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2021 NBA Playoffs: East Conference Semifinals – (1) Philadelphia 76ers vs (5) Atlanta Hawks

East Conference Semifinals: (1) Philadelphia 76ers vs (5) Atlanta Hawks – Series preview

(1) Philadelphia 76ers

 The 76ers came in with arguably the most favorable path to get to the Finals. A first-round series against the Washington Wizards shouldn’t have been a hassle. It wasn’t a hassle as the 76ers locked up the series in five games. However, learning after Game 4 Joel Embiid suffered a partially torn meniscus. He also did not play in Game 5 but obviously not missed.

As of Game 1, he is in the starting line-up and what is yet to be determined is how long can he long with the injury but most importantly how well can Embiid be an impact. Obviously, the Hawks defense will still have their hands full if Embiid isn’t impacted greatly. It still does give an opportunity for the Hawks to feel how mobile Embiid is and adjust accordingly, however.

The 76ers also arguably could be referenced as the BEST defensive team in the NBA this season as they rated top 5 for most of the season. Ben Simmons will have the task of slowing down Trae Young and who else better to do it than the potential Defensive Player of the Year?

The biggest plus here that Philly presents is they are very good defensively but they do not have an issue scoring the basketball like the Knicks. The Hawks will be facing better talent in Tobias Harris, Seth Curry, and Danny Green all shooters who shot 48-percent or better respectively against the Wizards last series. Dwight Howard is also a better defensive player on the interior to combat Clint Capela. 

(5) Atlanta Hawks

The final bow was Trae Young’s best act yet? Well, there is more to come as the lower seed of the 4th and 5th seed survived to the Conference Semifinals. After a 4-1 series win against the New York Knicks, the Hawks also got better news that Joel Embiid isn’t fully healthy.

The biggest boost of confidence for the Hawks is that not only was Young coming alive with this offensive flurry of scoring but Bogdan Bogdanovic and John Collins both seem to be the beneficiaries of the defense focusing on Young. Bogdanovic averaged 14.4 points per game against the Knicks while Collins averaged 12.2 points per game.

The likelihood of the Hawks winning this series will fall on how well Embiid is of an impact truthfully. Should Embiid see limited minutes I’d imagine this is a good chance for the Hawks to attack the paint and allow Trae Young to work from inside out to his shooters like Bogdanovic and Collins. Bench scoring for Atlanta will be key as Danilo Gallinari and Kevin Huerter saw most of the minutes from the Hawks bench against the Knicks. Again, two guys who can shoot from long range.

The promising bright spot for Atlanta and their defense is De’Andre Hunter. However, Hunter has a knee injury and will not play in Game 1. At 6’8 he’s Atlanta’s best option to try and combat a Ben Simmons who is listed at 6’11. Some key injuries for both teams could decide how this series plays out however, Atlanta overall at a disadvantage defensively.

Top players to watch

Joel Embiid – First Round vs Washington

  • 24.0 PPG
  • 6.8 RPG
  • 2.5 APG

Trae Young – First Round vs New York

  • 29.2 PPG
  • 2.8 RPG
  • 9.8 APG

Where should the money go?

Schedule and Results

Game

Away

Home

Date

Time

TV

Results

Game 1:
ATL leads series 1-0

6/06/21

1:00 PM ET

ABC

Hawks - 128
76ers - 124

Game 2:
Series tied 1-1

6/08/21

7:30 PM ET

TNT

Hawks - 102
76ers - 118

Game 3:
PHI leads series 2-1

6/11/21

7:30 PM ET

ESPN

76ers - 127
Hawks - 111

Game 4

6/14/21

TBD

TNT

Game 5:

6/16/21

TBD

TBD

Game 6:
If Necessary

6/18/21

TBD

TBD

Game 7:
If Necessary

6/20/21

TBD

TBD

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2021 NBA Playoffs: West Conference Semifinals – (2) Phoenix Suns vs (3) Denver Nuggets

West Conference Semifinals: (2) Phoenix Suns vs (3) Denver Nuggets – Series preview

(2) Phoenix Suns

Well despite being called an “underdog” as the 2nd seed in the Western Conference and having to hear that the Lakers are poised for a strong championship defensive run the Suns are here. Devin Booker who should be considered Phoenix’s best player is a huge reason why. Defensively, the Suns got a break in not having to see Anthony Davis for a game and a half. However, credit is due where it is deserved because the Suns defense seems to be peaking at the right time.

