BY GUS RIDDER and JACK MAKEHAM
The first round of playoffs kicked off last week, on August 17, after a series of seeding games to ensure all players were in game shape.
MOJO News delves into a comprehensive analysis of the first round of the eastern conference of the playoffs, which is still underway, to tell you what to expect and who to look out for.
All rounds of the playoffs are a best-of-seven series, with the last three games only being played if needed.
The teams who come out on top after the first round will progress to the semi finals.
Milwaukee Bucks vs Orlando Magic
Finishing with the best record this season (56 wins and 17 losses), the Bucks arrived in Orlando as serious championship contenders.
Antetokounmpo, the emerging face of the league and reigning MVP, is once again favourite to take home the award, as well as this season’s Defensive Player of the Year trophy.
The Magic finished with an overall winning percentage of just .452 per cent, the lowest to reach the playoffs since the Indiana Pacers in 2011.
To make things worse, the Bucks comfortably won all four regular-season games against the Magic.
As Jonathan Issac, hailed to be an emerging star and potential ‘Giannis Stopper’, suffered a horrific ACL injury at the beginning of August, the Magic’s task is made monumentally more difficult.
Pick: Milwaukee Bucks beat Orlando Magic, 4-0.
Toronto Raptors vs Brooklyn Nets
Despite the free agency departure of last season’s Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard, and starting guard Danny Green, the Raptors surprised many by finishing with the second-best record this season (53 wins and 19 losses).
Watch out for talented 3&D wing OG Anunoby, who missed last season’s playoffs due to appendix surgery, but will play a significant role this year.
It is quite unlikely the Nets will be pushovers, as it has exceeded expectations since the NBA restarted despite missing the majority of its key players.
Caris LeVert will be a significant scoring threat for the Nets, hoping to continue his phenomenal run-of-form against the Raptors’ defense.
Pick: Toronto Raptors beat Brooklyn Nets, 4-1.
Boston Celtics vs Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers rookie and rising YouTube phenom Matisse Thybulle will be left to pick up the slack in Simmons’ absence.
This matchup also sees former-Celtics big man Al Horford return to face his old side.
After agreeing to a massive contract with the 76ers in free agency, Horford has been less than impressive this season when paired with Embiid.
Celtics’ depth of talent should prove too strong for a Simmons-less 76ers across a potential seven-game series.
Pick: Boston Celtics beat Philadelphia 76ers, 4-2 (4-3 if Simmons is healthy).
Indiana Pacers vs Miami Heat
Butler’s undeniable tenacity and leadership, coupled with championship coach Eric Spoelstra, should put the Heat ahead despite finishing lower in the standings.
Missing a home-court advantage by finishing fourth seed, the Pacers will hope Warren’s bubble-form continues.
Recently re-signed coach, Nate McMillan, will be looking to justify his new contract after fans were seemingly unhappy with the decision.
Pick: Miami Heat beat Indiana Pacers, 4-2.
You can watch the playoffs on ESPN, they are also streamed through Foxtel and Kayo.
The schedule for the matches is available here.