2017 Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

(1) Boston Celtics vs (8) Chicago Bulls

Season Series: Tied 2-2

Four Factors:

 

Celtics

Bulls

Off Rtg

108.6

104.6

Def Rtg

105.5

104.5

Tov%

13.3

13.8

EFG

52.5

48.7

Key Matchup: Crowder vs Butler

If the Bulls want to have any shot at upsetting the Celtics, they will need Butler to put up big numbers. The guy in charge of keeping Butler in check will be Jae Crowder, one of the games toughest defenders. If Crowder can keep Butler in check then the Celtics should be celebrating their first playoff series win but if the Bulls can get Butler going then Boston may have to work just to make it out of the first round.

Burning question for Boston: Who will step up on offense to help Isaiah Thomas?

Burning question for Chicago: Can Jimmy Butler pull off a miracle?

Analysis: Boston wants to show the world that they are a legitimate threat to the Cavaliers this year and it would be a good start if they could come out and dominate the Bulls. The first 3 meetings between the two teams were decided by 6, 7 and 1 points with the last game being a 20 point Boston victory. Crowder will be responsible for Butler in this series and if he is able to keep him from putting up big numbers then Boston should be able to pull the series win out easily as Chicago is very dependent on its superstar to make plays.

Prediction: Celtics in 6

 

(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs (7) Indiana Pacers

Season Series: Cavaliers 3-1

Four Factors:

 

Cavaliers

Pacers

Off Rtg

110.9

106.2

Def Rtg

108.0

106.3

Tov%

13.7

13.9

EFG

54.7

51.6

Key Matchup: George vs James

Its no surprise the key matchup is the teams two best players and two guys who are among the games best. Paul George has been on fire lately almost single-handed willing his team into the playoffs while LeBron James has been a force all season and a deserving MVP candidate. If this series is to be a tight one then George will have to find a way to consistently defend LeBron while also attacking him Constantly on the offensive end.

Burning question for Cleveland: Can they look better defensively?

Burning question for Indiana: Can they slow down LeBron?

Analysis: The Cavaliers at one point seemed like the best team in the NBA but after the All-Star break, Cleveland hasn’t defended well or looked like that team that was capable of beating the Warriors. If the Cavs do flip the switch and look like they did earlier in the year then this series will be over quick but if they don’t the Pacers could force Cleveland to play longer then they would like. Indiana has looked sharper since signing Lance Stephenson and with George having a fantastic end to the season the Pacers want to prove they are better than their record says.

Prediction: Cavaliers in 6

 

(3) Toronto Raptors vs (6) Milwaukee Bucks

Season Series: Raptors 3-1

Four Factors:

 

Raptors

Bucks

Off Rtg

109.8

106.9

Def Rtg

104.9

106.4

Tov%

13.0

14.4

EFG

51.7

52.8

Key Matchup: Middleton vs DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan was fantastic at shouldering the scoring load while backcourt mate Kyle Lowry was out and if he is able to score at will the Raptors defense should be able to keep the Bucks from making it interesting. Milwaukee missed Middleton’s shooting early in the season but once he came back it helped open up the floor for the Bucks. If he can hit from outside it’ll allow Giannis more room for attacking.

Burning question for Toronto: Can Lowry and DeRozan both shoot well in a playoff series?

Burning question for Milwaukee: Can Giannis Antetokounmpo get enough support to pull the upset?

Analysis: Last year in the playoffs against the Pacers, the Raptors had to go 7 games just to win and it seemed DeRozan and Lowry both struggled to shoot the ball. If Toronto’s superstars can hit their shots then they should have the defense to hold the Bucks off and win the series but should the Raptors struggle again the Bucks are more than capable of pulling the upset. Between Middleton, Brogdon and Snell Milwaukee has the shooters to cause problems and Giannis should be able to get his points. For Milwaukee it becomes a question of can the stop Lowry and DeRozan?

Prediction: Raptors in 6

 

(4) Washington Wizards vs (5) Atlanta Hawks

Season Series: Wizards 3-1

Four Factors:

 

Wizards

Hawks

Off Rtg

108.5

102.3

Def Rtg

106.9

103.1

Tov%

14.1

15.7

EFG

52.8

50.4

Key Matchup: Beal vs Hardaway Jr.

Two guys who can score and shoot from outside should lead to a fun battle. Beal has been phenomenal this season when healthy and Hardaway Jr has proven to deserve more minutes. Both will shoot the ball a lot and whichever can get hot quicker could decide this series.

Burning question for Washington: Can they stop Millsap?

Burning question for Atlanta: Can the Hawks keep Wall from penetrating?

Analysis: The Wizards looked like the second best team in the Eastern Conference for awhile they faltered a bit down the stretch and ended up as the fourth seed. If they can get back to playing they were before then not only should they dispatch of the Hawks but they should see Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals but should they look lethargic or struggle they will have a tough time with Atlanta. The Hawks have Millsap and Howard down low which should give them a significant advantage but does Atlanta have enough talent on the perimeter to beat the Wizards.

Prediction: Wizards in 6

 

All stats are courtesy of NBA Stats and Basketball-Reference

 

 

 

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