Can the Milwaukee Bucks give the Atlanta Hawks a run for their money?

Staff Writer for Basketball Betting - A true Lakers Fan
Staff Writer: Ryan Ward

Heading into the NBA playoffs there were a lot of intriguing matchups, but in my opinion the most intriguing of all the matchups in the Eastern Conference was the up and coming Milwaukee Bucks going head to head against the Atlanta Hawks.

Over the last few years, the Atlanta Hawks have gone from just another good team in the league to a possible title contender. With All-Star guard Joe Johnson, defensive beast Josh Smith and arguably the best sixth man in the league in sharp shooting Jamal Crawford, the Hawks have quickly been able to create some much needed team chemistry and a winning combination in Atlanta.

As for the Milwaukee Bucks, they have had arguably their most successful season in quite some time with some star players emerging to lead the struggling franchise in the future.

No player has had more of an impact for the Milwaukee Bucks this season than rookie point guard Brandon Jennings. Before Jennings was drafted by the Bucks in last year’s draft, the lightening quick point guard had to play in Italy in order to prepare for the NBA as he hadn’t reached to the age requirement just yet.

There was a lot of speculation on whether or not Jennings could be a force to be reckoned with in the NBA, but this season he is proved that he is exactly that with his dynamic scoring ability and veteran like leadership.

As a result of Brandon Jennings’ success in his rookie season, the Bucks have reemerged as one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference. Not only was Jennings’ contribution to the team huge to say the least, but he also had some help in the form of center Andrew Bogut and the newly acquired John Salmons from the Chicago Bulls.

Even though Brandon Jennings has gotten most of the credit for the Milwaukee Bucks impressive season, both Bogut and Salmons have had arguably their best seasons of their NBA career and have helped turn the franchise around.

When the Bucks were set to face the Hawks in the first round of the playoffs, Atlanta was the clear favorite to advance, but Milwaukee was not going to back down as they had every intention to give them a run for their money.

Unfortunately, the first two games of the series ended in two straight losses for the Milwaukee Bucks, but in game three they were able to get on the board with a convincing 18 point victory 107-89.

Even though the Atlanta Hawks are still favored to win this series, the Bucks will have a chance to even up the series in game four on their home floor before heading back to Atlanta.

The key to the game three victory for the Bucks was the inspired play of John Salmons who scored a team high 22 points and dished out seven assists. Not only was Salmons finally able to get going in this series against the Hawks, but he shot an impressive nine for 11 from the floor.

If Salmons can keep up this kind of production and Brandon Jennings can get going like he did in game one, the Milwaukee Bucks have a great chance of making this a competitive series and possibly pulling off the unlikely upset.

NBA Playoff Previews – Eastern Conference

Staff Writer: Jeremiah Ira Yap

Cleveland Cavaliers vs (8) Chicago Bulls

Wow, the Cavs already won Game 1 without much of a hiccup. Stop the presses. Is this surprising to you? Well, it shouldn’t be. The Cavs played great with Shaq back in the lineup. O’Neal looked like he didn’t miss a beat after sitting out most of the second half of the season. His performance was reminiscent of the Shaq of old rather than old Shaq.
The testy but valiant Bulls may actually catch the Cavs asleep and steal a game but that seems like wishful thinking. Did you see how focused LeBron James was? He finally has the fire in his belly to compete for a championship. James learned a thing or two from Kobe Bryant during the Redeem Team’s Olympic run – talent isn’t everything, it’s inner drive that makes you a great basketball player and wins you championships.

Confidence will not be enough for the Chicago Bulls. Cavs advance to the second round in four games.

Orlando Magic vs (7) Charlotte Bobcats

This is probably the most intriguing match-up in the playoffs. The versatility of the Bobcats against the new look, but still motivated Magic. Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis against defensive minded Gerald Wallace and the unpredictable Stephen Jackson. With so much focus on how Vince Carter will perform in the playoffs, the Magic’s real key to success is Jameer Nelson. Nelson wasn’t close to a hundred percent in the Finals against the Lakers, this year he’ll get the chance to prove how valuable he is to Orlando’s title hopes. He needs to attack the rim and hit his threes, similar to what Rafer Alston did for the Magic last year.

Orlando is a deeper team with Matt Barnes, Ryan Anderson, Jason Williams, Brandon Bass and Marcin Gortat as their bench players. They also have bigger and more athletic players – expect them to outmuscle Charlotte in the paint. Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown will keep things interesting, but his team lacks the fouls to use on Dwight Howard.

