Predicting the Hectic Eastern Conference Playoffs

Predicting the Hectic Eastern Conference Playoffs

We’re now into the post-All-Star break segment of the NBA season, the last stretch before the playoffs. Both tournaments to decide conference supremacy are set to be grueling emotional roller-coasters, with several teams in the mix to reach the elusive NBA Finals and win it all.

But today, I’m going to be focusing on the eastern conference playoffs, specifically if the regular season ended and the postseason began today.

First Round

(1) Bucks vs. (8) Raptors

If the season ended now, Toronto would be the 9 seed, but I have them earning the 8 seed via the Play-In Tournament.

The most interesting matchup of this series would surely be Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. Pascal Siakam. Both are All-Stars and NBA champions. Both have some of the most versatile mid-range and under-the-basket games in the league. But of course, I give the edge to Giannis. He’s simply more powerful and bruising on the drive to the rim.

He’s also surrounded by a much better supporting cast, including other All-Stars. Overall, the Bucks should make quick work of Toronto.

Prediction: Bucks in 4

(2) Celtics vs. (7) Heat

The Heat are currently the 7 seed, and I see them winning the Play-In Tournament to keep that place.

This would be a rematch of the 2022 eastern conference finals. It’s been a disappointing year for Miami, who had title aspirations last season. However, despite a recent 4-game losing streak, they defeated the 76ers, proving they’re a worthy team.

Boston is better in pretty much every facet of the game. They have more prolific scorers, a deeper bench, better rim protection, and more capable ball handlers. However, Miami has given them a tough time this season, holding the season series to a split at 2-2.

I actually think the Heat could give the Celtics a run for their money. I don’t predict it to be a long series, but every game will be a nail-biter.

Prediction: Celtics in 5

(3) 76ers vs. (6) Nets

Brooklyn looks quite different after the trade deadline, shipping off both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. However, they received back a nice haul in those blockbuster trades, including Spencer Dinwiddie.

The addition of Dinwiddie rounds out a solid young core of players. Cam Thomas has proven himself to be a more-than-capable scorer, and Nic Claxton is emerging as a real beast on the glass.

Philly is having their best season in recent memory, and many think this is their best bet to reach the NBA Finals. Embiid is an MVP candidate, and James Harden has re-emerged as a relevant player in the NBA, though in a facilitator-first role.

Overall, though Brooklyn has quite a bit of firepower and young resolve, Philly will be too much to handle.

Prediction: 76ers in 6

(4) Cavaliers vs. (5) Knicks

This is starting to look like a real interesting matchup.

The Cavs have had a great season headlined by Donovan Mitchell’s superstardom. They’re a deep, physical team with a solid paint presence in Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley and capable playmakers on the outside, including Darius Garland.

The Knicks started the season in a rough place, posting a .500 record through the first portion of the year. But they’ve made a significant resurgence since led by Julius Randle’s All-Star campaign that’s seen him find multiple ways to score. Jalen Brunson was a key addition for this team in the offseason, as he’s provided stability and playmaking to an offense that was desperately in need of it.

This is by far the most intriguing matchup of the first round because both teams are so evenly matched.

Prediction: Cavaliers in 7

Round 2

(1) Bucks vs. (4) Cavaliers

Another season series that was split by the teams 2-2, this series could certainly be interesting. While the Bucks are obviously the deeper, more talented, more experienced team, the Cavs are surging and want nothing more than to play spoiler to a Bucks championship run.

This series really comes down to the paint. If Cleveland wants to pull off the upset, they’ll have to win in the paint with both Allen and Mobley, as well as beat the Bucks on the boards. This is a tall task against Giannis and Brook Lopez, but it can be done.

However, I don’t see it happening. The Bucks are angry after their early playoff loss last year, and they’ll come to play.

Prediction: Bucks in 5

(2) Celtics vs. (3) 76ers

Boston is currently 3-0 against Philly in this regular season, with one more matchup coming in Philadelphia in early April. The Celtics have won despite only being fully healthy for one of those matchups.

This is a duel between two MVP candidates: Jayson Tatum and Joel Embiid. While Embiid is the more dominant scorer, Tatum’s passing and defensive abilities should not be underestimated. While Tatum struggled in the last matchup against Philly, he came up big in the 4th quarter, including a game-winning 3 with 2.2 seconds left.

This is a great matchup on paper, similar to Bucks-Cavs. But, like Milwaukee, Boston is determined to reach the Finals again, and they’ve indicated in their regular season games against the Sixers that Philly still has some catching up to do.

Prediction: Celtics in 5

Eastern Conference Finals

(1) Bucks vs. (2) Celtics

So here we are, the eastern conference’s magnum opus: Milwaukee vs. Boston. This is the matchup everyone is expecting to be the culminating contest of the eastern conference playoffs. It’s a battle of fierce heavyweight contenders, both teams with serious chances of winning it all.

Last postseason, this matchup occurred in the second round and saw Boston taking it in 7. Home-court advantage played a factor in that outcome, with Boston having said advantage. This time Milwaukee would have that edge, a serious consideration in the outcome of this matchup.

But Boston is deeper and better than they were last year. The addition of Malcolm Brogdon is a serious game-changer for them, who has excelled off the bench and is leading the conversation for Sixth Man of the Year. While the Bucks may have Khris Middleton this time around, his health is still unreliable. That leaves Milwaukee depleted of one of their most versatile scorers.

I think Boston’s depth will be the deciding factor in this series. Giannis could dominate every night and Tatum could have mediocre performances, but Boston may still come away with wins simply due to them being stacked with reliable talent from top to bottom.

Prediction: Celtics in 7

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