The NBA play-offs begin on Saturday night, so we examine the eight Eastern Conference teams that have reached the post-season, identify their key players and analyse their title hopes. Cleveland CavaliersRegular season record: 57-25, Central division championsEastern Conference play-off seeding: 1 Star man: LeBron JamesLost amid the hysteria surrounding Steph Curry, LeBron James delivered another MVP-level regular season performance, leading the Cavaliers the No 1 seed in the East with 25.3 points, 6.8 assists and 7.4 rebounds per game.Off the court, things didnt appear to go as smoothly as rumours persisted about James frustration with younger team-mates Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. He also mysteriously unfollowed his own team on Twitter mid-season causing a predictable media furore.Now in his 13th NBA season, James is known for pacing himself through the regular season and saving his best for the play-offs. He scored 33 and 34 points in his last two regular season appearances, signalling he is ready for the post-season. Cleveland will want their star names in sync if they are to challenge for the title Season in summary: No shortage of turmoil. The injured Irving missed the first two months of the season. Shortly after his return, coach David Blatt was fired and James failure to gel with Blatt was questioned.Blatts replacement Tyronn Lue enjoyed a better rapport with the players and the Cavs ultimately closed in and claimed the No 1 seed. Despite that, the team still have their issues. They havent found a way to get the best out of Love and James continues to chafe at the shoot-first mentality of point guard Irving.Play-off prognosis: Favourites to win the East and reach the finals. Should they get there, theyd face the Warriors or Spurs as definite underdogs.Toronto RaptorsRegular season record: 56-26, Atlantic division championsEastern Conference play-off seeding: 2Star man: Kyle LowryThe point guard was named an All-Star for a second successive season and delivered a stellar 21.2 points and 6.4 assists per game for the season, leading the Raptors to the best regular season record in their history.Lowry makes a difference on the offensive and defensive ends of the floor and his two-way play has come to represent the Raptors team identity. Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors will have the support of a nation Season in summary: Following their first-round play-off exit in 2015, the Raptors were perceived to be lagging behind the Cavs, Miami Heat and Washington Wizards going into the season. However, their All-Star backcourt of Lowry and DeMar DeRozan - not to mention the defensive boost provided by free agency acquisition DeMarre Carroll and unheralded big men Bismack Biyombo and Patrick Patterson - established the Raps as a genuine force in the Eastern Conference early in the season, a position they never relinquished.Play-off prognosis: When the Raptors are in the post-season, take nothing for granted. Canadas only NBA team lost first-round play-offs series in 2014 and 2015. They have the ability to embark on a long play-off run (and the fanbase to make such a run truly memorable), but the jitters could set in if they fall behind early on in a series.Miami HeatRegular season record: 48-34, South East division championsEastern Conference play-off seeding: 3 Can Dwyane Wade lead Miamis band of veterans and youngsters through the post season? Star man: Dwyane WadeWith Chris Bosh a long-term absentee due to blood clots in his calf, veteran shooting guard Wade, a three-time NBA champion, once again finds the Heats play-off hopes on his shoulders.Wades regular season workload is limited to ensure he gets to the play-offs in the best shape so his pedestrian regular season numbers (19 points and 4.6 assists per game) are not important.When play-off defences tighten and a team needs a player able to create his own shot and take over a game, there are few with more experience and skill than Wade.Season in summary: The loss of Bosh in February provided opportunities for the teams less-heralded players. The Heat roster is a potent mix of veterans with extensive post-season experience and young stars poised to break through on the biggest stage and star alongside Wade.In Goran Dragic, they have a point guard able to control and game while mid-season acquisition Joe Johnson has a reputation for taking and making last-second shots.Maverick shot-blocker Hassan Whiteside and rookie defensive stopper Justise Winslow have the potential to make vital post-season contributions.Play-off prognosis: The true dark horse in the East. Should they beat Charlotte in the first round, Miami have the ability and personnel to spring a surprise later on against Toronto or Cleveland.Atlanta HawksRegular season record: 48-34Eastern Conference play-off seeding: 4Star men: Al Horford and Paul MillsapThe Hawks big men might lack star power but undeniably impact the game, particularly on the defensive end where the team boasts the leagues second-best rating.Millsap in particular saved his best form for the latter part of the season, averaging 19 points and 13.4 rebounds per game in April. Paul Millsaps Atlanta Hawks will be looking to cause an upset Season in summary: After a slow start to the