/ Opinions / Countdown to tip-off: The Eastern Conference
The NBA is returning soon and I cannot wait. Elite players and exciting plays will fill Walt Disney World in Orlando with joy. Here is how I see the Eastern Conference playing out.
I see the Milwaukee Bucks and the Brooklyn Nets playing in the first round. The Nets will drop to the eighth seed because they have little continuity, chemistry and simply aren’t that good without the services of Kyrie Irving, KD, Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan and others.
The Bucks take that one with an easy sweep.
Then I see the Orlando Magic, almost a home team, taking on the Toronto Raptors. This would be a repeat of last year’s first round matchup. Remember there is no home court advantage, but if one team does have one, it’s the Magic since they are from Orlando. The Raptors take it 4-1 regardless.
The 3 v. 6 matchup would be in, my opinion, the Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers. The Pacers have talent, but might not have Victor Oladipo. The Celtics have talent all around and will win 4-2.
The Pacers have a good coach and will sneak out two wins, especially since they’re built for rusty play and a slower pace.
That leads me to believe the 4 v. 5 matchup would be the Miami Heat vs. the Philadelphia 76ers. This will be one heck of a series. The 76ers have uber talented Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, along with Tobias Harris. But I don’t see as much leadership or gritty players like JJ Reddick.
The Heat have Jimmy Butler and his will to win is very high. He’s built for these kinds of games and has brought the best out of Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic and Duncan Robinson.
I think that’s the difference. Behind Butler, the Heat take game 7 and win the series 4-3.
The next round matchup would then be the Bucks against the Heat, I believe. This would be a great series. Giannis and the Bucks would still be shaking the rust from all that time of missed play as Butler and the Heat give them everything they can handle.
But the Bucks are too explosive and win the series 4-3.
Raptors and Celtics would be another really good series. Both teams are deep and are extremely well coached. Kemba Walker and Kyle Lowry. Jayson Tatum and Pascal Siakam. The list goes on of great players on both sides.
The difference here comes to experience. Again, since there is no home court advantage, I’m seeing a lot of game sixes and sevens. So I got the Raptors in seven since they won it all last year and will carry that with them.
The Eastern Conference Finals will again be played by the Bucks and Raptors. In my opinion, the outcome changes. I think the Greek Freak finds his rhythm by now and will remember last year as motivation. This time around, he puts on a show. The Bucks win the series 4-2.
I have the Bucks representing the East. With everything going on, I think they will find what works for them and use it to their advantage. I think they’re a team that could potentially get rattled on the road and miss shots. Since there are no road games, a neutral site works well for them.
The 76ers are my wild card team. There is real talent there, I just don’t trust the leadership style. What if they get down early or get frustrated? But if they figure it out and put the pieces together, they could be dangerous. They almost beat the Raptors last year.
I’m curious about the Raptors. Coach Nick Nurse has done an exceptional job with a team that lost one of the best players in the game and are still putting up numbers. How will they play in a playoffs without Kawhi Leonard?
Lowry has the will to win and Siakam is a budding star. I want to see how far they can go, led by Nurse.
The Eastern Conference might not be as loaded, but it certainly will be something to watch. Look for my preview of the Western Conference in the Tuesday, July 21 edition of The Times.