The first round was full of surprises and upsets. Boston struggled after game four while the New York Knicks took care of Cleveland in five games. Philadelphia is desperate to reach the championship and feels they have a lot to prove even if MVP candidate Joel Embiid doesn’t play most of the series. Miami is the hottest team on both sides of the ball. Jimmy Butler led the Heat towards an upset in Milwaukee and dominated despite foul trouble in multiple games. Two of the remaining four will advance to the conference finals. Time to break down which of the two have the best chance to make round three.
#3 Philadelphia 76ers v. #2 Boston Celtics
This is the series everyone penciled in due to easy opponents both the 76ers and Celtics had in round one. However, things couldn’t be more different due to star center and MVP candidate Joel Embiid injuring his LCL in Philadelphia’s series clinching win versus Brooklyn. Embiid’s uncertain return means James Harden will be the main target of the Celtic defense. Tyrese Maxey, P.J. Tucker and Tobias Harris must make up the scoring difference and play shutdown defense against Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Malcolm Brogdon. This series could end faster than most anticipate if Embiid doesn’t return by game three.
Prediction: Celtics win series 4-1
#8 Miami Heat v. #5 New York Knicks
The more exciting and least expected series in the east. Jimmy Butler dragged the Heat to round two after back-to-back franchise best performances. Miami’s advantage over New York is their health. While Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo are out, Kyle Lowry’s return helped Miami in critical scoring runs last series. Knicks star Julius Randle injured his ankle near the end of their first round clinching victory in Cleveland and couldn’t play game one. Randle might have minute restrictions when he returns. The Knicks also don’t have the elite playmakers Milwaukee does, so Butler won’t be doing everything on offense the way he had to last series. Starters such as center Bam Adebayo have to step up on offense, be the best big man on defense and dominate by the basket.
It’s up to Tom Thibodeau’s defense to suffocate any chance Miami has of making significant scoring runs, just like they did to the Cavaliers. Both Thibodeau and Erik Spoelstra are creative coaches and will be quick with early adjustments and adjusting starting rosters. Expect a long and fun series.
Upset prediction of round two: Heat win series 4-3
Eastern conference first round picks record: 2-2
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