season, the Hawks found their best form after the All-Star break, winning 17 of their final 23 games.The Hawks are not solely reliant on their defence, they play effective, unselfish offence (only the Warriors average more assists per game) and in Kyle Korver and Kent Bazemore have players who can sink the three-ball.Play-off prognosis: The Hawks first-round series with Boston promises to be a low-scoring, tight affair but Atlanta have the play-off experience. This will be their ninth successive year in the play-offs. Progress beyond the second round - where they would likely meet LeBron and the Cavs - is another story.Boston CelticsRegular season record: 48-34Eastern Conference play-off seeding: 5Star man: Isaiah ThomasThe offensively-challenged Celtics rely on Thomas ability to score heavily and quickly. The 5ft 9in guard averaged 22.2 points and two three-pointers per game in the regular season. Hes also the Celtics best distributor, averaging 6.2 assists per game.The Celtics offensive efficiency dropped from 106.4 to 98.7 when Thomas was on the bench. He was deservedly named among the Eastern Conference All-Stars. Isaiah Thomas, the Boston Celtics pocket rocket, will lead their play-off challenge Season in summary: The Celtics may lack star power but thats not been a problem thanks to their head coach Brad Stevens, whose reputation continues to grow.The Celtics rely on the swift rotations and hustle of Stevens defensive system and in Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder, have the players to implement it.The Celtics got a major confidence boost ahead of the play-offs, ending the Golden State Warriors 54-game unbeaten home streak on April 1.Play-off prognosis: The Celtics series with Atlanta is the Easts most evenly-matched pairing. For all the progress they have made under Stevens, it will be tough for Boston to overcome the more experienced Hawks.Charlotte HornetsRegular season record: 48-34Eastern Conference play-off seeding: 6 Charlotte Hornets Kemba Walker has made huge strides, but can his team cause a play-off stir? Star man: Kemba WalkerPoint guard Walker provides the fuel that makes the Hornets engine run. With season stats of 20.9 points, 2.2 three-pointers and 5.2 assists per game, Walker is a leading candidate for the NBAs Most Improved Player award.Season in summary: When the season began, few would have backed Charlotte to reach the play-offs, particularly given the long-term absence of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. But the Hornets hit their stride after the All-Star break, winning 21 of their 29 games, a record bettered only by Golden State and San Antonio.Led by Walker and supported by Nicolas Batum and Marvin Williams, the Hornets also improved significantly on the defensive end, finishing the season with the leagues ninth-best rating.Play-off prognosis: For all their improvement this year, the Hornets concede too much post-season experience to Miami, their first-round opponents. Wade, Whiteside and Co. will be too much for them.Indiana PacersRegular season record: 45-37Eastern Conference play-off seeding: 7 Paul George has bounced back from injury to lead the Indiana Pacers play-off bid Star man: Paul GeorgeGeorge suffered a horrific leg-break on duty for the US national team and it cost him most of the 2015 season. The Pacers missed the play-offs as a consequence. George, though, has enjoyed a remarkable return to his best form in 2016, re-asserting himself among the NBAs Top 20 players with season averages of 23.1 points, 2.6 threes, 7.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game.Season in summary: The Pacers style of play changed significantly over the course of the season. They started brightly embracing a small ball, three-pointer reliant offence with George and CJ Miles.When Miles hot-shooting cooled off, rookie forward Myles Turner provided the offensive spark inside until he too slumped. The one constant for the Pacers was their inability to close out games. They lost 20 regular season games in which they held a fourth-quarter lead.Play-off prognosis: The seedings suggest the Pacers are underdogs against the Raptors, but George has taken Indiana to two Eastern Conference finals in recent years while opponents Toronto have lost first round series to lower seeded teams in each of the past two seasons.If the Pacers can get an early series lead, will the Raptors panic?Detroit PistonsRegular season record: 44-38Eastern Conference play-off seeding: 8Star man: Andre DrummondThe Pistons centre led the NBA in rebounding (14.8 per game) on his way to his first All-Star selection. Although his offensive game is limited and his free-throw shooting is historically atrocious, Drummond is the perfect centre-piece for coach Stan van Gundys offence.Season in summary: The Pistons started slowly but, following the acquisition of small forward Tobias Harris from the Orlando Magic, made a late post-season push winning 17 of their last 26 games to seal the eighth seed.Play-off prognosis: The first round will prove to be too much, too soon for the Pistons, who will surely be out-manned by LeBron James and the Cavaliers. Also See: How good are Golden State? Changing the game Wholesale Rangers Jerseys
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