The opening week of the NBA playoffs have reaffirmed what the regular season clearly established: The Eastern Conference is demonstratively inferior to the Western Conference from top to bottom.
The Atlanta Hawks, the East’s top-seeded team, didn’t look much like a championship contender in Game 1 versus the Brooklyn Nets, barely holding them off at home for a 99-92 win, with Game 2 last night (Wednesday) also at Atlanta.
The second-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers, led by the incomparable LeBron James and the dynamic 23-year-old guard Kyrie Irving, hold a 2-0 series lead over the young but fearless Boston Celtics after holding serve at home, with Game 3 tipping off tonight (Thursday) at 7 p.m. in Boston.
While the Cavaliers remain the favorite to emerge as conference champion, the third-seeded Chicago Bulls are lurking and are perhaps the most dangerous threat to their impending coronation. The Bulls were up 2-0 against the Milwaukee Bucks after protecting their home court with wins Saturday and Monday.
Game 3 (Wednesday) is in Milwaukee, a city that historically has been like a second home for the Bulls. Separated by only 93 miles and roughly a 90-minute drive, Bulls fans are omnipresent in Milwaukee. Meanwhile, their optimism has been bolstered by the rejuvenated Derrick Rose, who, after having knee surgery on a torn meniscus in his right knee performed Feb. 27, has returned to remarkably resemble the explosive point guard who was the league’s MVP in 2011.
Rose has yet to regain that form, but his current level of play heightens the anticipation for an expected second-round matchup between the Cavs and the Bulls.
In the final conference pairing, the fifth-seeded Washington Wizards (5) are up 2-0 on the fourth-seeded Toronto Raptors after two wins on the road. Game 3 takes place tomorrow in Washington.