SO THE 2020 NBA playoffs are back after a three-day shutdown due to social justice issues.
And as the Eastern Conference semifinals now begin, experts have again started to take another hard look at the two interesting matchups in the spectator-free quarantine bubble at the Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.
Of course, the Milwaukee Bucks and MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo remain as the heavy favorites to go all the way to the NBA finals.
The Bucks finished off the No. 8 seed Orlando Magic, 4-1, to set up a second-round showdown against the No. 5 Miami Heat, which swept the No. 4 Indiana Pacers, 4-0.
Defending champion Toronto Raptors and No. 3 Boston Celtics clash in the other semifinal.
The Raptors and the Celtics also swept the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers in four games, respectively.
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Miami Heat To some fans, the NBA is now a 13-letter word and it’s spelled A-N-T-E-T-O-K-O-U-N-M-P-O.
Nicknamed the “Greek Freek”, the 6-11 Antetokounmpo is the biggest reason why the Bucks are suddenly the biggest favorite to win the title in the pandemic-disrupted season.
The 25-year-old Antetokounmpo, who became the third youngest player to win the MVP award behind only Derrick Rose and LeBron James, is averaging 30.6 points, 16 rebounds and six assists in five playoff games.
But Antetokounmpo is expected to find a hard time playing against Miami’s Bam Adebayo.
An NBA analyst also reported that Antetokounmpo’s worst game this season was his 6-of-18 shooting performance in a 16-point loss to Miami on March 2.
Adebayo,a 6-9 standout from Kentucky, also more than held his own against Antetokounmpo in the previous meetings.
Led by Goran Dragic (22,.8 ppg, 5.1 apg, 3.2 rpg) Jimmy Butler (19.9ppg, 6.7 rpg, 6.0 apg), Adebayo (15.9 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 5.1 apg). rookie Tyler Herro (13.5 ppg), and Jae Crowder (10.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg). the Heat are also one of the few teams to have regular-season success against Antetokounmpo and the Bucks.
As good and dependable as Antotokounpo, the Bucks need to get stellar performances from Kris Middleton (16 ppg, 7.8rpg, 5 2apg), Brook Lopez (13.4 ppg,) Eric Bledsoe (11.6ppg, 6.6 apg) and Wes Matthews (6.2 ppg) to frustrate the Heat and advance to the conference finals.
The coaching battle between Mike Budenholzer of Milwaukee and Eric Spoelstra of Miami should be even.
“We’re going to have to be a lot better against a really good Miami team,said Budenholzer.
Miami won the season series 2-1.
The Bucks are trying to return to the East finals for the second straight season, while the Heat are hoping to get there for the first time since 2014.
Prediction: Bucks in 6.
Toronto Raptors vs Boston Celtics
The Toronto-Boston semifinal encounter should also be fun and exciting to watch.
Some claim it should be one of the most competitive matchups in the playoffs.
And why not?
Both the Raptors and the Celtics swept their way into the semis with resounding victories over the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers, respectively.
They have deep and talented rosters that could turn the series into a virtual slugfest.
Despite the departure of last year’s NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, Toronto remains as a championship caliber team with Kyle Lowry. Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka leading the way.
Boston is a solid title contender with a line-up built around Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Daniel Theis.
No doubt, Tatum could make the big difference in the evenly-matched series.
The talented forward averaged 27.0 points and 10.9 rebounds in the Celtics’ 4-0 demolition of Joel Embiid and the 76ers in the first round.
Coach of the Year Nick Nurse of Toronto and Brad Stevens of Boston should provide another entertaining series that could go the distance.
Boston is always a dangerous team in the playoffs even without Gordon Hayward, but Toronto has the championship experience and confidence.
It should be close all the way, but the better team will win.
Prediction: Celtics in 7.
NOTES – Welcome home to my brother Joseph and his wife Annette of Orange County, CA. The couple arrived in Manila only recently for a short visit to family and friends during this pandemic-disrupted months…
Get well soon to my sister Mary Grace Andaya-Ypil.
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