(AP Photo/Nick Wass)
(Note: Article written on 03/22/18)
As the NBA playoffs get closer, we look at the Eastern Conference standings and see what kind of matchups we may get.
The teams are already set. Don’t deny it.
The Raptors and Celtics have the number one and two spots, respectively, and are the only teams in the East to have clinched a playoff spot. This order is not likely to change, but it is still possible. The Cavs then stand 1.5 games above the Sixers and Pacers. The Wizards are a half game back behind the Sixers and Pacers. The Bucks and Heat seem to be having their own battle for the seventh spot.
So, I do think the East playoffs take some time to get interesting. The first round matchups have potential to be really good. I’m especially excited for the 3-seed vs 6-seed and 4-seed vs 5-seed. As of right now, it would be the Cavs playing the Wizards and the Pacers playing the Sixers. These two matchups have potential to go to seven games and be pretty exciting (especially with John Wall coming back). These four teams are teams to watch for.
A question I do have is if the Bucks can actually make a series interesting. They honestly have a very good lineup and starting lineup, but the coaching does seem to be a problem. Joe Prunty (Interim coach) is my biggest concern on this Milwaukee team. If Giannis, Bledsoe, and the Deer can make something happen, they would need to prove themselves in the first round. They will most likely go against the Raptors or the Celtics, so winning in the first round would be huge for them. Jabari Parker is also quietly averaging double figures every game, so he could be a dark horse for the Bucks.
I don’t think the Heat can make it past the first round. I honestly don’t. They have an all-star in Dragic and a veteran in Wade, but can they really make it past the first round? I think a Heat Cavs matchup could be interesting and they might be able to win a game or even two against the Celtics, but other than that, I don’t really think they could make things interesting. They best thing they could do is move up to the six seed and give us a Wizards Celtics series in the first round (but as a Celtics fan, I don’t think I need that stress so early in the playoffs). When Whiteside comes back, they can win some more games and maybe prove to some people they can get to the second round, but I doubt it. Prove me wrong Miami.
I also just realized I have been assuming the Celtics are going to be really good in playoffs (I am a little biased towards them), but there is no guarantee. Kyrie’s knee has been a pain in the butt for a long time, and he is officially looking at a second opinion for his knee. Marcus Smart is most likely going to be back for a second round in the playoffs (assuming they survive for that long). I’m surprised Jaylen Brown isn’t back yet, because it has been a long time just for a concussion. Theis is not coming back. So, there are some injuries we don’t really have a timetable for, and I do believe the Celtics can get past the first round (although it will be hard), just based on the way they have been playing these last few games. Tatum, Horford, and Rozier will have to come up big in these playoffs. The Celtics future in the playoffs is iffy. I still think they can make it to the ECF, but farther than that might be a bit of a stretch looking at the injuries.
In the East, I’m really looking at those 3-6 seeds and how they are playing. They are really going to dictate what happens in the playoffs. Also, watch the Raptors Celtics games coming up (3/31 and 4/3). They should give you an understanding of which team is better, but the Celtics are probably still going to be undermanned in those games.