Dwight Howard’s size in the middle will be too much for Charlotte. The Magic advance to the second round in six games.

Atlanta Hawks vs (6) Milwaukee Bucks

The Hawks came out the gate and blitzed the undermanned Bucks in the first half – they scored 62 points and held the Bucks to 40 points. A ton of blocks and defensive stops paved way for the Hawks fast break points.

Atlanta’s first half performance was nearly perfect, but they almost wasted it with a lackluster second outing. The Bucks outscored the Hawks 52 to 40 in the second half. Rookie Brandon Jennings carried most of the scoring load with Andrew Bogut and Michael Redd suffering season ending injuries. Jennings scored 34 points and there was not one Hawk who could guard him. Jennings may have to score 55 points again for the Hawks to even have a chance in the series.

Jamal Crawford scored 17 points in his playoff debut. All five of the Hawks starters scored in double digits.

The Hawks inability to close out opponents almost haunted them in Game 1. The Bucks might actually steal a game before succumbing to the deeper and more talented Hawks. Hawks in five games.

Boston Celtics vs (5) Miami Heat

Dwyane Wade had a great game against the Celtics in Game 1 of their playoff series. He scored 26 points on 11 of 18 shooting, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out six assists. Despite throwing the ball away seven times, he was efficient both ways of the floor. That’s the main problem why the Heat lost. Only Wade had a great game. Quentin Richardson was the other Heat player who scored in double figures. Miami’s other starters, Carlos Arroyo, Jermaine O’Neal and Michael Beasley combined to make nine of their 27 shots for 20 points.

If I were D-Wade, I’d already be asking if LeBron James is willing to go to New York with me. Miami has failed to surround Wade with the supporting cast he has been asking for all season. If Miami gets swept, there’s no doubt that Wade will bolt to another team this summer.

Kevin Garnett scored 15 points, grabbed nine rebounds and threw one elbow that hit Richardson’s jaw. Things got chippy after Paul Pierce fell in front of the Miami bench. Richardson stood directly above Pierce and Garnett took it as disrespect.

With Wade doing everything for Miami except the laundry, the Celtics will likely wear him down in a seven game series. O’Neal and Beasley will have two big games to keep Miami from getting swept. Other than that, the Celtics will beat Miami in six games and win their last playoff series with the Big Three.

NBA Playoff Preview: Atlanta Hawks vs. Milwaukee Bucks

Staff Writer for Basketball Betting - A true Lakers Fan
Staff Writer: Ryan Ward

There are a lot of intriguing matchups coming into the NBA playoffs the season and it looks like we’ll be on our way to another entertaining postseason with a spectacular ending, but in the meantime need to figure look at the first round matchups and see who will be advancing to the next round.

Personally, I believe the first round matchup between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks is a possible seven game series and arguably the most even matchup of all eight in the first go round.

Some people are saying it is the Utah Jazz and the Denver Nuggets though be the most even matchup and a possible seven game series, but I really think that the Bucks will give the Hawks a run for their money as no one expects Milwaukee to do much in the postseason and they have the talent to do it.

There were a lot of deals that went down before the NBA trade deadline on February 18th earlier this season, but the one deal that has seemed to pay off more than any other deal made by any team in the league has been the Milwaukee Bucks getting John Salmons from the Chicago Bulls.

A lot of attention has been paid to rookie point guard Brandon Jennings, deservedly so, but Salmons should get a lot of credit for the Milwaukee Bucks being playoff bound and success in the second half of the season.

Along with Brandon Jennings and John Salmons, the Milwaukee Bucks also have All-Star caliber center Andrew Bogut who has had somewhat of a breakout season this year and has gone relatively unnoticed due to success of the rookie point guard.

Unfortunately, the Milwaukee Bucks will have to do without their All-Star caliber center in Andrew Bogut as he is struggling with an elbow injury and his playing status is uncertain, but doubtful.

Without Andrew Bogut in the lineup for the Milwaukee Bucks, I believe the Atlanta Hawks will have the edge in the paint and a might just be enough to have Joe Johnson and company advanced to the second round.

The one matchup both this first-round playoff series that will be more intriguing than any it is how well Brandon Jennings plays and how the Atlanta Hawks guard him.

Personally, I don’t think anybody on the Atlanta Hawks can guard Brandon Jennings and if he gets hot or turns it on in the playoffs, the Hawks could be in trouble as Jennings has been known to light up the scoreboards if given the chance.

Earlier in the NBA regular season Brandon Jennings put on a show against the Golden State Warriors by scoring 55 points against Stephen Curry and company and officially putting him on the NBA map as one of the most promising young players in this game.

