NBA Playoff Preview – Eastern Conference – First Round

Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks plan on being in the NBA Finals. Photo Courtesy: Keith Allison

By Joel Montgomery

The 2018 NBA Playoffs are here, and we’ve got the previews you need to get ready for every high-stakes matchup. Here’s the picture of the Eastern Conference in the first round:
1. Milwaukee Bucks vs 8. Detroit Pistons
Wrapping up his MVP campaign for the regular season, Bucks’ superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo looks to finally make his mark on the league in a permanent sense. Coming in hot with a 60-win season, Milwaukee is ready to prove that they’re the next up-and-coming dynasty to take on the field.
Sneaking into the final playoff seed, the Pistons had ups and downs through the entire season, but find themselves here in the postseason. With nothing to lose and facing the best team in the conference, they have all kinds of reasoning to go all out. Will Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond be able to win the paint battle against Giannis?
Game 1: Sunday, April 14 6:00 p.m.
2. Toronto Raptors vs 7. Orlando Magic
The Magic were one of the surprise teams of the season, as their young talent was able to come together to earn the franchise their first playoff appearance since 2012. Finally making strides in the right direction, they, like the Pistons, can play freely and without restraint knowing they already achieved a worthy milestone for their season. And a case like this can always be dangerous for a team like Toronto that could be looking forward prematurely.
Thankfully for the Raptors though, after adding Kawhi Leonard to their ranks this year, they look better than ever and primed to make a Finals run. Pascal Siakam has also shined as he made a convincing case for Most Improved Player throughout the season. As long as they stay healthy, the team is looking forward to making a significant play at the title, and seem confident even if they face the likes of Golden State. Can they live up to their new expectations?
Game 1: Saturday, April 13 4:00 p.m.
3. Philadelphia 76ers vs 6. Brooklyn Nets
Another Most Improved Player candidate, D’Angelo Russell had a fantastic season as he led the Nets to an unexpected 6th seed placing at season’s end. With Caris LaVert being back in action after a tragic injury early in the season that rallied the team, as well as the likes of reliable scoring from Spencer Dinwiddie and defense from Jarrett Allen, Brooklyn looks to bring some trouble to a fellow young team in Philadelphia.
The Sixers are looking forward to getting to where they were last year and then some, as with the inclusion of Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris to the roster, expectation are obviously a lot higher than even a season ago when the “Process” was thought to be complete. This matchup is a lot closer than it looks on paper record-wise, but it should be a good 2 week bout between two balanced teams.
Game 1: Saturday, April 13 1:30 p.m.
4. Boston Celtics vs 5. Indiana Pacers
Despite losing Victor Oladipo for the season, the Pacers have overachieved and fought their way to the 5th-seed. Even with no star to carry them, they face a Celtics team that’s been dealing with some inner-turmoil lately. Can they pull off the upset?
With all signs pointing to Kyrie Irving being out the door, things are in a weird place right now for the Celtics. Furthermore, the loss of Marcus Smart for at least the first two rounds (torn oblique) is a big hit to one of Boston’s cornerstone for team energy. Fortunately for the Celtics though, Gordon Hayward’s play has vastly improved since his struggles toward the beginning of 2019. Will Boston be able to put their issues aside and get the job done? 
Game 1: Sunday, April 14 12:00 p.m.