With Chicago and Cleveland the favorites to come out the East and reach The Finals, they could actually fall short of those expectations.
The Bulls and Cavaliers protected their home courts, against the Bucks and Celtics, respectively. Both teams are up 2-0 but the thing is, they are on a collision course. Now, it very well could be the real Eastern Conference Finals, like many and I believe it will be.
To keep perspective on what can actually occur, Atlanta (up 1-0) and Washington (up 2-0) could intervene with what the majority of media and fans expect. Toronto lost a pair of home games and it’s just tough to see them winning one or both games at Washington, which would result in returning home 1-3, if they don’t get swept.
Moving forward with the superior Hawks, as opposed to the heartless Brooklyn Nets, and their possible meeting with the Wizards in the second round. That should be another exciting series, one of which would send the victorious team to the underdog role in the Eastern Conference Finals, against the Bulls or Cavaliers.
Chicago can’t seem to shake the injury bug, with Rookie of the Year candidate, Nikola Mirotic joining Kirk Hinrich on the pine for at least game 3. They are the strongest team in the East on paper. Cleveland has the advantage, being led by a 4x MVP and 2x champion in LeBron James, along with a couple all-stars as the King’s sidekicks. Their inexperience will surely be exposed against the Bulls, and we will see if the Bulls lack of continuity can get the job done to finally overcome the LeBron hurdle.
After putting those flaws out there, you can see how that series between the Bulls and Cavs can go either way, and we all will be tuned it for that. I think it will turn out to be a classic series that we will remember for awhile, with the winner representing the East in The Finals.
However, Chicago has shuffled players in and out of the lineup, not just all season but for the past few years. It’s possible, even to bet, that something will go wrong for them yet again. You can’t rely on injuries as an opponent, but all it would take is one of Cleveland’s big three to miss action, and that would likely end their season.
That’s where the Hawks can swoop in, playing the unselfish team ball like they have all season long for Coach of the Year, Mike Budenholzer. Their biggest drawback is the lack of a true superstar that is needed to contend, and hoist the trophy when all is said and done. With Washington, whether it be their youth or playoff inexperience, they don’t bring their A-game all the time. The biggest thing that scares me about them, is that opponents can break them down mentally, similar to the Nets but with more talent.
With that said, someone is going to win that series and play one of the favorites with a trip to The Finals on the line. Even one or two missed games by a key player of a favorite would be enough for the underdog to pull an upset. I don’t give the Hawks or Wizards, or Raptors I guess, any shot at beating the surviving team in the Western Conference. However, that’s a different storyline to follow if that were to come to fruition.
For the record, I have the Bulls edging the Cavs, catching them in the right year, and then sending the Hawks home. Derrick Rose usually takes care of business against Kyrie Irving, the Bulls have the advantage on the front line, and they finally have the firepower to get past King James on the scoreboard.