The 2018-19 NBA regular season is in the books and the playoffs seeding in both conferences has been decided! Before You Bet will be providing previews and betting tips throughout the NBA playoffs, starting today as we take a look at all four matchups in the Eastern Conference first round!
We’ll be focusing on the East today, but be sure to check out our Western Conference previews as well!
The Milwaukee Bucks finished with the best record in the entire NBA at 60-22 and with it, they ensure they will have home court advantage throughout the entire playoffs. They’ll face the Detroit Pistons in the first round after the Pistons won their last two games of the regular season to sneak in ahead of the Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat.
The Bucks will enter their third straight Eastern Conference playoffs campaign and will look to get our of the first round for the first time since all the way back in the 2001 Playoffs, when Ray Allen led the team to the Eastern Conference finals.
It’s been a long road back into relevance for the Bucks, who now have arguably the best player in the league in Giannis Antetokounmpo and have done the hard work all season to earn the home court advantage. The Bucks have had a record season in terms of point differential and boasted a league best 33-9 record at home throughout the year.
After two years finishing just outside the Eastern Conference playoffs, the Detroit Pistons are back in hunt, finishing in the eighth seed on the back of a strong finish to the regular season.
The regular season was highlighted by 16 game stretch throughout February and March that saw them win 14 games including bug wins over good teams in the Nuggets, Pacers Raptors and Timberwolves. However, injury to star Blake Griffin is a concern. The power forward averaged 24.5 points per game this season but is battling a knee injury that could hinder him.
The Bucks will likely be without Pau Gasol and Malcolm Brogdon to start the series but it’s still tough to look past them at home. Giannis Antetokounmpo will be fit and firing after resting throughout the last few weeks of the regular season.
While the injury to Blake Griffin surely won’t keep him out of the line-up, he has looked hobbled in the last few games.
The Pistons have really struggled to put up a winning score this season and we aren’t sure where their offence is going to come from, especially if Blake is hindered. We think the Bucks sweep this series.
The Raptors will continue their quest to finally get into the NBA finals this season. There campaign will start as they face the Orlando Magic in the first round.
The Raptors have been bounced by the Cleveland Cavaliers the last three seasons in a row, once in the Eastern Conference finals, but will fancy their chances of reaching their first every NBA Finals with LeBron James now out of the East.
They finished the season with a 58-24 record, better than any team in the Western Conference, which means if they finally do break the hoodoo and reach the NBA Finals, they’ll have home court advantage.
Kawhi Leonard had a dominant season and will enter his first playoff campaign since injury his ankle in Game 1 of the Western Conference playoffs in 2016-17. The star off season recruit will be critical on both offence and defence for the Raptors, as will mid season recruit Marc Gasol, who brings plenty of playoff experience.
In arguably the biggest surprise of the NBA regular season, the Orlando Magic finished with a 42-40 record to sneak into the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference and making their first playoffs series since Dwight Howard led the team to a 37-29 record in the 2011-12 lockout season.
It’s been a strong team effort by the Magic to get into the top eight in the East. Led by the starting five of Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, Evan Fournier and D.J. Augustin, the Magic won their last four games of the regular season and eight of their last 10 to jump into the playoffs.
The two teams faced off four times in the 2018-19 regular season, with each team winning one home game and one away game. The Orlando Magic rely heavily on their top six or seven players and don’t have as much depth as the Raptors, however, depth isn’t that important in the playoffs.
The Magic were impressive at home in the regular season, maintaining a 25-16 record. They are capable of getting incredibly hot from three and will enter the playoffs at full strength. We think they can pinch a few games here.
After over five years in obscurity, the Brooklyn Nets are back in the playoffs after a fantastic regular season. They’ll face off against the 76ers in the first round, who made some key additions to their line-up throughout the season.
After bombing out of the Eastern Conference playoffs in the 2nd round last season, the 76ers made some key moves in the offseason and midseason this year to add Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. The two stars will join Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and JJ Reddick to form a dominant starting five.
Embiid has battled injuries late in the regular season but should be fit and ready to go once the playoffs start and he’ll be looking to take advantage of inexperienced Nets centre Jarret Allen.
The 76ers finished the season with a 51-31 record and had an impressive 31-10 record at home. They’ll have no serious injury concerns heading into the first round and start as strong favourites.
The Nets finished with a 42-40 record this season, their first year with a winning record since Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were playing in Brooklyn back in 2013-14 season.
The resurgence of the Nets has been led by all-star point guard, D’Angelo Russel, who averaged 21.1 points per game in the regular season as well as 7 assists. The Nets have had 13 different starters so far this season and will go into the playoffs near full strength.
We think this will be a more competitive series than many people assume it to be. The 76ers looked rusty towards the end of the season, granted, they were without star centre Joel Embiid for periods of time, however, it could take them a while to get back into the swing of things. They won just four of their last 10 games and lost two of their last four matches against the Nets this season.
One massive factor will be the Nets crowd, who should be hyped up with their team back in the playoffs. We think the crowd can get Brooklyn a win and D’Angelo Russel can get another.
The Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers duelled throughout the final few weeks of the regular season to see who would get home court advantage for their first round matchup. The Celtics came out on top and will host the first game of the series on Monday.
Many picked Boston to be the team to finally dethrone the Golden State Warriors this season after making it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals last year without key players Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. However, it’s been an up and down year for the Celtics as the host of pieces have failed to mesh well at times.
Still, a 49-33 record is nothing to frown over, and the Celtics will back themselves to come together at the right time of year. They have arguably the most star power of any side in the Eastern Conference and have proven playoff performers in Kyrie Irving and Al Horford leading the way.
Gordon Hayward missed the entirty of the 2017-18 season with a broken leg, and while he has played most of this season, he has truly started to look like the Hayward of old over the last few weeks. The former Jazz star could prove to be the x-factor off the bench for the Celtics this post-season, especially in the scoring department.
The Pacers were dealt a massive blow half way through the season when their all-star guard, Victor Oladipo, went down with a torn ACL. Many wrote them off at that point, however, the Pacers re-grouped to finish the season with a 48-34 record.
The Pacers fell away toward the end of the season, winning just four of their last 10 games to relinquish the fourth seed to the Celtics. The Pacers will need big series’ from Bojan Bogdanovic, Myles Turner and sixth man of the year candidate Domantas Sabonis to give themselves a chance at beating the Celtics.
The Celtics had the better of the Pacers in the regular season, winning three of the four matchups between the two sides. It doesn’t bode well for the Pacers, who can expect to see a much more locked in Celtics side in the playoffs.
Kyrie Irving’s off court issues were a distraction for the Celtics in the regular season but they seem to have gotten over that of late and we think they are capable of going to an extra gear in the playoffs.
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