2015 NBA Playoffs Free Picks & Predictions – Eastern Conference First-Round Series Predictions: The 2014-15 NBA regular season has come to a close, and with the playoffs set to begin this weekend, it is time to take a closer look at the first-round playoff matchups in the Eastern Conference. As has been the case in recent years, the top-to-bottom depth in the East doesn’t rival the West, and two teams actually made the playoffs despite finishing below .500. With that in mind, here is a closer look at all four first-round playoff matchups in the Eastern Conference.
2015 NBA Playoffs Free Picks & Expert Predictions: Eastern Conference Playoffs First-Round Series Predictions
No. 8 Brooklyn Nets vs. No. 1 Atlanta Hawks
On the surface, this series appears to be a total mismatch. After all, the Hawks won all four meetings with the Nets during the regular season, winning by an average of 17.3 points. However, the Nets played much better down the stretch of the year thanks to strong play from point guard Deron Williams and center Brook Lopez, and in their final meeting with the Hawks, they lost by just three points. That being said, there is no doubt that Atlanta is still the more balanced, consistent team, and the Hawks’ fifth-ranked scoring defense is particularly stifling on the perimeter. Plus, Atlanta should be at full strength now that forward Paul Millsap is back from a shoulder injury. Look for the much-improved Nets to grab a game or two, but the Hawks went 35-6 at home this year and won’t squander home-court advantage.
Prediction: Atlanta Hawks Win in 6 Games
No. 7 Boston Celtics vs. No. 2 Cleveland Cavaliers
When the season began, the Celtics were penciled in as a lock for the lottery, but by overachieving a bit and playing in the putrid Eastern Conference, their 40-42 record was more than enough to secure a playoff spot. Unfortunately, Boston’s reward is a matchup against a Cavaliers team that is considered the favorite to win the title by most oddsmakers. Granted, these teams actually split four regular-season meetings, but Cleveland wasn’t close to full strength in either loss, and the Cavaliers averaged 116.0 points per game in their two wins. With a roster that was bolstered throughout the year with multiple trades and with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love healthy and rested, the Cavaliers are going to roll over the Celtics as they begin their pursuit of a championship.
Prediction: Cleveland Cavaliers Win in 4 Games
No. 6 Milwaukee Bucks vs. No. 3 Chicago Bulls
Although they aren’t quite 100 percent heading into the postseason, the Bulls should have point guard Derrick Rose, forward Taj Gibson and center Joakim Noah available for Game 1. Plus, the Bulls probably won’t need to be at full strength to get past a Milwaukee team that hasn’t been playing as well since trading away Brandon Knight at the deadline. The Bulls also won three of their four meetings with the Bucks during the regular season, and forward Pau Gasol was particularly dominant against Milwaukee’s weak interior defense. Milwaukee has a couple of streaky offensive players in guard Michael Carter-Williams and forward Khris Middleton that are capable of getting hot and stealing a game, but the Bucks don’t have to firepower to win the series.
Prediction: Chicago Bulls Win in 5 Games
No. 5 Washington Wizards vs. No. 4 Toronto Raptors
After starting the year as two of the strongest teams in the conference, both the Wizards and Raptors struggled during the second half of the year. Washington was particularly awful after the All-Star break, although the Wizards did right the ship a bit in the final weeks. The series figures to be a battle of backcourts with Toronto’s Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan going up against Washington’s John Wall and Bradley Beal. Wall is probably the best individual player in the matchup, but Lowry and DeRozan are both healthy and somewhat rested after missing time with injuries during the year and have been playing well of late. Washington tends to struggle against teams with solid guard play, and the Raptors went 3-0 against the Wizards in the regular season. With Lowry and DeRozan leading the way, Toronto can take the series against the sliding Wizards.
Prediction: Toronto Raptors Win in 6 Games
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