This year’s NBA Eastern Conference playoffs have been going as expected, with the higher seed in each matchup coming out on top during the first week of games. With heavily stacked rosters in the top seeds, the next round will be extremely interesting. The Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks are both on track to sweep their first round of opponents in four consecutive wins. With their games coming up, it will be interesting to see what happens. If both teams move on, they will be playing one another in the next round.
The Milwaukee Bucks, the first seed in the east, have been blowing out the eighth-seeded Detroit Pistons in their first round series, outscoring them by at least 16 points in each game. This domination on the court is due to the team’s cohesive and skilled roster. Although he has been averaging less these games than in the preseason, the Bucks’ power forward, Giannis Antetokounmpo, has worked hard to keep his team playing at an elite level. Other players that have really stood out this postseason include point guard Eric Bledsoe and small forward Khris Middleton. The team can dominate inside the paint with Antetokounmpo by using his size and athleticism to create mismatches, and beyond the arc with multiple skilled shooters. This will call for an interesting matchup with the Boston Celtics if it comes to it.
The Toronto Raptors are the second seed in the east, with a record of 2-1 and a contest Sunday, April 21, for game four against the Orlando Magic in Florida. The Magic squeezed out of the first game of the series by three points, a surprising upset for an incredibly strong Raptors team. In their two contests since that upset, the Raptors have pulled it together to stomp on the Magic, showing Orlando why they were really the second seed. Small forward Kawhi Leonard and power forward Pascal Siakam have led the charge for the Raptors, with Leonard scoring 37 points in their second game and Siakam putting up 30 points and 11 rebounds in game three.
The Philadelphia 76ers, sitting in the third seed, were stunned in game one against the sixth-seeded Brooklyn Nets. However, the team built on the philosophy of trusting the process showed their prowess, taking over game two by putting up 51 points in the third quarter alone. After acquiring small forward Jimmy Butler earlier in the regular season, the 76ers’ starting five are a force to be reckoned with. This may just be the year that they find their way to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Boston Celtics have certainly struggled this season, only making it into the playoffs as the fourth seed after being hyped up as the best roster in the league. Their skilled playoff performance last year, despite the injuries to point guard Kyrie Irving and small forward Gordon Hayward, left many hoping the Celtics would sweep the east and easily claim the first seed. Their deep bench allows for the team to stay fresh and have options for a stronger rotation, however this season they have struggled with their ability to function as a single unit due to this diversity. The postseason has brought life back to this team, as their sweeping of the Indiana Pacers with ease leaves many fans wondering who will win the clash of the powerhouses in the next round against Milwaukee.
Although the playoffs haven’t been filled with many surprises so far, that doesn’t mean that it won’t be a dramatic postseason. The top four teams are all very close in skill, and if players play their best basketball, anything can happen.