Chris Paul the motor of the Suns and Booker is the star ready to excel his team to the next level. On the defensive side for Denver, there is a little bit better size in Michael Porter Jr. and Aaron Gordon to defend Booker. I’d imagine that JaMychal Green and if Michael Malone needs Shaquille Harrison are deep into the bench for additional reinforcements. However, I’m riding with the hot hand here and trusting that Booker has learned a thing or two now that he’s won a playoff series. Still advantage Phoenix that Booker isn’t done.

Where the Suns might struggle is obviously defending Nikola Jokic. In Denver’s first-round series against Portland, Jokic changed his game slightly to be more of a scorer. In six games he averaged 33 points a game while only averaging 4.5 assists per game. His regular-season averages were 26.4 points per game and 8.3 assists per game. This might not even mean anything but the fact that if Phoenix decides to double team Jokic, he’s already kind of a good passer? DeAndre Ayton could make a huge case here should he be able to go down the line of the West’s best big men and defeat them.

(3) Denver Nuggets

Now if you really have been following along with my previews I think I hit the nail on the head here. First, the Nuggets needed much support from their backcourt of Monte Morris, Facundo Campazzo, and Austin Rivers. Now, I did say that Rivers would be an underrated pick-up in that Denver-Portland preview. Sure enough, hitting clutch shots and having veteran IQ on defending Damian Lillard.

Second, I also have mentioned that to me Jamal Murray is a great player I really like. BUT I think his game isn’t too hard to replace as a scoring guard. Monte Morris comes into this series and averages 15.3 points per game, 5.8 assists per game, and shooting the ball 44-percent from the field this Playoffs. Now that’s no way in hell close to Jamal Murray’s playoffs series last year against the Jazz in the first round. However, in Game 6 Morris’ 22 points, 9 assists, and 50-percent shooting from the field was a key part of closing out the series. I like to see signs of how teams and certain players react to close out games. If Morris is that motivated he’s going to need to take that up a notch with Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Cameron Payne, and Mikal Bridges on the other end. Another big challenge against another big star in the Western Conference.

Lastly, I think the Nuggets adjust so well to the loss of Murray and understand with a playmaker like Jokic they’ll have to work a little harder on offense. However, it’s a game of sharing the wealth for them. Against Portland, Michael Porter Jr. averaged 18.8 points per game, Aaron Gordon averaged 12.5 points per game, and Austin Rivers averaged 11.5 points per game playing more than Campazzo in the series. Denver’s success in this series relies heavily upon how their backcourt will combat Booker and Paul’s attempts to blow open the scoring punch from themselves or assisting others.

Top players to watch

Devin Booker – First Round vs Los Angeles Lakers

  • 29.7 PPG
  • 6.2 RPG
  • 5.0 APG

Nikola Jokic – First Round vs Portland

  • 33.0 PPG
  • 10.5 RPG
  • 4.5 APG

Where should the money go?

DENVER IN 6 for me. I may be slightly salty that the Suns put an end to maybe another historic LeBron James playoff run but I’m here for this series. This should be one of the most entertaining series in terms of passing and hopefully shooting. Both teams have solid three-point shooters and arguably top 3 of the 5 best playmakers actively in the NBA right now (Jokic & Paul).

The interesting part here is that the chess match of a series could boil down to a few scenarios. Both teams could play to their defensive strengths and really make this series a chess match. How well does Ayton adapt to playing more on the perimeter against Jokic? Unless you plan to throw Cameron Johnson or Dario Saric at him. The strategic playmaking skills of Nikola Jokic and Chris Paul combined with role players thriving is a series that could also end up in high-scoring affairs. I’d take anything over 218 or more for this series.

I have a hard time imagining that the Nuggets will drop one by 30 points like the Los Angeles Lakers did against Phoenix in the first round. For the most part, these games should be closer in terms of the spread. Phoenix seems to have no problem often covering any favorable spread of 6 or more points.

