- The Bucks have the best odds (-115) to win the Eastern Conference
- Jimmy Butler and rising star Bam Adebayo will make Miami a tough out in Round 2 of the NBA playoffs
- The Celtics (+350) won 3 out of 4 games with the Raptors (+300) this season
Nothing if not predictable, the first round of the NBA postseason saw few surprises with the Raptors, Heat and Celtics all sweeping their mediocre opponents, while the Bucks are about to finish off the Magic in 5 games.
Now we get to the good part. Can anyone defeat a flawed Milwaukee team that was once on pace for 70 wins and claim a berth in the NBA Finals? Let’s look at the Eastern Conference playoff odds and make a pick.
ODDS TO WIN NBA EASTERN CONFERENCE
BUCKS A BIG FAVORITE
Looking to win their first NBA title since 1971, Milwaukee (-115) has the most dominant player in basketball in 2020 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Giannis Antetokounmpo.
In Round 2, they’ll face a Heat (+750) team that dismantled the Pacers in four games. Miami won both their showdowns with Milwaukee pre-shutdown, including a 16-point blowout where they held Giannis to a season-low 13 points, but fell 130-116 to the Bucks in the seeding games, with the Freak putting up 33 points, 12 rebounds and four assists.
After sweep of Pacers, is Bam Adebayo ready to slow down Giannis? https://t.co/7uIQocjce3
— Manny Navarro (@Manny_Navarro) August 25, 2020
To beat the Heat in the postseason, Antetokounmpo will need consistent help from second-banana Khris Middleton, who was struggling with his game until scoring 21 points against Orlando in Game 4.
While Jimmy Butler is apparently receiving personal concierge service for a shoulder injury, expect him to play through the pain. There’s also Bam Adebayo to deal with. The All-Star big man averaged 15.0 points, 11.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists in the sweep of Indiana, and has the length and defensive ability to slowdown Giannis just enough.
RAPTORS OR CELTICS?
Toronto (+300) defeated the Bucks in 6 games in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final en route to the franchise’s first championship. While that team of course had Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors and 2020 NBA Coach of the Year Nick Nurse would still give Milwaukee a lot of trouble defensively if they can get past the Celtics (+350).
Boston won three of four contests versus the Raps this year, including a 122-100 bubble beatdown earlier this month, and generally matchup well with Toronto. However, the loss of Gordon Hayward to an ankle injury won’t help their chances.
THIS IS SO GREAT!
Kyle Lowry’s reaction to his sons introducing him before GM1. pic.twitter.com/TmGclj7e0d
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) August 18, 2020
Given that these are two of the most well coached clubs in the NBA, and that their stars have almost identical stat lines — Pascal Siakam (22.9 PPG, 7.3 REB, 3.5 AST, 1.0 STL, 0.9 BLK) vs. Jayson Tatum (23.4 PPG, 7.0 REB, 3.0 AST, 1.4 STL, 0.9 BLK) — this should be a fascinating series.
We expect Toronto to win in a hard-fought seven games and then lose a tight series with the Heat. That’s right, we’re picking Miami (+750) to upset the Bucks en route to the NBA Finals.