(1) Milwaukee Bucks vs (8) Detroit Pistons
Four minutes and 22 seconds into the game, Milwaukee was up 22–4. In case anyone had any doubt: a) The Bucks are legit, b) The Pistons without Blake Griffin would be one of the worst teams in the NBA. Now Milwaukee gets to save all their energy for the next three rounds. Blake Griffin’s injury is a gift for Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer, though the Bucks would’ve swept anyway. Milwaukee waits to add injured shooters Nikola Mirotic and Malcolm Brogdon to their depth soon.
(4) Boston Celtics vs (5) Indiana Pacers
After losing the 3rd Quarter most of the year, Celtics defense smothered Indiana into 2–19 shooting, outscoring them 26–8 in the quarter. In a league where shooting range is more critical than ever, Pacers have only one legit shooter and zero dynamic play-makers. The Celtics are lucky they avoided Nets and Magic. Never underestimate the power of a matinee to keep the scoring low. Wrapping the series up in 4 or 5 would allow Horford, Tatum and Brown to get some extra rest heading into a likely match-up with Milwaukee, but Indiana won’t go down easy.
(3) Philadelphia 76ers vs (6) Brooklyn Nets
Embiid’s knee injury torpedoed the Sixers hopes of gaining any cohesion over the last six weeks of the season. Two of their best shooters (J.J. Redick and newly-acquired Tobias Harris) were given few clean looks as the Nets encouraged the rusty Embiid to launch and allowed Jimmy Butler to score one-on-one instead of leave the shooters open. In the 9 minutes Jimmy Butler sat, the Nets outscored the Sixers by 20 points.
(2) Toronto Raptors vs (7) Orlando Magic
This one was pretty shocking. While Orlando, Brooklyn and Detroit were battling out the last three weeks for a spot in the playoffs, Toronto was sitting comfortably in the second seed and hoping Kyle Lowry’s annual Game 1 playoff series issues were a thing of the past. Lowry failed to score. Orlando’s improvement over the course of the season has been gradual and real. They’ve gone 15–8 over their last 23, and their length (everyone on the roster but point guard D.J. Augustin) makes them versatile against the pick-and-roll and frustrating to score on. Augustin, who nailed the game-winning three over a surprisingly passive Marc Gasol, exhibited the pleasure of shooting when nobody expects too much of you. Toronto should win the series, but not without a struggle.
Mon, PHI-BKN, Gm 2
Tue, TOR-ORL, Gm 2
Wed, BOS-IND, Gm 2
Wed, MIL-DET, Gm 2
Thu, PHI-BKN, Gm 3
Fri, TOR-ORL, Gm 3
Fri, BOS-IND, Gm 3