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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, April 24, 2019 at 9:00 AM

Though the Western Conference still has some work to do, the first round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs is complete in the East.

There were no surprises, beyond the fact that Toronto and Philadelphia suffered massive brain farts in their series openers vs. Orlando and Brooklyn respectively. Toronto would win its next four games by margins of 29, 5, 22, and 19 points. Philadelphia would win by margins of 22, 16, 4, and 22. The “big four” (which also includes Milwaukee and Boston) would go 16-2 straight up in the first round, 15-3 against the spread.

Think about that for a second. Everyone knew the East was top-heavy. Oddsmakers are supposed to guard against the public’s tendency to bet favorites. Yet, the series favorites went 15-3 against the spread! Other than the two brain farts, Toronto missed by half-a-point in a game at Orlando.

Now that it’s down to the only teams that matter on that side of the brackets, let’s see if we can figure out who’s going to be THE BEAST OF THE EAST over the next few weeks.

 

*MILWAUKEE BUCKS

The top seed certainly played like a juggernaut in demolishing Detroit. They could run away and hide whenever the wanted to. The bench would usually keep pouring on the points. On paper, this team is truly championship material…and was before the Detroit series even started.

 

Milwaukee’s Regular Season Ranks

Offensive Efficiency: #3 in the NBA

Defensive Efficiency: #1 in the NBA

Rebound Rate: #2 in the NBA

Pace: #5 fastest in NBA, #1 of playoff teams

 

If you believe that “defense and rebounding wins championships,” then the Bucks are your team! They have THAT and then they’re also great on offense. Plus, their fast pace allows them to run people out of the gym when things are going well.

The only danger in those numbers is that young teams are prone to go all out during the regular season rather than pacing themselves. Milwaukee probably isn’t as good as those stats suggest. Numbers were compiled while facing a lot of tankers, and many playoff-caliber teams who were going at three-quarter speed. (Frankly, that may be Boston’s only hope!)

 

*TORONTO RAPTORS

Kawhi Leonard is a huge impact player in playoff basketball. He rises to the occasion on both sides of the floor. Handicappers must determine if that by itself is enough to push this team past Philadelphia in the second round, and probably Milwaukee in the Eastern finals.

In the areas of defense and rebounding, Toronto was an impressive #4 in the league on defense, but a disappointing #14 in rebounding. That’s could be a BIG problem the rest of the way. Philadelphia and Milwaukee were tied for #2 in rebound rate. Toronto better make its shots!

 

*PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

Chemistry-wise, this is an implosion waiting to happen. There are some strong personalities on this roster. That wasn’t an issue after the first game vs. Brooklyn. The Nets had no inside defense, so the Sixers just pounded them possession after possession. Against Toronto’s stellar defense, that’s not going to work as well.

Will Joel Embiid work himself into better shape on his sore knee? That’s probably the linchpin factor. He may not be ready for a grueling battle that goes six or seven games. Even if Philly springs a series upset, trying to run with Milwaukee could wear down that knee even sooner. It’s tough to see this team making it to the league finals unless Jimmy Butler keeps his head on straight while Embiid’s knee recovers.

 

*BOSTON CELTICS

Head coach Brad Stevens can never be counted out. He should figure out something to keep his team competitive. That plus playoff experience with frontline starters could be an edge that disrupts Milwaukee’s plans. JIM HURLEY says it’s worth noting, though, that Boston’s dominance of Indiana may have given a false read. Indiana had few weapons, making it easy to shut down. Boston will have a much tougher task against the loaded and lethal Bucks.

It’s also a bad indicator that Boston could only rank #21 in rebounding. That puts the Celtics behind everyone else in the East. This offense probably isn’t consistent enough on offense to make so many shots that rebounding doesn’t matter.

All told…Milwaukee may really be well clear of the field and ready to put a scare into the Western Conference champ…Toronto needs to provide support to Leonard rather than hoping he does all the heavy lifting…Philadelphia is fascinating in both good and bad ways…while Boston won’t have Marcus Smart when he’s needed most. How many rabbits can Stevens pull out of a hat?

JIM HURLEY looks forward to picking BIG, JUICY WINNERS in the Eastern matchups beginning this weekend. His NETWORK will see what oddsmakers bring, then POUND their mistakes.

You can purchase JIM HURLEY’S BEST BETS in basketball and baseball right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, please call us in the office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155. Be sure to ask about combination packages that take you through the NBA Playoffs, the baseball all-star break, or all the way through the World Series.

While there’s still some mystery about who will ultimately be THE BEAST OF THE EAST, there’s none at all about who’s THE BEST IN THE BUSINESS! You’re just a phone call or a few clicks away from a PROVEN WINNER who’s been embarrassing bookmakers for 30 years.

Don’t try to go it alone. Do what it takes to GET THE MONEY with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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