1) Boston vs 8) Chicago
Regular Season series tied 2-2
The Boston Celtics are the top seed in the East, but they are not the favorite to represent the conference in the NBA Finals. That honor falls to the Cavs for the third straight year. While the C’s finished the year at the top, it is all a bit deceiving. Boston did not win the regular season series against any of the top 5 teams in the East. Thanks to coach Brad Stevens and point guard, Isaiah Thomas, though, the Celtics are always in a game and a series.
On paper, Chicago seems to have all the parts to be a contender. They have the veteran point guard in Rajon Rondo, the prolific scorer in Jimmy Butler and the leadership and championship experience in Dwyane Wade. The problem is this season, the Bulls have had a hard time putting it together on a consistent basis. The Bulls were 12-9 against the teams with the league’s eight best records, but just 13-12 against the teams with the league’s nine worst records.
While Boston and Chicago have never matched dominance on the NBA court. The Celtics pretty much owned the 60s and 70s then traded blows with the Lakers in the 80s. While the Bulls dominated the 90s. In music, the bands Boston and Chicago both peaked during the 70s and 80s. Boston reportedly sold over 70 million records during their run while Chicago has sold 40 million. Both land in the top 40 of best selling artists of all time.
Out of all the nonsensical slants, this may be the most nonsensical. Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls—BC vs. CB. You’re welcome.
Best Possible Outcome:
Boston: NBA Finals
Chicago: Eastern Conference Semifinals
2) Cleveland vs. 7) Indiana
In Part I of our NBA Preview I mentioned: “Death, Taxes and the San Antonio Spurs are title contenders.” You could also add LeBron James in the NBA Finals to that list. The last six years, James has finished the year in the NBA Finals, winning three out of those six years. Let me restate that again, SIX straight NBA Finals. He is the quintessential poster boy that the NBA is a superstar driven league. This year will probably be no different…probably.
It was not too long ago that Indiana looked like it would replace Miami as the top team in the East. Then Roy Hibbert disappeared like he was in “Stranger Things” and everything else fall apart.
Now the Pacers are back and have a stud of their own in Paul George. Lance Stephenson is back too. What this series will come down to, however, is whether or not Cleveland can turn it on as Lebron’s teams usually do for the playoffs. If they can do that, a championship is possible, if not, Indiana might upset them in round one.
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3) Toronto vs. 6) Milwaukee
Toronto won regular season series 3-1
Toronto, arguably, has the best backcourt in the Eastern Conference in Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. A legitimate double-double center in Jonas Valanciunas. A three-and-d wing in PJ Tucker, and a defensive stopper in Serge Ibaka. What I’m trying to say is on paper, one of the top execs in the NBA, Masai Ujiri, has built a roster meant to compete for an NBA crown. The problem is Toronto has yet to transition from a regular season performer to a playoff contender. Ujiri put this team on notice with his trade for Ibaka that the time is now. The only question is whether or not the urgency will spill over to the court.
Milwaukee, much like Utah in the West is powered by a young and talented nucleus. The Bucks have made the most of their position in the draft lottery, stealing Giannis Antetokounmpo in the 2013 draft. A year later, the Bucks nabbed Jabari Parker after finishing with the worst record in the NBA. This year, Milwaukee did it again getting immediate help with two picks, Thon Maker and Malcolm Brogdon. The Bucks have shown resiliency finishing the year with a 20-12 record after losing Parker for the year.
The Raptors are more experienced and have more depth, but Antetokounmpo is the best player in the series. What that means in the postseason when superstars drive victories, we will see.
This year, the NBA has had a fascination with unicorns. It’s unclear when we started referring to truly unique talents as unicorns but here we are. Antetokounmpo is the only one of the current crop of unicorns still playing in the postseason.
The first written account of a unicorn in Western literature comes from the Greek doctor Ctesias in the 4th century BCE. While traveling through Persia (modern-day Iran), he heard tales of a single-horned “wild ass” roaming the eastern part of the world from fellow travelers. In his writings (obtained from Odell Shepard’s 1930 research manual “Lore of the Unicorn”), Ctesias described these creatures as “large as horses” with white bodies, red heads, and blue eyes. Ctesias depicted the horn as multi-colored and about a foot and half in length.
Then there are always the unicorns in the Disney film Fantasia. While Rainbow Brite’s horse Starlite was not a unicorn, she did have a star where a horn once was, so I’d like to think that she was just the continuance of the evolutionary process.
Toronto should just start playoff series’ down 0-1. The Raptors have not won a Game 1 in the playoffs since 2001. They are 1-11 all-time.
Best Possible Outcome:
Toronto: Eastern Conference Finals
Milwaukee: Eastern Conference Finals
4) Washington vs. 5) Atlanta
Washington won the regular season series 3-1
So maybe Scott Brooks can coach a little bit. The former Oklahoma City head man was disposed of two seasons ago after never being able to fit Kevin Durant and Westbrook for championship rings. After a season away from the game, he has helped transform the Wizards into a legitimate playoff contender. Point guard John Wall, wings Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter have had breakout seasons. Ian Mahinmi, Marcin Gortat, and Markieff Morris also add depth in the front court. Brooks just now has to prove that he can do in the postseason, what he’s been able to do in the regular season.
Atlanta, on the other hand, started 9-2 but watched as the season falls into mediocrity by the midway point forcing the Hawks to trade sniper Kyle Korver for some draft picks and a couple veteran players. This season puts the franchise in a crossroads of sorts. Dennis Schroder and Tim Hardaway, Jr. are a viable backcourt with a great future ahead of them. While this past year, Dwight Howard joined Paul Millsap to form a decent low-post presence. There’s no denying Mike Budenholzer can coach, but they seem to lack the elite player to take over games when needed, especially in the playoffs when every possession counts.
Arguably, the most famous Wizard of all is Harry Potter. In his books, we are introduced to the game of Quidditch. In the infamous 1994 World Cup, Ireland’s National Team created a new form of offense.
The Hawkshead Attacking Formation is a Quidditch tactic named after the hawk, invented by Darren O’Hare. The team’s Chasers fly together in an arrowhead towards the opposition goalposts. The tactic intimidates the opposition and is effective at forcing players to move aside to allow a scoring opportunity.
The Wizards will enter the playoffs with the unique distinction of finishing with the most wins by a team whose season began so dreadfully. Washington started 2-8 and finished the season 49-33.
Best Possible Outcome:
Washington: Eastern Conference Finals
Atlanta: Eastern Conference Semifinals
Click here for Part I: (Your No Nonsense, Nonsensical Guide to the NBA Playoffs Part I – Western Conference)
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