NBA playoffs: Eastern Conference first round preview

  • Giannis Antekounmpo
  • Kemba Walker
  • Kyle Lowry
  • Pascal Siakam
  • Victor Oladipo
By timrodriguez August 18, 2020 0 Comment
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The matchups are set and the teams are ready to go on Monday. What will happen in the Eastern Conference first round of the NBA playoffs?

The Eastern Conference playoffs are set. The Washington Wizards failed to set up a play-in game for the eighth seed. The Brooklyn Nets and Orlando Magic were able to hold on to the final two playoff spots.

Milwaukee Bucks (1) vs Orlando Magic (8)

Ah, the Eastern Conference. The Orlando Magic are essentially just happy to be here. Without Jonathan Isaac and potentially Aaron Gordon, the hometown team poses no threat to stay competitive with Milwaukee. After going without a playoff berth from 2013 to 2018, this team is one the right track with back to back postseason appearances with head coach Steve Clifford. The main problem with Orlando is that they have great complimentary pieces, but no star to carry the franchise. The Magic are a seven seed type of team until they can get themselves a star to compete with the other stars in the East. Right now, they are merely a warm up for the Bucks on their quest for a championship.

The Bucks did not look great in the bubble. They went 3-5 in the NBA restart, and one of those wins against the Miami Heat without two of their three best players. However, this is still the same dominant team that we saw in the regular season. Giannis Antetokounmpo should be the unanimous MVP. Although, according to some in the media, narratives matter more than basketball in deciding who wins the award. The first round matchup with the Orlando Magic is exactly what the Bucks need to get themselves going. That’s what the Eastern Conference provides for the top seed: a tuneup.

Prediction: Bucks win 4-0

Toronto Raptors (2) vs Brooklyn Nets (7)

The Nets should be commended for what they have done in the bubble. Without seemingly all of their important players, they have played hard and even won some games. They even beat the number one seed Milwaukee Bucks. Interim head coach Jacque Vaughn has done a great job and finished in the top three in “Coach of the restart” voting. Youngsters Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen showed great strides. LeVert was named second team “All-Bubble”. These two showed that they can be great contributory pieces for when the stars return next season. As for this series, the Nets will play hard. They will give Toronto everything they have. They will most likely be able to steal a game or two and avoid a clean sweep.

The Raptors are one of the most interesting stories of the 2020 NBA season. After losing Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green from their championship roster, everyone expected a regression back to what they were before. However, they just kept playing team basketball and even developed a new star. Pascal Siakam has flourished into an All-Star and seems to be the future of the only franchise in Canada. Kyle Lowry, the heart and soul of this team, has stayed a consistent All-Star, even in the absence of Leonard. They are perhaps the best defensive team in the NBA and have a great shot to defend their title.

Prediction: Raptors win 4-2

Boston Celtics (3) vs Philadelphia 76ers (6)

Philadelphia is a very interesting case entering the playoffs. Star point guard Ben Simmons is out for the remainder of the season. However, there are occasions where the team plays better without one of their two stars. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons simply do not fit together. Simmons wants to play faster and Embiid wants to play slower and get touches in the post. With Simmons out of the picture, the team will play through Embiid and Al Horford in the post. There will be more shooting on the floor. The goal will be to beat up the small ball Celtics down low. Enes Kanter does not play much defense and Daniel Theis is only 6’8”. Boston will ultimately win the series, but Philadelphia will definitely play better than an NBA team that just lost their best player.

The Celtics have been playing well given that they haven’t had a healthy Kemba Walker in quite some time. According to Walker, he is ready to go and help the Celtics take on Philly in the first round. Boston has the ability to speed the game up and make life hard for Embiid and Horford. Jayson Tatum has flourished into a star. The Celtics, even in their first season without Kyrie Irving, are looking like true title contenders. They will look to get Kemba Walker back into shape before a matchup with Kyle Lowry and the defending champion Toronto Raptors.

Prediction: Celtics win 4-2

Indiana Pacers (4) vs Miami Heat (5)

The Miami Heat have become one of the most dangerous teams in the NBA. They have a winning record against the Bucks, Raptors, 76ers, and Pacers. Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro have become absolute snipers. The team has multiple All-Stars for the first time since the “Big three” era. “Heat Culture” has become more than just a slogan for this team. They play with intensity, tenacity, and a whole lot of grit. In this particular matchup, the Heat have the advantage over the Pacers. Miami won the season series 3-1. On top of that, the only game that Indiana won was a game when the Heat decided to rest their starters.

Nate McMillan and the Pacers deserve credit for what they have done this season. With Victor Oladipo missing most of the season, they have managed to get “home court advantage” in the playoffs. Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis played a hell of a season, but they just could not stay healthy. If they can get Oladipo to stay next off-season, this team has a great chance to contend for years to come.

Prediction: Heat win 4-1

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