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Playoff Outlook - Eastern Conference First Round

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Western Conference

2020 Eastern Conference
Early Playoff Predictions

We’ve spent the last 12,045 days or 33-straight years watching, analyzing, breaking down and handicapping sports on a daily basis. We certainly miss it and can’t wait for this pandemic to subside so we can get back to what we love, sports betting!

Like us we’re sure you are “jonesing” for some basketball, so we’ve put together a hypothetical scenario if the NBA Playoffs started today. This is based on current records and standings as of the Covid-19 shutdown on March 11th. The rumors are the NBA will not abandon this season and will play games as soon as it’s safe to do so.

Some speculations are the games will resume in June, but we don’t exactly know if they will play out the regular season or just go straight to the Playoffs? We do know one thing for sure, it can’t get here soon enough!

#1 Milwaukee Bucks vs. #8 Orlando Magic

Regular season meetings

  • Feb. 8 - Milwaukee -8.5 at Orlando - Bucks Win 111-95 - Bucks Cover - Under 221.5
  • Dec. 28 - Milwaukee -6.5 vs. Orlando - Bucks Win 111-100 - Bucks Cover - Under 216.5
  • Dec. 9 - Milwaukee -13 vs. Orlando - Bucks Win 110-101 - Magic Cover - Under 217.5
  • Nov. 1 - Milwaukee -4.5 at Orlando - Bucks Win 123-91 - Bucks Cover - Push 214
Series Preview: The Bucks and Magic first round match up will be a quick one with the Bucks sweeping the Magic in four games much like the regular season. Milwaukee beat this team by an average of 17PPG this season and one of those wins came without Giannis suiting up for the Bucks. Milwaukee dominated the Magic on the boards with a plus +17 margin of total rebounds per game and shot 37.2% from beyond the arc which was better than their season average of 35.6%.

Orlando is one of the better defensive teams in the NBA allowing just 107.3PPG which is 4th in the NBA but the Bucks averaged just under 114PPG against them this season. The Magic have the 7th worst offensive efficiency (.983PPP) numbers in the NBA this season and will have a hard time scoring against the Bucks #1 ranked defensive efficiency unit allowed just 1.019 points per possession this season.

The Bucks will be 13-point favorites at home in the opening two games and be favored by 8-points on the road. Milwaukee 4-0 and advances by double digit wins in three of 4 games.

Bucks vs. Magic Prediction: Milwaukee 4-0

#2 Toronto Raptors vs. #7 Brooklyn Nets

Regular season meetings

  • Feb. 12 - Toronto -4 at Brooklyn - Nets Win 101-91 - Nets Cover - Under 224.5
  • Feb. 8 - Toronto -6.5 vs. Brooklyn - Raptors Win 119-118 - Nets Cover - Over 218
  • Jan. 4 - Toronto +1.5 at Brooklyn - Raptors Win 121-102 - Raptors Cover - Over 217
  • Dec. 14 - Toronto -7.5 vs. Brooklyn - Raptors Win 110-102 - Raptors Cover - Under 218.5
Series Preview: The Raptors have quietly flown under the radar all season long and you’ll be surprised to know that last year on March 10th, with Kawhi, they stood 49-19 SU compared to 46-18 SU currently this season. Brooklyn made some changes before the stoppage with a coaching change as Jacque Vaughn took over for since departed Kenny Atkinson. The Nets are 3-1 SU their last four games with quality wins over the Celtics and Lakers which were both on the road.

In the four regular season meetings the Raptors won 3 of four games, going 2-2 against the spread, but the two most recent clashes in February give us a good indication this could be a longer series than expected. The two games played in February saw the Nets win by 10-points at home and lose by just 1-point in Toronto. The overall margin of victory for the Raptors in the four games with the Nets was just +4.5PPG.

The Raptors are a below average shooting team at 45.6% on the season which is 20th in the NBA but the Nets stifling defense (ranked 8th in defensive efficiency) held Toronto to 42.4% shooting this season.

We predict this series will go five games with the Raptors coming out on top, but it won’t be easy. Toronto will be favored by 7.5-points at home and the games in Brooklyn a pick’em.

