I will fully admit it out of the gate - I am sick of the LeBron James show. I respect his talent immensely - obviously - but I'm done with his drama, his superiority, and his ever-presence. After six straight years of seeing him in the finals I'd love to see someone else represent the East - a team that doesn't resent each other or think they are smarter than their coach, maybe. So, over the next 800 words or so my goal will be simple - to convince myself that it's possible that Cleveland won't win the East. I mean, it's clearly more possible than ever before. But does that mean it's possible? (Odds to win the NBA Championship are from BetOnline ):
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Boston (+1600) vs. Chicago (+20000): The first round of the NHL Playoffs is always exciting and unpredictable. In the first day of the playoffs alone, four of the five road teams won, and two were in overtime. It's great. The first round of the NBA Playoffs, on the other hand, is typically the opposite of awesome. The gap between the haves and the rest is massive, and mismatches are the rule. And this year is no exception. There aren't a lot of particularly interesting series, and this one sure isn't one of them. The regular season series was split 2-2, but when both teams turn up the intensity for the playoffs the edge of the Celtics will only increase. The Bulls haven't been able to contain Isaiah Thomas in the games they have played so far, and that would be the key to any chance of success here. Chicago has played fairly well recently, but the Celtics have better depth and a big edge in coaching. The Celtics aren't likely to sweep this series, but nor are they likely to have to sweat the outcome of the series too much. If Boston doesn't win this one then they are really going to have to go back to the drawing board. And if they don't win this series handily then they have no chance at all of beating Cleveland. Of course, after that recent beat down by the Cavs it's tough to believe they have a great chance anyway.
Cleveland (+350) vs. Indiana (+15000): The Cavs are going to win this series fairly easily. That's a given. The challenge, though, is figuring out where this team is at mentally going forward. They lost seven of their last 11 games. More concerning, after just crushing Boston to land a decisive advantage in the run for first place in the conference they proceeded to essentially give up on the rest of the season. They lost their last four games and barely put up any fight in doing so. The difference between first and second is huge - a tougher second-round matchup and probably the lack of home-court advantage in the third round. I know they wanted to think about resting and all, but to show that lack of will and effort when something that big was theirs to grab is a concern. But then you see how they played against Boston and you wonder if any of it matters. I'm resigned to them winning it all, but I want to see a couple of games in this series before I give up all hope.
Toronto (+4000) vs. Milwaukee (+15000): This is another one that won't be close. Toronto won three of four, and the one loss came when Kyle Lowry was injured so it doesn't really count. The Raptors wound up with the same record as the Cavs, so they had a decent year despite overcoming some adversity. They'll win this one, and they have the game to make things interesting against Cleveland next round. They won't beat them, but in an ideal world they will soften them up enough that Boston can deliver the kill shot. Dare to dream.
Washington (+4000) vs. Atlanta (+15000): This is the closest of these series, but it still tilts clearly to one side. Washington won three of four against Atlanta, and that lone Hawks win was in the season opener so it isn't particularly relevant to today. Neither team closed really strong, and neither is great on the road. The difference here is that Washington has been much better at home than Atlanta. The duo of Bradley Beal and John Wall have been really strong and give Washington a clear edge, and I'd take the depth of the Wizards any time, too. And not picking the team with Dwight Howard on it seems like a good idea in the playoffs, too.
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