NBA Playoff Match-up Predictions: Eastern Conference

The Playoffs are Here! This was the first year of the play-in tournament that saw the Washington Wizards do the impossible and make the playoffs after having less than a 1% chance a few weeks back. The Wizards have a tough match up in the opening round and all opening round matchups will be exiting this year. In this article, we’ll break down our predictions for the 1st round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs.

Sixers and Wizards: This is a match-up of the Red, White, and Blue. You have a Wizards team whose exchange of Russell Westbrook for John Wall helped them one of the highest scoring backcourts in the NBA. Russel Westbrook is currently averaging a triple double every game with a stat line of 22.2 ppg, 11.5 rpg, and 11.7 apg, while his backcourt partner Bradley Beal is one of the highest scoring shooting guards at 31.3 ppg. Needless to say, the addition of Westbrook has definitely given them a boost in their offense, which has now helped them achieve their first playoff appearance since 2018. On the other side, you have a 76ers squad who has fought to achieve the best record in the East and is hoping to avoid another first round sweep like last year when they faced the Celtics. They still have one of the most talented big men in Joel Embiid who averages a strong stat-line with 30.0 ppg and 9.7 rpg. They also have a talented backcourt including Ben Simmons who averages a decent stat-line of 16.5 ppg and 9.5 apg, and Seth Curry who helps in the area where Simmons lacks, three-point shooting, with a 3-pt. per. of 53.3%. Overall, this series is going to be a battle of two teams full of players that will fight until the last possible minute, with the 76ers winning the series in 5 games and getting one step closer to their goal of reaching the Eastern Conference Finals that was taken from them by a miraculous Kawhi Leonard buzzer beater back in 2019. 

Knicks and Hawks: This is a match-up of two franchises that have been waiting to gift their loyal fans that have been patient as both teams have gone through building their teams with a playoff appearance. It’s been 8 years since the Knicks last made the playoffs in 2013 where they lost in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Knicks have been one of the most exciting teams this season, especially with the rise of one of the current contenders for the Most Improved Player, Julius Randle. In the matchups against the Hawks in the regular season, Randle averaged a dominant stat-line with 37.3 ppg, 12.3 rpg, and 6.7 apg. The next highest scorer being R.J. Barret at 21 ppg, leaving it easy to assume that the Knicks do rather well offensively against the Hawks. The Knicks are also a strong defensive team, leading the NBA in many categories including points allowed, opponent field goal percentage, and opponent 3-pt. field goal percentage. Meanwhile, in their matchups against the Knicks, Trae Young, their talented young point guard, averages about 24.7 ppg and 12.0 apg and their talented veteran big man Clint Capela averages about 17.3 ppg and 17.3 rpg. The Hawks are also ranked in the top ten in some defensive categories including number four in defensive rebounds allowed and number three in opponent 3-pt. field goal percentage. Overall, it seems like this will be a rather high scoring series that will come down to which team can make the key defensive plays. Seeing how the Knicks appear to be superior in both offense and defense, it can be assumed that the Knicks could achieve a series win in at least 5 games with the Hawks possibly winning at least one game at home. 

Bucks and Heat: Last year, these two franchises faced each other in what was a thrilling 5-game series, where 3 of the games ended with less than ten points deficit. Now both teams have gone through changes since that time. Jae Crowder who was one of Miami’s dependable 3-point shooters against the Bucks last year is now with the Phoenix Suns. They are also dealing with the difficulty of Goran Dragic being older and Herro and Robinson not being as strong offensively as they once were. Now they may not be the same dominant team as they were last year, but the feeling of being in the playoffs and facing a team they know they can put up a decent fight against could give them the confidence boost to become somewhat similar to that team. The Bucks have also gone through some changes with acquiring Jrue Holiday, one of the best defensive point guards in the NBA. The real challenge will be if the addition of Holiday will prove to help them in the areas that caused them problem in this series last year, clutch offense and defense. The Bucks have three players in Giannis, Holiday, and Middleton, who have proven to be clutch playmakers, the question is whether any of them will be able to step up when needed. Also, one of their true challenges will be whether they can hold off one of the strongest playmakers in the game, Jimmy Butler, who on more than one occasion secured victories for the Heat against this Bucks team with last minute plays. Overall, this is going to be a fight between two programs that want to prove that they are a force to be reckoned with. This series will at least go to 6 games with the Heat proving to still be the better team. 

Nets and Celtics: This is a matchup that will have many eyes watching, a heavily All-Star stacked Brooklyn Nets team against a Celtics team that always makes sure to give a strong performance in the playoffs. The headline for the Nets is their three headed monster of Durant, Irving, and Harden, three of the most talented shooters in the NBA. Each of them average more than 20 ppg, between 5 to 8 rpg, and 6 apg. They are also ranked rather high in team defense while being ranked sixth in opp. field goal per. and third in defensive rebounds. On the other side, you have a Celtics team who suffered a sad loss by losing their star forward, Jaylen Brown to a season ending injury near the end of the season. However, they are still not a team to be taken lightly as they have a talented small forward in Jayson Tatum who is averaging nearly 30 ppg and a decent 3-pt. per. of 40.3%. They also have a talented guard in Kemba Walker who averages close to 19.3 ppg and several young bigs such as Robert Williams III and Grant Williams who always try their best to help on either side of the ball. They also rank high defensively in the NBA including sixth in rebounds allowed, sixth in blocks, and ninth in assists allowed. Overall, this is going to be a series filled with many exciting games, with the All-Star power of the Nets proving to be too strong for the Celtics leading to a 5 game series win with the Celtics sneaking in at least one win at home.

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