The #2 Toronto Raptors defeated the #7 Orlando Magic in five games to advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Despite nagging injuries to Joel Embiid, the #3 Philadelphia Sixers only needed five games to defeat D’Angelo Russell and the upstart #6 Brooklyn Nets.
The Raptors will now face the Sixers in the next round of the NBA playoffs. On the other side of the Eastern Conference bracket, the #1 Milwaukee Bucks and #4 Boston Celtics swept their opponents and will now face each other.
The Golden State Warriors are the consensus favorite to win the NBA championship this year, which would mark three in a row for the top-seed in the West. Greek Freak and the Bucks are the second-best favorite on the board, but the top team from the East. According to the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas, the Bucks are 5/1 odds to win the NBA crown.
Raptors 4, Magic 1
The Magic have been in playoff mode for nearly a month as they closed out the season on the bubble. The Magic secured themselves one of the final two spots in the Eastern Conference. But they had an uphill battle facing the second-best squad in the East with Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry.
Despite getting upset 104-101 in Game 1, the Raptors rattled off four-straight wins for a rather stellar opening round for rookie coach Nick Nurse. The Raptors played much better defense in all of those wins and they never allowed the Magic to score more than 96 points. The Magic were held to under 85 points on two occasions.
In Game 5, Kawhi Leonard led all scorers with 27 points in only 32 minutes of action. He went 8-for-11 from the field including a perfect 5-for-5 from three-point land. Pascal Siakam added 24 points with 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Siakam averaged 16.9 points during the regular season, but he increased his scoring output in the postseason with 22.6 points per game.
In the series clincher, Kyle Lowry scored 14 points and dished out 9 assists and fought through an injury. Lowry jammed his ring finger, but finished the game. The Raptors added Marc Gasol for the playoff run and he contributed 9 points and 9 rebounds in 24 minutes of action.
Sixers 4, Nets 1
The Nets looked like they might pull off a major upset after they stunned the Sixers 111-102 in Game 1. However, the high-flying Sixers got their act together and corrected the ship with four wins in a row.
The Nets forgot how to play defense and allowed 500 points in their losses. NBA legend Clyde Frazier would have pegged their defense as “Swiss cheese” with all the holes in it because the Nets allowed the Sixers to torch them for 145 points in Game 2 and 131 in Game 3. Gone are the days when Eastern Conference playoff battles during the 1990s featured final scores in the low 80s.
Kendell Jenner went to Coachella, which is a good thing because she missed the worst game of the series. Her boyfriend, Ben Simmons, played so poorly at the start of the playoffs that Nets fans were trolling Simmons by posting “MISSING” signs around the arena in Brooklyn.
There's a missing person flyer for the jump shot of Ben Simmons heading into Game 3 at Barclays Center. This brings back memories of the Deron Williams missing poster from a few years ago. (Photo: @APOOCH) pic.twitter.com/X3S3LIdIFM
— Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) April 18, 2019
After scoring only nine points in Game 1, Simmons improved his average to 17.2 points per game, which is above his regular season totals. Simmons exploded for 31 points in Game 3 when Embiid sat out to rest his ailing knee. In the series clincher, the Sixers had the game locked up by the fourth quarter. In only 27 minutes, Simmons scored 13 points on 6-for-10 shooting.
Joel Embiid averaged 24.8 points and 13.5 rebounds against the Nets. He unleashed 31 points, 16 rebounds, and 7 assists in Game 4.
The Sixers will now face the Raptors in the second round of the playoffs. According to the South Point Casino and Sports Book in Las Vegas, the Toronto Raptors are 8/1 odds to win the NBA championship. The Philly Sixers are 20/1 odds to win the NBA title.