The 2017 regular season has come to an end. All 30 NBA franchises started the journey back in October of ’16. After a brutal 82 game schedule, through the grit and grind, the highs and lows and for many into the record books, 16 have made the cut. After battling for the next couple of months the NBA will declare new champions for the season. However, it will start from the first round (of 3 in all) before any team gets a shot at their counterpart from the other coast. Here are the match-ups from the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs:
Celtics (1) vs. Bulls (8)
The Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls split the regular season series at an even 2-2. The 2017 season saw the emergence of Isaiah Thomas along with the new acquisition of Al Horford into their mix. Isaiah Thomas made heads turn with MVP level performance for most of the season allowing the Celtics to come out of the East with the top seed and are expected to potentially derail LeBron prior to the Finals. Having said so, they have a solid chance of ousting the Bulls who have been dysfunctional to say the least. Although the Celtics have a coach of the year candidate in Brad Stevens, they’ve never won a playoff series before and are yet to prove themselves in the playoffs. Another interesting angle to watch out for would be to see how they fair out having the held their ground at the trade deadline for a potential Brooklyn picks.
The Celtics have a major upside over the Chicago team but many predict that an upset might be in order. And what an upset would that be! Celtics are a relatively young and are a little shorthanded when it comes to their bigs and swiping the boards. Interestingly enough, Dwayne Wade has more playoff minutes on him that the entire Boston squad combined. Add that with a fellow champion in Rondo and Jimmy Butler, who is a bonafide two-way superstar and we may have ourselves a series. The Bulls have been horrendous with their shooting throughout the season but strangely enough after trading away Gibson and McDermott (a move which baffled many) they have been top 5 defensively.
Cavaliers (2) vs. Pacers (7)
The Cleveland Cavaliers won the season series against the Indiana Pacers 3-1. The matchup tends to rekindle rivalry talks as it serves as a reminder to Lebron’s previous encounters (then as a Heat) against the Pacers. Though the Pacers have only recently signed Lance Stephenson who was virtually out of the league before the said acquisition, the Pacers haven’t been the same team as in previous years. The only plus that they’ve going for them would be the fact that Paul George has been playing the best basketball since his injury before the Olympics. Paul George has a history of great playoff performances like last year when he almost single headedly won the series against the Raptors. He is a tremendous defender and with a young talent like Myles Turner, they might put up a decent fight.
Be it the monstrous comeback victory against the Warriors last season or the regular rants that LeBron masterfully delivers at various phases of the season, the Cleveland Cavaliers have a tendency of making headlines time and again. The Cavs have been accumulating talent and have shaped themselves anticipating a Warriors rematch. They have been second only to the Rockets in attempted 3-pointers but finished the season quite poorly and recorded the 8th worst defence in the league. Openly resting players and possible victims to ‘championship complacency’, the Cavs are now anticipating that they will flip the switch and finally reveal their real hand. Regardless, there is no apparent evidence to believe otherwise.
Raptors (3) vs. Milwaukee (6)
The Toronto Raptors won the series 3-1 in the regular season. Before we begin to dig deep, we must note that both teams played a majority of the season without crucial parts. Kyle Lowry has only just returned and the question of him being in peak form still looms. The Milwaukee Bucks on the other hand lost a key component in rookie Jabari Parker who was producing at extremely high levels alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo who is an unknown entity in the playoffs. No team has a real answer for the Greek Freak. As great as Giannis is, there isn’t much wiggle room for the Bucks to come out of the first round. He has good support in rookie Malcolm Brogdon and Dellevedova but the odds are stacked against them. The Raptors came very close to winning the East last season only to be overcome by the eventual champions. Though they lost Bismak Biyambo who was an integral part to the deep playoff push, they’ve managed to assemble a tough line-up by adding P.J. Tucker and Surge Ibaka. The numbers, talent, bench depth and experience all back the Toronto Raptors . It is only going to be a matter to execution on their part.
Wizards (4) vs. Hawks (5)
The Washington Wizards also won this series 3-1 in the regular season.The stage is set for John Wall is to take off for the playoffs starting with revenge against the Hawks for the last time when he couldn’t close out due to an injury. The Hawks certainly do not have any player to step up to stop John Wall. He and his fellow backcourt mate Bradley Beal both average 23.1 points a game. The Wizards’ supporting cast of Gortat and Porter along with a relatively underlooked pick-up of Bagdonovic is going to prove a handful for the Hawks to contain who are offensively challenged as the numbers suggest. The Hawks have shed a lot of weight since they last entered the playoffs and face daunting questions regarding Dwight Howard’s ability to play at elite standards, Ian Mahinmi being injured and the teams overall chemistry in general. Teams prefer to have such issues addressed during the season but it’s not a good look if their starting point guard appears to be at odds with the coach for the majority of the time.