While Brooklyn has clearly found they have their latest talent in blossoming youngster Caris Levert, is anyone really expecting the Nets to upset the defending champion Toronto Raptors in the first round? Can Philadelphia overcome the loss of Ben Simmons to dispatch Boston in what makes for one of the oldest and most competitive rivalries in all of sports? Will T.J. Warren keep up his high-scoring ways when the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat meet in their first round clash of title hopefuls with identical records? Last, but not least, could the upstart Orlando Magic pull off what would amount to an earthquake-sized upset when they take on Giannis Antetokounmpo and the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks? If you’re looking for answers that could help you boost your chances of cashing in on each of the four eastern conference first round playoff series, then consider your ticket punched! Let’s take a close look at the upcoming matches so you can make your bets against their NBA odds.
NBA Predictions for Eastern Conference Matchups
Brooklyn (35-37) vs. Toronto (52-19)
The Nets arrived in the bubble without many expectations seeing as how Kevin Durant has yet to suit up for his new franchise, Kyrie Irving is out with an injury (again) and Spencer Dinwiddie is out because of a pair of positive coronavirus test results. Still, Brooklyn stunned everyone by going 5-3 while beating the Bucks and Clippers along the way. The Nets also found out they have a real blossoming star in fourth-year shooting guard Caris Levert (18.7 ppg). Still, Brooklyn is ranked a modest 16th in scoring (111.8 ppg) and 19th in points allowed (112.3 ppg). While the Nets snapped a three-game skid against Toronto by recording a 101-91 home win on Feb. 12, they’re still going to have their hands full against a Toronto squad that went 7-1 in the bubble while taking down the Lakers, Bucks, Sixers and Nuggets along the way. The Raptors hit the playoffs having won four straight while ranking first in points allowed (106.5 ppg) and a decent 14th in scoring (112.8 ppg). Six players average double figures in scoring led by all-star forward Pascal Siakim (22.9 ppg) and heady veteran point guard Kyle Lowry (19.4 ppg). The Raptors have the edge in every facet and should dispatch the Nets via a four-game sweep!
Pick: Raptors in 4
Philadelphia (43-30) vs. Boston (48-24)
Philadelphia went 4-4 in their eight restart games and they hit the playoffs with a confidence-boosting blowout win over Houston on Friday. Still, Philly lost three straight at one point and they’ll be without star point guard Ben Simmons after he suffered a season-ending knee injury. Still, the Sixers rank an encouraging sixth in points allowed (108.4 ppg), although they average a modest 110.7 points per game to rank 20th in scoring. The good news is that Philly has beaten Boston three times in four regular season meetings with two of those victories being double-digit wins. Even without Simmons, the Sixers have six players that average double figures in scoring and have one of the game’s very best big men in all-star center Joel Embiid (23.0 ppg, 11.6 rpg).
As far as Boston is concerned, the C’s went 5-3 in the bubble while beating Portland and Toronto along the way. Boston is also statistically better at both ends of the floor in ranking ninth in scoring (113.7 ppg) and a stupendous second in points allowed (107.3 ppg). The Celtics have five players that average double figures in scoring and three that all put up over 20 points per game in Jayson Tatum (23.4 ppg), Kemba Walker (20.4 ppg) and Jaylen Brown (20.3 ppg). Boston walloped Philly 116-95 the last time they met back on Feb. 1 and they won’t miss Simmons’ elite defense in this matchup one iota. The C’s are a robust 12-5 ATS in the last 17 meeting and I believe they’ll get it done in six!
Pick: Celtics in 6
Indiana (44-28) vs. Miami (44-28)
This matchup could be the most entertaining first round series there is seeing as how Indiana and Miami finished with identical 44-28 records. These two Eastern Conference rivals both have seven double-digit scorers on their respective rosters, but the Pacers went a robust 6-2 in the bubble while the Heat went an uninspiring 3-5. Miami closed out the regular season ranked 15th in scoring (112. ppg) and 10th in defense (109.1 ppg) while Indiana finished 23rd in scoring (109.4 ppg), but a stellar third in points allowed (107.5 ppg).
The bad news for the Pacers is that they are without all-star forward Domantas Sabonis (18.5 ppg, 12.4 rpg). The good news is that they’ve seen team scoring leader T.J. Warren take his game to a whole new level as he’s put up 31.0 points per game in six bubble contests while dropping 53 on Philly and 39 on the Lakers.
While Indiana has lost all three regular season meetings, including a 114-92 smackdown on August 10 inside the bubble, Miami has dropped three of four heading into their playoff opener while Indiana took two of their three final games while beating the Lakers and Rockets along the way. Last, but not least, the Pacers are an encouraging 6-2 ATS in the last eight meetings.
Pick: Heat in 7
Orlando (33-40) vs. Milwaukee (56-17)
Eighth-seeded Orlando went 3-5 inside the bubble but still managed to reach the playoffs despite dropping five straight at one point. The Magic have five players that average double figures in scoring, but the bad news is that they lost talented big man Jonathan Isaac to a devastating knee injury during the restart. Orlando ranks an uninspiring 24th in scoring (107.3 ppg), but has been rock-solid defensively in limiting the opposition to just 108.3 points per game to rank fifth overall.
Still, Orlando is going to have a tough way to go against a top-seeded Bucks squad that ranks first in scoring (118.7 ppg) and an equally impressive eighth in points allowed (108.6 ppg). Milwaukee is led by reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokoumpo (29.5 ppg, 13.6 rpg) while all-star forward Khris Middleton put up 20.9 points per contest. The Bucks won the regular season series by way of an emphatic 4-0 sweep with three of those wins coming by double digits. Milwaukee has plenty of postseason experience now while Orlando is mostly young and inexperienced everywhere. This first round matchup looks like a sweep just waiting to happen, seeing as how the Bucks want to get back to playing winning hoops after their struggles inside the bubble so far.
Pick: Bucks in 4