Schedule and Results

Game

Away

Home

Date

Time

TV

Results

Game 1:

PHX leads series 1-0

6/07

10:00 PM ET

TNT

Nuggets - 105

Suns -122

Game 2:

PHX leads series 2-0

6/09

9:30 PM ET

TNT

Nuggets - 98 Suns - 123

Game 3:
PHX leads series 3-0

6/11

10:00 PM ET

ESPN

Suns - 113
Nuggets - 102

Game 4

6/13

8:00 PM ET

TNT

Game 5:
If Necessary

6/15

TBD

TBD

Game 6: 
If Necessary

6/17

TBD

TBD

Game 7: 
If Necessary

6/20

TBD

TBD

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2021 NBA Playoffs: West Conference Semifinals – (1) Utah Jazz vs (4) Los Angeles Clippers

West Conference Semifinals: ((1) Utah Jazz vs (4) Los Angeles Clippers – Series preview

(1) Utah Jazz

One of the most promising things about the first round for the Jazz is that they saw Donovan Mitchell return in Game 2. After losing Game 1 and some discrepancies on whether or not Mitchell was ready for that game there wasn’t any questioning his health after Game 2. Call it the old gentleman’s sweep, the Jazz wrapped up the series 4-1 against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Utah arguably won this series by hitting the three-point shot consistently as they made 16.8 three-point field goals in five games against Memphis. When the Grizzlies only hit 10.4 three-point field goals in the five games that’s at most 48 points of a difference in scoring that favors Utah. We get it the Jazz take a lot of threes and make a lot of threes! But the Grizzlies lost each game by an average margin of 9.6 points. Memphis truly held their own and just couldn’t compensate for the Jazz’s offensive shooting from the deep ball.

Up next is the bigger challenge defensively against two All-Stars in Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. Is the Jazz the best defensive team? I think questions could be answered as their perimeter defense will have to prove that the big man in the middle, Rudy Gobert, isn’t overwhelmed at the basket (or ending up in foul trouble).

(4) Los Angeles Clippers

It seems that the Clippers are just truly the NBA’s roller coaster of emotions of a team. First, they lose the first two home games of the 2021 Playoffs to the Dallas Mavericks (and mostly due to Luka Dončić). The questioning on if this team is worth even considering to win this series, followed by Kawhi Leonard in a Miami Heat jersey photoshop, and well Wayoff P is back? But hold the phone, after each team didn’t win a home game until Game 7 that was the true deciding factor in that series.

So, the Mavericks have a guy but also so do the Clippers. Kawhi Leonard entered the chat in Game 6 and 7 facing elimination. Leonard averaged 36.5 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, and shooting the ball 70-percent from the field! Sheesh! Kawhi clearly said I am the best player in this series and I will show you why. The 45 points in Game 6 came down to The Klaw putting away the game with a 5-of-5 effort in the 4th quarter and two big three-point shots in the last 3 minutes.

Paul George is a little overshadowed by Leonard’s heroics in the last two games of the last series. However, can he finally earn the name Playoff P? 23.6 points, 9 rebounds, and 5.7 assists isn’t a bad way to backup Kawhi Leonard at all. George is clearly right behind his right-hand man. The Clippers next best effort against Dallas was Reggie Jackson averaging 15.4 points per game.

Top players to watch

Donovan Mitchell – First Round vs Memphis

  • 28.5 PPG
  • 3.0 RPG
  • 5.8 APG

Kawhi Leonard – First Round vs Dallas

  • 33.0 PPG
  • 7.9 RPG
  • 4.6 APG

Where should the money go?

I know you’re awaiting my prediction right? I gotta be honest as the most objective basketball analyzer in the world. I’m rolling with faith in Kawhi Leonard this series. Partially, the Clippers are the most battle-tested and coming into this series with greater confidence. Again, another young guard in the Western Conference is across the court in Donovan Mitchell and I’m sure Kawhi Leonard make take offense should Mitchell start to outplay him.

The Clippers will have the same issues as Memphis. Don’t try to outscore Utah, try to stop them from shooting the three-point ball. In their five games against the Grizzlies, the Jazz shot 207 three-point field goals. The Clippers attempted 252 in SEVEN GAMES. At this rate, the Jazz would pace to take 300 three-point field goals in a series if it played out to a Game 7.

I know the new thing is to show some love to the next generation of stars. They’ve arrived like a Donovan Michell. However, the Clippers proved with Dončić that they are still the better team with a better roster. Los Angeles will still need assistance from Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris defensively as well. We know that the Jazz has the Sixth Man of the Year, Jordan Clarkson. To combat him will be Terance Mann, who had his best game of the series in Game 7 against Dallas. Mann scored 13 points on 50-percent shooting.

