clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Eastern conference playoffs preview and predictions

New, comments

Michael Erler, Jesus Gomez and J.R. Wilco talk about the East playoffs, the Milwaukee Bucks logo, Drake and more.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

What follows is the first part of an informal conversation spanning three hours between Michael Erler, J.R. Wilco and Jesus Gomez. It was lightly edited for clarity. We start with the Spurs' loss to the Pelicans and go from there. Enjoy!

*    *    *    *    *

Michael Erler
I'm having a difficult time understanding why y'all --and practically every Spurs fan I run into-- were so shocked by the outcome. It's like you're all a bunch of ostriches seduced in your Beautiful Game Youtube Clips. THEY'VE STUNK ON THE ROAD ALL SEASON.

I felt like I watched that specific road game 15 times.

J.R. Wilco
It was one bad quarter; nothing more nothing less.

The Pelicans got hot from outside (really from all over the court) and the Spurs had a combination of turnovers and a bunch of shots that didn't fall. I don't see why we need to get all upset about it.

They made huge strides to crawl back into the game and nearly pulled it out. I'm sanguine.

Michael Erler
Yes, but that's my point. They have that one bad quarter practically every road game they play against anyone worthwhile. They don't make their threes the same way --check Danny's splits-- and they don't have that guaranteed 17-2 run in them on the road that they have at home.

Jesus Gomez
They had been so much better lately that I admit I got overconfident. But If you are telling me you've seen Norris Cole play like that in the past I'd call you a liar. It was fluky.

Michael Erler
That part was fluky, I'll agree. Cole, Holiday and Evans all threw in shots from their nether regions.

The game doesn't bother me in a vacuum, but man I wanted anything but Clippers on the road.

Jesus Gomez
I think we all agree there.

J.R. Wilco
Steve Perrin, who runs Clips Nation, and I were texting after the game and he told me that he was hoping for any team except the Spurs.

I think the "I wish we didn't have to face these guys" runs both ways.

Jesus Gomez
So two fanbases are miserable right now.

Michael Erler
I think both sides are trying to talk themselves into picking their own team without feeling like a homer. I sure am.

J.R. Wilco
You're a homer?

Michael Erler
I feel like I might be picking the Spurs here.

Jesus Gomez
You picked Danny Green over MKG in your second team All-Defense. That ship has sailed. You are a homer.

Michael Erler
Shoulda gone with Carroll. Forgot about him.

I spent more time on my picks than the players do, but less than Zach Lowe.

In my defense, Lowe picked Green too.

J.R. Wilco
I thought that was in Green's defense

Michael Erler
Oh this is gonna be an awesome three hours.

Jesus Gomez
Should we start with the East?

J.R. Wilco
Before we leave the Pels I have one thing to say.

A buddy of mine texted me before the game in New Orleans and asked me if I was nervous. I told him that there was a bright side either way. If the Spurs won, then obviously they would get the two seed but we would be worried about entering the playoffs on a winning streak. If they lost, then they would likely slide to six but we could expect them to carry the anger from missing the second seed all the way through the first round.

Michael Erler
Maybe. We'll see. Before we get to the East I have two things to say. 1) I'm more upset the Pacers lost than the Spurs lost last night. Thanks for nothing, Pacers. Now the entire country is subjected to four sorry Nets blowouts. I hate the Nets. They're so dull. It's empirical that any team with a black and white color scheme will be boring as hell. 2) I don't know why Thunder fans are so upset this morning. They ended their season with a win. When's the last time they could say that?

J.R. Wilco
Ba dum psst!

Jesus Gomez
Sick burn bro.

Michael Erler
You're both awful.

Jesus Gomez
We know.

Michael Erler
Like Jesus was telling me earlier, it won't be funny when they fire Scooter and win the lottery.

Jesus Gomez
If they win the lottery it's game over for the rest of the league. Fortunately, it won't happen.

Michael Erler
Okay, speaking of things that won't happen: 1) Atlanta vs. 8) Brooklyn. Thoughts?

J.R. Wilco
This could be like one of those Miami Heat versus Atlanta Hawks series that went seven games when LeBron and his talents were in South Beach.

(Cracks up laughing)

Okay. I promise I'll be serious from here on.

Jesus Gomez
Now THAT was a good joke. Take notes, Michael.

