The NBA playoffs are set to begin on April 16 as the Cleveland Cavaliers begin their seven-game series versus the Detroit Pistons. Last year, a Finals exit by the hand of Stephen Curry’s Golden State Warriors and several injuries left some “what ifs?” in the team. With a healthy Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, the Cavs look to make the championship dream a reality after clinching the first seed in the Eastern Conference.
Despite a regular season that included the firing of Head Coach David Blatt, Lebron James without an outside shot, and a supporting cast not at 100 percent health, the Cavs managed to lock up the number one seed. While the Pistons are an eight seed and lack the big name superstars of the Cavaliers, the Pistons present problems for Lebron’s Cavaliers both defensively and offensively.
Pistons’ first-time All-Star Andre Drummond’s physical size and rebounding ability will test the Cavaliers’ big men. Drummond’s 14.8 rebounds per game and pure size advantage over Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson could diminish the Cavs’ rebounding strength. In addition, quick point guards have taken advantage of the defensive holes in the Head Coach Tyronn Lue’s defense. Pistons’ point guard Reggie Jackson has the ability to blow past Irving and Matthew Dellavedova, demonstrated by his 23-point performance against the Cavs in February.
While the Pistons possess several issues for the Cavaliers, the “Lebron James factor” and the Cavs’ experience should prevail in this series. James will show up and perform to his usual standards as proven all season. The key to this series and the playoff run as a whole will be Kevin Love’s consistency and the ability to defend opposing point guards. Potentially facing point guards such as Isaiah Thomas and Kyle Lowry, who have both previously torched teams and with Lowry going for a career-high 43 against the Cavs this February, Irving and the Cavs’ defense need to fix this problem.
Although the Cavaliers are heavy favorites once again to win the Eastern Conference Finals, there are several teams that could derail the Cavs’ path to the NBA Finals. The Cavs have handled both potential second round matchup teams in the regular season, sweeping both the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics. However, potential Eastern Conference matchups present a different story and series.
Lebron’s former team, the Miami Heat, and the Toronto Raptors have both won two of three matchups against the Cavaliers. The similar gritty defensive style by these teams have caused problems for Love and Irving, who consistently struggled to get into their usual rhythms against these teams.
Despite the tough road to the Finals and the regular season losses to playoff teams, I contribute some of these losses to lack of cohesiveness and injuries. I fully expect this team at or near 100 percent health to find its way back to the NBA Finals where it will reach its toughest test.
The Cavaliers begin their playoff run in Cleveland this weekend as they take on the Pistons in Game 1 of their first round series.
My Predictions: First Round—Cavaliers defeat Pistons 4-2; East Semifinals—Cavaliers defeat Celtics 4-1; East Finals—Cavaliers defeat Heat 4-3