With all eight Eastern Conference seeds now set for the NBA Playoffs, the matchups offer some true competition. If the teams stay in their current positions we will witness the Toronto Raptors take on the Washington Wizards, the Boston Celtics take on the Milwaukee Bucks, the Philadelphia 76ers take on the Miami Heat and the Cleveland Cavaliers take on the Indiana Pacers.
The Raptors and the Wizards will be a something to watch. Compton’s DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry of Toronto going up against Bradley Beal and John Wall for Washington should be a battle of the backcourts. There is a new regular season champion in the Eastern Conference with the Raptors clinching the top seed in the East for the first time in franchise history while setting a franchise mark for wins in a season with 57.
The Raptors will need their star players to step up and on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball and bring the consistency that is needed to go the distance in the playoffs. They will also need some consistency from their role players like Serge Ibaka, Jakob Poeltl and others.
The Raptors have home court advantage throughout the playoffs and will definitely have to use that to their advantage. The Raptors have lost to LeBron James and the Cavaliers in each of the past two postseasons, including a conference finals defeat two years ago and a second round exit last spring.
Toronto is the seventh different team in as many years to finish first in the East, following Chicago, Miami, Indiana, Atlanta, Cleveland and Boston. Still, James’ team has represented the East in the NBA finals in each of those years.
The No. 2 seed Celtics will battle the Bucks and their road to the NBA finals will be a little more difficult than expected due to the injury of their star player, Kyrie Irving, who is out for the remainder of the season and post season after undergoing knee surgery.
The Celtics already endured a huge injury at the beginning of the season when they lost Gordon Hayward in the first game of the season. Without Irving and Hayward, the Celtics still have a solid mixture of young and older players.
Relying on their younger talent, the Celtics have managed to go 12-6 in games Irving has missed this season with a better winning percentage of .667 than any East team. Bostin’s offense suffers without Irving taking his efficient 24.4 points per game out of the lineup and if they are not focused, the Bucks can walk away with an upset.
Philadelphia is the high-seed sleeper team. Ben Simmons has been playing great and when he get Joel Embid back with him, those two together can dominate.
It could very well be the 76ers and Cavaliers going head to head in the Eastern Conference finals. Simmons is dominating and is also the frontrunner for the Rookie of the Year award. The 76ers are showing true maturity and it is coming at the right time.
Head Coach Brett Brown acknowledged that his goal for the team was to make the playoffs and they are not only headed to the postseason but they are poised to make much noise once it starts. They have clinched home-field advantage in the first round and secured their first 50-win team since Allen Iverson’s 2000-01 season.
They will battle the Heat who are not the team the were when James was there, but Dwyane Wade is still around. He may have one more champion run in him.
The final matchup is the Cavaliers and the Pacers. LeBron and his still fairly new team are the favorite of most to represent the East. The Pacers should be competitive following their leader, Victor Oladipo, who has been playing amazing since he was traded to the Pacers.
However the matchup ends, the East should finally give us some good competitive playoff games.
Shaquita Newton is a sports blogger. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.