NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs Preview
NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs Preview
The depth atop the Eastern Conference was always going to create a couple mouthwatering first-round playoff matchups this season. Unfortunately, the two series that were set to be competitive, intense best-of-seven sets have been diluted in their intrigue due to injuries to All-Star forwards.
With a heavy favorite in all four first-round matchups in the East, here’s a dive into whether any of the underdogs’ odds are worth taking. All odds and prices come from the Fanduel Sportsbook!
Magic +1800 vs. Bucks -8000
It’s been an odd start to life in the bubble for the Bucks, going 3-5 after a 53-12 start to the regular season. Of those eight games, though, Milwaukee has had both Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton healthy and available to play over the entire 48 minutes four times, whether it was due to injury, resting, a headbutt or a dental procedure. (The Bucks were 2-2 in those four games.) It’s not necessarily time to panic for Milwaukee, though, especially in the first round against the Magic. Prior to beating the Pelicans in its bubble finale, Orlando (+1800) lost five straight games and saw Jonathan Isaac tear his left ACL. The Bucks have looked beatable, but it’s not going to be the Magic that gives them a threat. Barring a significant injury or two to Milwaukee, this shouldn’t last longer than five games.
Nets +1800 vs. Raptors -8000
Good news for the Nets: Caris LeVert looks like he’s going to play a big role on next year’s team with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. He’s averaging 25 points, 6.7 rebounds, and five assists in the bubble, helping Brooklyn (+1800) to a 5-3 record since the restart of play. Not too shabby!
Bad news for the Nets: Their bubble record pales in comparison to the Raptors’ 7-1 mark. Toronto (-8000) looks like the biggest threat to the Bucks in the Eastern Conference with its recent strong run of play, impressive depth, and championship experience. This series will not last long.
Sixers +350 vs. Celtics -480
The Celtics (-480) already presented the Sixers a matchup problem with their three scoring wings (Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, and Jayson Tatum), and that’s an even bigger problem for Philadelphia with Ben Simmons, the 76ers best defender, out for the foreseeable future. The 76ers (+350) will struggle to contain that trio, especially Tatum following an All-Star season.
Joel Embiid’s offensive prowess without Simmons on the court is Philly’s lone reason for any semblance of optimism in this series. Embiid has thrived without the Aussie this season, although how well he’ll do over a seven-game set against a well-coached Celtics team is up for debate. Boston has plenty of options to guard Tobias Harris, but Daniel Theis is undersized and not an ideal matchup against Embiid, who has shown he can dominate when he’s engaged and on his game.
Philly going all-in on size with Embiid and Al Horford was a bold move, one that makes it a bad matchup against the Celtics, against whom they need Simmons to defend especially well. The only reason to bet on the 76ers in this series is if you believe Embiid can lead them to four wins against a good Boston team.
Pacers +250 vs. Heat -325
Just as we all predicted at the start of the season, T.J. Warren is going to be the deciding factor in an NBA playoff series!
The Pacers (+250) were 4-2 in the regular-season restart when Warren played and 4-0 when he scored more than 30 points. One of those losses came against Miami and saw Jimmy Butler take pride in holding Warren to 12 points. There’s a better-than-good chance that Butler, Jae Crowder, Andre Iguodala, and Co.’s defense on Warren decides this series.
Without All-Star Domantas Sabonis and with Victor Oladipo yet to regain his peak form in his recovery from last season’s horrific knee injury, Indiana is in dire need of Warren’s buckets. Otherwise, it’s up to Malcolm Brogdon and … Myles Turner? Doug McDermott? Miami is the safe bet, and they’re pretty good value right now at -325.