Eastern Conference Playoffs Round 1

Jimmy Butler and T.J. Warren lock up with unkind words to each other.
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA Bubble has already brought the action that fans have had to live without for months, and it will continue into the first round of the playoffs. Will it be as wild as some of the seeding games have been? Will another TJ Warren burst onto the scene? Who knows, but are my predictions!

Milwaukee Bucks (1) vs Orlando Magic (8)

Personally, these two teams were two of the most boring teams in the Bubble so far. As Giannis said earlier in the week, the Bucks are underperforming and aren’t bringing the exciting energy that they’ve had for the past few years and the Magic, well, are the Magic. Orlando has Vucevic and several solid players who are capable of putting up 20 in a night, but as a team, they are pretty average and lose to some not so great teams. 

In this series, if the Magic want to win even one game, they need Vucevic to have a good night and one more player to step up to the plate. This player could be anyone from Terrence Ross to Fultz, and if they want to stop the likes of Giannis and Middleton, then they have to have one of these guys have a night. That being said, in the Bubble, it’s going to be harder for teams to steal games with home-court advantage, so it’s unlikely that the Magic will steal a game. However, I think it’s possible if the Magic can take advantage of one of those lacklusters nights that the Bucks have had over the past few games. 

Bucks in 5

Players to Watch: Eric Bledsoe, Markelle Fultz

Canadian Press

Toronto Raptors (2) vs Brooklyn Nets (7)

I hope everyone was watching the Nets-Blazers game (for the Suns of course), and while the ending was a bit disappointing, Caris Levert showed on national television that he is a player that can carry the Nets through a game. So, the question is, can the Nets take more than one game from the Raptors, and how can they do that?

The Nets are not winning this series. They could keep up with the Blazers and some other teams because Portland lacks depth, however, Toronto is one of the best teams in the league with some great bench players. They are fully capable of taking a game or two if Levert has one of those games again and, similar to the Magic, they need another player to make big shots again. Luwawu-Cabarrot and Joe Harris are two good players to turn to for that. For example, if Harris had more shooting confidence in the Blazers game, I think they could have taken it home. Also, I really wish Jarrett Allen was more consistent, because if he was, then the Nets are a team to look out for. But, he’s not and the Raptors have a pretty big advantage at the big man spot with Gasol.

Not that I want to see it (being a Celtics fan), but Siakam needs to play better. He’s constantly under 20 points with big minutes, and he doesn’t really seem to be impacting the games that much, so if the Raptors want smooth sailing, then Siakam should come up bigger. 

Raptors in 5

Player(s) to Watch: Pascal Siakam, Caris Levert

BOSTON, MA. – FEBRUARY 13: Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics screams out in celebration with Gordon Hayward #20 of the Boston Celtics during the second overtime of the NBA game against the LA Clippers at the TD Garden on February 13, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

Boston Celtics (3) vs Philadelphia 76ers (6)

This series will be the one to watch. It has the most potential to go either way, and, if the Sixers had Simmons, then they would have probably taken it. But, they don’t!

Kemba needs to come up big here. The two Jays have already proven their ability, Hayward is looking good, and Robert Williams has been a nice surprise at the 5. Kemba is playing well, don’t get me wrong, but if there’s a matchup we need to expose, it’s Kemba versus Shake Milton. Milton is a great player, but if Kemba can use his veteren prowess to win the matchup, Boston take’s this series. 

The Sixers have ridden on their bench throughout the bubble with several players: Burks, Robinson III, Scott, Korkmaz. One bench player a game is putting up 20. 

But, I’ll take the Celtics whose starters can each put up 30.

Celtics in 5

Players to Watch: Furkan Korkmaz, Kemba Walker

Miami Heat (4) vs Indiana Pacers (5)

The hype around T.J. Warren has unfortunately died off. He had one mediocre game in one of the most anticipated matchups (with Jimmy Butler), and didn’t play afterwards. However, before that, Warren put up 39 and beat the Lakers. He can be that player that every team wants, and that Heat game just wasn’t his night. He hasn’t played a game since the Heat, and if he cooled off, that would be unfortunate. However, the Pacers can win this series if Warren comes up again. They would need Oladipo and Brogdon to do what they did against the Lakers (at least 20 points), but it is possible. Will it happen though? Probably not. 

Butler has the most fire I see in a player in this league. He can will his team to win, and Warren can’t really do the same. Oladipo has been too inconsistent to carry the team and Brogdon has seemed to stay in this supportive role for his team. The Heat, on the other hand, have Nunn, Herro, Bam, and Duncan Robinson who are all very capable. I just don’t see the Pacers matching the firepower of the Heat, and they’ve already proven that they can’t once. 

Heat in 6

Players to Watch: T.J. Warren, Duncan Robinson (because why not)