The long season is finally over. It’s playoff time and according to many where the real games begin. Read on for analysis of the NBA Eastern conference matchups.
#1 Toronto Raptors vs #8 Washington Wizards
Season series: 2-2 (Wall missed all four)
The Raptors have been playing great basketball all year. They have one of the deepest benches in the league and can easily go 10 deep if needed.
To some the Raptors are still an unproven team that might falter once the playoffs starts. The impression that they are not that good in the playoffs is because Derozan and Lowry have struggled and looked tired in some of their postseason games.
This duo has played fewer minutes this year and should be more energized. Toronto also has the number one seed for the first time in franchise history. Beyond their improved bench strength this improvement could be attributed to the fact that they are shooting more threes and playing less iso-ball this year.
Strangely the Raptors are 0-9 in Game Ones, but they have won three out their last five playoff series losing only to the Cavs. The Raptors first opponent will be the Wizards, who swept the Raptors three years ago so some vengeance could be at hand.
The Wizards are a better team than their record suggests. They have lost 14 of their last 21 games but their leader John Wall was out for the last 2 months. The returning Wall in tandem with Beal should match up well with the Raptors backcourt.
Raptors vs Wizards series winner odds
#2 Boston Celtics vs #7 Milwaukee Bucks
Season series: 2-2
The Celtics are no strangers to injuries and have been playing a high level of basketball despite their absentees. Their latest challenge, however, is entering the playoffs without five-time All-Star Kyrie Irving and defensive stud Marcus Smart.
Brad Stevens has shown why he is one of the elite head coaches in the league by having his team ready to perform at all times. He can call upon a few savvy veterans led by Al Horford to complement a fine collection of young talents such as Jason Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier.
The Celtics will have their hands full when they face the Bucks though. Their all-around freak Giannis Antetokounmpo is supported by key talents Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe. The two-time NBA All-Star will take some stopping.
Celtics vs Bucks series winner odds
#3 Philadelphia 76ers vs #6 Miami Heat
Season series: 2-2 (home team won all four)
The city of Philadelphia is finally "Trusting The Process” and helped to secure a home record of 22-1. This will be their first postseason appearance since the 2012 season but they are the hottest team coming into the playoffs.
The 76ers have won their last 16 games despite the absence of Joel Embiid for the final eight games of the regular season. Embiid has missed time due to an orbital fracture in his left eye and will miss Game One of the series against Miami but will be available later on in the series.
The Heat matches up very well with Philly. Miami, while somewhat starless, possess a group of battle-tested veterans and an experienced coach who has seen it all.
In contrast, whilst the 76ers feature a few veteran deep threats, their two stars, Embiid and Simmons, will be seeing playoff action for the first time.
The Heat tends to play a more grinding style of game while the 76ers prefer an up tempo approach making for an interesting contrast in styles.
76ers vs Miami Heat series winner odds
#4 Cleveland Cavaliers vs #5 Indiana Pacers
Season series: 1-3
Remarkably LeBron James may be playing the best basketball of his career. James has averaged 27.5 points and career high of 8.6 rebounds and 9.1 assists per game this season.
LeBron, who has been part of the last seven NBA Finals, has not lost a first round series game in five years. He is 12-0 in the first round of the playoffs.
This Cleveland season feels like a tale of two stories. At times the Cavs have been mediocre at best and at others outstanding. The Cavaliers revamped their team at the All-Star break by swapping out almost half of their roster.
Their first round opponent will be the same as last year. The Indiana Pacers have been a very nice surprise this season. Coach Nate McMillan has undoubtedly done a solid job but he has been helped enormously by an incredibly strong season from two-way talent Victor Oladipo.
The Pacers fans assumed that it would take time to adjust to life without Paul George but are all smiles now. Their team’s 48-34 record matches that of George’s Oklahoma City Thunder. Oladipo missed some games this year but the Pacers are 41-17 lately when he is in and their big men are healthy.
Cavaliers vs Pacers series winner odds