Ultimately though, the Atlanta Hawks are the better all around team as they have the veterans and most importantly the defense to win this series.

Series Prediction: 4-2 Atlanta Hawks

Who is the dark horse in the Eastern Conference playoffs?

Staff Writer for Basketball Betting - A true Lakers Fan
Staff Writer: Ryan Ward

There is no doubting that right now the Cleveland Cavaliers are by far the favorite to come out of the Eastern conference and represent the East in the NBA finals. No team in the East has a player like LeBron James who can just take over again whenever he feels he needs to. Few players in the league have ever been tagged with the distinction of being unguardable, but LeBron James pulls that off quite nicely.

The one team that seems to give them the most trouble with the past two seasons is the Orlando Magic who have arguably the best collection of offense of weapons in the NBA today and the best defensive player in the league in center Dwight Howard.

After the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Orlando Magic, the competition in the Eastern conference drops off fairly drastically as the Atlanta Hawks and the Boston Celtics become the next two teams to beat in the conference.

Even though the top four teams in the Eastern conference will be the only teams in the East that most people keep their eyes on in these playoffs, there is one team that I believe could shock one or more of these great teams in the conference during the postseason.

Throughout this NBA regular season we’ve seen a few surprises for certain players in certain teams exceeding expectations and becoming legitimate playoff teams.

In the Western Conference, the Oklahoma City Thunder who have gone from one of the worst teams in the league to one of the promising young teams in the future in just one season. Not only has the Thunder been able to become a playoff team for the first time since moving to Oklahoma City, but Kevin Durant has gone from just a good player to arguably the best score this week today. As a result, the Texas product has one scoring title and become the youngest player to do so in NBA history.

In the Eastern conference, the Milwaukee Bucks are the team that have really surprised people as they have had nothing but disappointment over the last few seasons with their superstar guard Michael Redd going down in consecutive seasons with serious knee injuries.

Despite Michael Redd going down once again with a knee injury and quite possibly claim his last game as a Milwaukee Buck, the team has been able to rally around point guard rookie phenom Brandon Jennings.
Even though a lot of people questioned whether or not Brandon Jennings couldn’t play the NBA level after playing in Italy for one season due to his in eligibility to enter the NBA draft because of age, young kid has completely turned around his franchise and looks like a future superstar in this week with the help of All-Star caliber center Andrew Bogut.

Not only has Brandon Jennings almost single-handedly brought interest back to the Milwaukee Bucks fan base, but he has helped lead the team back into the playoffs and in my opinion given them a solid shot at competing with the best the best in the conference.

I do believe for the Milwaukee Bucks might be able to surprise some people in the playoffs, but they will have their work cut out for them against another young and upcoming team in the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks by no means will go down without a fight, but in my opinion this will be the most entertaining first round matchup in the playoffs.

What’s the key to the Thunder’s sudden resurgence?

Ryan Ward - A true Lakers Fan

Staff Writer: Ryan Ward

The Thunder will make their first playoff appearance in its young existence. Oklahoma City is currently the sixth seed in the west but are locked in a three-way battle with the Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs. Well, it doesn’t really matter what seed they will end up in because the Thunder are young, athletic and skilled, which makes them a very dangerous first-round opponent.

Obviously, their success can be attributed by the sudden explosion of Kevin Durant. Durant went from rising star last season to an MVP candidate. He will likely win his first scoring title this season. Forward Jeff Green is averaging 15 points a ball game and Russell Westbrook is having a career year. These three young guns are a big reason why the Thunder find themselves in the playoffs.

It’s their offense that gets a lot of recognition, but its actually the Thunder’s defense which makes them dangerous. The Thunder allows only 97.6 points a game, which is good enough for 11th in the league. There’s not one individual on Oklahoma City that is a great defender. But as a team the Thunder are a cohesive, effective defensive unit.

Against the highest scoring team in the league, the Phoenix Suns, the Thunder held them to their lowest scoring output in the second half – the Suns scored only 34 points. The young Oklahoma City Thunder also held the Suns under 100 points. Two-time MVP Steve Nash and All-star Amar’e Stoudemire were forced into committing five combined turnovers.

All you need to know about what the Thunder defense did to the Suns offense is this: the Suns shot 58 percent in first and second quarters. After that, Phoenix shot only 31 percent. Durant and Green had seven steals – amazing considering they are both forwards.

This years Thunder reminds us much of last seasons Portland Trail Blazers. Exciting crowd, budding superstar in Durant (in the Blazers case Brandon Roy), and a core group of young talented guys. All of this resulted in first-round fodder.

