Bucks in 6
The Milwaukee Bucks had their troubles getting going in the first round, as they dropped the opener and won the next four games against the Magic. After starting the boycott that nearly led to the end of the NBA season and spread to the MLB and NHL, the Bucks played a strong game to eliminate Orlando to move on to the second round. The Miami Heat meanwhile dominated a hobbled Pacers team, winning in four games. The ease of Miami’s first-round win could work against them as they will have missed a week. The key for Milwaukee will be to get Khris Middleton to find his game; his first-round struggles were a concern. In the end, the Bucks are too good of the team, as Giannis Antetokounmpo ill be the difference.
Lakers in 6
The Los Angeles Lakers are well-rested as the Houston Rockets were pushed to the limit by the Thunder, winning in seven games. The Lakers who beat the Trail Blazers in five games seemed to find their groove as the series went on. Losing the first game and winning the last four the Lakers are taking on the look of a team that could be in the bubble to the very end. If the Rockets are to have a chance to win and advance the Western Conference Finals, they will need to make their three-point baskets. They will also need for James Harden and Russell Westbrook to be at their best. The Lakers will surely get a strong performance from LeBron James and Anthony Davis, which is why they will likely win in six.
Celtics in 7
Both the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors swept through the first round. The Raptors dominated the short-handed Nets, while the Celtics made the big shots when they counted to dispatch the 76ers. Kyle Lowry was injured late in the series against Brooklyn, and would have been unavailable had this series started on Friday as planned. Gordon Heyward is out for Boston, but the Celtics are used that. The Celtics gave the Raptors fits in the regular season, winning three of four games, including handing Toronto their only loss in the bubble. The Celtics’ ability to win games late with Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum making the big shots when necessary. This will be the difference as Boston wins in seven.
Clippers in 5
Known mostly for their legacy of losing, the Los Angeles Clippers are one of three franchises that have never reached the Conference Finals. With the Charlotte Hornets and New Orleans Pelicans being the other two, the Clippers are the oldest of the terrible three, dating back 50 years to their start as the Buffalo Braves. The Denver Nuggets come in on a high, rallying from down 3-1 to beat the Jazz in seven, while the Clippers put away the pesky Mavericks in six. Jamal Murray had a monster series for Denver. If the Nuggets are to have a chance, they will need more of the same in this round. Kawhi Leonard knows how to win these games, and the Clippers’ depth will be again a significant weapon as two players Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell, are a finalist for the sixth man. Facing a team that went seven, that will be the difference as the Clippers will win in five.