Semifinal: 2nd seed Milwaukee Bucks vs. 3rd seed Philadelphia 76ers
The Bucks and the Sixers is going to be a great Semifinal series here in the East. Giannis vs. Joel is going to be can't-miss television. These two behemoths have been arguably two of the top five players in the league, going on five seasons now. The interest in this series is an obvious one, especially with recently hired Doc Rivers back on the sideline... for the Bucks?!
I don't think we need to get particularly cute with things here. The Bucks have Giannis and Damian Lillard who are a dynamic force together. The Sixers have Embiid and up-and-coming star, Tyrese Maxey leading their charge. Both teams have a very solid third piece in Khris Middleton for the Bucks and Tobias Harris for the 76ers. The three players resemble their counterparts eerily similarly. Giannis and Embiid are mashers down low, and practically unstoppable on the offensive end. Dame and Maxey are point-scoring machines. Middleton and Harris are savvy veterans who can individually win a playoff game here and there.
Things get murky for me when we start looking at both of these team's respective benches. Neither team has a bench that I would say teams fear. Bobby Portis of the Bucks is a fine player off the bench. Kelly Oubre Jr. of the Sixers is a fine player off the bench. They both average over 12 points per game and are able to give their teams a spark in a pinch when needed. After that though, where is the production off the bench coming from? Milwaukee rookie wing Andre Jackson Jr. looks solid, but is he someone you can rely on to play consistent postseason minutes?
On the Sixers sideline, is Patrick Beverly adding anything other than pesky defensive? Is Bucks' wing Pat Connaughton a rotation regular in the playoffs? What does Paul Reed offer the Sixers when going up against Giannis and Brook Lopez?
Ultimately, I believe this series is going to be won in the trenches. You know, like a, "Which team is willing to do the dirty work to get this series won?" type of ordeal. Nick Nurse is a former Champion-winning coach for the Toronto Raptors and he will be able to put this team in a position to win. On the other bench, you have a former Champion-winning coach in Doc Rivers. Funny enough, Nick Nurse replaced Doc Rivers as the head coach of the Sixers this past offseason. I do think this matters.
Doc Rivers has shown that he is an incredible coach. He has coached several Hall of Fame and future Hall of Fame players. He has also shown time and again that sometimes the stage is a bit too bright for him. I think this series goes long. The longer it goes on, the more weary I become having Doc call the shots. For that reason, for the first time since 2001, I have the Philadelphia 76ers moving on and playing the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Prediction: Philadelphia 76ers win 4-3