Who will be the new king in the East?

Brendan Reidy, Sports Writer

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The NBA Playoffs are right around the corner, and things will be very different this year, especially in the Eastern Conference. This year, LeBron James is out of the Eastern Conference and leaves the door wide open for someone to take the conference throne. For the last eight seasons, James went to eight straight NBA Finals with the Miami Heat and the Cleveland Cavaliers. This year, the level of competition should be fun to watch and the matchups are finally set for the first round. The Bucks will host the Pistons, the Raptors will have home court advantage over the Magic, the 76ers will face off against the emerging Nets and the Celtics will host the Pacers. Right now, the Bucks have the best record in all of basketball, and are looking to reclaim glory. However, it will be a tough road for the No. 1 seed because of all the depth the Eastern Conference possesses in terms of talent. Every team in the playoffs has the talent to pull off an upset. It may not seem likely to some, but it is very capable. Let’s go in depth on the matchups.

First, let’s look at the Bucks versus the Pistons. The Bucks did not get the best record in basketball by getting lucky. They have one of the best players in the game, Giannis Antetokounmpo. The “Greek Freak” and his teammates are poised and fired up to come out on top of the Eastern Conference, and that is why I am picking them to beat the Pistons in round one, in five games. They just outmatch the Pistons in star talent and I think the matchup problems they have will give Detroit too much for them to handle.

The No. 2 seed in the East is the Toronto Raptors and they will be playing the Orlando Magic. Again, I am going to take the higher seed. I think the Raptors have the best player in the entire conference, Kawhi Leonard, but he also has something no one in this conference has, that is playoff experience success. You can argue Kyrie Irving has the same amount of experience, but Leonard has been to the playoffs more, and has had more success. I think that kind of veteran leadership will lead the Raptors to the only sweep in the first round this year, and they will easily take the series in four games.

This is where things start to get interesting. The 76ers will play against the young Brooklyn Nets. While the 76ers possess a great deal of talent, they have yet to put it all together and the players still have not found or accepted the roles on the team. This is why I think the Nets will upset the Sixers. The Nets have one of the brightest young players in basketball with D’Angelo Russell, and I think they are going to shock the East and win the series in six games.

The last game of the first round is between the No. 4 seed Boston Celtics and the No. 5 seed Indiana Pacers. The Celtics didn’t have the season they were hoping for, but I think they’ll turn it on during the playoffs. The Pacers days are numbered and after heavily relied on All-Star Victor Oladipo had a season ending in late January. That’s why I don’t think it will be enough to stop the very talented roster the Celtics posse. They just have too much depth for Indiana to handle, and I believe that the Celtics will win the series in six games.

From there, I believe the Celtics will ride their hot streak and upset the Milwaukee Bucks in a very competitive seven-game series. I think the series will be defined by coaching, and that is where Brad Stevens and Boston will have the upper hand. In the other series, I think the Nets’ magical run will come to an end because they will run into the very talented Raptors. They are just too good defensively for the young Nets, and I believe the Raptors will win the series in five games. So, my prediction for the Eastern Conference Finals will be Celtics versus the Raptors, and I think the Raptors will finally end their drought and win the series in six games. However the East turns out, it should be a good one, and fans will have a new champion to look forward to.

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