NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs Round One Preview
As usual, at first glance, the opening round of the NBA playoffs does not appear to be much drama. However, I will make a case there are three teams with a chance to win the opening series as the lower seed, only one of which is in the east.
In the eight versus one match-up, Detroit doesn't stand much of a chance against Milwaukee overall. While I feel sorry for Blake Griffin because he has worked very hard to become more than just a dunker, all that jumping over cars stuff early in his career took a toll on his knees resulting in problems down the stretch this season. Now in the 2019 playoffs, he is left in questionable status for game one. I think a young Milwaukee team could let one game slip away, but Giannis Antetokounmpo and that fast-paced attack will dominate the Pistons overall, Bucks in five.
Orlando has even less of a chance than Detroit. While Toronto is not at all the same team they have been the last three years, Kyle Lowry is still in place and they added a top 5 player in the game in Kawhi Leonard. That plus the addition of seasoned veteran Marc Gasol at the trade deadline makes Toronto way-way too much for Orlando. The regular season match-up was tied, but while sitting out their stars frequently, Toronto won the only close match-up and the most recent match-up between the two. The Raptors' fast pace will outrun the Magic, but like the bucks, they may drop a game along the way. I'll take the Raptors in five.
Brooklyn's chances don't look much better. I really like their young star in D'Angelo Russell and they have a nice bench to go with him. I do not think it's enough to defeat all the talent Philadelphia puts on the floor in their starting five. The Nets somehow tied the season series but the experienced 76ers weren't always putting their best effort out. While I have gone on record saying the 76ers are a great collection of talent with Embiid, Simmons, Harris, Butler, and Redick, I also say they are not a great mix together. Because of their unnatural fit they haven't developed total chemistry and may never do so, but I don’t think that will hold them back in this round. What could hinder them is the Embiid injury. In all honesty, even if he misses a game or two I'll stick with Philadelphia in five.
Indiana is the lone lower seed in the East with a chance. In fact, I believe this is the most closely matched series in the entire first round of the playoffs. There is so much more than on the court basketball to this series making it hard to pick a winner. The season series was won by Boston 3-1 and the Pacers win was with Oladipo in the Lineup. Pacers were among the top teams in their league when they had their star, and without their star, they are just a bunch of scrappy dudes. With Oladipo out I would like to say, big advantage to Boston, but their dysfunction and lack of chemistry combined with a late injury to Marcus (not to be confused with Maxwell) Smart has left them teetering on the edge of failure as well. Smart was their biggest defensive standout and the glue that held that team together. Gordon Hayward seems to play well in the absence of Kyrie Irving, but even with one of the top coaches in the league, Brad Stevens trying to put all the pieces together, they seem to leave something to be desired. Then you add in the distraction of Irving's apparent internal battle of whether to stay or go in the off-season and who knows where his head or anyone on that team's mind is at at this point. Ultimately I'll take the talent to win out resulting in Celtics in seven.
As for betting angles on these series, the only value I see in the East is Pacers at +400 or more. Remember Value doesn't necessarily mean I think they will win, just that it's worth a shot for that particular return on investment. Check back tomorrow when I give you the other two lower seeds with a chance to win while I break down the Western conference in advance of the 1130 a.m. pacific time tip-off to the opening game of the 2019 NBA playoffs. Look for that post to be published by 930 a.m. pacific time to give you two hours to get all your parlays in with time to spare.
(Follow me on twitter @Jake_Ruch for updates on when I post new articles on my blog and tweets on my real-time sports related thoughts.)
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