The NBA Playoffs are finally upon us and it’s time to get to everything matters now. Can the Cleveland Cavaliers get their act together or suffer the fate that the Boston Celtics have over the last two years? Can the Raptors make that all important first step back to reach the Conference Finals or will the Milwaukee Bucks put an end to their title hopes? How much magic does Wade have left in his body? Is John Wall ready to ascend to the upper echelon of elite point guards with a strong showing against the Hawks?
Here are 5 questions for the First Round of the Western Conference NBA Playoffs.
Can the Atlanta Hawks depend on Dwight Howard?
Howard was brought to the Atlanta Hawks to win. Al Horford was a good player but Howard when focused can still be one of the most dominating big men in te NBA. This season he’s taken a bit of a backseat to Paul Millsap but come playoff time he needs to produce. His average of 14 points and 13 rebounds can suffice but he needs to be more assertive and do his best to get Marcin Gortat in foul trouble early. With only 8 FGA per game, he will need to demand the ball more in the post if the Hawks have any chance of an upset.
Can the Boston Celtics ride their success to the Second Round?
Can you image the heat the Celtics and Isaiah Thomas would face if they were to continue their trend of First Rond exits after securing the top seed this year? The Celtics are built to win it all this season but they have to get past the mental aspect first. Their First Rond matchup with the Chicago Bulls will not be a cakewalk as many believe. For the Celtics to make it out they will need to continue to be tough on defense and Thomas must stay hot. There are no bad outings allowed here and Avery Bradley must find a way to contain Dwyane Wade.
How important is Serge Ibaka to the Toronto Raptors?
In all fairness, Ibaka is not a great scorer. However, he can still provide the Raptors frontline with at least 15 points. Last season in the playoffs the Raptors had to rely on their backcourt to be the offense and defensive stoppers and it wore DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry down by the time they made it to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cavaliers. With Ibaka now in tow, DeRozan, Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas can focus on the offense scheme and leave the defense to Carroll and Ibaka. The Milwaukee Bucks are a tough team to matchup against but the Raptors will be focused on one goal–a championship.
Are the Cleveland Cavaliers in trouble?
Yes. There’s no other way to put that. To say they are tired is an understatement, however, their play over the final month of the season has been less than stellar for a team with that much talent. There seems to be a leak in the armor and if it’s not patched up quick the Indiana Pacers could cause trouble. The main issue facing the Cavs will be on the defensive end. Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love must focus on rebounding and protecting the paint against Myles Turner, Thaddeus Young, and Al Jefferson. While neither player is an offensive juggernaut, combined they could get Love and Thompson in foul trouble.
Who advances to the Second Round?
Cavaliers in 5
Bulls in 7
Raptors in 5
Wizards in 5