The NBA Playoffs 2015 get underway on Saturday, and with several intriguing match-ups already set in the first round, it promises to be a memorable post-season.
Westbrook says scoring title means nothing: OKC star upset at missing out on playoffs.
NBA playoffs 2015 full schedule: First round schedule released for every series.
NBA playoffs match-ups 2015: Who will face who on the road to NBA Finals.
Watch live: Click here to watch on BT Sport online! (BT will be broadcasting numerous first round clashes as well as semi-finals and every Conference final game and the NBA Finals).
With the bracket set, here’s a closer look at each individual first round match-up with predictions on who will advance to their respective Conference semi-finals.
Atlanta Hawks vs Brooklyn Nets (Atlanta leads 4-0 in season series)
The Hawks have been exceptional this year and have played some of the best basketball in the league under coach Mike Budenholzer. They have faltered recently but still claimed the No.1 seed with a 60-22 record, and with home-court advantage they should be confident of making the next round.
Brooklyn have been wildly inconsistent and finished with a losing record of 38-44 to just beat out the likes of the Pacers and Heat to the eighth seed. If Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez turn up and produce consistently, this series could get interesting. However, it is difficult to see it happening and they will struggle to contain Atlanta. Atlanta team basketball to expose Brooklyn.
Prediction: Hawks win 4-1.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs Boston Celtics (Series tied at 2-2)
After a rocky start to the season, the Cavs have come through and produced the level of basketball that many expected of them after adding the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Love to the roster. Depth is no longer an issue and defense has improved, and they are rightly considered a favourite for a championship.
In contrast, the Celtics weren’t expected to be here but with the rebuild on hold as Brad Stevens leads this exciting group of players forward, they will pose a threat to their rivals. Boston ended the season in great form and will cause Cleveland a few problems, but it won’t be enough over a series as the regular season tie is misleading due to injuries and resting key players. LeBron loves playing the Celtics.
Prediction: Cavs win 4-1.
Chicago Bulls vs Milwaukee Bucks (Chicago leads 3-1)
The Bulls have had their problems this year and health remains an issue with Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah and Kirk Hinrich all nursing injuries. However, they should all be fit to play in Game 1 and Chicago have too much firepower and experience not to collect the four wins.
Milwaukee have been a pleasant surprise this year as they have gone from being one of the worst teams in the league to a playoff team. Jason Kidd has settled in well and his young stars are showing great promise, but that won’t be enough to get by the Bulls even though they will make hard work of it. Experience and playoff grit in Chicago’s favour.
Prediction: Bulls win 4-2.
Toronto Raptors vs Washington Wizards (Toronto leads 3-0)
The Raptors were considered one of the leading contenders in the East earlier in the year but they slipped off as DeMar DeRozan went down with injury and Kyle Lowry suffered with fatigue and a back issue. Regardless, they managed to hold on to home-court advantage and will be a threat.
It was a similar scenario for the Wizards as they started well but fell off the pace, and their problems are arguably bigger as we head into crunch time of the season. This will still be a competitive series, but Toronto will edge it in the series of the round in the East. Raptors will be more consistent of the two.
Prediction: Raptors win 4-3.