The Milwaukee Bucks (60-22) won the most games in the NBA this season and even though the Bucks are the favorites to represent the Eastern Conference in the playoffs, Giannis “Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo has yet to win a playoff series during his previous three trips to the postseason.
Since drafting Antetokounmpo in 2013, the Bucks were bounced in the opening round of the playoffs in 2015, 2017, and 2018. With the #7 seed last season, the Greek Freak nearly pulled off an upset of the heavily-favorites #2 Boston Celtics. The Celtics needed seven games to finally put away the Bucks.
The Bucks locked up the #1 seed in the East this year. The Freak squares off against Blake Griffin and the Detroit Pistons, who advanced to the playoffs on the last day of the season.
2019 EASTERN CONFERENCE SEEDING:
#1 Milwaukee Bucks (60-22) vs. #8 Detroit Pistons (41-41)
#2 Toronto Raptors (58-24) vs. #7 Orlando Magic (42-40)
#3 Philadelphia 76ers (51-31) vs. #6 Brooklyn Nets (42-40)
#4 Boston Celtics (49-33) vs. #5 Indiana Pacers (48-34)
The Toronto Raptors won 58 games under rookie head coach Nick Nurse. Kawhi Leonard led the Raptors to a second seed. The Sixers came into this season with a solid core behind young guns Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Although the way, the team acquired Jimmy Butler in a trade with the Timberwolves. Before the trade deadline, the Sixers also acquired Tobias Harris from the LA Clippers. The Sixers have one of the best starting five players in the league, but can they gel in the playoffs quick enough to pose a threat to the Raptors and Bucks?
Chalk City, Wisconsin
If you are someone who likes to go by the numbers and bet favorites, then the chalky scenario would see the Bucks and Raptors meeting in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Bucks owned the Raptors this year and swept the season series.
Along the way, the Bucks would have to beat the Boston Celtics in the Eastern semifinals. On the other side of the bracket, the Raptors would edge out the Sixers.
In the opening-round coinflip series, the #4 Boston Celtics should defeat the #5 Indiana Pacers. The Pacers managed to stay afloat once Victor Oladipo went down with a season-ending injury. Darren Collison stepped up as a valuable replacement. However, the Pacers will be missing Oladipo’s scoring in the postseason.
Oh, Canada or Kendall’s Boyfriend?
Which team from the East can actually beat the Bucks? The Toronto Raptors or Philly Sixers seem like the logical choices.
Kawhi has plenty of postseason experience with the Spurs. The Raptors acquired Marc Gasol specifically for to keep the Greek Freak in check in the playoffs. Power forward Pascal Siakam emerged as one of the most-improved players in the league averaging 16.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Siakam and Kawhi Leonard is a dangerous duo. If they get hot, the Bucks will start their vacation earlier than expected.
The Sixers have all the firepower on paper. They score 115 points per game for the fourth-most potent offense in the league. Simmons, Embiid, Butler, and Harris are a tough core four. Plus, they have a secret weapon: Kendall Jenner. Kim Kardashian’s sister is dating Ben Simmons. The Ringer dubbed them the “Adopted Prince and Princess of New Jersey“. According to the article, the Sixers are 15-3 when Kendall Jenner attends a game.
Hipster Upset Watch
Time to put down the Kale Kiwi smoothie, turn off your cassette copy of Loveless by My Bloody Valentine, find a sitter for your pet goat, and rush over to the closest dive bar in Williamsburg to watch the local sports team. Yes, the Nets call Brooklyn their home and they are in the playoffs.
While the New York Knicks choked across the bridge at Madison Square Garden, the Nets thrived in Brooklyn. They had a sensational year thanks to the revitalization of D’Angelo Russell. D’Angelo led the team with 21.1 points per game this season. The Nets only won 42 games, but played much better in the second half of the season. The Nets could catch the Sixers sleepwalking if they are more concerned about the second round opponent.
If the Nets conjure up enough firepower to beat the stacked Sixers, then D’Angelo and company could also take down the Raptors. And if they knock out two of the best teams in the East, they could run the table and upset the Bucks.
Of course, the Nets would have to fade injuries and run good for three consecutive series to reach the NBA Finals. It’s not impossible, but weirder things have happened in the NBA playoffs. Teams get hot. All-stars go cold. And the stars align to make the improbable all of sudden possible.
According to the South Point Casino and Sports Book in Las Vegas, the Milwaukee Bucks are 5/1 odds to win the 2019 NBA championship. The Toronto Raptors are 8/1 odds to win the title. The Sixers are 18/1, followed by the Celtics at 20/1. The rest of the East are long shots with the Pacers at 300/1, the Nets at 400/1, and the Magic and Pistons both at 500/1 odds to win the championship.