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The smoke has finally cleared and the contenders have separated themselves from the pretenders. Everything changes from now on. Coaches will sleep less and players will sweat more as every possession gets even more crucial. Teams will be flexing their muscles as they dominate foes and ground breaking upsets are also within reach for those who barely made the postseason trip. Roll your eyes and tighten up your focus as we go through every first round matchup from both Eastern and Western Conferences while also providing bold predictions.

Eastern Conference

(1) Atlanta Hawks VS (8) Brooklyn Nets

The Southeast Division Champion Atlanta Hawks swept their regular season series against the Brooklyn Nets, 4-0. The Hawks have displayed consistency from day one while the mediocre Nets started to hit their stride when they acquired Thaddeus Young via a midseason trade. The Nets have a tall order in front of them as the Hawks are the second best home team in the league. Atlanta’s relies on ball movement and three point shooting, areas where Brooklyn is struggling defensively. Unfortunately for Brooklyn, there’s simply no aspect that they can capitalize, hence, a smooth flight looms for the soaring Hawks.

Fearless Forecast: Atlanta wins, 4-1.

Click ‘Next’ to see our predictions for the matchup between the #2 and #7 teams in the East!

John Kuntz | Northeast Ohio Media Group

John Kuntz | Northeast Ohio Media Group

(2) Cleveland Cavaliers VS (7) Boston Celtics

The Cavaliers and Celtics hold a very deceiving split of their regular season series as both teams saw changes to major areas, even the stakes, every time they matched up. The only game where both teams paraded their closest-to-playoff lineups was on a 110-79 Cavalier rout at The Quicken Loans Arena. The past two games which Boston won were no-bearing contests for Cleveland, hence, not a good measuring stick. Both teams move the ball well but Cleveland has the edge as they can better neutralize Boston’s passing game with their length and athleticism. An interesting area to watch lies beyond the arc as Cleveland loves to shoot from distance but Boston is one of the best at defending the three point line. However, this is just one facet and the Cavs have the personnel that will give them an extra gear and, ultimately, the series.

Fearless Forecast: Cleveland wins, 4-1.

Click ‘Next’ to see our predictions for the matchup between the #3 and #6 teams in the East!

Darren Hauck | Associated Press

(3) Chicago Bulls VS (6) Milwaukee Bucks

After winning their regular season series, 3-1, the Chicago Bulls will look to re-assert their dominance in the paint against the scrappy Milwaukee Bucks. It’s going to be Chicago’s frontline against Milwaukee’s wings. Pau Gasol is still the Bucks’ biggest dilemma as no one in their roster is able to keep up with the Spaniard who scored 46 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in their last meeting. It’s on Jason Kidd now to best utilize his glut of guards and wing players in hopes of exposing Chicago’s lack of depth from the guards and small forward spot. Ultimately, the best player has a major say in the outcome of the series so if Derrick Rose continues to have a clean bill of health then the Bulls will be looking at a second round matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Fearless Forecast: Chicago wins, 4-3.

Click ‘Next’ to see our predictions for the matchup between the #4 and #5 teams in the East!

Brad Mills | USA TODAY Sports

(4) Toronto Raptors VS (5) Washington Wizards

The Raptors and Wizards are two virtually even teams on paper as they present good matchups at every position and the backcourt alone is already an explosive collision of speed and athleticism with John Wall and Bradley Beal burning rubber against Kyle Lowry and DeMar Derozan. Toronto loves to hoist those long bombs, an area which Washington has problems controlling, but the Wizards possess a deeper frontline. If the Wiz plan to put the Raptors campaign into extinction, their bench must step up. At the top of it all, the biggest thing going for Washington is that they got the best player in this series who goes by the name John Wall and his health and dynamic ability to significantly impact ballgames and make his peers look better will be the deciding factor that will push the Wizards to the East Semis.

Fearless Forecast: Washington wins, 4-3.

Click ‘Next’ to see our predictions for the first round of the Western Conference playoffs!

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We now look at the ever-intriguing Western Conference and who we predict will win:

Western Conference

Golden State Warriors VS (8) New Orleans Pelicans

In 2007, the Golden State Warriors eliminated the heavily favored top-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the first round, now, they see themselves at the other end of the table as they ran roughshod on the entire NBA to comfortably plant themselves at the top spot of the overall standings. They are simply a well-oiled machine that excels on both ends of the floor led by MVP candidate, Steph Curry. This is not to disrespect the Pelicans but their playoff goal this year should only be for Anthony Davis to get as much experience as he can. They might steal a game or even two against the Warriors but the Dubs are simply a devastatingly complete team to falter at the early stage.

Fearless Forecast: Golden State wins, 4-1.

Click ‘Next’ to see our predictions for the matchup between the #2 and #7 teams in the West!

Kevin Jairaj | USA TODAY Sports

(2) Houston Rockets VS (7) Dallas Mavericks

The West playoffs isn’t complete without a good old Texas matchup, luckily for us, Houston and Dallas have a date. Two veteran teams will go up against each other in what could be the most exciting matchup of the first round. While the Rockets own the deeper the lineup, the Mavericks possess the more experienced crew. These two teams are infatuated with the three-ball so expect a lot of firepower in this battle of Western powerhouses. However, Houston is the more stable team while also having the best player in James Harden so those two factors give them the upper hand in this series. Barring any major injuries to James Harden’s beard, Houston should be able to dispatch Dallas.

Fearless Forecast: Houston wins, 4-2.

Click ‘Next’ to see our predictions for the matchup between the #3 and #6 teams in the West!

Soobum Im | USA TODAY Sports

(3) Los Angeles Clippers VS (6) San Antonio Spurs

Disregard the seeding. The Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio Spurs are two veteran teams who are both led by elite players and coaches that almost everything’s a virtual tossup. Chris Paul will continue to feed Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan up there, but Gregg Popovich could care less and that goes to show the ironically big contrast between these two teams’ playing styles. The Clippers` starting five is one of the best in the league but their bench is one of the most shallow as well. San Antonio`s notorious depth could wear out on Los Angeles, which could eventually tip the series in favor of the defending champions. But Chris Paul needs this series as he’s never been in the Conference Finals, so he might just decide to take the series over and win it himself.

Fearless forecast: Los Angeles wins, 4-2.

Click ‘Next’ to see our predictions for the matchup between the #4 and #5 teams in the West!

Justin Ford | USA TODAY Sports

(4) Portland Trail Blazers VS (5) Memphis Grizzlies

The Memphis Grizzlies, despite being the number 5 seed, will still have homecourt advantage in the first round due to their better record against the Northwest Division champion and 4th seed Portland Trail Blazers. Portland’s Lamarcus Aldridge will have his hands full against Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph as the men in Memphis try to continue their mastery over the Blazers whom they swept in their regular season series. The Blazers are already down one starter in Wesley Matthews and to add to their woes, Nicolas Batum still hasn’t hit his stride. While Memphis’ key starters in Mike Conley and Tony Allen are also nursing injuries, they are expected to be back in first round. Memphis holds the upper hand but Portland still do some serious damage if players such as CJ McCollum and Arron Afflalo decide step up. The Blazers is still a very dangerous crew as they belong to an exclusive and elite group of teams who are ranked in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Ultimately, Memphis will dictate the tempo and swing the balance in their favor.

Fearless Forecast: Memphis wins, 4-2