Welcome back to the Post Up people! Let’s not beat around the bush, we have been looking at the playoff match-ups for the first round of the playoffs this week. With the first round of the Western Conference match-ups finished, let us finish the second half of the Eastern Conference.
Match-up Three: Toronto Raptors vs. Brooklyn Nets
The Set Up:
So let me say one thing about these two match-ups, they are going to easily be the most competitive in the East for the first round. All four of these teams have their strengths and weaknesses that the other team has as their opposites. It is going to be a very fun two series to watch, but I digress. Heading into this years playoffs, the Toronto Raptors were looking very good. They had to beat out the Bulls for the 3rd seed and finished 7-3 in their last 10 games. They had a big win over the Pacers during that run, but every other win and loss was expected. Regardless, momentum is important and this young Raptors team has it. The Brooklyn Nets on the other hand are a little different. They are heading into the playoffs with a 5-5 record in their last 10 games and actually fell to the 6th seed on the last day of the season. They have been very up and down as of late, and that is important to consider because the Nets were one of the best teams since the All-Star break. The Nets also finished the season with 2 loses, and that is important to remember, again, momentum is a lot.
We should expect to see the Raptors to continue playing above-average offense and defense across the board. They are not stellar in anything, but they are not terrible in anything either. I also expect Kyle Lowry to have himself a big series. This guy is a gamer, he is undersized, but boy can he play, and he will throughout this series. Even though the Nets are coming in with a little bit of a slump hanging around them, I expect them to shake it off and be playing close to the team that swept the Heat this year. Jason Kidd, KG and Paul Pierce are going to show this Nets team how to play playoff basketball and it will make this series a lot of fun to watch.
What it Boils Down To:
Deron Williams and young guns of the Raptors
I am going to start off by saying that Deron Williams needs to get his act together. Williams has always been a little overrated and this season he is hitting even lower lows. This season he is averaging 14 points and 6 assists…that is rather mediocre for the guy that got Jerry Sloan fired (yeah, I said it) and is making $20 million a year. Anyway, Williams has been bad this season, and the Nets have been playing extremely well. If Williams keeps up his poor play it could harm the Nets by leading to loses or making it harder for them to win. Williams has also struggled this year against the Raptors only averaging 13 points and 8 assists a game. Playoffs is where fans and teammates alike look to their stars and veterans to help them reach a new level and Williams needs to shoulder that responsibility. He is this teams point guard and everything flows through him, so he needs to make the right decisions and also put up numbers close to 20 points and 9 assists for the sake of everyone on this Nets team.
Unlike the Nets who have a good amount of veteran leadership that has been to the playoffs, the Raptors have next to none. The Raptors are a very young and inexperienced team and that could harm this very good Raptors team. The Raptors need to gain some discipline and also learn how to play in the half-court. Things are going to get chippy in this match-up, after all KG is on the other side, and the Raptors need to stay cool-headed and stick to their plan. Players like Valanciunas, Ross, and DeRozan need to have big games as well and use their length and athleticism to upset a much slower Nets team. If the Raptors are going to advance, their young guys need to play well beyond their years. It is possible, but it is going to be a tough battle from the beginning.
Brooklyn Nets in 6
Unfortunately for the Raptors, I do not think they can get past their inexperience enough to beat this Nets team. The Raptors will put up a very good fight, but ultimately, it will be too much for them. The Nets will start slow and will probably drop the first game. The Nets will wake up the next few games and do what they do best, and that is shoot the lights out. The Raptors will win another and make things interesting, though. However, this is when we will see KG and Pierce at their best and they will rally this Nets team around them and carry them into the next round. As I stated earlier, I think Kyle Lowry will have a great series. I also think his counterpart, Williams, will continue to play miserably. His play will make every game in this series close, but the leadership of KG and Pierce will carry the Nets. From this series win we should expect to see a match-up we have been waiting for since the regular season and that is the Nets facing the Miami Heat in the next round.
Match-up Four: Chicago Bulls vs. Washington Wizards
The Set Up:
Heading into this series, the Washington Wizards are playing very well. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games, including a 4 game win steak, and were able to move up a spot on the last day of the season to the 5th seed. In that final stretch they had a big win over the Miami Heat, and their 3 loses were to playoff teams Charlotte Bobcats and Chicago Bulls. While the Wizards have been playing very well, the Bulls have played a little better. They finished the season 8-2 in their last 10 games and were fighting until the last day to move up to the 3rd seed, successfully I might add. While they did have that win over the Wizards, the rest of their wins were expected and therefore not very impressive. But hey, remember what I always say: momentum is important. Both these teams have that momentum so it should make for a very exciting series.
I expect John Wall to play off the wall (no pun intended). Wall is going to go nuts and I think he will be the best PG in the first round of the playoffs, in both the East and West. I expect the Bulls to do what they have all year and that is play very good team ball. They are going to always look for an extra pass on offense, and their defense, as everyone knows, is one of the best. Thibodeau has been to the playoffs every year as a head coach, and he will have his Bulls team ready for a tough and grinding match-up.
What it Boils Down To:
Nenê and the Bulls offense
The Wizards have been playing very good, so how is Nenê going to factor into this equation. He is a bit of a wild card because he has hardly played all year, yet he used to be a starter. That begs the question, does he start or does he come off the bench? If Nenê can go and play big time, this could be a much tougher and hard-fought match-up than is already expect. Nenê could easily be the deciding factor that pushes the Wizards up and over to the next round. If he does play, but plays badly, what then? Will he be in a position that his bad play will harm his team to the point that they are losing because of it? I want to write more about Nenê and what will happen, maybe dish out a stat or two, but I honestly said as much as I could and cannot say anymore without repeating myself. There are just too many question marks surrounding Nenê, the only thing we know is that he will play, everything else is a complete mystery.
However, something that does not have any question marks is how horrible the Bulls offense has been this year. No one thought it was going to be outstanding when Derrick Rose went down, and then it would get better with the trade of Luol Deng, but their offense has been downright horrible. The Bulls may be one of the better teams in the league, and have superb defense, but they have the WORST offense in the league. The reason that this is a concern for the Bulls is because Wall can light it up. Not only that, but he can pass and pass well, which mean Marcin Gortat will also be lighting it up. I know, I know, the Bulls have an extremely good defense, but the Wizards also have a very good team. Players like Beal, Booker, Webster, Ariza etc. can really spread the floor, and some nights shoot the lights out. This will happen eventually and because of that, the Bulls will need to find scoring and if they don’t the Wizards might be a surprise advance to the next round.
Chicago Bulls in 5
Howard Beck in an article he wrote recently stated that even though the Bulls are Deng and Rose-less, they have become a team no one wants to face due to their heart, hustle, coaching and muscle. Unfortunately for the Wizards, this could not be closer to the truth. Whether you are the Miami Heat, or the Oklahoma City Thunder, you realize you have the talent to beat the Bulls, but you do not have the hustle, passion, and coaching to beat them. The Wizards arguably are a more talented team than this Bulls team, but being coached by Tom Thibiodeau and having leaders like Joakim Noah will make this match-up next to impossible for the Wizards to win. I do believe that the Wizards should be able to win one because like I stated earlier, they will shoot the lights out at least once. But after that the rest of the games should be in favor of the Bulls. A majority of this Bulls team has been together for a good time and have been to the playoffs together, they know what to do and how to get it done, and they will do just that. With this series win, we will see another heated and highly anticipated match-up, the Bulls vs. the Pacers.
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All stats and information courtesy of espn.com