Welcome to South Shore Ave’s NBA Playoff Preview #SaturdayMorningSpecial. With the help of my friend Headley Bent, we provide you a quick and efficient breakdown of the Eastern Conference Playoffs to get your morning started before we get to the first set of today’s playoff games. So get your popcorn coffee ready, we got you covered….
Will Indiana Recover From Their Slump Enough to Make Out of the East?
Headley: The short answer is No. While the thinking is Miami will end their journey in the conference finals… I beg to differ. Pacers better not count their eggs before they hatch. I don’t see them having many problems with the depleted Atlanta Hawks, but then it gets interesting in the second round when they take on the most likely foe in the Chicago Bulls. Without Rose, this team is more blue-collar than the Pacers. They’re ending the season hot with a winning road record. And with potential DPOY in Noah playing his best ball (although undersized)… he ain’t shying away from Hibbert. And who would right now? He is playing like straight garbage. The Bulls have great defense like their counterpart, and has bench scoring in Augustine and Gibson that Indiana can’t match. Remember what Chicago did to Brooklyn last year?
Cee: Nope. I’m not sure about anyone else, but from the beginning of the season, I thought it was a little weird the way Indiana approached the year gunning with all their might to get the #1 seed in the East. As if this is the only way to beat a team like Miami. If you plan on winning an NBA title, you’re going to have win games on the road. Miami two years ago won the NBA Title giving up homecourt advantage to Oklahoma City. The year before, Dallas won the NBA Title on Miami’s floor. It’s important to get homecourt, but it’s not the end of the world. It makes it worse that the early season success they had went to their heads faster than gulping down a .40 ounce bottle of Ole English on an empty stomach.
A couple of months ago, I stated that the Pacers were retracing the arch of those early 90s Knicks teams. But those Knicks teams had more of a killer instinct and would not have faltered like this. They would have fought everyone first before they let themselves go into a funk like this. Can you imagine Pat Riley benching Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, John Starks, Doc Rivers, and Charles Smith vs. these Milwaukee Bucks to save their confidence from totally shattering to pieces had they lost against Brandon Knight & ’em? Gimme a break. It turns out that they did get that #1 seed after all, but the way they got it can’t be celebrated. It’s like celebrating a home run after only getting a double. The job’s only halfway done, & seeing that they go through scoring lapses & droughts at times, I don’t see them getting past third. Especially not past a healthy Miami team reaching for history.
Would It Have Been Better if UConn or Kentucky Got the #8 Seed in the East?
Headley: The short answer is Yes. The Hawks should lose in 4. I might as well see the best in college lose in 4 to see how they man up against NBA talent. That game would surely have better ratings. But in all honesty, they need to do a cross-conference playoff swap. For one spot only… if the best team in the conference to miss a playoff spot is eliminated and they posted a win-loss record that’s better than the other conference’s best team in the same scenario by 10 games or more… they get in. FYI: Suns had 48 wins while ATL had 38.
Cee:It might have. Better yet, if you combined the top 6 players from both programs (think Julius Randle, James Young, Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright, & DeAndre Daniels as the starting five), I definitely think it would have a better shot vs the Pacers than the Hawks would. I know for a fact that Kentucky Huskies would have appreciated being there waaaaaaaaaaay more (Napier would have been shit happy with the road Per Diem alone). Look, Atlanta’s probably the only playoff team in the NBA that’s not happy to be there. What do you think they would rather: the 8th or 9th pick in the lottery or locking down the 15th pick, AND the right to lose in five games to Indy where they average about 13,000 fans in their 2 playoff home games? Hmmm, you tell me. I mean, Hawks GM Danny Ferry, basically told us he doesn’t care about the playoff spot. You’re telling me the UK Huskies couldn’t get a trial run at this??? Also, NO! I don’t want to see the Knicks in that spot either. After what we just saw for 82 games, they have no business being there. I don’t care how good Carmelo played this season.
