The NBA Playoffs begin on Saturday with very intriguing series in the Eastern Conference. Here's an initial preview of the first round.
No. 1 Milwaukee Bucks vs. No. 8 Detroit Pistons
Blake Griffin missed the must-win regular season finale against the Knicks because of a knee injury and if he's not 100 percent I can't see the Pistons avoiding a sweep.
The Bucks are dealing with injuries of their own and they have to focus on making sure Giannis Antetokounmpo's ankle healed for the second against the Celtics or Pacers.
No. 4 Boston Celtics vs. No. 5 Indiana Pacers
The Pacers rank third in the NBA in defensive efficiency (104.2 points allowed per 100 possessions) and even though they can go through long periods struggling to score, they can give the Celtics problems in what should a very competitive series.
The Celtics have been a disappointment this season, despite ranking sixth in the league in defensive efficiency (104.9 points allowed per 100 possessions) but they will not have one of their best perimeter defenders, Marcus Smart for the first two rounds of the playoffs because of an oblique injury.
On paper, the combination of Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford, with Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown coming off the bench should prevail but the Pacers can put up a fight.
No. 2 Toronto Raptors vs. No. 7 Orlando Magic
The Magic went from being a lottery team to winning the Southeast Division and making the playoffs. Their reward will be facing the Raptors, one of the best teams in the league. As much as I would love for the Magic to advance, I have to be realistic but this series won't be easy for the Raptors and if Aaron Gordon can defend Kawhi Leonard and generate offense against him, the Magic can steal some games.
No. 3 Philadelphia 76ers vs. No. 6 Brooklyn Nets
If D'Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert and Joe Harris get hot, the Nets can be competitive against this deep 76ers team but they will have a hard time containing Joel Embiid and if he's healthy their defense will have their hands more than full.
Ultimately, the 76ers have a physical advantage that the Nets cannot match and they don't have enough firepower offensively to win four games.
NBA Playoffs First Round Series Prices
Odds Courtesy of Jazz Sports
Trail Blazers +140
Check odds here: http://bit.ly/jazzonaff