76ers in 6
If Embiid doesn’t play in the second round, then you should expect an incredibly close series. Without their MVP candidate and all-around superstar, Philadelphia could potentially be missing their best player from the regular season. Still, even with a potential loss of Embiid, the 76ers have some amazing perimeter defense that will certainly slow down the Hawks’ offense that is coming off of an impressive performance against the Knicks. Despite a dominating win against the Knicks in Round 1, I think that series said more about the Knicks than the Hawks. The Hawks, specifically Trae Young, must play more efficiently if they want to challenge the elite defenders in Simmons and Thybulle because an inefficient series will not get them a series win. Randle’s poor performance made it very easy for the Knicks, and they will not get the same performance from a complete 76ers offense. If Embiid can play from game 1, then the Sixers should completely dominate a young Hawks team that doesn’t have the necessary star power to compete in the Conference Finals. For the Hawks to win, they need to get incredibly hot from three and prevent the 76ers from focusing on two players. If the Hawks don’t get a complete offensive performance, they don’t stand a chance.
Bucks in 7
In a star-studded series with revamped rosters, the Bucks and Nets will play in one of the most exciting matchups. The Bucks didn’t let the Heat breathe whatsoever, putting the foot down from Game 1, and, as a result, the Bucks didn’t really show any weaknesses in their series with the Heat. On the other side, the Nets showed how dangerous their offense could be as they took care of the Celtics in five games. Unlike the Bucks, there were times where the Nets looked beatable, especially on defense. If the Nets continue their lackluster defense against a Bucks offense tenfold more capable than the Celtics, the Bucks could easily walk away with a win. Despite the potential holes in the Nets’ defense, Durant had moments where he looked completely unstoppable. Harden, Irving, and Durant all had major success against the Celtics, but a complete Bucks defense will challenge them. This series will be determined by the success of the stars because of the incredible top-tier talent, and the Bucks will need to figure out how to stop the explosive Nets’ offense that can attack you from all angles. Despite the weakness with the Nets and their defense, the Net’s offense is completely capable of outscoring any offense. Ultimately, I expect the Bucks to take advantage of the Nets’ defense, and they should have enough resistance to the Nets’ offense in order to win a long series.
Suns in 7
The Suns were able to complete an impressive upset against an injured Lakers. Still, the Suns could completely dominate the games once AD was out, taking advantage of every weakness that the Lakers had. If the Suns continue to play the way they did in the first round, this will be a fun series to watch. Ayton has also burst onto the seen in his first playoff appearance as he has shown why he worthy of a first overall pick in 2018. The combination of Ayton’s youth and athleticism, along with the experience of CP3, has made the Sun’s a title contender. On the other hand, the Nuggets beat a Trail Blazers team that has consistently struggled in the playoffs. Without Jamal, Murray Jokic has stepped up and continued his MVP season in the playoffs. For the Suns, their defensive gameplan must revolve around limiting the impact that Jokic can have offensively because he is what makes their offense run so efficiently. Without Murray, I don’t think the Nuggets offense has enough talent to keep pace with an incredibly talented Suns’ offense.