Each of the 8 series in the NBA playoffs have now begun, and what has quickly become evident is that not every team is adjusting well to life in the bubble. We saw some of that in the 8-game schedule after the restart, but there was still the belief that the top teams who struggled would still be able to take it up a notch once the postseason began. While we are admittedly only a single game into the playoff, it already looks as though those issues are carrying over into the postseason.
NBA Eastern Conference Early Winner Prediction
Are the Milwaukee Bucks Still the Team to Beat?
One of the biggest surprises has been the play of the Milwaukee Bucks, the team who ended the season with the best record in the NBA. They were on a bit of a skid right before the lockdown, but the belief was that they would get healthy and back to their best once the season restarted. That has not happened, though, as the Bucks have looked listless and out of sorts ever since the restart. They went just 3-5 in their 8-game bubble schedule and looked very poor in a 122-110 loss to the Orlando Magic in Game 1 of their series. It is perhaps not time to push the panic button just yet, but it could be if they lose Game 2.
Who If Not Milwaukee?
The harsh reality is that the Milwaukee Bucks are not going to be around for very much longer if they do not begin to show a little bit of urgency. If they do continue to falter, which team can take advantage of their slide? The easy answer here would be the defending champion Toronto Raptors. They very much looked up for the fight in their return to play and easily took care of business in Game 1 against the Brooklyn Nets. Right now, they look like the best team in the Eastern Conference, but there will be tougher games to come.
The Boston Celtics finished the season strong, winning 4 of their last 5 games. They also came out and played well in a 109-101 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of their series. On the downside, they lost Gordon Hayward, who will be out for about a month, and that could well prove to be a killer blow for this team. While they do have a strong squad, Hayward is not a guy that is easily replaced, so there are now serious doubts as to whether the Celtics can go the distance.
With that loss, the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat series is one to watch, as the winner of that one might well end up facing the Celtics in the next round. It was the Heat who took the opening game, but that is a series that looks set to perhaps go the distance. Still, both of those teams still look like a bit of a longshot.
Who Wins the Eastern Conference?
I am still waiting to see if the Bucks can show some signs of life, but I am not holding out a ton of hope. The truth is that it looks as though the Toronto Raptors are going to be the team to beat in the East, and I’m not so sure that any team can top them in a 7-game series.