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2016 NBA Playoff Predictions: Eatern Conference First-Round


The 2015-2016 NBA Playoffs are underway and many fans like myself couldn't wait. As the race to June approaches, I’m predicting my Eastern Conference first round .



Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Detroit Pistons


In the Eastern Conference, we have the NBA's second favorite team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, going up against the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons matchup really well against the Cavaliers and have a slightly better bench, as well as better role players. Detroit center Andre Drummond is going to terrorize whoever is guarding him, which would most likely be Cavaliers’ forward-center Tristan Thompson to start the game. Lebron James and Kyrie Irving are going to put up numbers no matter what. However, J.R. Smith and Kevin Love are concerns. In the playoffs last season, Love got injured and Smith played terribly, especially in the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors. How they’ll perform this time around is anybody’s guess.Photo: Uniformcritics.com


The Pistons have flexible bodies such as Marcus Morris and Tobias Harris. Both players could either guard James or Love and do a fair job guarding them defensively. Pistons’ point guard Reggie Jackson might go off, don't expect Irving to contain him much because he’s not exactly known as a defensive stopper.


Prediction: I had to think hard about this series, and many people don't have the guts to go against the favorites. Even though I may be wrong because the Cavs are up 2-0, I believe the Pistons can still pull off an upset and beat the favored Cavaliers in six games.



Toronto Raptors vs. Indiana Pacers


The second seed versus the seventh seed, this will be one of the most competitive and evenly matched series of the first round of these playoffs. The Raptors have been the most consistent of these two teams throughout the season, but the Pacers with a healthy Paul George should not be underestimated. George Hill and Rodney Stuckey are above average point guards for the Pacers and Raptors, respectively. Meanwhile, Pacers rookie Myles Turner is very talented, and guard Monta Ellis will perform better during this postseason than his regular season.


Prediction: The Raptors are more of a complete team. In addition to their stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, they have key role players, including Corey Joseph, Demarre Carroll and Terrence Ross, just to name a few. So far, it’s been an exciting matchup between these two teams.The Raptors are currently up 2-1 in the series, but I see this going seven games with Toronto advancing.       



Miami Heat vs. Charlotte Hornets


Another competitive first round matchup, don't be fooled by the seeding of these two teams because they both have identical records along with two other teams (The Eastern Conference had four teams end the season with the record of 48-34. The teams are in seeding order: 3. Miami Heat  4. Atlanta Hawks  5. Boston Celtics  6. Charlotte Hornets).


Prediction: Charlotte has had a great season, and nobody expected them to be this good. So win or lose, the year has already been a success. I have the Heat winning this series against the Hornets in six games.Dwyane Wade photo: usatoday.com


In my opinion, Miami has the best chance of beating the Eastern Conference favorite Cavaliers if they advance in the playoffs past Detroit. Miami has All-Star Dwyane Wade, a top defensive center in Hassan Whiteside, former All-Stars Joe Johnson and Luol Deng , as well as a good point guard in Goran Dragic. The Heat have a complete team, with rookies Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow even making impacts. In the low post, Whiteside would be an inside threat against the lane penetration from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Whiteside would also contain Tristan Thompson on the boards. Deng would most likely be guarding James, which would be an interesting matchup, considering Deng and James have played against each other for years when Deng was with the Chicago Bulls.


While nobody on the Heat will be able to contain Irving, J.R. Smith and Kevin Love would struggle, as the Heat’s Justise Winslow can contain Smith, and Love won't be able to dominate down low against the Heat's big men. On the other end of the floor, it would be a challenge for any player on the Cavaliers to guard Miami’s Joe Johnson. LeBron can't guard everyone, and the only other defensive player on the perimeter the Cavs have is Iman Shumpert.


Miami can beat the Cavaliers or whoever gets in their way from the Eastern Conference.



Boston Celtics vs. Atlanta Hawks


This is another competitive series. The Celtics are another surprising team this season. For the most part, the Hawks have flown under the radar all season. While most of the NBA community have been keeping up with the Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Cavaliers, Oklahoma City Thunder and the Raptors, the Hawks were not far behind. However, the Hawks seem to have the same issue every year: Can they get over the hump and make it to the NBA Finals without a superstar? Time will tell whether that once again the case.


Prediction: Like the Hornets, the Celtics have already had a successful season regardless of the outcome. Nobody envisioned them being as good as they were this year, especially with their best player standing at only 5’9” (Isiah Thomas). I see the Hawks winning this series in seven games.


Those are my predictions for this years 2015-2016 Eastern Conference first round playoffs. I can't wait to see how they hold up.


What are your predictions?



Malik Charlton is a self-described  "Weird dude with no special talent, just a lot of goals and crazy ambitions!" Malik is a 2013 graduate from Community College of Philadelphia, a poet and sports writer who also writes for the blog "The Sports Leek!" at the website ru-crazy.com. You can find him on Instagram  and on Twitter @weirdo_leek.


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LeBron photo: Uniform critics.com

Paul George photo: usatoday.com