First Round Matchup: Milwaukee Bucks vs Orlando Magic
The Milwaukee Bucks have the best record in the league this season, standing at 56 wins and only 17 losses. Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging 29.5 points per game, in the top list among players like Damian Lillard and James Harden. They have some of the best offense in the league, with NBA Stats reporting them at the top of the list at 118.7 points per game, with the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks not trailing far behind. After losing in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Toronto Raptors last year, the Bucks are on a mission to claim the NBA Championship and are good contenders.Embed from Getty Images
They are set to face the Orlando Magic in the first round of the playoffs, which begins August 17. The Orlando Magic have a record of 33-40, which secured them the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference. However, the Magic have only won a single game since Jonathan Isaac went down with a torn ACL on August 2 against the Kings. They could not come up with a win against difficult teams like the Pacers, Raptors, and the Celtics. Facing a challenging team like the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round most likely means that they will be out of the playoffs early.
Prediction: Milwaukee d. Orlando 4-0
First Round Matchup: Miami Heat vs Indiana Pacers
A more interesting first round matchup will be the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers. Both have almost an equal record this season, at 45 wins and 28 losses and 44 wins and 29 losses, respectively. One particular matchup has more sparks than usual. Miami’s Jimmy Butler and Indiana’s TJ Warren butted heads on January 8, a series of events that took place in the game led to Warren’s ejection and the start of a feud between the two players.
The Miami Heat have been holding their own this season, and one impressive stat is their 3 point percentage. They top the league at 38.1%, and there are multiple players on this roster who have stepped into their roles. Duncan Robinson has been playing effectively, being the team leader in 3 point field goal percentage at 44.8%. Not far behind, Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Herro are shooting 41.2 and 39.%, respectively.
The Indiana Pacers have some good in game statistics as well. In the list among the Lakers and the Bucks, their field goal percentage is 47.6. TJ Warren has been an impressive player to watch in the bubble. According to ESPN, “Warren dropped a bubble-high 53 in the Pacers’ opening game, and he has scored at least 30 in four of the five games Indiana has played. Other than the one “off” game in which he scored 16 points on 7-of-20 shooting — in the Pacers’ only loss so far — Warren is averaging 39.5 points on an outrageous 66% shooting.” He will be the player on the Pacers to look out for in the playoffs.
The question is, can the Pacers come up with enough to beat the Heat?
Prediction: Miami d. Indiana 4-2
First Round Matchup: Boston Celtics vs Philadelphia 76ers
Originally, this would be a grab your popcorn type of series. However, with the loss of Ben Simmons from the 76ers, the Celtics seem to have an advantage over Philadelphia. Boston has been playing at a high level in the bubble, with impressive wins over teams like the Toronto Raptors. Having dropped only 3 of the seeding games, they have an overall record of 48-24. Boston’s top players have been key, with Jaylen Brown averaging 20.3 points, Jayson Tatum averaging 23.4 points, and Kemba Walker averaging 20.4 points, according to the Boston Celtics Stats on the NBA’s website. If this team continues this level of basketball, they have a good chance of making it past the 76ers.
At 42 wins and 30 losses, the Philadelphia 76ers are ranked 6th in the Eastern Conference. After losing Jimmy Butler last summer, the 76ers acquired Tobias Harris and Al Horford. This season, they averaged 106.5 points against the Celtics, as well as a 44.8 field goal percentage. They have yet to play their final seeding game, but have dropped 4 of the 7 games they have played so far. In order to give Boston a fight, the players must step up and fill the absence of Ben Simmons. This will provide a look at what the 76ers need to do to raise their level.
Embiid’s role without Simmons is something to keep an eye on as we see who steps up to the job.
Prediction: Boston d. Philadelphia 4-2
First Round Matchup: Toronto Raptors vs Brooklyn Nets
Although the Toronto Raptors have faced the Brooklyn Nets in the playoffs before, this is a different look for both teams. This season, the Raptors have exceeded everyone’s expectations after losing Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green in the offseason. Today, they won their final seeding game against the Denver Nuggets, giving them a record of 7-1 in the bubble. They finish with the second best record in the NBA, behind the Milwaukee Bucks and in front of the LA Lakers. The key to the Raptors success this season has been a combination of good defense and their depth. “Next man up” has been their catchphrase through every injury, rest, and slump. They certainly have the pieces to beat Brooklyn, but they cannot be sloppy if they feel too comfortable.
The Brooklyn Nets have proven to be a tough team, even without stars Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant, and with some different faces in their lineup. They have only dropped 3 games in the bubble, securing the 7th spot in the East. Caris LeVert has been impressive, averaging 18.7 points a game but taking on a bigger role with the absence of many players. They believe that they can win this series, and they will need to stay sharp to make a push.
Prediction: Toronto d. Brooklyn 4-2
The playoffs begin August 17, with the first Eastern Conference matchup beginning at 4:00 pm, with the Brooklyn Nets taking on the Toronto Raptors. A second Eastern Conference matchup begins at 6:30 pm, between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics. You can tune in on ESPN to watch the Raptors game and NBC Sports to watch the Celtics.