I will still commit my trust in the veterans like Leonard and George at this point. Clippers in 6 games.

Schedule and Results

Game

Away

Home

Date

Time

TV

Results

Game 1:
UTA leads series 1-0

6/08

10:00 PM ET

TNT

Clippers - 109
Jazz - 112

Game 2:
UTA leads series 2-0

6/10

10:00 PM ET

ESPN

Clippers -111 Jazz - 117

Game 3

6/12

8:30 PM ET

ABC

Game 4

6/14

10:00 PM ET

TNT

Game 5:
If Necessary

6/16

TBD

TBD

Game 6:

If Necessary

6/18

TBD

TBD

Game 7:

If Necessary

6/20

TBD

TBD

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2021 NBA Playoffs: East Conference Semifinals – (2) Brooklyn Nets vs (3) Milwaukee Bucks

East First Round: (2) Brooklyn Nets vs (3) Milwaukee Bucks – Series preview

(2) Brooklyn Nets

 The Brooklyn Nets are coming off a first-round series victory against the Boston Celtics. They defeated the Celtics in a five-game gentleman’s sweep. They dominated the Celtics for four games offensively and defensively. With Boston losing some of their key players including Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker to injury, Brooklyn was able to take complete advantage.

The Nets now look to take their winning ways into the next series against the Milwaukee Bucks. Brooklyn lost the season series 2-1, but the playoffs are much different than the regular season. Brooklyn looks to take advantage of Milwaukee offensively with their big three of Durant, Harden, and Irving. In order to win this series they must step up their defense and they must also make sure their role players get into a rhythm early and often.

Their defense is something that they have not been great at this season because they are typically able to out-talent most teams. Defense is going to be very important in stopping one of the best players in the NBA with Giannis Antetokounmpo. They must also make sure that their shooters including Joe Harris and Landry Shamet get their rhythm going. This will open the floor for the Nets’ big three to dominate.

This series will come down to whether Brooklyn’s offensive weapons will overwhelm the Bucks. The Bucks are more of an experienced team than Brooklyn is. The Nets have had to come together on the fly. Harden, Irving, and Durant have only played eight regular-season games together because of injury and rest. This series will prove whether the team concept or overall offensive talent will win out.   

(3) Milwaukee Bucks

The Milwaukee Bucks are coming off a dominant first-round series sweep against the hapless Miami Heat. The Bucks lost their 2nd round series matchup against the Heat in the 2020 playoffs. They showed how new and improved their team is by dominating the Heat. No game in their four-game sweep was close. They are not taking on a star-studded Brooklyn Nets team that was excellent in the regular season despite not having their three best players playing in the lineup for the majority of the season.

Milwaukee took the regular-season series against the Nets 2-1. All three matchups were closely contested games. The largest margin for victory was just six points. In order for Milwaukee to come out of this series victorious, the core players of Jrue Holiday, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Brook Lopez must continue their stellar play. In order to beat Brooklyn, they must force them to play hard defense which is something that they are not known for. For Milwaukee, this series will come down to whether they can weather the storm from the big three and ice out Brooklyn’s supporting class.

Players like Joe Harris and Jeff Green cannot get a rhythm. As good as Brooklyn’s big three are, they cannot win this series on their own. Giannis Antetokounmpo must also continue to prove that he is more than a regular-season wonder. In last year’s playoffs, the Miami Heat defense was able to figure him out. He was able to flip the script this year with his dominance over that same Heat team. The Bucks will go as far as Giannis will take them.

Preview by Baseline Times Intern – Adam Kinberg

Top players to watch

Kevin Durant – First Round vs Boston

  • 32.6 PPG
  • 7.4 RPG
  • 3.0 APG

Giannis Antetokounmpo – First Round vs Miami

  • 23.5 PPG
  • 15.0 RPG
  • 7.8 APG

Where should the money go?

