Virginia Men's Basketball

Hoos in the NBA Playoffs: Breaking Down the First Round Matchups

(Image – AP)

With the NBA regular season complete, five former Wahoos will be moving onto the NBA Playoffs in Orlando. With the Eastern Conference’s play-in game out of the way, the playoffs have kicked off today (Monday). Joe Harris, Justin Anderson and the Nets will be tipping off against the Raptors shortly, and Mike Scott and the Sixers are playing the Celtics later tonight.

In addition to those three, Malcolm Brogdon and his Pacers will open their series with the Heat on Tuesday, while Devon Hall and the Thunder join the party against the Rockets tomorrow as well. But, for now, we’ll focus on the two series that are kicking off today.

Sixers vs Celtics – Scott

The Sixers have been a disappointment in recent years. Particularly this season, as the six seed, they’ve significantly underperformed expectations. Now, they’re facing the dynamic Boston Celtics in a first round series without All Star point guard Ben Simmons. As such, any chance of advance in the playoffs appears slim.

That said, while the team has struggled, Mike Scott has continued to impress as a veteran bench contributor this season. Notably, in his last three games in the bubble, Scott averaged 13 PPG and 5.1 RPG to go with 66.7% shooting from the field. If Philly is going to make a real run at advancing, Mike is going to have to come up big.

The Cetics are led by veteran point guard Kemba Walker who is complemented on the wings by emerging stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. With former All Star wing Gordon Hayward adding experience and shooting to the starting lineup, experienced veteran Marcus Smart bringing depth off the bench. and a number of young dynamic role players adding a spark, there are very few holes in this Boston roster.

Their only significant hole is at the center position. Enes Kanter is a relatively decent starter considering the wealth of talent everywhere else on the roster. But, specifically against Embiid, Kanter is a potential point of weakness on the defensive end.

Realistically, Philadelphia’s playoff potential is in Embiid’s hands. If he can go off against a weaker Boston frontcourt, the Sixers have a chance to get other guys like Josh Richardson and Tobias Harris going as complementary players. But, if Embiid struggles at all, this series won’t last long.

Series Prediction: Celtics win 4-2

Embiid will get his, and I suspect this series will be tied 2-2. But, at that point, Boston’s talent and relatively significant playoff experience will overcome any ridiculous Embiid performances.

Nets vs Raptors – Harris & Anderson

With the absolute ravaging of Brooklyn’s roster due to injuries and bubble opt-outs, this series is nothing more than a foregone conclusion for the defending champion Raptors. Sure, players like Harris and Caris Levert may force a few competitive contests. But, gutsy performances from those two will be insignificant when matched up against the superior talent and playoff experience of Siakim, Lowry, and VanVleet.

But, for Anderson and Harris, the two Wahoos on the Nets, this series still will be meaningful. Both will be hoping to show out to improve their standing as free agents this offseason. Harris has been phenomenal in the bubble, averaging 18.3 PPG on a ridiculous 62% from the floor and 54% from behind the arc. He’s made himself some legitimate money just from these recent performances, and continued success in the playoffs will only increase the already lucrative deal he’ll expect to sign at the end of the season.

Anderson has been playing inconsistent minutes in the bubble but will be looking for opportunities to impress in this series. Of course, he’s already dunked on Giannis in Orlando, so he’s certainly drawn interest, but he’ll need to shoot the ball well to be confident of getting an NBA deal for the 2020-2021 season.

Series Prediction: Raptors win 4-1.

While I’m certain Toronto will advance, I do think the magic that the Nets have been able to produce with their depleted roster is real, and that Levert and Harris will get hot enough once to pull out a victory.

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