NBA Eastern Conference playoff preview: Predictions for the four first-round series

Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan

Guards DeMar DeRozan (10) and Kyle Lowry have helped the Raptors emerge as an Eastern Conference contender this season.

(Frank Gunn / Associated Press)

A series-by-series look at the NBA’s Eastern Conference playoffs:


Record: 57-25 (home 33-8; road 24-17)



Record: 44-38 (home 26-15; road 18-23)

Season series: Pistons 3-1.

Key stats: Kevin Love averaged 24 points on 51.1% shooting against Detroit this season. Tobias Harris averaged 16.6 points and 6.3 rebounds for the Pistons after the All-Star break.

Outlook: Let’s be honest, it begins and ends with LeBron James. The All-Star forward says he has gone into playoff mode by cutting out his social media activity, which is a good thing considering some of his tweets seemed to criticize his teammates. But with Kyrie Irving and Love onboard, James and the Cavaliers shouldn’t have any problems in this series. Detroit will need center Andre Drummond, who led the NBA in double-doubles (66), to play big; point guard Reggie Jackson can score, but he has to pass some too.


Prediction: The King and the Cavs in four.


2. Toronto

Record: 56-26 (home 32-9; road 24-17)


Record: 45-37 (home 26-15; road 19-22)

Season series: Raptors 3-1.

Key stats: In the Raptors’ last five playoff appearances they have been eliminated in the first round. The Pacers allowed 100.5 points per game during the regular season, the eighth-best defense in the NBA.


Outlook: Toronto has perhaps the second-best backcourt in the NBA with All-Stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, who combined for 44.7 points and 10.4 assists per game. It’ll be up to them to stay on the attack and lead the way. Indiana’s Paul George will have to play a big role in this series, but he averaged only 16.3 points on 30.8% shooting against the Raptors during the season. Monta Ellis, a notoriously streaky shooter, averaged just 13.8 points this season, his lowest in 10 years. Ellis needs to be an explosive scorer for the Pacers to have a chance.

Prediction: Raptors in six.



Record: 48-34 (home 28-13; road 20-21)


Record: 48-34 (home 30-11; road 18-23)

Season series: Split 2-2.


Key stats: The Heat were first in blocked shots (6.5 per game), led by NBA leader Hassan Whiteside (3.68). Charlotte was ninth in offensive efficiency.

Outlook: The Heat are back in the postseason after a one-year absence. Dwyane Wade, 34, needs his game to be as close to “Flash” as possible, but he averaged just 16 points in four games against the Hornets. Veteran Joe Johnson provided some offense after joining the Heat, averaging 13.4 points. Guard Kemba Walker drives the engine for Charlotte. He dominated against the Heat in the regular season, averaging 19.5 points and 5.3 assists against just 0.75 turnovers.

Prediction: Heat in six.



Record: 48-34 (home 27-14; road 21-20)


Record: 48-34 (home 28-13; road 20-21)

Season series: Hawks 3-1.

Key stats: Boston was fifth in scoring (105.7) in the league, while Atlanta held opponents to the lowest field-goal percentage (43.2%).

Outlook: Typically the 4-5 matchup is between teams on equal footing, and this one is no different. It’ll be fun to watch the bigs from Atlanta, Al Horford and Paul Millsap, try to overcome Boston’s small backcourt of Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley. But who will step up to help his teammates? Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague has the task of dealing with Thomas, who emerged as an All-Star this season. Boston big men Amir Johnson and Jared Sullinger will have their hands full with All-Stars Horford and Millsap. That’s why this is such an intriguing series.

Prediction: Hawks in seven.

Follow Broderick Turner on Twitter: @BA_Turner

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