Schedule and Results

Game

Away

Home

Date

Time

TV

Results

Game 1:
BKN leads series 1-0

6/05/21

7:30 PM ET

TNT

Bucks - 107
Nets - 115

Game 2:
BKN leads series 2-0

6/07/21

7:30 PM ET

TNT

Bucks - 86
Nets - 125

Game 3:
BKN leads series 2-1

6/10/21

7:30 PM ET

ESPN

Nets - 83
Bucks - 86

Game 4

6/13/21

3:00 PM ET

ABC

Game 5:
If Necessary

TBD

TBD

TBD

Game 6:
If Necessary

TBD

TBD

TBD

Game 7:
If Necessary

TBD

TBD

TBD

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2021 NBA Playoffs Hub

Welcome to the Baseline Times 2021 NBA Playoffs Hub! Your go-to for all of the 2021 NBA Playoffs schedule, scores, and more from our dedicated NBA team here at Baseline Times.

The 2021 NBA Playoffs tip-off on May 22, 2021. The Play-in Tournament will run from May 18th – May 21st, 2021.

2021 NBA Playoffs – First Round Series schedule, scores, and more

Conference Semifinals Series

First Round Series

Conference Semifinals Series

First Round Series

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Podcasts

Daily staff picks

Shoot or Pass Podcast – 2021 NBA Playoffs Conference Semifinals Preview

The first round of the playoffs is just about wrapped up (we’re rooting for you tonight, Luka!) and while it didn’t go as planned for our resident LeBron Stan and HEAT fan, the conference semifinals look very promising! Chevy and Rhoby are joined by Intern Jordan to recap the first round naming their STUDS & DUDS (45:25), playing a little round of Dribble, Dunk, or Flop to break down some impressive playoff debuts (37:30), and NBA Eulogies are back to bid farewell to the eliminated teams (57:20). The crew also look ahead to the second round, analyzing the x-factors and dishing out series predictions for the Nets-Bucks (10:35), Sixers-Hawks (18:45), Suns-Nuggets (24:00), and discuss who the Jazz should be rooting for as their next opponent (34:40)!

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More NBA coverage from Baseline Times Media



2021 NBA Playoffs Podcaster Bracket Challenge

Welcome to the second year of the NBA Playoffs Podcaster Bracket Challenge! We’ve partnered up with a few other NBA podcasts to share series predictions throughout the 2021 NBA Playoffs. Let’s see who knows the most about the sport they podcast about! The returning Champions George and Sami Jarjour from Pod That: Two Brother’s Talkin’ Sports Podcast return to defend their title!

This year’s tournament will feature the Shoot or Pass Podcast, The Close Up Magic, The Dime with Josh Rodriguez, and new contestant Ben Berry from Sixers Talk!

Each podcast has collectively chosen series winners and series lengths for each round up until the Finals, where they have predicted their 2021 NBA Champions. Some of the points are also earned for picking the CORRECT Play-in Tournament winners as well.

Follow along as each podcast team makes their picks, brings you some crossover content (and tons of trash talk) on upcoming episodes of the podcasts below!

*Each podcast with multiple hosts has agreed to collectively submit their picks as a team

Leaderboard

Current as of 6/11/21

PodcastScore
Sixers Talk1600
Shoot or Pass Podcast1500
The Dime1550
The Close Up Magic1300
Pod That1350

The Contestants – Listen and follow!


Scoring System

Game RoundPoints
Play-In Tournament200 points for correct winner of each Play-in Tournament game
1 (First Round)100 points for each correct Series prediction (800 total points possible)
2 (Conference Semi-Finals Round)200 points for each correct Series prediction (800 total points possible)
3 (Conference Finals Round)400 points for each correct Series prediction (800 total points possible)
4 (Finals Round)800 points for a correct Series prediction (800 total points possible)
Series Length Prediction100 points for a correct Series Length prediction (1,500 total points possible)


Podcasters Brackets

Play-in Tournament Picks

Podcast

Pod That: Two Brother’s Talkin’ Sports

Shoot or Pass Podcast

Sixers Talk

The Close Up Magic

The Dime

Game 1 Winner

Game 2 Winner

Game 3 Winner

Game 4 Winner

Game 5 Winner

Game 6 Winner

Check out the 2021 NBA Playoffs Hub

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2021 NBA Playoffs: West First Round – (2) Phoenix Suns vs (7) Los Angeles Lakers

Schedule and Results

Game

Away

Home

Date

Time

TV

Results

Game 1:
PHX leads 1-0

5/23/21

3:30 PM EST

ABC

Lakers - 90
Suns - 99

Game 2:
Series tied 1-1

5/25/21

10:00 PM EST

TNT

Lakers - 109
Suns - 102

Game 3:
LAL leads 2-1


5/27/21

10:00 PM EST

TNT

Suns - 95
Lakers - 109

Game 4:
Series tied 2-2

5/30/21


3:30 PM EST

ABC

Suns - 100
Lakers - 92

Game 5:
PHX leads 3-2

6/1/21

10:00 PM ET

TNT

Lakers - 85
Suns - 115

Game 6:
PHX wins series 4-2

6/3/21

10:30 PM ET

TNT

Suns - 113
Lakers - 100

Game 5 Notes:

Where should the money go?

