Unlike the lengthy LeBron James era, there are four or five East teams that have a legitimate shot at making it to the NBA Finals this postseason. The wide-open field features the league’s only 60-win team, a revamped group north of the border, and a star-studded squad in Philly. Here is an Eastern Conference preview for the upcoming NBA Playoffs.
Detroit Pistons vs. Milwaukee Bucks
The Detroit Pistons look to join an exclusive list of clubs to pull off the difficult eight versus one-seed upset. It has only happened three times in the new millennium; the last time coming in 2012. They face a tough test against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, a team that owned the east with a 40-12 conference record this season. The last time the teams met, Antetokounmpo was a beast, scoring 21 points, with eight rebounds and 11 assists. At the very least, it will be fun to watch two athletic freaks on the same floor, in Antetokounmpo and Blake Griffin. Not surprisingly, the Bucks are the biggest favorite out east in game one. According to FanDuel Sportsbook, Milwaukee is favored by 11.5 points.
Orlando Magic vs. Toronto Raptors
Even though they won one more game and finished first in the east last year, this truly feels like a new era of Toronto Raptors basketball. The team is more complete than ever after swapping out DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard. A season removed from only suiting up in nine games, Leonard had a career-year with Toronto. He recorded highs of 26.6 PPG and 7.3 RPG on his way to becoming an MVP candidate. The Raptors boast the sixth-best defense in the league, so finding points may be difficult for the Magic, ranked 24th in overall scoring offense. Orlando has a good defense of their own, but Toronto should be able to overwhelm the team. This series gets underway Saturday, with Toronto opening as a heavy favorite (-410).
Brooklyn Nets vs. Philadelphia 76ers
This has the potential to be the most entertaining series of any in the first round. The Brooklyn Nets have snapped their playoff drought, while the Philadelphia 76ers are trying to translate process into championships. The last time the teams met up, it was a memorable contest as a total of 233 points were put on the board. Joel Embiid was unstoppable that evening, with 39 points and 13 rebounds. The Nets will surely key on the center, but it shouldn’t matter as Philly has more than enough scoring depth to get through Brooklyn. Regardless of the result of this series, the future is bright for the Nets. Brooklyn faces an uphill battle in game one (+260), according to oddsmakers.
Indiana Pacers vs. Boston Celtics
Imagine how much fun this series would be if Victor Oladipo was still in the lineup. The 26-year-old was playing the best basketball of his career before suffering an injury, setting new career highs in assists and rebounds. Somehow, the Indiana Pacers soldiered on without their star, finishing the year with a 48-34 record. For Boston, the time is now. Kyrie Irving wants to win a championship on his own, and could be leaving town even if the Celtics win it all this season. The biggest revelation for Celtics fans has been the re-emergence of Gordon Hayward heading into the playoffs. He’s starting to look the prized free agent he was before a freak injury. He went on a tear down the stretch, including a 21-point effort in a win against these same Pacers. Boston should come out victorious, but don’t be surprised if this series goes the distance.