Durant, in particular, had no turnovers on his way to scoring 35 points. It’s been a joy to watch Durant this season. There are already talks that is he the second best player in the league – yes, in front of Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard. This statement might be a reach considering Durant has played at this level for only one season. Plus, greatness can’t be measured during the season, it is seen where it counts – in the playoffs.

Durant and the Thunder will get the opportunity to prove exactly that as they make their first playoff appearance in history.

Are the Milwaukee Bucks a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference?

Staff Writer for Basketball Betting - A true Lakers Fan

Staff Writer:  Ryan Ward

Even though we see a lot of the same teams in the NBA contending for titles and playoff spots, as time goes on other teams, so of which do not expect, start to emerge as forces to be reckoned with.

This season we have a seen a few teams around the league that have gone from a terrible team with no hope, to legitimate playoff teams. In the Western Conference, the Oklahoma City Thunder have been that teams as they have seemingly come out of nowhere with MVP candidate Kevin Durant having the best season of his young NBA career.

Not only has Kevin Durant made his Oklahoma City Thunder a playoff team for the first time since moving to Oklahoma City, is also a legitimate candidate for the award as he scoring just under 30 once again and could possibly win the scoring title this season as he is only just behind LeBron James and the leading scorers list this season.

Along with Oklahoma City Thunder, the Phoenix Suns have also gotten back to their winning ways this season and look like a legitimate playoff team as well. The Memphis Grizzlies could also be a team to be reckoned with in the Western Conference in the years to come, but they will most likely fall just a little bit short of making the playoffs this season as the Portland Trail Blazers hold a four game lead over OJ Mayo and company right now.

The Eastern conference also has its share of surprising teams this season with the Charlotte Bobcats the Milwaukee Bucks looking like they will make their way into the postseason this time around.

Over the past couple of years the Charlotte Bobcats and the Milwaukee Bucks and amongst the league’s worst teams. The Bobcats have been a team that is just been struggling due to the fact that they had a young core of players are still trying to learn how to play with each, but this season things are changing as Gerald Wallace and new swingman Stephen Jackson have really started to turn around his franchise.

Even though the Charlotte Bobcats becoming a playoff team is something that happened way before anyone anticipated, the Milwaukee Bucks have arguably had the better season it looked have an even more promising future as a few of their players like center Andrew Bogut and point guard rookie phenom Brandon Jennings look like they could compete amongst the best players in the league in the near future.

This season the Milwaukee Bucks have faced a few of us and downs as at one time they were without a doubt a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern conference, especially after Jennings lit up the Golden State Warriors for 55 points.

Shortly after Jennings put on an amazing scoring display against the Warriors, the Bucks start struggle and many people started asking whether or not their promising start to the season was nothing more than a fluke. Even though that seemed like the case, the Bucks weren’t done yet as they slowly, but surely were able to become a legitimate playoff team once again and now are the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.

There is still a ways to go in the second half of the NBA regular season, but I believe the Milwaukee Bucks could give one of the Eastern conference heavyweights a run for their money in the playoffs and could quite possibly make it into the second round as the surprise team in the East.

Possible NBA Playoff matchups in the Eastern Conference

Staff Writer for Basketball Betting - A true Lakers Fan

Staff Writer:  Ryan Ward

The NBA regular season is quickly coming to an end with less than 15 games left for most of the teams around the league. With the regular season ending all the playoff bound teams in the NBA are either trying to hold on their seeds or improve their position before the postseason.

Here are how things shape up in the Eastern Conference if the playoffs were to start today:

#1 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. #8 Toronto Raptors

It would be hard to argue that the Cavs aren’t the best team in the league right now. LeBron James and company have the best record in the league and will almost certainly head into the playoffs that way, but the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers might be able to close the gap if Cleveland begins to struggle.

Right now the Cavs are red hot and riding high as LeBron James is on his way to winning his second straight NBA MVP and Cleveland is gearing up for what might be a championship run in the playoffs.

There first opponent will more than likely be the Toronto Raptors who have played well at times this season, but won’t be able to put much of fight against LeBron James and company.

The health of Shaq and Antawn Jamison will determine the outcome of this series. I really can’t see Chris Bosh and company being much of a challenge, but if Shaq and Jamison aren’t 100%, Bosh might have a good series.

Series Prediction: 4-1 Cleveland Cavaliers

#2 Orlando Magic vs. #7 Charlotte Bobcats

The defending Eastern Conference champion Orlando Magic are poised to make another run at an NBA title this season as they will come into the postseason with a lot of confidence knowing they dominated the Cleveland Cavaliers last season in the playoffs.

