FWDB #4b: Eastern Conference Semifinal Predictions

  • By John Comey, Day 188, 2022

Eastern Conference Semifinals

1) Toronto vs 4) Cincinnati
Season Series: Toronto 2-1
85: Cincinnati 117, @Toronto 112
148: Toronto 111, @Cincinnati 106
160: Toronto 120, @Cincinnati 114

This is a strange one; the road team won all three meetings this year. And there was nothing really discernable about these games. Cincinnati outscored Toronto in the paint in the first meetup, but was unable in the other two. In the first matchup, the Kings shot 51% from the field, and hit eleven threes. Toronto shot a ridiculous 56% from the field, but went just 13-19 from the line.

This is all splitting hairs. Not much separated these two teams this season. The biggest factor, and the one that will carry this series, is experience. Latrell Mason and Victor Olojakpoke won their first playoff series. That’s a big step for a young team. But Toronto reached the conference finals last year. The Kings have bouts of inconsistency, whereas with Toronto, you know what you’re going to get, night in and night out.

For Cincinnati to have a chance in this series, they will have to disrupt the balance of the Huskies. They thrive on diverse offense. By taking out either Bryant King or Vionte Houston (which did not work on 148, as Toronto won despite Houston scoring just seven), it does need nothing that in Cincinnati’s victory over Toronto, Brandon Terry was not available. He wasn’t much of a factor in the other two games, but he does run a steady offense.

Poke slowing Darius Barry down will be an absolutely monumental task. If he is able to, it will swing things considerably. For someone who has been a bit of an unfair whipping boy in the press, it may be too much to ask Poke this year.

Prediction: Toronto figured out Cincinnati, it appears. The Kings have not quite figured out a consistent path past the Huskies. The result is a lesson in what it takes to get past this point. Gentlemen’s sweep. Toronto in five, with Cincinnati winning one at home.

2) Philadelphia vs 3) Chicago
Season Series: Chicago 2-1
62: @Chicago 105, Philadelphia 103
98: @Philadelphia 99, Chicago 77
121: @Chicago 118, Philadelphia 110 (OT)

Realistically, there isn’t much for either of these two teams to go off of, at least in terms of facing one another. The only game the two saw each other in their current form was Chicago’s first game after remaking their team. That was the first game back from the All-Star break.

Realistically, this comes down to Chicago’s reworked offense against Philly’s bullyball defense. And maybe the heroics of Jason Cheaney, who went nuts in the first round against New Orleans.

Realistically, the Warriors shot just 41% in the last meeting between the two teams. They also had 24 offensive rebounds, but only eight second chance points. And they outscored the Jailbirds 50-32 in the paint. One could say that Chicago caught a flat Dubs, and that would be a solid assessment.

One..well, many…are forced to wonder what is going on with Pace LaGarde. He has been very passive since arriving in Chicago, taking just nine attempts a game, and averaging 10.5 points. Yes, Chicago was quite good after the All-Star break. But they didn’t really play anyone after the All-Star break. Against an opponent that handles what Chicago does well, without peak LaGarde, does not seem to favor the Jailbirds well at all.

Credit does have to be given to what the Jailbirds did, however. Dameon Clarke, a 20 ppg scorer, was posting a PER of just 12.7. Marcus Wright, the man who has taken his place, is posting a 16.8. LaGarde, for his lack of stats, is putting up a 16.7. The Jailbirds knew that Clarke was an eyesore in their offense, a guy filling stats while subtracting from the team. They were right to move him. The primary lineup with LaGarde in it has been fantastic, so really, all the harping about his lack of production isn’t felt by the team.

But…this is a different beast. And the Jailbirds are not good at rebounding, nor at preventing teams from doing so against them. Alonzo Weaver and JaDante Hicks are two of the better perimeter defenders in the league, and of course, Rashard Stevens, one of the best rim protectors in the league, awaits inside. For two players who go hard at the rim, such as Cheaney and Keydren Carter, this is a tall challenge. (Pardon the pun.)

Prediction: We believe that both teams will have their moments. But, when push comes to shove, it will be Philly that does the shoving. Their team defense, ability to neutralize what Chicago does on their end, and their ability to dominate the boards, will win a tense series. Philadelphia in five.