NBA Playoffs: Predicting all 4 Eastern Conference first-round matchups
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Predicting the winner of all 4 Eastern Conference first-round matchups in NBA Playoffs

The first round of the 2020 Eastern Conference NBA Playoffs has been set. The Milwaukee Bucks are the No. 1 seed just like last season, while the Orlando Magic are in eighth place. They beat out the Washington Wizards for that spot in the seeding games at Walt Disney World.

With the 2020 NBA playoffs set to start on August 17 following the conclusion of the play-in game a day before, ClutchPoints has picked its winners for the first round in the East.

(1) Bucks vs. (8) Magic

Winner: Bucks in four

The Bucks didn’t look like giants in the seeding games, but that will likely change once the NBA playoffs start. Led by reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks are on a mission to redeem themselves from last year’s blunder when they blew a 2-0 lead to the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals and lost the series in six games.

The Magic don’t have any answers for Antetokounmpo or Bucks small forward Khris Middleton in this series and their offense is too bland, which will be easy for Milwaukee head coach Mike Budenholzer and his staff to game plan for.

Just like the Bucks swept the Detroit Pistons in the first round of the 2019 NBA playoffs, Giannis and Co. will make quick work of the Magic to advance to the second round in 2020.

(2) Raptors vs. (7) Nets

Winner: Raptors in five

The Raptors shocked a lot of people by clinching the No. 2 seed in the East after the departures of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green last offseason in free agency.

However, Toronto head coach Nick Nurse has his team right back on a championship run, this time with small forward Pascal Siakam and veteran point guard Kyle Lowry leading the way.

The Nets will be without Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan, and Spencer Dinwiddie in this series. Look for the Raptors to cruise through this matchup in five games to begin their title defense.

Brooklyn won’t be able to keep up on offense with Toronto due to the absences of Durant, Irving, and Dinwiddie. The Raptors will likely trap Nets wing Caris LeVert at every turn and make someone else beat them by getting the ball out of the talented youngster’s hands.

(3) Celtics vs. Sixers (6)

Winner: Celtics in six

This would have been the best first-round series in the East had Sixers All-Star point-forward Ben Simmons not suffered a knee injury and undergone surgery.

With Simmons expected to miss the entire 2020 NBA playoffs, the Celtics will likely win this series in six games, led by their All-Stars in Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum. While Boston will have its hands full with Sixers stars Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris, the Celtics just have too many weapons on offense in Walker, Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Gordon Hayward, not to mention a top-three defense.

Boston’s opponents are averaging just 107.5 points per game. The Sixers have been up and down all season on offense and that was with Simmons running the show. Without him, Philadelphia is going to have to rely on Shake Milton and Raul Neto to handle the ball and organize the offense.

With that said, the Celtics are likely going to pounce on that opportunity and force Philadelphia to be in a daze on offense.

(4) Heat vs. (5) Pacers

Winner: Heat in six

Since the Sixers-Celtics matchup won’t be as thrilling without Simmons playing, Jimmy Butler vs. TJ Warren is the best series in the first round out East and it will surely help the NBA with its low TV ratings.

This is going to be an evenly matched series. The Pacers are still waiting to see if All-Star big man Domantas Sabonis will join the team in the bubble and play in the postseason. He’s been out with a foot injury. If he plays, the Pacers could pull off the upset.

However, assuming Sabonis is out, led by Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, the Heat are going to be the more physical team in this series. Pacers center Myles Turner isn’t strong enough to hang with Adebayo for 48 minutes and Butler can impact a game without making shots sometimes since he can get to the free-throw line at will and steer momentum in the Heat’s favor–which is crucial without fans in attendance.

Pacers star Victor Oladipo and Warren will do their best to keep Indiana in the series with their scoring skills. But in the end, the Heat will likely win the series in six games, though it won’t be easy by any means. It’s going to be a grueling series that is played at a very slow pace.