Atlanta will destroy them. They won the season series by an average of 17 points. It will be as lopsided as everyone thinks it will.

Michael Erler
NBATV gets at least two of these games, right?

Jesus Gomez
I think they get one if the Hawks sweep but I could be wrong.

Michael Erler
I can't think of a single nice thing to say about the Nets. I feel like the only team they could maybe take two games from is Washington, and that's only because of what Paul Pierce said.

J.R. Wilco
That series does not interest me at all, and I have been pulling for the Hawks all season long. Can we move on?

Michael Erler
I guess Brook Lopez has come on of late. There, that's one thing. I don't know who starts at small forward for them. I'm bad at basketball blogging.

J.R. Wilco
Pointing that out specifically implies there is something you're good at.

Michael Erler
I'm good at eating.

Jesus Gomez
Markel Brown starts at small forward for them, you ignorant hack. Yeah, it's going to be boring. I vote that we move on.

J.R. Wilco
Yeah! And I didn't even have to pull out my editor-in-chief card.

(I have no such card.)

Michael Erler
Okay, 4-0 for Hawks and hopefully they'll rest up for round two. Maybe Bud can save Millsap and not play him at all. Dust off Elton Brand

Jesus
Yeah, 4-0. I agree.

J.R. Wilco
Motion seconded. Motion passes unanimously.

Michael Erler
Okay, next one. 2) Cleveland vs. 7) Boston. Another sweep? Gentlemen's sweep? Or do Celtics make it interesting?

J.R. Wilco
Oh, I think the Celtics will make it plenty interesting. But I don't see them winning a game.

Michael Erler
Like what then, four 103-98 losses?

J.R. Wilco
Kelly Olynyk takes few more shots to the face until it swells up like a pumpkin, and his field-goal percentage continues to rise after every shiner.

Jesus Gomez
I WANT the Celtics to make it interesting. I really do. But Jae Crowder vs. LeBron might be the most lopsided matchup in the playoffs.

Michael Erler
I'm glad you brought him up. I don't get the Jae Crowder thing at all. Did I not watch him enough in Dallas? I feel like he gained 40 pounds immediately in Boston. He looks heavier than Diaw for sure, but he's played very well for them.

He's a wiiiiiiiiiide dude.

Jesus Gomez
I like him, don't get me wrong. Solid ninth man. He's just not a starter on a good team. Neither is Brandon Bass anymore, which is why I think Kevin Love will have a monster series.

J.R. Wilco
Kevin love having a monster series would make the internet explode.

Michael Erler
LeBron and Love might have good series, but I think between Smart and Bradley they can really force Irving into a bad series.

I don't know anyone in the media who isn't convinced that guy's gone, by the way. Not one person.

J.R. Wilco
I wouldn't be surprised. He just seems like a very blasé guy to me.

Jesus Gomez
All those hot takes about Love auditioning for Boston will melt the polar ice caps.

Michael Erler
The next Larry Bird!

Jesus Gomez
Gigi Datome is the next Larry Bird. Love can be the next McHale if he wants.

J.R. Wilco
Kevin wishes he could have grown facial hair like that.

Michael Erler
Ha. At least he has a sense of humor about himself. He tweeted about his floater that was three feet short.

He's just thrilled to be playing. He was miserable in Detroit.

J.R. Wilco
Can you imagine LeBron tweeting something like that?

Michael Erler
He'd post another emo pic about the man in the mirror.

Michael Erler
The entire Celtics team are a bunch of reserves, right?

It's like a great coach and ten reserves.

Jesus Gomez
Hot take coming: Brad Stevens is the next Pop. Agree or disagree?

J.R. Wilco
Pfft. That's my response. I can't even manage to give that an entire syllable.

Michael Erler
From people I talk to X's and O's wise during the game, he's already better than Pop, and by a considerable margin. Pop's strengths are big picture stuff. Getting guys to buy in, play for him, play for each other, and having game plans for playoff series.

But specific in game adjustments... shaky.

The stuff that's more important is what Pop excels at.

J.R. Wilco
Pop' miles ahead of the league in his ability to create a culture and family feeling about the team. That is what carries them through disasters like game six in 2013.

Michael Erler
Can't agree more.

Jesus Gomez
Stevens seems pretty good at that but I'll move on, defeated.

Michael Erler
(Of course we could argue that Pop is chiefly responsible for Game 6 disaster, but whatever, I'm glad it's happened.)

