The Eastern Conference playoffs should be very interesting this year. Raptors are the top seed but have historically choked in the playoffs. Celtics are the second seed but without Kyrie Irving. Philly is the third seed but is young and inexperienced. Cavs are the fourth seed as Lebron looks to bring them to their fourth straight Finals. Below is my preview and predictions for the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
#8 Washington Wizards @ #1 Toronto Raptors (-650)
Toronto enters the playoffs as the number one seed in the conference for the first time in franchise history, while the Wizards squeaked into the playoffs after a disappointing regular season. However, now that John Wall is healthy the Wizards will look to give the Raptors all they can handle in this first round. Demar Derozan has been outstanding for Toronto, but their bench led, by Fred VanVleet, has been one of Toronto’s biggest strengths. This will be a big mismatch against a mediocre Wizards bench in this series. In order to have a chance in this series, John Wall and Bradley Beal will have to step up bigtime. While I think Washington can steal a few games, the Raptors will advance to the next round in 6 games.
#7 Milwaukee Bucks @ #2 Boston Celtics
The Celtics season began with title aspirations, but they will enter the playoffs without their two biggest stars as Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving have been ruled out for the remainder of the season. However, the Celtics depth and the emergence of young stars Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum has been the reason that Boston was still able to grab the two seed despite all of the injuries. Al Horford has been a defensive player of the year candidate and Brad Stevens has made a strong case for coach of the year. On the other end, the Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo will to finally get out of the first round. If Milwaukee is going to have any chance, it will have to be a monster series from Giannis, who has played well against the Celtics this season. However, the Bucks don’t have enough surrounding him to take down Boston. Celtics win the series in 6 games.
#6 Miami Heat @ #3 Philadelphia 76ers (-465)
The 76ers are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2012 after years of tanking and rebuilding. Rookie of the year candidate Ben Simmons has been outstanding and All Star center Joel Embiid has been a huge key to their success as well. #1 overall pick this year Markelle Fultz is healthy, and Philly also added veterans JJ Redick and Amir Johnson in the offseason as well. The Sixers ride a 16 game winning streak into the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Miami Heat are led by Goran Dragic, Dwayne Wade, and Hassan Whiteside. Most importantly, they have one of the better coaches in the league with Eric Spoelstra. I think the Heat’s playoff experience and veteran talent will wear down a young inexperienced Philly team in this series. Miami wins in 7.
#5 Indiana Pacers @ #4 Cleveland Cavaliers (-650)
Led by likely most improved player Victor Oladipo, the Pacers far exceeded expectations this year en route to making the playoffs, while the Cavaliers season was a huge disappointment. Despite this, Lebron never loses in the first round and always takes his team to another level in the playoffs. Indiana had success against Cleveland in the regular season, but the Cavs are the far superior team and will have no problem putting this series away early. Cavs in 5.
Let me know your thoughts and predictions in the comments down below.