The NBA playoffs are about to get started and as much as people mock how long they take, it serves as a bridge to college basketball so I’m not hating.
So, without further adieu, here are my predictions.
(1) Boston Celtics vs (8) Chicago Bulls
Regular Season Series: 2-2
These two met opening night in Chicago when the Bulls roster was still singing Kumbaya. It resulted in a Bulls win but as the season went on and the Bulls were “Rondo-ed”, Chicago wasn’t always the place to be. With all that being said, they aren’t your typical “road kill” 8th seed. The Bulls are a veteran squad with a front line star in Jimmy Butler.
On the other hand, despite Isaiah Thomas’ fourth quarter efficiency, the Celtics are a modern day 2004 Detroit Pistons. The Celtics come into the series with a 3 game winning streak and the confidence of finishing in front of the Cavs (for what that’s worth). The Celtics said they haven’t played their best ball yet. The thing that would concern me is the Celtics act like they can turn it on and off and they group hasn’t shown they can do that.
In the end though, old legs will grind down and the Celtics will win the series in 6.
(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs (7) Indiana
Regular Season Series: Cavaliers 3-1
The Cavaliers are great for the NBA because no one generates more needless drama than them. Last year’s battle cry was “Stop trying to find a way to FIT-OUT and just FIT IN”. This year it was “We need a (expletive) playmaker”. Oh Cleveland, you’re the gift that keeps giving. No one keeps the NBA relevant more during the doldrums of the season than the Cavs.
But, the Cavs have issues beyond the self created drama. Defensively, this team has been an abomination. You can talk injuries effecting defensive cohesion but the numbers don’t lie. There’s a reason why the Cavaliers are tied with Brooklyn for 22nd in defensive efficiency. Lue’s challenge will be to get the players around LeBron to buy back into playing defense possession by possession, as opposed to, when they feel like it.
Like the Bulls, the Pacers have a bonafide superstar in Paul George. They are averaging 113.5 points against the Cavaliers this season. That’s what makes it concerning that, outside the first meeting, they couldn’t beat the Cavs. Their last meeting between the two turned into an episode of Hardwood Classics.
The Cavs 135-130 OT victory, LeBron James went for 41-14-11. Not to be outdone, Paul George wasn’t far behind with 43-9-9. As fans, we’ll take a sweep if you can have four games like that one. Cleveland will win this in 5 but pay close attention to how they win.
(3) Toronto vs (6) Milwaukee
Regular Season Series: Raptors 3-1
The season series was a head scratcher to me. It could’ve been a situation where Milwaukee caught Toronto at the wrong time but, on paper, you would think that the Bucks would be more successful against the Raptors. Giannis Antetokounmpo is a budding superstar on the biggest stage he’s been on in his young career. Despite injuries to Jabari Parker (season ending) and Khris Middleton, the Bucks posted a 42-40 record.
I’ll never understand why some are resistant to giving Jason Kidd credit but he deserves a lot of credit.
The Raptors come in with 4 straight wins and Kyle Lowry working his way back in the lineup. This is what makes it hard to handicap this series. You just don’t know what Raptors you’re getting. If Toronto wants to go deep in the playoffs, they have to have all-star Lowry. It’s hard to know if they’ll get there.
I’m not going to lie. I tried to fine ways to pick the Bucks in this but it comes down to the complementary parts. And at the end of the day, I chose Jonas Valanciunas, Serge Ibaka and DeMarre Carroll over Greg Monroe, Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon. Toronto will see some resistance but win in 6.
(4) Washington vs (5) Atlanta
Regular Season Series: Washington 3-1
This series needs Paul Pierce!! These two played an epic playoff series two seasons ago.
Both teams have changed so much since then. The Hawks aren’t close to being the three point shooting team they were then. The Wizards are a more mature team despite John Wall’s technical foul issues.
Wall and Beal have a mindset that screams now or never. It’s been since the Gilbert Arenas years since the Wizards fan base could be this excited about the playoffs. Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat will need to play big if the Wizards want to advance. Kelly Oubre Jr. has grown leaps and bounds while Washington’s bench has gotten a boost with the additions of Brandon Jennings and Bojan Bogdanovic.
Hawks have won 4 out of their last 5 with their only loss being a “rest game”. Key for the Hawks against the Wizards come down to Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard. Schroder turned the ball over 10 times in their last game against Washington (a 104-100 loss). On the other hand, Howard has double-double in all 4 games against Washington who will be without Ian Mahinmi.
This series will be decided by Washington’s maturity. If they can treat this series in an all business manner, they should be able to take care of business. But, if they take any games off and let Atlanta hang around the series will become a lot more interesting than it should be. Washington in 7.
Marcus “Mook” Washington is the host of Making The Cut. Follow Mook on Twitter: @mtcwithmook and IG: MTCWithMook