J.R. Wilco
(Hey. Stop that now.)

Jesus Gomez
You are the worst for going there.

Michael Erler
My Italian colleague agrees with me completely, but we go to war nightly with Mills vs. Cojo

Jesus Gomez
Before he said something we won't speak about again (ahem) Michael mentioned Marcus Smart. That guy alone is worth watching the series. He won't be a star but he does so many little things well.

Michael Erler
He punches little things well.

J.R. Wilco
Yikes.

Michael Erler
I'm not a fan of Mr. Smart, but perhaps he'll grow on me this series.

Jesus Gomez
Should we do predictions next?

Michael Erler
I've got Cavs in five.

Jesus Gomez
Cavs in four.

Michael Erler
Isaiah Thomas would have to average 35 a night to make it a series.

J.R. Wilco
Cavs in four.

Michael Erler
Alright, pretty lame Eastern Conference playoffs so far. Next, 3) Chicago Bulls (Michael's preseason title pick) vs. 6 Milwaukee Bucks (Michael's preseason pick to finish 13th)

Jesus Gomez
Front runner for ugliest first round series.

The winner could average 90 points per game.

Michael Erler
I think they'd need an overtime or two to reach that.

J.R. Wilco
It wouldn't be quite so ugly if the league would let Milwaukee switch to their new uniforms they just debuted.

Jesus Gomez
That is one angry deer in those new logos.

J.R. Wilco
And that "M" looks sharp enough to cut yourself on.

Michael Erler
You wouldn't be angry living in Milwaukee?

J.R. Wilco
Probably not if I was a deer.

Michael Erler
Lotta hunters up there, I imagine.

Jesus Gomez
I'm going to watch that series only because of Nikola Mirotic and Giannis.

Michael Erler
The Bulls are as healthy-ish as they've been in some time. I want to see if they use this series to gel.

J.R. Wilco
Everybody seems to be talking about how great the Bulls can be now that they are healthy. But they still feel snake-bit to me. I don't know.

Michael Erler
I mean, on paper, they're still physically the toughest team in the East, especially in the front line. If anybody will beat the Cavs up, it's them. They'll make Irving, Love, Smith and Shumpert earn it.

Jesus Gomez
I don't know. Noah has been a mess all season long and Pau has disappointed on defense.

Michael Erler
The elephant in the room with them seems to be Derrick Rose. Nobody wants to admit they're better without him.

J.R. Wilco
Including Derrick Rose.

Michael Erler
I think despite all the front-office stuff, and it is substantial, one of the main reasons Tom Thibodeau wants to move on is because he knows MVP Derrick Rose is gone and not coming back and the rest of the organization is in denial about it, and it's an anchor around everyone's neck.

J.R. Wilco
It's like Brandon Roy all over again. So depressing.

Michael Erler
Excellent comparison.

J.R. Wilco
Hopefully, it will have a better ending.

Jesus Gomez
That's a bit harsh on Rose. I don't think they are better off without him. And no, he's not Roy. He can still play. The problem is his injuries lead to inconsistency.

Michael Erler
I think they're going about the Rose thing all wrong. Wouldn't it be better, if winning is all that matters, to use him off the bench in the playoffs? Just go all out for 15 minutes, drive to the basket, go nuts, don't worry about pacing yourself or defense or whatever?

J.R. Wilco
Name one coach in the league who would have the guts to try that.

Michael Erler
Gregg Popovich.

J.R. Wilco
Besides Pop.

Michael Erler
Maybe Kerr. He benched David Lee and got Andre Iguodala to be the sixth man. But I guess neither guy is a former MVP.

J.R. Wilco
Yes, and I think that was my point.

Jesus Gomez
Their other guards are Aaron Brooks and Kirk Hinrich. So no, it wouldn't be better.

We are going to fight about Derrick Rose, aren't we?

Michael Erler
It makes no sense, but they've been good with Brooks in the starting lineup.

J.R. Wilco
Brooks does that every few of years: shows up on a playoff team and is crazy effective without making much sense.

Did the same thing with the Houston Rockets against the Lakers, didn't he?

Michael Erler
I think my ideal scenario for Bulls is for them get better as they go, like maybe 2-2 after four games and then just hit their stride and blow the Bucks away in Games 5 and 6.

