The second round of the NBA playoffs is shaping up to be one of the best we have ever seen. Both Eastern Conference matchups have the potential to be classics. So let’s start diving into each matchup.
Photo Credit: NBC
Milwaukee Bucks vs Boston Celtics
This is an interesting rematch of a seven-game series in the first round last year. Despite playing last year, a lot has changed. For starters, the Celtics are healthy with Hayward and Kyrie both active, unlike last year. You would think that would give the Celtics a clear edge which is what everyone expected entering the year, however, chemistry concerns have hurt this team. Some nights we get the team we thought we would get to start the other year with Kyrie scoring at will, Tatum and Hayward stepping up, and Horford dominating underneath. However Hayward, Rozier, and Jalen Brown have all been very inconsistent as has Tatum and Kyrie’s willingness to share the basketball. All of that adds up to an interesting situation.
While the Celtics have gotten better on paper, the Bucks might be the most improved teams from last year. Giannis is an MVP candidate and looks like one of the most dominant players in this decade. A reason for that is the shooting they have put around Giannis. Last year the Celtics were able to clog the lane against Giannis and the Bucks struggled, this year that strategy will be much harder. Brook Lopez stretching the floor at the five with Middleton and Brogdon on the wings will make this team a very tough out.
I believe the Celtics are more talented and have figured it out, but the Bucks just came off one of the most dominating series we have seen in NBA History. I see Kyrie taking over late, but will it be enough. Jaylen Brown is a good defender for Giannis (if such a thing exists) and Horford is mobile enough to get out and guard Brook Lopez on the outside. It will be a tough series to decide, but Brad Stevens and Kyries playoff experience might be the difference. Both teams swept the first round, one in historic fashion and the other against a scrappy five seed, but only one can advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Prediction: Celtics 4-2
Photo Credit: Sportsbook Review
Toronto Raptors vs Philadelphia 76ers
The Celtics and Bucks could be one of the most fun second-round series this decade, and yet this one might be better. The Raptors added Kawhi for one purpose, go to the finals now that LeBron has moved west. The 76ers tanked for YEARS for one reason, and it was not just to make the playoffs. Both teams are finals or busts with Free Agents hanging in the balance. Kawhi has the experience, but the 76ers have the youth.
The Raptors should be more equipped than Brooklyn to stop Jimmy Butler with Kawhi Leonard being the defensive stopper he is, and Siakam could be a great guy to stick on Ben Simmons or Tobias Harris. The Raptors will back the paint and trust Marc Gasol to challenge Embiid. Gasol is old, but is one of the smartest defenders in the league and should provide a challenge for Embiid.
The 76ers have a legit 4 all-star starting lineup. Simmons, Embiid, Butler and Harris (fringe all-star but was playing like it on the Clippers). They have the star power and have built towards this for 8 years, the pressure was already there even before trading for TWO upcoming free agents. Now the 6ers have gone all in on this season and need the win. Simmons lack of shooting is a huge concern in the playoffs, but Jimmy Butler proved he is ready to step up as is Embiid.
This series is almost too hard to predict. I am going to take the easy way out and say it goes to seven, and winning in Toronto is hard. I am not confident in this pick, but Kawhi has the experience to lead them, and Ben Simmons shooting is too big of a concern.
Prediction: Raptors 4-3
Tomorrow we shall review the Western Conference Matchups, including a rematch of the only series that ever challenged the Warriors Dynasty.