While the Boston Celtics are well on their way to reaching the Eastern Conference finals and the Miami Heat are identically up on the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks 2-0 in their second round series, there’s still some hope for the second-seeded Toronto Raptors and top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks. With all four teams looking to represent the Eastern Conference in the 2020 NBA Finals, let’s find out what each team needs to do from here on in order to potentially make that happen so you can plan ahead your bets against their NBA Playoffs odds!
What do they need to win NBA Eastern Conference | Celtics, Raptors, Heat, Bucks
After sweeping an overmatched Philly squad in the first round, Boston moved to a perfect 6-0 in the playoffs by shutting down Toronto in Games 1 and 2 in their second round matchup on Sunday and Tuesday. For the C’s to advance out of this round and continue marching toward an NBA Finals appearance, they simply need to keep doing what they’ve been doing since their playoff opener – shut down their opponents with regularity. The C’s have not allowed more than 106 points in any playoff game while keeping the Raptors and Sixers combined, in the 90s on three separate occasions. Boston has not allowed their opponents to reach 38.0 percent shooting from the field in any playoff games and really, that kind of defense leads to championships. At the offensive end of the floor, Boston doesn’t need to change a single thing as blossoming young stud Jayson Tatum is averaging a team-high 27.2 points per game in the playoffs after putting up 23.4 points per contest in the regular season. Veteran point guard Kemba walker is putting up 22.0 points per game after averaging 20.4 points per game in the regular season and Jaylen brown is averaging 19.8 points after averaging a nearly identical 20.3 per game in the regular season. The Celtics are getting some fantastic contributions from veteran combo guard Marcus Smart, big men Enes Kanter and Daniel Theis and now, ‘springy’ second-year center Robert Williams III. Right now, Boston looks like the best team, not only in the Eastern Conference – but the entire playoffs.
The Raptors might have recorded a gentleman’s sweep (4-1) of the Brooklyn Nets in the first round, but they’re having a far more difficult time against a Boston Celtics defense that finished the regular season ranked second in points allowed (107.3 ppg). Toronto put up 112.8 points per game in the regular season and they scored 117 points or more against the Nets in three of their first round contests, while scoring a whopping 150 points in Game 4, but the Raptors have been held to 99 points or less in each of their two games against Boston this postseason. While it’s now crystal clear that all-star forward Pascal Siakim is very good, but not great, Toronto needs more production from the fourth-year power forward as he’s down from 22.9 points per game in the regular season to 19.2 points per contest in the playoffs. Then, there’s the drop-off of team leader and veteran point guard Kyle Lowry who is averaging a modest 13.8 points per game after putting up 19.4 points per contest in the regular season. If the Raptors don’t start getting easier buckets – and start making three-pointers after going 10-for-40 in Game and 11-for-40 in Game 2, this series could be over long before anyone ever expected.
After smacking Indiana around in their 4-0 first round sweep of the Pacers, Miami has put at least 115 points on the board against Milwaukee’s once, stout defense. More importantly, resurrected veteran point guard Goran Dragic and all-star small forward Jimmy Butler have gone all bonkers since the start of the playoffs. Dragic is averaging a team-high 23.5 points per game on 49.1 percent shooting and 42.9 percent from beyond the arc after averaging 16.2 points per game during the regular season. Butler is putting up 22.0 points per contest in the playoffs after averaging a team-high 19.9 points per game during the regular season. Then, there’s rookie shooting guard Tyler Herro who is putting up an impressive 15.7 points per game after averaging 13.5 points per contest during the regular season. For the Heat to advance out of this round and challenge the winner of the Celtics-Raptors series in the conference finals, they’re going to need to keep up their production at the offensive end of the floor while playing the same dogged defense they’ve played all season in ranking 10th in points allowed (109.1 ppg).
If the Bucks want to overcome their 2-0 deficit in their second round matchup against Miami, they’re simply going to need to give reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo some help at the offensive end of the floor. Small forward Khris Middleton is supposed to be an all-star, but he sure hasn’t played like it this postseason – and his lack of production is putting too much pressure on the Greek Freak’s broad shoulders. After putting up 20.9 points per game on 49.7 percent shooting in the regular season, Middleton is down to 18.0 points per game on an uninspiring 39.6 percent shooting. Veteran center Brook Lopez has upped his regular season average of 12.0 points per game to 15.3 points per contest in the postseason, but Eric Bledsoe is struggling and youngster Donte DiVincenzo is averaging less than half (4.1 ppg) of what he did in the regular season (9.2 ppg). If Milwaukee doesn’t figure out how to get easier baskets, the top seed in the Eastern Conference will be going home before even reaching the conference finals.
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