The Eastern Conference half of the playoff bracket is set, as the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks each swept their respective first round series, while the Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia Sixers each won their respective series in five games.
And very soon, the top four teams in the Eastern Conference are set to do battle against each other in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Each matchup is listed via the bullet points below:
- #4 Boston Celtics Vs. #1 Milwaukee Bucks-A rematch of last season’s first round matchup that went the full seven games and featured no road team winning at all. The Celtics aim to get back to the Eastern Conference Finals for the third consecutive season, whereas the Bucks haven’t gone that far since the 2000-01 season. Despite their sweep of the Indiana Pacers, the Celtics biggest margin of victory in a game during that series was by 10 points, whereas the Bucks beat the Detroit Pistons by 20 points or more in three of the four games. Plus, the game in which Milwaukee didn’t win by 20 or more was still a comfortable margin of victory, as they won by 16 points in their Game 3 victory. The Celtics could easily be down 3-1 right now and facing elimination instead of being in this position. The Bucks are a much better team than the Pacers, and if the Celtics are down by 10 or more heading into the fourth quarter in any game against the best team in the league during this series, then it’s going to be a miserable second round for the 17-time NBA champions. It won’t be a sweep on either side. But unlike last season’s first round matchup, a road team will win. And that road team will be the Bucks, who will win this series in six games.
- #3 Philadelphia Sixers Vs. #2 Toronto Raptors-After their respective Game 1 losses, the Sixers and Raptors each reeled off four straight victories to advance to this round. In my Celtics-Bucks prediction, I mentioned the Bucks having an Eastern Conference Finals drought of 17 years. The Sixers have a 17-year year drought as well. And oh, by the way, the Bucks were the team that they beat to advance to the NBA Finals that season. As for the Raptors, they are looking to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for only the second time in franchise history. The Sixers have the best starting line-up in this year’s playoffs, but the Raptors have more players with Conference Final and NBA Finals experience, headlined by Kawhi Leonard. The 2014 NBA Finals MVP took it to the Magic in the first round and he will be the difference in this series. I like the Raptors in six.
Well that’s it for my Eastern Conference Semifinals predictions. I’m not sure when my predictions for the Western Conference Semifinals will post, as it’s unknown if/when the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets will win their respective series. But when those series do end, I’ll post my predictions as soon as possible. So until that yet to determined time, so long everybody!