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Driscoll’s Second Round Playoff Prediction

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Well, the 1st round of the 2023 Playoffs just ended, and they sure were eventful. I gave my first-round predictions a couple of weeks ago; some were right, some were wrong, but here are my predictions for the Eastern Conference 2nd round. 

#5 Knicks vs. #8 Heat

It’s still unbelievable. Either the 5th-seeded Knicks (who were not projected to make the playoffs at the beginning of the season, by the way) or the 8th-seeded Heat will make the Eastern Conference Finals. Despite them being lower seeds, it will be great basketball to watch.

The Knicks are coming off a fantastic season against Cleveland. I had them losing in five, but it turned out to be the opposite. A very encouraging part about it is that they played this great without Julius Randle (who is debatably their best player) not playing well at all. He only averaged 14 points and six rebounds for the series, which was a significant drop-off from his 25 and 10 in the regular season. Of course, the thing Knick fans are most happy about is the fact that Jalen Brunson proved he can play in the big moment, averaging 24 points and five assists for the series. The X factor will probably be RJ Barret and if he can continue to be a solid two-way player against a great defense in Miami.

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The Heat continue to amaze the entire league. After losing the first play-in game to the Hawks, many people wrote them off, and some even thought they would lose the second one too. And even though it took some luck to win this series, they still deserve every bit of credit for beating the Bucks in 5 games. Everyone knows the man who deserves the most credit, Jimmy Butler. Butler averaged 38 points, six rebounds, and five assists throughout the series. There is little doubt he can sustain this to some extent, as “Playoff Jimmy” certainly is not new to the league. The X Factor for them will probably be can Bam Adebayo play to his full potential on the defensive end. The Knicks were fourth in defense this year, and Bam will be the one most responsible for slowing them down.

This will be a great series. There are a lot of reasons to take either team in this series. With this being said, I will take the team with more experience and the team with the best player you can trust the most.

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Predictions: Heat over Knicks in 7

#2 Celtics vs. #3 Sixers

A lot of people consider this series to be the NBA Finals, given the fact that they are probably the two best teams remaining, with the Bucks being eliminated. This will be the third time that Jayson Tatum and Joel Embiid have met in the playoffs, and it will be awesome to see, as always.

The Sixers are coming off a clean sweep against an inferior Brooklyn Nets team. Every game, someone besides Embiid stepped up. In Game 1, it was James Harden; in Games 2 and 3, it was Tyrese Maxey; and in Game 4, it was Tobias Harris. The Sixers will need this sort of versatility if they want to beat Boston. One of their main concerns is their perimeter defense and who will guard Tatum and Jaylen Brown. They will probably put a combination of Harris, Maxey, and P.J. Tucker on them. 

With this being said, their absolute main concern is Embiid’s health. As of Saturday, there is great concern that Embiid has a “more than serious Grade 1 LCL sprain” and is doubtful for Game 1. The Sixers need Embiid to be at least very good in this series, and it will be interesting to see how he does when he comes back

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The Celtics are coming off a disappointing series win against the Hawks. Most people have the Celtics either sweeping or winning in five, but the Hakws pushed it to six after coming back from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter in Game 5. With this being said, Derrick White, Malcolm Brogdon, and especially Jaylen Brown played fantastic this series. If Embiid plays to the best of his ability, the Celtics will need to be better in this series. They got demolished on the boards and let Trae Young carve up their defense for the second half of the series. James Harden certainly can do the same, and Embiid can take advantage of Al Horford and Rob Williams if they are not aggressive. 

They will also need their star player Jayson Tatum and their Defensive Player of the Year, Marcus Smart, to play better. It will come down to Tatum and Brown taking advantage of the Sixers’ wing play.

These two teams are evenly matched, especially since they are two of the best teams on both ends of the floor in the league. That said, I trust the Celtics more down the stretch, even if Embiid was healthy. If this was the case, I would still take the Celtics in this series.

Prediction: Celtics over Sixers in 6

Conclusion:

With the Bucks being eliminated, the East is even more wide open than it was before. All four teams remaining have a shot at making the finals, and it will be great to see how it all pans out.


Main Image Credit: 
Embed from Getty Images

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