Raptors vs. Nets Prediction: Toronto 4-1

#3 Boston Celtics vs. #6 Philadelphia76ers

Regular season meetings

  • Feb. 1 - Boston +1.5 vs. Philadelphia - Celtics Win 116-95 - Celtics Cover - Under 212
  • Jan. 9 - Boston -1 at Philadelphia - 76ers Win 109-98 - 76ers Cover - Under 218
  • Dec. 12 - Boston -1 vs. Philadelphia - 76ers Win 115-109 - 76ers Cover - Over 212.5
  • Oct. 23 - Boston +5.5 at Philadelphia - 76ers Win107-93 76ers Cover - Under 215.5
Series Preview: This could be one of the best first round matchups of the entire playoffs as this old-school rivalry is going 6 or seven games. If right, either of these two teams could come out of the East but there are some concerns, especially for the Sixers. Philly’s two superstars, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, seem to have a problem coexisting on the floor with each other and it has led to a below expectations 39-26 SU record. The Sixers road struggles of 10-24 SU with a negative differential of minus -5.2PPG is by far the worst of any playoff team, but they did win a game in Boston this season.

The Celtics roster is one capable of winning it all and Jayson Taytum has certainly picked up his game of late by scoring 30+ points in 7 of their last ten games. Boston’s net average point differential per game though has dropped by -3.8-points per game since the All-Star break but a lot of that is due to recent injuries (Walker, Brown, Smart). In the four meetings this season the 76ers dominated the glass with a +12 total rebound margin in winning 3 of the four games.

The winning team won by double-digits in 3 of the four with three of the spreads being less than 2-points. Based on recent trending numbers, coaching advantage and road differentials we have to side with the Celtics in this series. Since the All-Star break the Celtics are drastically better than the 76ers in both offensive and defensive efficiency numbers. In fact, the Sixers have been dreadful in both with the 28th ranked O.E.F.F and 26th D.E.F.F. Boston is 20-12 SU on the road this season with the 5th best point differential of +4.2PPG and the coaching advantage is clear with Stevens over Brown.

Boston will be a slightly bigger favorite in Game 1 of the series (-6.5) and a play on team but the line will dip slightly in Game 2 (-5.5). When the series goes to Philly we will see the 76ers favored by roughly -3.5-points. We would bet on Boston in Game 1 and Philly in Game 3.

Celtics vs. 76ers Prediction: Boston 4-3

#4 Miami Heat vs. #5 Indiana Pacers

Regular season meetings

  • Jan 8 - Miami +1.5 at Indiana - Heat Win 122-108 - Heat Cover - Over 210
  • Dec 27 - Miami -5 vs. Indiana - Heat Win 113-112 - Pacers Cover - Over 211
Series Preview: I was very high on the Pacers before the season started with the addition of Malcolm Brogdon and the eventual return of Victor Oladipo, but this team hasn’t been quite as good as I thought they would be. Oladipo has played in just 13 games this season and struggled with his shooting at 39% and just 13PPG. Brogdon’s scoring went up slightly and he’s averaging 4 more assists per game than he did last year, but his EFG percentage has dropped significantly. This layoff might be just what the Pacers needed to get Oladipo up to speed and get Brogdon healthy from his hip injury. The Pacers rely on their 7th best defensive efficiency that is allowing 1.083 points per possession. Indiana was picking up steam before the break by winning 7 of their last ten games and they have an 18-15 SU road record which is crucial in the playoffs.

The Miami Heat have the veteran leadership and a proven go-to guy in Jimmy Butler along with playoff extraordinaire Andre Iguodala. The young players (Adebayo, Jones Jr and Herro) are talented but can they rise to the challenge in the postseason? Miami had the 13th best defensive efficiency numbers and the 7th best offensive efficiency along with a 28-10 SU record against the rest of the Eastern Conference.

The Heat beat the Pacers twice this season by 14 in Indy and by 1-point at home, but the Pacers were without Brogdon and Oladipo in both contests. Miami was 27-5 SU at home this season and gaining the 4th spot in the East will prove to be the difference between them advancing and not moving on.

We expect the Heat to be 4-point favorites at home and the Pacers favored by 3-points when they are hosting. The way to go here is the Underdogs in Games 2 and 4. The Heat in 7-games.

Heat vs. Pacers Prediction: Miami 4-3

So, there you have it.

If the NBA Playoffs started today we have the Bucks in a sweep over Orlando, Toronto moving on against Brooklyn, Boston narrowly over Philadelphia and Miami in a grueling series over Indiana.

We will be breaking down the Western Conference first round series next then move on to the next round predictions.

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