2020 NBA Playoffs: Eastern Conference Matchups

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo controls the ball during the NBA basketball match between Milwaukee Bucks and Charlotte Hornets at The AccorHotels Arena in Paris on January 24, 2020. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP) (Photo by ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP via Getty Images)

The Eastern Conference for so long has been a “weak” conference and it’s been that way the past several years. It hasn’t been as bad this season as in years past. So far this season, the East has the best team in the NBA record-wise and has four teams with over 40 wins and two with 39. The low seeded playoff teams aren’t as strong as the seventh and eighth seed have a record of under .500. The 2020 NBA Playoffs in the East will be fun to watch this year. If the season continues, the NBA might be forced to start the playoffs right away. The playoffs teams are pretty much set barring a collapse from some teams but the seeding is going to have to stay as they are. Let’s take a look at what those matchups would look like as of now.

2020 NBA Playoffs: Eastern Conference Matchups

Magic vs Bucks

The series hasn’t even started yet and it feels like it’s over. The Milwaukee Bucks have dominated the league all season led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is third in the league in points per game with 29.6. Alongside Giannis is Khris Middleton, who is averaging 21.1 points per game. The Bucks are not only scoring at will but they are playing good defense. They’ve lost two in a row heading into this break but two of those were without Giannis. 

The Orlando Magic are the opposite. They aren’t having that good of a season at 30-35 but they are the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. Their leader in points per game (Nikola Vucevic) is only averaging 19.5 points but is also leading the team in rebounds per game with 11. Their shooting game isn’t bad but it’s not good either. It’s hard to see a scenario where the Magic pull off this series, let alone a game. The Bucks have all the tools to win the NBA Finals and the Magic not so much. Of the Eastern Conference matchups, this would be one of the more lopsided.

Raptors vs Nets

This series will be a lot like the Bucks vs Magic. Just like that series, this one feels like it’s over. The defending NBA Champion Toronto Raptors lost one of the best players in Kawhi Leonard but they are still playing at a high level. Pascal Siakam has taken over as the leader of this team and he is continuing where he left off last season. The Raptors have three players with a field goal percentage of over 50 and they shoot the three well.

The Brooklyn Nets are not so fortunate. In the offseason, they signed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in hopes of being one of the best teams in the future. Knowing Durant would miss this season, they were hoping Irving could carry the team but injuries have held him back. Now, the Nets have lost both for the season. With this layoff, Irving has a little time to heal from surgery so depending on when they get back, he could join the team. Durant is a long shot but again, depending on how long this layoff is, maybe there is a slimmer of hope that he returns. Even if they do, it might take time to build chemistry. Without these two, the Nets don’t have a lot to hang their hat on.

Excluding Irving, their leading scorer is Spencer Dinwiddie at 20.6 points per game. They do however have a strong presence inside with DeAndre Jordan, who they also signed in the offseason. He leads the team in field-goal percentage with 66.6 and also leads the team with 10 rebounds per game. If the Nets have any chance, they need Dinwiddie to regain form from years past and they need Jordan to continue doing what he is doing. Like the Magic, it’s hard to believe that the Nets have a chance in this series.

Celtics vs 76ers

This series will probably be the best of the Eastern Conference matchups. Both teams are close in the standings and could cause problems. The Boston Celtics, in particular, have the firepower throughout the lineup. They have three players who average over 20 points per game, led by Jayson Tatum, who is averaging 23.6 points per game. The Celtics also have six players with a field goal percentage over 50. They are shooting very well and can play tough defense. Their lineup is stacked with talented players.

The Philadelphia 76ers have earned criticism this season for more or less “giving up” or having “no effort.” They’ve been up and down lately but have picked it up from where they were. They have 39 wins, which is good for the sixth seed. Joel Embiid is the team leader in points per game and rebounds while Ben Simmons is leading the team in field-goal percentage, assists per game, and steals per game. These two will have to get back and stay in form if this team wants to move on. This 76ers team can cause problems to any team and can even make a deep run. This series will be fun.

Heat vs Pacers

The Miami Heat (fourth seed) and the Indiana Pacers (fifth seed) have the same record in the standings. The Heat has hit a little bump as of late but is still playing strong. Not only is Jimmy Butler playing well, but they are getting a surprise season from Bam Adebayo, who is averaging 16.2 points per game and has a field-goal percentage of 56.7. They traded for Andre Iguodala earlier this season. He hasn’t put up great numbers and isn’t playing as he should but it’ll take time. If he gets going, they only add a serious defensive threat and a guy who can put up points when needed. 

The Pacers are playing just as good right now. Victor Oladipo came back in late January after a ruptured tendon in his quad last season. Right now, he’s averaging around 13 points per game and he scored 27 points in his last game against the Celtics. Before then, players have been stepping up in his absence. Players like T.J. Warren and Domantas Sabonis are leading the team in points per game or rebounds per game. The Pacers are shooting very well from the field as well. Getting Oladipo back will help this team a lot, especially if he gets close to his old form. This will be one of the most interesting of the Eastern Conference matchups in the first round.

Last Shot

The Eastern Conference will be a tough challenge this year. There are two interesting matchups in the first round but round two is when it gets heated up. There are teams still fighting for playoff seeding but if they have to start the playoffs right away, these are the round one matchups. Even though the Eastern Conference isn’t on the level of the Western Conference, it’s slowly getting better and tougher than in years past. I’ll be a great playoff to watch in this conference.

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