Before the Cavs and Magic face off, they will have to contend with the up and coming Charlotte Bobcats in the first round. The Bobcats, like the Magic, could give the Cavs a run for their money if they meet in the playoffs, but I am not sure they will be able to compete with Dwight Howard and company.

The Magic will have the edge in the paint and on the perimeter which means they could quite possibly sweep the Bobcats in four games.

Series Prediction: 4-0 Orlando Magic

#3 Boston Celtics vs. #6 Miami Heat

The Boston Celtics aren’t getting any younger and this season was a big indication of that as they struggled with injuries to their big three (KG, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen), but they saw Rajon Rondo get even better as it has become more and more apparent that the Celtics will be his team in the near future.

Despite not being the dominant team we remember from a couple of seasons ago, Boston can still hang with the best of them and will almost certainly advance to the second round of the playoffs.

The Miami Heat will come into this series once again trying to prove they can play with the big boys in the East, but even though they have Dwyane Wade, who will be a matchup nightmare for the Celtics, the Heat still have a ways to go before they can become a title contender once again.

Series Prediction: 4-2 Boston Celtics

#4 Atlanta Hawks vs. #5 Milwaukee Bucks

I believe the series between the Atlanta Hawks and the Milwaukee Bucks will be the most intriguing of all in the Eastern Conference as both of these teams are young squads on the rise!

The Hawks have the better all around team with a more polished game plan and chemistry, but the Bucks have Brandon Jennings who could very well be a wildcard in the playoffs as he is explosive and unpredictable. With Jennings on the floor, anything can happen, but in the end I believe the Hawks experience outweighs the Bucks talent.

Series Prediction: 4-3 Atlanta Hawks

Can the Milwaukee Bucks contend with the best in the East?

Staff Writer for Basketball Betting - A true Lakers Fan

Staff Writer:  Ryan Ward

The Eastern Conference isn’t exactly the conference it used to be back in the 80s and 90s, but as we see young teams emerge like LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers and Dwight Howard’s Orlando Magic the conference might be back on the rise again with a promising future.

Even though the Cavs and the Magic are the teams to beat in the East right now, there are a few teams in the conference that are starting to make waves and could quite possibly make some noise in the playoffs this season.

There are still four spots in the Eastern Conference that are up for grabs with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic, Atlanta Hawks and the Boston Celtics taking the top four spots in the conference.

Even though there are just a handful of games left in the NBA regular season, there are only five teams left in contention for the final four spots in the East. The Miami Heat are sitting at the five spot, the Milwaukee Bucks are clinging on the four spot and the Charlotte Bobcats and Toronto Raptors round out the field with the Chicago Bulls on the outside looking in.

Out of all five teams in the East fighting for the final four playoffs spots, the Milwaukee Bucks are perhaps the most surprising and most impressive team right now as they have just dominated in the second half of the NBA season after trading for John Salmons before the NBA trade deadline in mid February.

Coming into this season the Milwaukee Bucks really didn’t know what to expect or what to look for besides seeing what rookie point guard Brandon Jennings could do in the backcourt. Despite a lot of speculation on Jennings skills and questionable attitude, the young kid who just decided to go to Italy before company NBA has turned out to be one of the most promising young point guards in the league today and the future superstar on the rise.

Even though Brandon Jennings might not win the Rookie of the Year award this season due to another rookie point guard in Tyreke Evans of the Sacramento Kings having a similar breakout year, Jennings has been held to the help the team turn itself around and become a playoff contender in the Eastern conference once again.

The Milwaukee Bucks may be a team on the rise but there also team in the middle the drastic change as former face of the franchise Michael Redd has gone down with the second straight season ending knee injury and may have played his last game in Milwaukee. Along with Redd being somewhat phased out with the Bucks, All-Star caliber center Andrew Bogut has also had arguably his best season as a Pro looks like he could also be a superstar on the rise in the NBA.

As if these two players coming into their own weren’t surprising enough in terms of the team’s future, John Salmons has been arguably the best acquisition any team has made via trade this season as he’s turned into a virtual scoring machine in one of the unsung leaders of the Bucks moving forward.

If the playoffs were to start today the Milwaukee Bucks and face off against the Atlanta Hawks and even though the Hawks are have a breakout year their own, I believe the Brandon Jennings and company could give them a run for their money and could quite possibly be somewhat of a Cinderella story in the Eastern conference.