With the first round of the 2015 NBA Playoffs in the books, the second-round matchups are now set. Here are INSCMagazine’s Eastern Conference semifinal predictions.
Atlanta Hawks (1) vs. Washington Wizards (5): In what will be an exciting matchup of young guard talent featuring Jeff Teague, Dennis Schroeder, John Wall and Bradley Beal, The East-leading Hawks look to continue their best season in franchise history against a tough veteran Wizards team featuring former NBA champion Paul Pierce.
While the Wizards have the better backcourt and a formidable front line of Nene and Marcin Gortat, the unselfishness of Al Horford, Paul Millsap, DeMarre Caroll and the three-point marksmanship of Kyle Korver may be too much to handle. PREDICTION: Hawks in 6
Cleveland Cavaliers (2) vs. Chicago Bulls (3): Finally, the series that many expected to see, only a round too soon. Going into the season, many NBA experts had the Cavs and Bulls meeting I the East Finals. Due to Atlanta’s improbable 60-plus win campaign, the winner of this series will likely face the East-leading Hawks in the conference finals.
While Cleveland is vulnerable, due to the season-ending shoulder injury to Kevin Love and the two-game suspension of J.R. Smith, Cleveland has one thing the Bulls don’t, LeBron James.
In taking the season series, 3-1, James averaged 27.1 points per game, and along with the emergence of sidekick in Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers have too many offensive weapons for the more defensive-minded stout Bulls.
For the Bulls, despite demolishing the upstart Milwaukee Bucks by 54 points, Derrick Rose was outplayed by Michael Carter-Williams at times, and many already know the vital role that Rose plays in Chicago’s offense.
While Mike Dunleavy, Tony Snell, Nikola Mirotic, Jimmy Butler and Kirk Hinrich will all play a factor in keeping this series even, the bigger frontcourt of Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson will test Cleveland’s more versatile and interchangeable lineup.
With Love out, Tristian Thompson will need to have the series of his life in covering Gasol, Timofey Mozgov will have to do his best to slow down Noah and either James, Shawn Marion or Iman Shumpert will have to contain Gibson.
While the Bulls are bigger, the Cavaliers are more flexible and have the ultimate trump card in The King. PREDICTION: Cavaliers in 7