J.R. Wilco
That sounds reasonable to me, but regardless I don't see Milwaukee being able to pull this one out. They are still a few years away.

Jesus Gomez
My ideal scenario is Rose cutting the unnecessary threes, playing well and proving both of you wrong.

I agree on that. I think it's Bulls 4-1.

Michael Erler
They do have a lot of size and length. They're gonna make it tough to score inside and make the Bulls shoot.

J.R. Wilco
Bulls in six.

Michael Erler
I'm going Bulls 4-2, and that might be too conservative.

Jesus Gomez
Unless the Bucks force a ton of turnovers I can't see them winning two but it could happen.

J.R. Wilco
Now watch this one be the sweep and the other two series go five or six.

Jesus Gomez
Yeah, we just jinxed the Bucks.

Michael Erler
Okay, last one, and this will either be terrifically entertaining or a gasoline fire and nothing in between. 4) Toronto vs. 5) Washington.

J.R. Wilco
We the north against We the people.

Michael Erler
Nice!

Okay, so on paper I like both these teams a lot, but both seem to have less than optimal coaches, spacing issues, terrible shooters and wobbly benches. The Eastern Conference!

J.R. Wilco
It's FANtastic.

Jesus Gomez
Randy Wittman might low key be the worst coach in the league. He doesn't like three-pointers and plays two traditional bigs all the time. He's what Byron Scott would be if he actually was a good defensive coach.

Michael Erler
I'm not sure it's that low key. Basketball Twitter has been slaying Wittman the last two months.

I think the Raptors have the bench edge, but I trust Washington's bigs more. Pierce has experience, but DeRozan is the more explosive scorer. Beal can light it up when he's got it going, but he hasn't been right all year. Williams is Toronto's Patty Mills.

J.R. Wilco
I wish I felt confident in the way that either of those teams plays in late-game situations.

Michael Erler
Is it too simplistic to say it'll come down to who plays better between Kyle Lowry and John Wall?

J.R. Wilco
I actually kind of agree.

Jesus Gomez
It might come down to that. If Pierce played some power forward, I'd give the Wizards an edge. But he doesn't and the Raptors have more shot-makers.

Michael Erler
I read he's practicing some at the four today.

Jesus Gomez
Maybe Wittman is a genius and he was saving that move for the playoffs. CIA Wittman?

Michael Erler
Both teams have been fairly pitiful since the All-Star Break, yes?

(They've both beaten the Spurs at home, btw, but I digress)

Jesus Gomez
Both have been sub .500 teams since the All-Star break. The East!

J.R. Wilco
I think I'll take the Raps in six, if for no other reason that I like them better than Washington, and didn't like the way they went out last year.

Michael Erler
I've got a shaky pick for Washington in six but I'll probably be feeling stupid by Game 2.

I just like their bigs more, and I have faith in Wall.

The coaching is a concern, or it would be if I were a Wizards fan.

Jesus Gomez
The Wizards have the best player in the series in Wall and the Raptors give up a ton of offensive rebounds, which could keep Washington afloat. So I think it's going to go long. Raptors in seven.

Michael Erler
It's basically a coin-flip for me between Wizards in six and Raptors in seven. I doubt Toronto would lose two consecutive Game 7s at home.

Jesus Gomez
Drake will disown them if they do.

Michael Erler
An incentive to tank if there ever was one.

J.R. Wilco
Never! He's such a loyal fan.

Michael Erler
If I lost 30 pounds I think I could take him in one-on-one. I really do.

Jesus Gomez
One last thing. I'd like to change my previous prediction for Bucks vs. Bulls to "Bucks in six" as a tribute to Brandon Jennings.

J.R. Wilco
"Yearning"!

Michael Erler
Him and Monta in the same backcourt making the playoffs should be Exhibit A for changing the playoff format.

J.R. Wilco
And here I thought exhibit A was how many sub .500 teams the east was sending to the playoffs.

Jesus Gomez
You guys hate Derrick Rose, Drake and Brandon Jennings. You are no fun.

J.R. Wilco
I don't hate Derrick Rose, I just don't think he's ready to play elite ball yet.

Michael Erler
I don't hate Derrick Rose. I'm just a realist. I have more faith in Manu going off in a playoff game than Rose.

Jesus
I love that neither denied hating Jennings or Drake.

J.R. Wilco
Hey, it is what it is.