West First Round – (2) Phoenix Suns vs (7) Los Angeles Lakers – Series preview

(2) Phoenix Suns

For the first time ever LeBron James will Chris Paul in a playoffs series. The strange part of this is that Suns perhaps are going to be the underdogs as a higher seed. It always seems like Paul is on the bad end of the stick in terms of the path to a championship. The last time he was remotely close was in 2017-2018 for the Houston Rockets, however, sat out Game 6 and 7 against the Warriors to watch his team lose in the Western Conference Finals.

Next, the Suns are also a team that deserves its respect and admiration for competing this season. Securing the 2nd seed in the Western Conference isn’t always as easy for the entire season. Devin Booker is arguably the Suns best player averaging 25.6 points per game on 48-percent shooting.

What the Suns would have to do to complete a successful series is find a way to stabilize Anthony Davis. Quite frankly their roster says DeAndre Ayton, Frank Kaminsky, and Dario Šarić? This is their biggest disadvantage coming into the series and should be highlighted as to why they’re underdogs.

(7) Los Angeles Lakers

Bring on the doubt, questioning Lebron’s ankle, and Anthony Davis’ health. That’s what came out of the 2021 Play-in Tournament game from last week Wednesday against the Warriors. It was a Lebron James three-point field goal that sealed the deal on the 7th seed for the Lakers. In hindsight, the Warriors aren’t even headed to the Playoffs after losing Game 6 of the Play-in Tournament.

This Los Angeles team may have a few moments of rust, growing pains, or whatever you wanted to call them. This is a team and a series that the regular season will hold no bearing during the playoffs. The Warriors once led the Lakers by 13 in the Play-in Game 4 but the 1st and 2nd half of the game was different for the Lakers. Los Angeles shot 33-percent from the field in the first half and 49-percent in the second half.

Let’s face it, any team expecting back a healthy James and Davis should be heavily favored in the Western Conference. Are the Lakers going to sweep? Probably not. However, this is a better series for them instead of losing the Play-in games and seeing Utah in the first round.



Top players to watch

Chris Paul: 2020-2021 season

  • 16.4 PPG
  • 4.5 RPG
  • 8.9 APG

LeBron James: 2020-2021 season

  • 25.0 PPG
  • 7.7 RPG
  • 7.8 APG

Podcasts

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2021 NBA Playoffs: East First Round – (4) New York Knicks vs (5) Atlanta Hawks

Where should the money go?

Schedule and Results

Game

Away

Home

Date

Time

TV

Results

Game 1:
ATL leads 1-0

5/23/21

7:00 PM EST

TNT

Hawks - 107
Knicks - 105

Game 2:
Series tied 1-1

5/26/21

7:30 PM EST

TNT

Hawks -  92
Knicks - 101

Game 3:
ATL leads 2-1

5/28/21

7:00 PM EST

ESPN

Knicks - 94
Hawks -  105

Game 4:
ATL leads 3-1

5/30/21

1:00 PM EST

ABC

Knicks - 96
Hawks -  113

Game 5:
ATL wins series 4-1

6/02/21

7:30 PM ET

TNT

Hawks -  103
Knicks - 89

East First Round – (4) New York Knicks vs (5) Atlanta Hawks – Series preview

(4) New York Knicks

Did anyone expect the Knicks to be winning anything over 20 games in the shortened 70 game season? Probably not a lot of you but hell, here we are! I am all for it let’s go Knicks nation! Enter in Tom Thibodeau and the second season of Julius Randle in a Knicks uniform.

The Knicks are one of the best defensive teams in the NBA this season and that isn’t surprising being led by Thibodeau. New York’s ability to stand out all season long was by becoming a gritty defensive team that leans on Randle to put them over the top in the close moments.

