Peter Hooley's Basketball Tips
NBA14 Apr 2023

2022-23 NBA Playoffs Preview: Eastern Conference

The Bucks once again dominated the Eastern Conference on the back of another MVP type season from Giannis. They enter the playoffs as the number one seed and with Middleton back to full health, they’re going to be the team to beat out of the East, and the eighth seed, the Heat, will be no match for them.

On their best days, the Celtics and 76ers have what it takes to cause some issues for the Bucks and get to the Finals, but their worst performances have been super disappointing. A full-strength Celtics gave up 150 points to a SGA-less OKC at one point... Not ideal for the supposed best defensive team in the league.

The Cavs and Knicks square off in the first round of the playoffs and Stephen A Smith said it best; the Knicks simply “cannot lose to Donovan Mitchell in the playoffs, otherwise the season is a failure”. Mitchell wanted to head to the Knicks when he wanted to be traded, but now spearheads a Cavs team that is very dangerous when they’re up and about.

Expect Mitchell to show the Knicks why they messed up and potentially average 35 a game in this series. It’s hard to see any other team causing much damage in the postseason in a top-heavy Eastern Conference.

Which Teams Will Make The Conference Semifinals?

The Bucks may drop a game in their opening series against either the Heat, but they’ll advance to the Semi’s once they find their rhythm. Bucks should get it done 4-1, but don’t be surprised if they lose two games as they just try to finalise their rotations now that they’re healthy. With Julius Randle under a health cloud, I'm expecting the Bucks to face the Cavs in the next round after they put the Knicks away pretty convincingly (sorry New York fans). Cavs 4-1.

Brooklyn will be no match for Philly, which hurts to say as a Nets fan. They just don’t have the physical presence to match Embiid’s dominance. They could sneak a win at home if they get hot shooting the ball, after all, they are a team full of shooters and defenders. Philly 4-1. That will set up a juicy Semifinal series with Boston, who I think could very well sweep the Hawks in the first round. Boston 4-0.

Which Teams Will Make The Conference Final?

It’s hard to see the Bucks losing many games to the Cavs in a series, purely on the basis that Cleveland hasn’t been a strong defensive team all season long. If everything has clicked early for Milwaukee, this series with Cleveland could almost be a sweep if the Cavs don’t want to play any defence.

Even if Donovan Mitchell goes for 40 every game, there just isn’t enough from the supporting cast to outscore the Bucks in a seven-game series. Jrue Holiday is one of the best guard defenders in the NBA, which means Mitchell will be working overtime to get his points. Bucks 4-1.

Similar to the first series, I just can’t see the 76ers doing enough defensively to stop the Celtics if they get rolling. Tatum and Brown are one of the highest scoring duos in NBA history and Boston actually has the size and strength to make Embiid work for his buckets. When you add Marcus Smart being a pest to Harden, it’s just hard to see how they can beat Boston in a series. Celtics 4-1.

Which Team Will Win The Conference Championship?

A rematch of Bucks vs Celtics would be an incredible display if we manage to see it. The two best teams in the Eastern Conference all season long, squaring off once again to get to the Finals. The depth of the Bucks will get them over the line, if they can stay healthy throughout the rest of the playoffs. If they are missing some key guys for a game or two, it has the potential to shake things up against a Celtics team that is tough to stop when they get hot.

This is a series that could easily go to seven games. The Celtics actually have had success in guarding Giannis, but that’s where the depth of this Milwaukee team will help. If Holiday and Middleton are fully fit by this point in the postseason, the Bucks will win this series regardless of how well Boston limit Giannis. But if just one of those two key guys is out or limited, I'm taking Boston to go to the Finals again. Bucks 4-3.

It’s been a fantastic season with lots of highs, and the best is yet to come. If you want to check out what other Dabblers think of the NBA Finals and find some NBA tips, make sure you check out our NBA Banter chat in the app!