Opening round of playoffs reveal promise for some and doubt for others

Can LeBron survive the East? Who will come out the West?

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Opening round of playoffs reveal promise for some and doubt for others

The first round of the NBA playoffs offered no shortage of excitement

The first round of the NBA playoffs offered no shortage of excitement

Photo by SUBMITTED

The first round of the NBA playoffs offered no shortage of excitement

Photo by SUBMITTED

Photo by SUBMITTED

The first round of the NBA playoffs offered no shortage of excitement

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Sorry, Milwaukee.

A playoff series win will have to wait at least until the Bucks are playing in their new arena later this year. After playing in arguably the most exciting first-round series and losing in game seven, Milwaukee will look ahead to another long summer full of tough decisions.

With the fifth season of the Giannis Antetokounmpo era in the past, the Bucks must get over the hump and make a playoff run next season if they wish to keep their once-in-a-generation talent. Perhaps the most important factor of that badly needed playoff push will be the right hiring of a head coach. After Jason Kidd was fired mid-season, interim head coach Joe Prunty stepped in. While a little improvement was seen, there wasn’t enough to warrant a full-time offer.

If the Bucks wish to make it past the first round for the first time since 2001 (and keep Antetokounmpo), they need to hit a homerun with the hiring of a coach.

On the winning side of this thriller of a series was the short-handed Boston Celtics. Terry Rozier continues to impress in the absence of Kyrie Irving, scoring 26 points on 10-16 shooting in the series-deciding game seven.

Rozier and the Celtics will now have their hands full with “The Process.” The Philadelphia 76ers are coming off a relatively easy series win over the Miami Heat and are the most rested and hottest team in the playoffs right now.

Rookie Ben Simmons and the humorous Joel Embiid will push the pace for the 76ers and look to capitalize on the extended rest from their first-round series. I foresee this series going six games with Philadelphia clinching a conference finals berth at home.

Staying true to my postseason predictions, the 76ers hopeful path to the Finals will go through LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. It took a couple 40-point games from LeBron, a buzzer-beater and seven games for the Cavaliers to get past the surprising Indiana Pacers.

Although I still predict Cleveland to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy come June, if they don’t get help from role players, it may be a sour disappointment.

Awaiting the Cavaliers in the eastern conference semifinals are the No. 1 seed Toronto Raptors. Fresh off a deciding 4-2 series win over the Washington Wizards, the Raptors hope to use their depth and home-court advantage to finally knock off LeBron and Cleveland. Despite a strong Toronto squad, whose best chance to reach the Finals is this year, I believe LeBron and an improved supporting cast will survive in seven games.

The West continues to be a two-team race after the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors had convincing first-round series victories. I expect both teams to take care of business in the conference semifinals to set-up the highly anticipated match up to decide who will represent the Western conference in the Finals.

Stephen Curry is expected to rejoin his defending-champion Warriors squad any day now and will surely add a boost. However, I think Chris Paul of the Rockets will get the best of Curry at the point guard position and take advantage of his recent absence. James Harden is the closest thing in the league to being unguardable outside of LeBron. When the game is on the line, Houston will know exactly who to give the ball to.

Regardless of the outcomes of this second round, if it’s anything like the opening round, fans will be in for unmatched entertainment.

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