Friday, April 17, 2015
2015 NBA Playoffs - Eastern Conference First Round
The Raptors message for the playoffs will be that maybe they don't have the defense to win a championship, but they have the offense to at least win a first round series. Toronto finished fourth in the NBA in scoring, averaging 104 points per game. However, they also gave up triple digits in points per game, and that has been creeping up as an issue as Toronto limped to the finish line.
The Wizards jumped out to a fast start this season but they also played a lot of medicore to bad teams during that time. Once the schedule got harder the Wizards struggled and things got so bad at times that there was talk that Washington should fire coach Randy Wittman. They have battled various injuries throughout the season, especially SG Bradley Beal, but they enter the playoffs as healthy as they have been.
The Raptors leading scorer is SG DeMar DeRozan. He will be matched up with the Wizards Bradley Beal. I will detail it more later on in this post but Kyle Lowry versus John Wall will the ultimate matchup to watch. Both teams have equally skilled big men, with Marcin Gortat of the Wizards and Jonas Valanciunas. SF Terrence Ross and PF Amir Johnson round out the Raptors starting five and will face off with SF Paul Pierce and PF Nene. Kris Humphries, Otto Porter Jr., Drew Gooden and Ramon Sessions figure to be part of Wittman's playoff rotation. Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez are the Raptors strongest bench contributors.
The Wizards have a far different identity from the Raptors. They are an average offensive team but very strong defensively. Normally, defense wins out, but I think homecourt advantage will make the difference in this series, as Toronto edges Washington in a thrilling series.
Lowest Seed to Advance: #4 Toronto
I don't foresee any upsets in the First Round. The most competitive series will be Toronto versus Washington, with Milwaukee versus Chicago as the next most competitive series. I think the youth and lack of playoff experience for Boston will make them fall short in stealing a game from LeBron James and Cleveland, while Brooklyn will be lucky to win one game against the Atlanta Hawks.
Best One on One Matchup: Raptors PG Kyle Lowry vs. Wizards PG John Wall
I know this has been a Raptors/Wizards heavy post but it is the only truly intriguing series in the East. Sure seeing Celtics vs. Cavs will be fun for nostalgic reasons but the Celtics are no match for Cleveland. Kyle Lowry missed a few weeks recently with a back injury but returned to the lineup April 10th and appears to have shaken off any rust he had. Lowry averaged 18 points, 7 assists and 5 boards this year. He played well against Wall and the Wizards in the regular season and made some crucial plays down the wire in tight games. Wall rested for most of the last week of the regular season, so he should be raring to go when the series tips off Saturday. Wall also played well against Lowry this season and you can expect both players to come out firing in this series. Wall averaged 18 points as well this season but also had 10 assists per game, giving him the slight advantage over Lowry. Neither player can single-handedly lead their team to victory but whoever wins this one-on-one battle will go a long way to helping their team win.
#1 Atlanta Hawks over #8 Brooklyn Nets, 4-1
#4 Toronto Raptors over #5 Washington Wizards, 4-3
#2 Cleveland Cavaliers over #7 Boston Celtics, 4-0
#3 Chicago Bulls over #6 Milwaukee Bucks, 4-2