It was a great first round of series in the NBA Eastern Conference, and with Cleveland’s Game 7 win over Indiana, all four matchups are now complete. There are two great series to look forward to now in the East, and we preview and give our tips for both Conference Semi Finals below.
LeBron James showed that he is still the best player in the world when he put up 45 points 9 rebounds and 7 assists in the must win Game 7 against the Indiana Pacers on Monday morning. The win helped Cleveland advance to the second round, where they’ll meet a nemesis of the last few seasons, the Toronto Raptors.
Unlike last year, where the two teams met in the conference semi finals, this time the Raptors will have the home court advantage in four out of the seven matches. Toronto looked shaky at times in their first round series against the Wizards but came through in six games as both DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry had big influences on the series.
LeBron was almost unstoppable in the first round series against the Pacers, but the problem for the Cavs is that he had no help, whatsoever. Kyle Korver was the next best player for Cleveland in the series, as Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and the contingent of recruits the Cavs acquired throughout the season all failed to find form.
Toronto’s advantage in this series will lie in their bench unit. Throughout the regular season, Toronto boasted the best bench in the league, and Cleveland’s struggles have been eminent. Cleveland have defeated Toronto in the playoffs the last two seasons in a row, last year with a 4-0 score line.
Cleveland start as massive underdogs here but regardless of their poor form of late, they have the ability to catch fire at any moment. They also have the best player in the world at their disposal and Toronto have some demons in the closet against the Cavs. I love the Cavs at $3 to take this series.
Two old rivals will go at it in the semi finals as Boston face off against the red hot 76ers. With a team full of spare parts and substitute players, Boston were able to overcome Giannis Antetokoumnpo and the Milwaukee Bucks in seven games in the first round.
Terry Rozier, Shane Larkin, Marcus Morris, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum were all fantastic in support roles to the Celtics lone remaining star, Al Horford, after Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward both suffered season ending injuries in the regular season. The playoffs reps that those players were able to experience will be invaluable to the Celtics moving forward.
The 76ers showed what could be in store for the coming years as they trounced the Miami Heat with young stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid dominating the series. Simmons might already be a top ten player in just his first active year in the league, combining elite skills and athleticism in an almost 7-foot body with basketball IQ well beyond his years.
A standout for Philly has been their three-point shooting. Embiid is a dominant figure on both ends of the floor, but it’s the 76ers ability to space the floor with deadly shooters that aids in Embiid’s process. J.J Reddick, Ersan Illyasova, Dario Saric, Robert Covington and Marco Belinelli were all fantastic in the first round series.
While the Celtics stand ins were great against the Bucks, they still really struggled to find offence at times, and against the much better defensive unit in the 76ers, I think they’ll have trouble putting enough points on the board to stay competitive. No value in the 76ers to win here but a bet on Embiid to score the most series points looks good value as the Celtics had four different game top scorers in their series against the Bucks.
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