Celtics in 6
After a dreadful lackluster first round, we have some genuine juicy matchups in the second. None may be better than the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks. Boston had lost the in Eastern Conference Finals each of the last two years was seen as the heir apparent for the Cavaliers minus LeBron at the start of the season. The Celtics though went through an often-uninspired regular season, posting a record of 49-33 to get the fourth seed. Meanwhile, Milwaukee was the NBA’s only 60-win team. The Bucks and Celtics both had easy wins in the first round, sweeping the Pistons and Pacers respectively. The teams me in the first-round last year, with the Bucks pushing Boston to a seventh game, as the home team won all seven games in the series. Milwaukee won two of three against the Celtics in the regular season, but the Celtics appear to be playing their best basketball of the season now. Giannis Antetokounmpo has had an MVP season, leading the Bucks and the key to Boston will be keeping him from having a huge series. The Celtics main advantage comes with their depth. Most of the season, Boston seemed to have trouble finding the right formula, but after a sweep of Indiana and a strong series from Kyrie Irving, the time is now for the Celtics. The Bucks still have some growing to do, while the Celtics finally knock the door down on the way to the NBA Finals.
Warriors in 7
The Houston Rockets have waited a year for this rematch, after losing a hard-fought seven-game series to the Golden State Warriors last season. While this may not be the actual Western Conference Finals this season, it just as well should be as both teams are better than the Nuggets and Trail Blazers. The Rockets have given Golden State fits all season winning three of four meetings, with the only loss being by two points. If any team knows how to take down the two-time defending champions it is the Rockets. The Rockets who had somewhat of a disappointing regular season overall finishing with the four seed, In the first round the Rockets looked like a team on a mission, as they decimated the Jazz in five games. The Warriors meanwhile looked shaky at times as they needed six games to sink the Clippers. Especially concerning is that they lost two games at the Oracle, and Arena that when this postseason is over will close forever as they move across the bay next season to the beautiful Chase Center. Does the Oracle have any magic left? This series should be the best of all the series in the second round and may be the best of the whole postseason. In the end, the key comes down to who makes the big plays. Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry or James Harden and Paul. Based on track record I trust Curry and Durant in a Game 7 at home.
Raptors in 6
There has to be a sense of urgency for the Toronto Raptors, as their ability to retain Kawhi Leonard will be the biggest question when the season is over. Over the last few seasons, the Raptors have been among the best teams in the East but were unable to get past LeBron’s Cavaliers. Now that LeBron is gone the pat is clear for Toronto, who took great risk dealing DeMar DeRozan, a popular player who liked playing in Toronto. However, Leonard makes them better suited for a championship run and has often bee their best player. The Philadelphia 76ers are still a growing team, as one of the younger teams in the NBA Playoffs which comes into this series hoping to take the next step in the process. In some ways these teams are mirror images of each other, as both teams had bad losses at home to start the first round, only to have four straight impressive wins to close the series in five games. In four regular-season meetings, the Raptors handled Philadelphia with ease, winning three-of-four. One thing the Sixers will need in this series is Joel Embiid to be healthy and Ben Simmons needs to be more consistent. The same could be said for Kyle Lowry, who far too often have shrunk in big postseason games for the Raptors. However, with the emergence of Pascal Siakam, the Raptors appear to be the stronger team and should be able to take this series in six games.
Trail Blazers in 6
The Denver Nuggets battled the Golden State Warriors all season for the top spot in the West but tailed off late in the season and settled for the second seed, winning the Northwest Division. However, that division lead had shrunk to one game, as the Portland Trail Blazers were charging up fast behind them. Had the season last another week or two, the Blazers likely would have slipped by them. In their first-round series, the Nuggets in their first appearance in six years struggled with the Spurs needing seven games. The Blazers meanwhile smoked the Thunder with Damian Lillard hitting a cold-blooded assassin three-pointer to win the fifth game. Lillard gave the stare of death after that shot and now focuses those eyes on Denver. The Nuggets won three of the four regular-season meetings with Portland, with the only loss coming in a game in which Nikola Jokic rested. Jokic had a decent series against the Spurs, recording a triple-double in Game 7, but Denver otherwise struggled. Portland meanwhile C.J. McCollum and Enes Kanter each were key factors in the Blazers takedown of OKC. Kanter especially since he will be needed to neutralize Jurkic. What this series may come down to is who will make the big shot in the end, and right now I believe that is Damian Lillard as the Blazers win in six.