(Stats via Basketball-Reference.com)
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Atlanta Hawks – Cavs in 6
I feel like my prediction makes no sense. When the Cavs swept the Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals last year, the Cavs were without Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving was injured, only playing 2 games. This year, the Cavs are as healthy as a team can be by May. The Hawks on the other hand were a 60-win team last year and had DeMarre Carrol, albeit injured, who left in free agency for the Raptors last summer. That said, this Hawks team seems better prepared for the post-season. They’ve had success striking early and staying in close games. Paul Millsap and Al Horford have been incredible this season, and Jeff Teague has been great as well. Kyle Korver is certainly on the decline, but he was injured last post-season anyway. I could be wrong and this could just be another sweep. The King is in total playoff-mode and Kevin Love has certainly shown he can be effective on this team. Kyrie Irving was streaky in the last series and may struggle against the Hawks’ defense. But, overall, I don’t see any way the Hawks take this series, regardless of how many games it goes.
Toronto Raptors vs. Miami Heat – Heat in 6
There’s a lot to suggest that the Raptors should win this series. They had a better regular season record (56-26) than the Heat (48-34) and a much better point differential (Raptors +4.5, Heat +1.6). Both teams had 1st round series that went to 7 games. The Raptors may have exorcised their lemon booty and might be relaxed enough to not get stunned early or lose leads like they have in past post–seasons. Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng might break down towards the end of the series. But, I’m going with my gut after seeing both of these teams play in the their 1st round series, and I trust the Heat to get it done. The Raptors shot poorly in the 1st round and that may have been a nerves issue that has since been solved, or it could be that Kyle Lowry‘s elbow is hurt and that won’t improve this series. However, their other all-star, DeMar DeRozan, struggled with shooting in every game except for Game 5, but doesn’t appear to have an injury that would’ve made an impact. The Heat are obviously experienced in playing further into the post-season, and even their less-experienced players like Hassan Whiteside and, rookie, Justise Winslow contributed in the first round. I think it’s certainly possible the Raptors can win, but I trust the Heat more.