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NBA Playoffs Round 1: Avoid & Desired Opponents for the Cleveland Cavaliers

Andrew Rysta looks at the different angles for the Cleveland Cavaliers first round series.

It’s the time we have all been waiting for! The NBA Playoffs start in exactly four days on April 15th.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have put themselves in a precarious position to clinch the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The Cavs need to have two things happen in order to get the #1 seed.

First, they must win on Wednesday night against the Toronto Raptors. Rumors say that LeBron James probably won’t play. He might be joined by Kevin Love and/or Kyrie Irving, depending on health situations. The Raptors are the #3 seed and would love to beat up the Cavs in a possible second-round preview.

The positive for the Wine & Gold is the fact that the regular season finale is in Cleveland where the Cavs sport a 31-9 record. Second, the Cavs need the Boston Celtics to lose to the Bucks on Wednesday night. The odds of both of those things happening seems slim.

It does look kind of bleak for LeBron James and Co.

But, there is something you should be aware of. In LeBron’s impressive run to 6 straight NBA Finals appearances, his teams have only been the #1 seed twice. It clearly does not matter to LeBron whether his team is #1 or #2, he is still planning on dominating. But who knows, Cleveland could pull out a win on Wednesday, and the Celtics could drop their final game to the Bucks who are fighting for the 7th-5th spots.

Teams that the Cavs should try to avoid in the first round:

Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks have length. A lot of length. But that’s not all they have. Surrounding the long arms of John Henson and Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Tony Snell are savvy scorers who know how to put the ball in the basket. Rookies Thon Maker and Malcolm Brogdon are overachieving this season, and veterans Matthew Dellavedova and Jason Terry provide a spark off of the bench. If the Cavs had to play them, Cavs in 4 is still likely. Problem is, the Greek-Freak is big and bad, and the Cavs don't want him anywhere near their best player. Cavaliers need LeBron healthy, and avoiding Giannis and Friends would be a good idea.

Indiana Pacers

Paul George plays LeBron better than anyone not named Kawhi LeonardMyles Turner is a post option that could give the Cavs problems. C.J. Miles and Monta Ellis are proven scoring threats that will run rings around Cleveland’s meager defense. C.J. has made a habit of lighting up his former team as well. This team, however, isn’t the best defensively, but their offensive abilities coupled with crazy Pacer fans in Banker’s Life Fieldhouse makes them a tough sweep. Cavs in 5.

Teams that the Cavs should welcome in the first round:

Chicago Bulls

A team that shoots 33% on 3-pointers is not exactly threatening. Chicago’s conundrum at the point-guard spot is also a huge problem. Do they start Rajon RondoMichael Carter-Williams, or Cameron PayneJimmy Butler is a great isolation player but really struggles to get his teammates involved. Chemistry is also a big problem for these Bulls, and playoff pressure escalates chemistry problems to the maximum. Dwyane Wade could cause problems because of his knack for clutch performances, but in all reality, it should be an easy sweep for the Cavs.

Miami Heat

The Heat actually has three good players. The problem lies in the drop off after that. As good as Goran DragicDion Waiters, and Hassan Whiteside have been this season, their bench is incredibly lackluster. Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson have been solid, but Okaro White and Willie Reed aren’t exactly stellar players. Whiteside is a catalyst for confusion and lacks the ability to defend point guards if Miami tries to switch pick and rolls. This would be a huge problem, especially against Cleveland’s pick-and-roll-heavy offense build around Kyrie and LeBron. Cavs should dominate the field with this one.

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The Cavs have an on/off switch that was on display in their loss to the Hawks. They blew a 26 point lead in the 4th quarter and looked like a team that ran out of gas. At the end of the day, we know the Cavs are going to flip a switch in the playoffs, but can that switch stay on for long enough to make it out of the East? One more final statistic to know: LeBron’s teams have won 20 of their last 21 first round playoff games, dating back to the 2011-2012 season when LeBron’s Heat dropped one game in the first round to the New York Knicks.

In the First Round, Cavalier fans should relax and enjoy the show.


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