NBA Eastern Conference 1st Round Predictions

1 Raptors Vs. 8 Wizards

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on The Lens Of Camm.

The Raptors and Wizards tied for the season series at 2-2. John Wall’s return to the Wizards lineup, prior to the postseason, sets up an interesting first round match-up between two teams who’d take an early exit as an underachieved season. The Raptors clinched the No. 1 seed in the East for the first time in franchise history.

Raptors X-Factors:

DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, the Raptors’ backcourt, have to close. It’s that simple. The duo has collapsed under the playoff spotlight time and time again. On the big stage, the duo fails to execute basic plays and is met with early playoff exits. The key is for them to treat every game like its Game 7. This duo vs. Bradley Beal and John Wall are the matchups to watch in this series.

Wizards X-Factor:

John Wall and Bradley Beal must apply the pressure to the Raptors. Wall has to elevate his team’s play and not play selfish, hero basketball. It’s apparent his return has diminished the chemistry of the Wizards but without him, they have no chance of a playoff run. It’s a conundrum. But if the two can play solid defensively and light up the scoreboard they may have a chance to outgun the Raptors.

Prediction: Raptors win series 4-3

2 Celtics Vs. 7 Bucks

The Celtics and Bucks tied for the season series at 2-2. This match-up will be an early test for the number 2 seed Celtics, who have been crippled with injuries this season. The Celtics were informed that their superstar, Kyrie Irving, would miss the playoff due to a left knee injury. Celtics shooting guard, Marcus Smart, has been given no timetable for his return to action after his right thumb injury.

Celtics X-Factor:

Coach Brad Stevens is the X-factor. His play calling and postseason experience will be critical for this matchup. Jaylen Brown will have the rise to the occasion because center, Al Horford, will be ready to battle Giannis as best as he can. Rookie Jayson Taytum has developed into a solid option for this team, but he’s still a rookie that lacks postseason experience. Brad Stevens will have to instill confidence in this young group and also be able to find ways to minimize the Bucks forward Giannis’ effectiveness.

Bucks X-Factors:

Giannis Antetokounmpo, the “Greek Freak”,  and rebounding are the keys to winning this series against the Celtics. The Bucks have the height advantage which is critical for offensive and defensive rebounding. I expect the Bucks to load up on blocks and be able to protect the rim forcing this Celtics team to be mid to long range jump shooters. No one on the Celtics roster is consistent enough offensively. The Greek Freak, standing at 6’11”, with a wingspan of 7’0″, must show why he’s unguardable. With the Bucks at full strength and the Celtics battling injuries, the time is now for the Bucks to send a message to all in the East.

Predictions: Bucks win series 4-2

3 Sixers Vs. 6 Heat

The Heat and Sixers (76ers) tied for the season series at 2-2. The 76ers went 2-0 against the Heat at Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers All-Star Center, Joel Embiid, will miss the first the first game of the series due to a facial injury, but Coach Brown has hopes he will be cleared to play for Gane 2. The Sixers ended their season on a 16 game winning streak.

Sixer X-factors:

Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid must continue their dominance. Ending the regular season off with 16 consecutive wins should be all the motivation this young core needs to win. Ben Simmons is an all-around point playmaker who can attack the rim at will and distribute the key pass to his teammates. Joel Embiid will be too tough a match-up for anyone on the Miami Heat. He will dominate near the rim and be a rim protector in this series. He can also stretch the floor for this team with his jumper. This team is trusting the process.

Heat X-factors:

Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade are the Heat’s best bet. The all-star point guard, Dragic, be ready to let the ball on pick and rolls. He’ll have to also find the open man on the defensive and be ready to pull up, instead of going to the rim. Dwyane Wade must apply his veteran leadership and wisdom to pull the youth on through this series. When it’s crunch time this team will need him to execute the big plays, on what could be Wade’s last playoff run.

Prediction: 76ers win series 4-1.

4 Cavaliers Vs. 5 Pacers

The Pacers won the season series over the Cavaliers (Cavs)  3-1. All four of those games took place before to the NBA trade deadline on February 8. The Cavs traded away six players and acquired four ones in Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr, Jordan Clarkson and George Hill. The Pacers should expect a different tempo and a completely different experience with this new look Cavs team. The Cavs became younger and more athletic with their trade, but they lost some experience; which is just as important as talent if you intend to make a deep playoff run. The Pacers aren’t a team the Cavaliers can take lightly.

Cavaliers X-Factors:

LeBron James & Kevin Love. The only thing scarier than LeBron James playing some of his best basketball after 15 seasons in the league, is realizing LeBron James is undefeated in 1st round series. LeBron is coming off a career-high 9.1 assists per game.  Kevin Love has returned to the just in time for the postseason and believes the Cavaliers are the team to beat. His mid-range and 3 pointers will set the tone for this series. Keep an eye on his match-up against the Pacers Forward, Myles Turner.

Pacers X-Factors:

Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner. Victor Oladipo elevated his game this season to new heights after falling short last season in Oklahoma City. Without question, he will receive the KIA NBA Most Improved Player award. He raised his field goal percentage from 44.2 percent to 47.4 percent, his 3-point percentage from 36.1 percent to 36.8 percent and his free throw percentage from 75.3 percent to 80.1 percent. He is the offensive weapon behind the Pacers. Myles Turner will be the threat near the rim and will be a tough match-up for any forward guarding him, besides LeBron. Kevin Love and LeBron vs Myles Turner is the key match-up. George Hill will not be able to keep up with the Oladipo, especially with the way

Victor has attacked the rim all season and elevated his shooting touch. I expect the Cavaliers to play zone defense and do a lot of rotations.

Prediction: Cavaliers Win Series 4-2