Let the fun begin! The NBA playoff seeding is finalized and in two days, the first round of games begin. Just a quick impressive, yet sad note: this is first time since 1999-00 the playoffs will not be seeing future Hall of Fame players Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki. And of course, it is the first time in 13 years LeBron James is not in the playoffs. The NBA will miss their incredible Spring time performances.
But the games must go on and as it goes for first round match-ups in the Eastern Conference, it will be tough for any upsets. The East is top heavy with loaded teams against mediocre lower seeds, but there is a series to make the first round interesting. Here are the predictions:
#1 Milwaukee Bucks vs. #8 Detroit Pistons (Bucks 4-0 sweep)
This will not be the interesting series. The Bucks are as well rounded as a team gets as they are first in team scoring averaging 118.1 PPG and allow 109.3 PPG, 11th in the league. The Bucks are without Malcolm Brogdon, which will hurt them further in the playoffs, but not in the first round. As for the Pistons, they have arguably the best front court in the league with All-Stars Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. But with struggles at the guard positions, the chances of them winning a game are unlikely.
#2 Toronto Raptors vs. #7 Orlando Magic (Raptors win 4-1)
The Raptors have a team loaded with playoff experience in Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, and Danny Green. With the eighth ranked offense and ninth ranked defense in the league, they are another well-rounded group. Plus, the Raptors do not have a significant injury. The Magic may be able to squeeze a game out at home with their fifth ranked defense, allowing 106.6 PPG. Their All-Star center Nikola Vucevic had a great season and is due for a breakout playoff game. However, their lack of offense, (107.3 PPG, 24th in NBA), will not be able to sustain more than one victory.
#3 Philadelphia 76ers vs. #6 Brooklyn Nets (Nets win 4-3, but it’s really a toss up)
This is the most interesting series in the Eastern Conference. The 76ers are loaded with talent, proven stars, and a high octane offense as the team has four players averaging over 18.0 PPG. Nevertheless, their offense has carried the team as the defense ranks 19th in the league at 112.5 PPG. They do have some playoff experience as they went to the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Now the Nets are one of the surprise teams this season, performing a complete 180 degrees turn around. The Nets were 9-18 on December 7, 2018, and led by All-Star D’Angelo Russell, the team finished 42-40. The “Nothing to lose” attitude has propelled their team and coming off a three-game win streak, the Nets have a solid chance of beating the 76ers.
#4 Boston Celtics vs. #5 Indiana Pacers (Celtics win 4-1)
The Celtics have produced an underwhelming season as they were expected to be a top two team in the East. But, after a losing 4-3 in the ECF last year to the Cleveland Cavaliers, they have a chip on their shoulder. Out of all the teams in the East, they have the deepest bench with Gordon Hayward being healthy, a great blend of young talent and veteran-ship, and of course, superstar Kyrie Irving. Not to mention, the Celtics dropped a 20-point win against the Pacers on April 5. The Pacers do have the number one defense in the league, but in this series against experience, it won’t matter. Even if the Pacers had All-Star Victor Oladipo, they may win a second game in the series.
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