta flopped at taking the next step. Both of these clubs are probably worse than they were last year. There could be some blowouts, folks.
My No 1 Thing to Watch: Paul Pierce has openly criticized the Raptors and about a dozen other people recently in a very blunt interview he did with Jackie MacMullen. Can that fire up one or both of these squads? Will the playoffs light a fire under these young but promising and talented stars? Will less filling ever truly challenge great taste?
If you're a true NBA fan, now's your time to prove it. Watch these if you dare. You'll be looking at eight reasons -- well, six for certain -- why the league's TV ratings shrank this season, and no excuse will mask the reality.