We can’t understate just how utterly shitty the East has been this regular season. Indiana fell into a 2 1/2 month swoon & Miami went 11-14 in their last 25 games, yet not only did both teams finish head & shoulders about the rest of the teams in the conference, but they were the only teams in the East to win 50 games or more. New York (a team who won 54 games last season) & Cleveland (a team whose owner said after winning last year’s lottery “This is our last year in the lottery”) both underachieved to alarming degrees. Detroit who spent almost $80M in salary to upgrade their team with Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings didn’t even win 30 games. Philadelphia at one point lost 26 straight games this season, & still finished 4 games behind Milwaukee in the standings. Outside of Miami and Indiana, none of the other playoff teams really move the needle in terms of interest. If it wasn’t for the Raptors, I would actually boycott all the series in the East until the Conference Finals.
What Player Can Make Himself a Star in the Eastern Conference Playoffs?
Headley: Players like John Wall and Al Jefferson have a chance to show they’re worth their hefty contracts, but I don’t see them getting past the first round. I’m biased, but I believe DeMar Derozan and/or Kyle Lowry finally have a chance to showcase their stuff on national TV for a couple series and see why the Raptors just posted the best record in franchise history. With a solid post season… they can become solidified in Raptor history and earn the notoriety that they simply don’t get playing north of the border. And for Lowry… a solid post season may finally put to rest doubts of him signing the contract he wants.
Sidenote: I had to add this at the eleventh hour when I found out our matchup is against Brooklyn and not Washington. I’m scared of the Brooklyn Nets. They finally ended the season how people expected them to enter it. A team with that much talent and post season experience… you cannot take them lightly. They won’t wilt under the lights so you better not leave the door open or they will capitalize. And Toronto is green to post season experience so while I am taking Lowry and DeRozen, as having a breakout post season. I pick them slightly over Wall and Jefferson seeing they have home court advantage, but I am not overly confident. Plus I don’t want a-hole friends like Marco texting me.
Cee: I’d like to pick someone who will possibly get out of the first round, so that immediately eliminates Al Jefferson (who I predict will still dominate the Heat in Round One) and John Wall (1st time playoff participant vs. THAT Bulls D? No thanks.) from contention. By default, it will be the Raptors duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. I know people are counting them out against the Brooklyn Nets, and teams are trying to line up to get into their bracket, but there was a reason why they got the #3 seed. Since trading Rudy Gay, they have been one of the best teams in the NBA, & they play hard on both ends of the floor, but it starts with Lowry & DeRozan. Although DeRozan was the All Star on the team, Lowry was the heart & soul of the Raptors & the team has taken on his personality more than anyone else. I can see him having a big series vs. the Nets, hitting big shots & making big plays. It won’t be on a level like Steph Curry put on in last year’s playoffs, but it’ll be more than noticeable.
Who is Coming Out of the East?
Cee: After watching how Indiana’s imploded the last few months, I don’t even care if they have homecourt advantage through the Eastern Conference Playoffs, their confidence has shown its cracks. They’ll get past Atlanta relatively easy, then will get past Chicago after a bruising series, and will run out out gas playing the Heat. For the Pacers to get to the Finals, they need Paul George to perform like that MVP candidate that he showed earlier in the year. More importantly, they need him on offense, to match LeBron’s skillset when they meet up. As much talent as he has, I think he’s another year away to possibly reach that LBJ/KD level. Between that & my expectation that Lance Stephenson will do something stupid at the worst possible time, Miami will be heading to their 4th straight finals.
Headley: Miami has made the finals three years consecutively, why would I think anything differently?!?!? If you asked me around the all-star break, it would involve a lot more pondering. However, the way the Pacers has faltered the last third of the season, and the fact I have the Bulls upsetting the Pacers in the conference semi-finals, this decision is easy as pie. I wish I could be more insightful but there really isn’t much to say about the inevitable.
Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions
1. Pacers over 8. Hawks
4. Bulls over 5. Wizards
2. Heat over 7. Bobcats
3. Raptors over 6. Nets
4. Bulls over 1. Pacers
2. Heat over 3. Raptors
2. Heat over 4. Bulls
1. Pacers over 8. Hawks
4. Bulls over 5. Wizards
2. Heat over 7. Bobcats
3. Raptors over 6. Nets
1. Pacers over 4. Bulls
2. Heat over 3. Raps
2. Heat over 1. Pacers
Cal Cee // South Shore Ave
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Special thanks to Headley Bent for contributing to this article/posting.