2019 NBA Playoff Thoughts: East Preview

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1. Milwaukee Bucks (60–22) vs. 8. Detroit Pistons (41–41)

Also..the Bucks are legit. Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe are very skilled two-way players, with Bledsoe finishing at the rim better than he has in years, thanks to the space created by…Brook Lopez, who is altering shots and clearing out would-be rebounders with his masterful tae-kwan-do down low. Don’t expect these games to be close.

Semi-Educated Guess: Bucks in 4

2. Toronto Raptors (58–24) vs. 7. Orlando Magic (42–40)

Orlando’s ascendance from a motley crew of skilled players with no chemistry or much coaching to a second half juggernaut (22–9 over the last 31). The last time Orlando won more than 37 games was 2012..so let’s appreciate the progress they’ve made to get to the second season. How have they done it? If you don’t have a point guard, then make your small forward (Aaron Gordon) and your center (Nic Vucevic) distributors. And play defense. Coach Steve Clifford seems to understand how to convey pick-and-roll defense better than most.

Still…Toronto is far too talented and level-headed now (Kawhi, Gasol) to break under the playoff pressure.

Semi-Educated Guess: Raptors in 6

3. Philadelphia 76ers (51–31) vs. 6. Brooklyn Nets (42–40)

Meanwhile, the Nets have emerged from the last several years of draft pick emptiness with talented, gritty swagger. D’Angelo Russell (only 22) is like a more talented Sam Cassell. After a rocky beginning to his career, he’s landed himself on the NBA map with the freedom to shoot (37% from deep is much more of a threat than 32%) opening up his skittery drives. Caris LeVert is back from injury. Spencer Dinwiddie is a craftsman, but his lack of explosiveness is a bigger problem against playoff defense. The Nets have emulated the Warriors and Bucks, integrating the defensive philosophy of switchable 6'5" to 6'8" wings being a priority and containing the pick-heavy NBA. They have one of the game’s best shooters in Joe Harris (47% from deep). They just can’t beat Joel Embiid. Few can.

Semi-Educated Guess: 76ers in 6.

4. Boston Celtics (49–33) vs. 5. Indiana Pacers (48–34)

Marcus Smart’s oblique is torn. Kyrie Irving is torn about staying or going after June. Celtics fans, after expecting so much this year, are torn about what to expect in the playoffs. Brown gets a huge opportunity to prove last year’s playoff success was no fluke. Hayward gets a chance to show his performance over the last six weeks is closer to the genuine Gordon article.

The Pacers need Bojan Bogdanovic to have two huge games: he had 30 in Game 3 of the Pacers 1st Round series with Cleveland last year. Thaddeus Young remains the Gumby of the NBA. Myles Turner’s range and interior defense can create problems. Domantas Sabonis comes off the bench with a fury on the glass and his passing is downright peripheral. Still…not enough off-the-dribble-crunch-time scoring for the Pacers. That’s where Oladipo’s absence will hurt the most.

Semi-Educated Guess: Celtics in 7

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