- NBA Playoffs’ Second Round begins Sunday with Raptors vs Celtics
- Heat vs Bucks is only other series currently ready for Round 2
- Read below for series odds, analysis and our early predictions
Minus the Lakers, there’s still much to be decided in the NBA’s Western Conference playoff picture.
But while the Mavs-Clippers, Jazz-Nuggets and Thunder-Rockets all head into potential closeout Game 6’s to shape their side of the bracket, the Eastern Conference picture is all set.
It features the four teams many expected to be there, including the co-favorite in the 2020 NBA Championship odds.
Let’s look a little deeper into each series, with suggestions on what you should be eyeing as a bettor.
Heat vs Bucks Series Odds
|Team||Odds to Win Series at DraftKings|
*Odds taken on August 29
About Them Bucks
As a bettor, you’re left with the classic conundrum: do you roll with the best player, or the best collection of players?
Led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks have been the best regular season team over the past two years. The Greek Freak has already captured the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award, and will likely win his second consecutive NBA MVP trophy shortly.
Elgin Baylor did so three times (1960, 1961, 1968). pic.twitter.com/s6rSKlLBUI
— NBA (@NBA) August 30, 2020
But the drop-off from Giannis to the next best player, Khris Middleton, is steep. This isn’t usually a problem when you’re bombing teams in mean-nothing regular season games, but how the rest of the Bucks perform will likely determine if they make it back to the East Final.
— #RingerNBA (@ringernba) August 29, 2020
How About the Heat?
On the other side, Miami can’t boast a player on Giannis’ level (honestly, very few teams can), but they counter with one of the best rosters in basketball, stockpiled with good-to-all-star level players that goes at least sevendeep. It begins with newly acquired Jimmy Butler, but extends to Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic, Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Kelly Olynyk and in-season pickups Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder.
— NBA (@NBA) August 25, 2020
Miami, as is its trademark, has really picked up its defense in the playoffs. After just cracking the top-10 in points allowed per game in the regular season at 109.1, the Heat have shaved nearly nine points off that total to 100.8 in the postseason, trailing only the Boston Celtics for best mark.
It will be interesting to see how they manage the Bucks, who led the NBA in scoring in the regular season at better than 118 points a contest. They’re at 116.2 in the postseason.
Heat Center Bam Adebayo is 1 of 2 players this season to average at least 15 pts, 10 reb, 5 assist, 1 block & 1 steal per game this season.
The other is Giannis Antetokounmpo pic.twitter.com/CocC4fw0N7
— Jorge Sedano (@Sedano) August 25, 2020
Milwaukee only had one team beat them more than once in the regular season, and it’s their Round 2 opponent. In those two wins, the Heat scored more than 117 points a game and averaged 18 makes from three-point range, an impressive 43% rate. They have both the offensive facilitators and shooters to continue that trend.
Strictly value-wise, oddsmakers are giving the Bucks a little too much credit in this one. In a pick’em sort of series, that’s what tilts me to the ‘dogs.
The pick: Heat +(300)
Celtics vs Raptors Series Odds
|Team||Odds to Win Series at DraftKings|
Another doozy in the East. Perhaps the numbers wouldn’t be so close to pick’em if Kyle Lowry was 100% healthy. Then again, the Raptors have proven all season that they have the best system and players to execute that system, no matter who’s in the lineup.
This series again will come down to your belief system: can a front-loaded roster out duel the deepest team in the NBA?
Jayson Tatum is now the youngest Boston Celtic to ever score 30+ points in consecutive playoff games.
Makes it look so effortless 🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/vDwiOegdvE
— Hilltop Hoops (@HilltopNBA) August 20, 2020
Boston has been led by the outstanding play of budding superstars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Tatum showcases as the more lethal scorer, averaging 27 points and 9.8 rebounds on 48.7% shooting from the floor and an even more lethal 45.2% from beyond the arc these playoffs. Brown is the more all-around talent, averaging 21.5 points and 5.8 rebounds, while taking on bigger responsibilities and assignments on the defensive end.
While Gordon Hayward is out with an ankle sprain, veteran Kemba Walker is producing and showing no ill-effects of a wonky knee that slowed him down during the restart. He’s putting up 24.3 points a game and hitting big shots like his old UConn days.
The Raptors' team defense on this possession 😮 pic.twitter.com/WPcaejfECV
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) August 17, 2020
North Side Runs Deep
Toronto counters with one of the few defenses in the league that can match that talented collection. OG Anunoby and Pascak Siakam will likely draw Brown and Tatum, with tag-ins from Serge Ibaka and deeper down the bench with Patrick McCaw and Rondae Hollis Jefferson, if necessary.
Tatum has struggled against the Raps this year, averaging just 16.5 points per game on 37.7% shooting, though Brown and Walker are both averaging better than 20 points in head-to-head meetings.
10 passes. Unselfish hoops.
The Raptors ball movement is a thing of beauty. pic.twitter.com/oOQc1rHer6
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 2, 2020
Boston will have to deal with a kaleidoscope of pick-and-rolls and ball movement off rotations. With Lowry’s status has moved to probable, Fred VanVleet is more than capable of stepping into the lead guy role. He’s leading Toronto in scoring in the playoffs at 21.3 points a game, and leading the playoffs in three-pointers made, averaging 4.8 moneyballs a contest.
Fred VanVleet's Game 3 Stats:
— NBA Canada (@NBACanada) August 22, 2020
But they’re not a one-man gang: four players are averaging better than 17 points a game these playoffs. Two of them, Ibaka and Norman Powell, have been shooting better than 60% from the field this postseason.
Boston is one of the few teams that give the Raptors problems. They’re strong man defenders, and if the Raptors can’t get the defense moving, their offense could look stagnant. Even then, they’re champs until they’re slayed, and I don’t see it happening this early.
The pick: Raptors (-143)