We have officially ended the NBA Regular season and have finally got our summer treat of NBA Playoffs. The Tailgate Society contributors Jarael and Ryan give their predictions for the Eastern Conference and Western Conference. They begin with the Eastern Conference.
Bucks (1) v Magic (8)
Jarael: As a Bucks fan, this is very frustrating to admit, but the Bucks have been less than interesting since the restart. They clearly are favored against the Magic but the idea that this is going to be a cakewalk is farfetched. The Magic will make it interesting and play three competitive games, but I have the Bucks winning the series. The Bucks have been inconsistent, and their defense has allowed a ridiculous amount of threes. They have not been that good at defending the paint either. The Magic’s strength will be their ability to surprise the Bucks, who clearly have not taken the restart as seriously as other teams. Bucks (4-2).
Ryan: I cannot tell if the Bucks got out to a slow start because of rust or because they are taking it easy trying to cruise into the playoffs. Either way, I am not too worried about them as they face the Magic in the first round. Reigning MVP and most likely back-to-back MVP Giannis, with his incredible stat line (30 ppg., 14 rpg., 6 apg.), is going to pick apart this Magic team and easily cruise to a first-round win. I can see a well-rounded Magic team led by Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon taking a game from the Bucks. But they lack that superstar to take over a game. Bucks (4-1).
Pacers (4) v Heat (5)
Jarael: The Heat often feel like the second-best team in the East, then they lose the game they are supposed to show up for. I think their on-ball defense and defense in the paint is top notch considering they don’t have true bigs. The Pacers feel like a collection of hard-working guys playing the same role. They have good chemistry, and they play up to their potential often. It is just not enough to move beyond the first round. I would give them two games against the Heat. I think I am being generous, but maybe Warren goes off. Heat (4-2).
Ryan: The hate between these two evenly matched teams will make this series an exciting one. The Heat and the Pacers both have well-rounded teams that are stocked with deep benches. I give the Heat a slight edge based on the play of
Jimmy Butler Duncan Robinson. The young Pacers team led by TJ Warren will make it interesting, but I see them falling in game 7. Heat (4-3).
Celtics (3) v 76ers (6)
Jarael: This would be an interesting series if Ben Simmons was available. I think what made the Celtics scary in the past was that Al Horford could always focus on someone like Giannis. Now they don’t have that defender for SF-C. Jalen Brown is a good defender, but I’m taking an aggressive big over him. The Celtics may be the team with the most potential in the East. No superstars but four all-stars. The 76ers are a team that got lost in the sauce. They preached “trusting the process” yet surrounded Ben Simmons and Joel with non-shooters. I like the 76ers when they are confident and Joel is playing a good mixture of in the paint and shooting jump shots, but they don’t seem to put it all together consistently enough to trust them in a seven game series. I’m taking the Celtics (4-1).
Ryan: With the 76ers entering the series unhealthy, as Ben Simmons is out and Joel Embiid and Al Horford are banged up, I don’t see this series being too long. The 76ers already had a tough match up to begin with facing a big three offensive clinic of Jalen Brown, Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum that all average over 20 points per game. Embiid can obviously be a nightmare to opposing teams so I can see him clinching one victory for the 76ers. Celtics (4-1).
Raptors (2) v Nets (7)
Jarael: I really enjoy how the Nets approached the bubble. The Florida weather helped them with their bonding activities because they are now competitive. I enjoy watching the less talented team execute a game plan and compete. The Raptors are really good, consistent team. They know their roles and they hardly make mistakes. Keep in mind, they don’t have a superstar. I hate Kyle Lowry with a passion. He reminds me of a kid that would turn the game off when he was losing and suggest another activity. But, I guess he is a good basketball player. Siakam is a few years away from being first team All-NBA. Solid team, good coaching, and a bench full of undrafted players with an edge. I think the Nets get one game. I’m going (4-1) Raptors.
Ryan: Get your brooms out. The defending champion Toronto Raptors may be without a key player this year, Kawhi Leonard, but this is still a very solid team. A team full of young stars (Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam) and veterans (Lowry and Marc Gasol), this team may just make a run for back-to-back champs. But pay attention to this Nets team as they play the Raptors because they play solid and they are missing two incredible talents of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. (Raptors 4-0).