What a fun and dominant first round of basketball!! All four teams that advanced made quick work of who they played, intent on wanting rest and how to approach their opponent in the second round. Only two teams will advance to play in the conference finals, so it’s time to decide which two have the best chance of meeting in the eastern finals.
#2 Brooklyn Nets v. #3 Milwaukee Bucks
Two of the NBA’s best teams face off in must-see television. The trios of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday versus Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving headline the best series in the second round in either conference. There’s so much talent, a number of stars could break through and make this a series to remember.
Brooklyn took care of business despite headlines about fans in Boston’s TD Garden. Their team chemistry is much better than most fans and analysts expected even two months before playoffs. They pass well and are playing their best team defense of the year. If their trio of Durant, Harden and Irving can average 103 points a game against the Bucks, they’ll be favorites for the eastern finals.
Milwaukee was the first team to finish the first round, and gained both rest and more film on how to attack Brooklyn’s defense. Both Holiday and center Brook Lopez are solid defenders who can keep James Harden and Blake Griffin quiet. Holiday and Lopez were a big reason Miami’s offense struggled all four games.
Series X-Factor: Depth will be critical, and it favors the Bucks. Nick Claxton and Jeff Green are good players that help the Nets score off the bench. However the Bucks’ depth of Bobby Portis, P.J. Tucker, and Jeff Teague bring enough scoring and defensive presence to tip the scales.
Prediction: Milwaukee wins series 4-2
#1 Philadelphia 76ers v. #5 Atlanta Hawks
Both teams impressed the first round. Philadelphia took Washington seriously, dropping one game because of star Joel Embiid’s early injury in game five. Atlanta took advantage of every defensive mistake the New York Knicks had and played shut-down defense in every game. The winner of this series will be an underdog in the eastern conference finals, but should give their opponent fits.
This series comes down to the seriousness of Embiid’s right knee injury. If his knee requires more time to heal or some kind of surgery, the 76ers may lose to an Atlanta team playing their best basketball of the season. If Embiid is around 75% healthy, this could be a seven game series. Philadelphia needs strong offensive performances from Seth Curry, Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons if Embiid is out more than two games.
Atlanta’s star Trae Young will face double-teams against this defense. Center Clint Capela and forwards John Collins and De’Andre Hunter have to contribute more scoring. Lou Williams and Danilo Gallinari provide offense off the bench and help the Hawks keep games close, but their forwards and centers are critical for wins.
Prediction: Philadelphia wins series 4-2
Eastern conference first round series record: 2-2