Derrick Rose joined the Knicks in a midseason trade and the reunion with Thibbs from their Chicago days reincarnated some brief success in New York. The biggest question for the Knicks in this series is going to be point guard play. Defensively, the Knicks are going to be tested by Trae Young’s ability to penetrate and get into the paint. Depending on how well they defend this the sky is the limit for the Knicks in this series.

(5) Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks are a feel-good story for the league. After starting the season with Head Coach Lloyd Pierce and finishing with Nate McMillan the coaching change WORKED! Atlanta locks up the 5th seed after a slow start to their season. In their final eight regular season games, they went 7-1.

Trae Young finally gets his first stab at the playoffs in his third year (and perhaps a year he may have been snubbed as an All-Star). He averages 8.7 free throw attempts per game and this could be a point to watch if he’s able to get into the interior of the Knicks on defense.

Lastly, the bright spot for the Hawks is that their best player Young averaged 24.7 points, 12.0 assists, and 2.3 rebounds in 3 games versus the Knicks this season. Currently, the Hawks are running a 4-game win streak into the Playoffs and one of the better teams in the month of May and 7-3 in their last 10 games.

Top players to watch

Julius Randle – 2020-2021 season

  • 24.1 PPG
  • 10.2 RPG
  • 6.0 APG

Trae Young: 2020-2021 season

  • 25.3 PPG
  • 3.9 RPG
  • 9.4 APG

2021 NBA Playoffs: East First Round – (1) Philadelphia 76ers vs (8) Washington Wizards

Where should the money go?

East First Round – (1) Philadelphia 76ers vs (8) Washington Wizards – Series preview

(1) Philadelphia 76ers

Philadelphia enters in the season with a new coach in Doc Rivers and a few key additions such as Danny Green, Dwight Howard, and Seth Curry. It seems to be making all the world of a difference post-Brett Brown. A team that never lost its top spot in the Eastern Conference and clinched the first seed. The 76ers are one of the best defensive teams rated in the NBA this season.

Joel Embiid is an MVP candidate and Ben Simmons is a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year. That’s two All-Stars on one team playing at an elite level over the rest of the league in the same season. Embiid’s likelihood of averaging 35 points a game this series or more is very likely.

The odds of the Wizards defending Embiid and the paint effectively can be thrown out the window. There is nothing creative or perplexing that the 76ers will have to do in this series to win. That’s even considering that Russell Westbrook is on the other side of the spectrum as the Triple-Double King.

(8) Washington Wizards

This series took almost an entire week and two games for the Wizards to arrive at the 8th seed. They come in as the underwhelming underdogs and it is straightforward from me here. The Wizards are looking for a miracle, heart, and hustle, and maybe the help of a good shooting night a few times in this series.

Their defensive scheme to combat Joel Embiid will be Alex Len, Davis Bertans, Daniel Gafford? That might work to rotate the fouls and attempts to bother Embiid’s dominance. Wizards Head Coach, Scott Brooks made a comment after the team’s loss to the Celtics last Tuesday night. He alluded to the fact that his team does not shoot the three-ball well then, their best effort was to try and get to the free-throw line more often in the game (and they did not enough against the Celtics in Game 2 of the 2021 NBA Play-in Tournament.

Furthermore, the top 3 teams that averaged the most free throws in the season? Washington with 26.2 attempts per game while Philadelphia averaged 25.5 free throws per game in the regular season. Scott Brooks better come up with another game plan if the free throw shooting doesn’t pan out in his favor.

Top players to watch

Joel Embiid: 2020-2021 season

  • 28.5 PPG
  • 10.6 RPG
  • 2.8 APG

Russell Westbrook: 2020-2021 season

  • 22.2 PPG
  • 11.5 RPG
  • 11.7 APG

Where should the money go?

Schedule and Results

Game

Away

Home

Date

Time

TV

Results

Game 1:
PHI leads 1-0

5/23/21

1:00 PM ET

TNT

Wizards - 118
76ers - 125

Game 2:
PHI leads 2-0

5/26/21

7:00 PM ET

NBA TV

Wizards - 95
76ers - 120

Game 3:
PHI leads 3-0

5/29/21

7:00 PM ET

ESPN

76ers - 132 Wizards - 103

Game 4:
PHI leads 3-1

5/31/21

7:00 PM ET

TNT

76ers - 114 
Wizards - 122

Game 5:
PHI wins series 4-1

6/02/21

7:00 PM ET

TBD

Wizards - 112
76ers - 129

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