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Opinion

Eastern Conference Round 1 predictions

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Roar Rookie
13th August, 2020
3

With the seedings finalised for the Eastern conference, here are my predictions for the first round.

Milwaukee Bucks vs Orlando Magic

The Bucks have been the best team all year and hold the NBA’s best record at 56-16. They also house the best player in the league in Giannis Antetokounmpo, who will want to avenge last year’s disappointing playoff exit.

You’ll most likely find all of the games in this series will be over by three-quarter time as the Bucks will race out early to a double-digit lead and won’t look back from there.

Despite Milwaukie’s shaky form so far in the bubble, there is a higher chance Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton will play under 30 minutes each game than there is of Orlando stealing a win.

My series prediction: Milwaukee wins 4-0.

One to watch
Antetokounmpo. With the Magic not having any outstanding defenders expect the ‘Greek Freak’ to score in high volume in limited minutes.

X-factor
Middleton is a high percentage scorer and when he’s in a rhythm he becomes incredibly hard to stop. Unless Antetokounmpo leaves the Bucks he will always be the sidekick, however, if Middleton doesn’t play well then the team’s overall offence often struggles.

(AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

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Toronto Raptors vs Brooklyn Nets

No one expected the Raptors to back up their impressive championship last season, but here they are refusing to go away and are all but certain to get past the first round.

Due to injury and other health reasons the Nets are depleted and in a playoff-intensity Game 1 I have very little faith that they will be able to compete with the Raptors, let alone win a game.

With no real matchup in the post, Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol will have a field day on both offence and defence, meanwhile Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet will be more than willing to show off their playmaking abilities.

Put all of that together along with a strong bench rotation and what many consider to be the best coach in the league in Nick Nurse and it adds up to a seriously dangerous team.

I fully expect this series to be another sweep as the Raptors set out to prove that even with the loss of Kawhi Leonard they are still a serious threat.

My series prediction: Toronto wins 4-0.

One to watch
Throughout the season Siakam went from being an all-star to a superstar, he can score in the post along with being a 35 per cent shooter from three. The most interesting thing to see with Siakam will be if he’s up to the task of going from being the second-best player to the best in a contending team.

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X-factor
Fred VanVleet. Last year he was struggling in the playoffs and the Raptors found themselves down 2-0 in the Eastern Conference finals, then VanVleet exploded and was a key factor in winning that series. Expect Vanvleet to have a massive contribution if the Raptors are to go deep into the playoffs.

Boston Celtics vs Philadelphia 76ers

Two teams that don’t like each other, a former fan-favourite in Al Horford who crossed enemy lines to play for the opposition and two sets of fans who will set Twitter alight depending on the result.

This series has everything except for (unfortunately) a healthy Ben Simmons.

Ben Simmons

(Rob Carr/Getty Images)

No one could have predicted how poor the Sixers turned out to be this season and on the other hand, not many people saw the Celtics being able to maintain a high level of play with the offseason departures of Kyrie Irving and Al Horford.

There is no doubt the loss of Simmons will hurt, however this season with both Joel Embiid and Simmons on the floor their net efficiency has been +0.6, with just Simmons it has been +2.1 and with just Embiid it is +11. These stats show that without Simmons on the floor and using Joel Embiid as the primary player the Sixers are actually better.

So don’t go counting them out just because they’re missing Simmons.

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That being said, the Celtics’ talent from 1-4 is up there with the best and having four different players in Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward who are more than capable of scoring 20+ points every night will prove to be hard to stop.

I fully expect Joel Embiid to have a day out and average 30+ points and 12+ rebounds over the series due to Boston’s lack of talent at the five spot. However, despite Embiid’s dominance I predict the Celtics will win this series in six games, the Sixers may have the best player in the series but Boston has the next four best and 99 out of 100 times it takes a team to win a series and not just one player.

These games will be must-watch and the only disappointing thing is these games won’t be played in front of what people consider to be the league’s best fanbases.

My series prediction: Boston wins 4-2.

One to watch
Right before the season was suspended Tatum exploded onto the scene and even snapped up Eastern Conference player of the month in February. At 22 everyone expects him to be the future of the Celtics but being the lead guy in the playoffs is very different when compared to the regular season, and everyone will be interested to see if he can convert his form into the playoffs.

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X-factor
There is a significant gap between the two coaches. Celtics coach Brad Stevens is head and shoulders above Sixers head coach Brett Brown who by the end of the playoffs may no longer hold the position due to disappointing results over the last three years. You can expect to see some quirky after timeout plays by Stevens and if any of the games are close down the stretch a good coach can be the difference between winning and losing.

Miami Heat vs Indiana Pacers

The headline act in this series will be Jimmy Butler going toe to toe with TJ Warren, who since arriving in the bubble has gone to another level. These two players shared words earlier this season and in a playoff environment don’t be surprised if the pair to continue to butt heads.

The Pacers won’t go quietly and I fully expect them to take at least one game off Miami especially if Warren continues his fine form and Victor Oladipo rediscovers his all-star capabilities to go along with Malcom Brogdon’s efficient scoring.

However, overall the Heat are much stronger from a playing and coaching perspective and with their elite outside shooting abilities along with Bam Adebayo controlling the paint, I think Miami will be too much to deal with.

Miami Heat rookie guar Tyler Hero celebrating after a made basket

(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

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My series prediction: Miami wins 4-1.

One to watch
You turn on the Heat games for Jimmy Butler but you stay to watch Adebayo, one of the most improved players in the league this year. Adebayo is able to score at will in the post as well as being a very useful defender. Adebayo will definitely be a player to look out for not only in this series but for the remainder of the postseason.

X factor
Before his devastating knee injury Oladipo had made the third team all-NBA and was a genuine star. Unfortunately, he was unable to rediscover that kind of play during the season, however, if he’s able to find any kind of form in this series there could be a dramatic swing and it might not be a cakewalk for the Heat.