NBA Eastern Conference Playoff Preview: Round One

Ab Stanley

The Eastern Conference playoffs should provide as much in the way of answers as it will mystery. With a myriad of injuries and players opting out overall, some of these matchups might have lost their luster. No matter the case, when the playoffs start anything can happen.

 

(1) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (8) Orlando Magic

The Bucks have unfinished business from last season and a round one loss is unacceptable. Orlando is the host city and they’ve played well enough to earn themselves a bid for the postseason.

 

Keys To The Game:

Orlando has a low turnover rate and that will bode well versus Milwaukee. Eliminating their fast break points and making the Bucks a half court team is great way to keep the scoring down. Orlando will have to improve their dreadful three points shooting if they want to have a chance in the series.

The Bucks should continue to pound the inside and push the ball whenever they can. Orlando has nobody to match up with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the defending MVP should milk that proposition for all its worth. On defense, the Bucks have to stop Nikola Vucevic who right now (due to injury) is the only real threat Orlando has.

 

Matchup To Watch:

The Lopez Brothers vs. Nikola Vucevic

Brook and Robin Lopez will both have their chance at stopping Vucevic. If they can slow down the hulking big man it will go a long way to ending this series quickly.

 

Prediction: Bucks over Magic (4-0)

Milwaukee should take this series 4-0 easily but Orlando could steal a game. Especially if Antetokounmpo has an off-night on the same night Vucevic has a big game.

 

 

(2) Toronto Raptors vs. (7) Brooklyn Nets

The defending NBA champions will no doubtedly thank the basketball gods for their first round tilt. The Nets were without Kevin Durant all season, Kyrie Irving most of the season and Spencer Dinwiddie for the restart in the bubble and still managed to retain their playoff status.

 

Keys To The Game:

Toronto has turned the ball over a ton during the restart and they will have to do a better job of protecting the ball. The defense has been great all season and it leads to them seeing bunch of transition points on offense.

The Nets went 5-3 during the restart and have victories over the Los Angeles Clippers and the Milwaukee Bucks. They’ve also managed to score a ton of points despite not having their main scoring threats in Irving and Dinwiddie. If Brooklyn can keep the heat on offensively, they have a shot against a Toronto team that can struggle to score.

 

Matchup To Watch:

Kyle Lowry vs. Caris LeVert

Caris LeVert is the Nets’ current scoring threat and has been on a tear in the bubble. Kyle Lowry should be matched up on him mostly but it will take a team effort to slow LeVert down. I’m not saying he can single handedly beat Toronto but keeping him from scoring in bunches should be a focus of the defense.

Prediction: Raptors over Nets (4-0)

The Nets have been a nice story in the bubble but they are short handed, while the Raptors have tons of depth. The Raptors should make short work of Brooklyn.

 

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

The Celtics enter the playoffs winning four of their last five games, looking dangerous in the process. Philadelphia limps into the playoffs without Ben Simmons and could be without Joel Embiid as well.

 

Keys To The Game:

Philadelphia should use Al Horford’s passing ability to maintain their inside-out game, even if Embiid is available. Furkan Korkman and Shake Milton can provide great outside shooting when the Boston defense gets sucked into the lane. Josh Richardson will have to defend multiple players in this series and they need a bit more scoring from him.

Between Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward, who gets the bulk of the shots for the Celtics? Boston should ride the hot hand, whomever ever it is, keeping the pressure on Philadelphia to match their offense.

 

Matchup To Watch:

Jayson Tatum vs. Tobias Harris

Tobias Harris should get a bunch of time matched up with Jayson Tatum. Tatum has been an absolute terror lately and Harris will be heavily leaned on to provide a big scoring punch. Can one player stop the other?

Prediction: Celtics over 76ers (4-1)

Boston would probably be too much for a healthy Philadelphia team, much less this version. Celtics win the series fairly easily.

 

(4) Indiana Pacers vs. (5) Miami Heat

This might be the most drama-filled series in round one. The altercation between Jimmy Butler and T. J. Warren a few of months ago is fresh on our minds. Both teams come into the playoffs looking to prove they belong amongst the names of title contenders.

 

Keys To The Game:

Miami will need Kendrick Nunn and Bam Adebayo to pick up their scoring to add to whatever Jimmy Butler gives them. Miami’s defense will ultimately be their saving grace as they are able to match up well with different styles of offense. They will have to neutralize the Pacers’ speed somehow and force them to shoot from long range.

Indiana will play small and compact with a three guard alignment to flank Warren and Myles Turner upfront. The Pacers do a good job of attacking the basket but they have to find a way to get to the free throw line more than they have. Indiana will have to showcase their great three point defense versus Miami’s outside shooting.

 

Matchup To Watch:

Jimmy Butler vs. T.J. Warren

Butler versus Warren is the most Intriguing face off of the early playoffs rounds. There’s no love lost between these two players and any time they lock up on the court should be a fierce battle.

Prediction: Pacers over Heat (4-3)

This will be a close series and I’ll take the Pacers defense to frustrate the Heat. In a long battle, the Pacers take it in seven.

Ab Stanley

Atlanta, GA

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