And this proves one thing: the rest of the East have strengthened
If anything, this year's playoffs is not as predictable as it was during the past three seasons. At the very least, that is the case in the Eastern Conference.
While the New Orleans Pelicans have moved on to the Western Conference semifinals with an unblemished after sweeping the third-seeded Portland Trail Blazers, teams in the East have yet to settle things out. Three of the four match-ups are now tied at 2-2 with the lone exception: the Philadelphia 76ers-Miami Heat series where the Sixers are just one win away from moving on to the next round. Mind you, the Sixers-Heat series should have been favored Miami wing to their playoff experience but look at them now, if the Sixers win Game 5, there might be a chance that we might be seeing Dwyane Wade in a Heat uniform for the last time. Might. Unpredictable, isn't it?
Just take at the series between the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Indiana Pacers where the Cavs just won Game 4 to tie the series at 2 wins apiece. To begin with, an Indiana team who manages to go toe-to-toe against LeBron James and the Cavs is something that surprises many owing to the fact that the Pacers just lost Paul George who was traded prior to the season. But despite that, Victor Oladipo continues to lead Indiana and he's just one of the reasons why life hasn't been easy for the King.
The Toronto Raptors and the Boston Celtics finished the regular season as 1st and 2nd in the East respectively but if you look at their performances during the ongoing first round, they aren't playing the same way they used to play during the regular season- particularly the Raptors who many people said that they are back to their old playoff form- that being playing great during the regular season then losing it anyway in the playoffs. And this wasn't the first time that the Raptors have clinched a top 2 finish in the season only to be challenged by a lower-seeded team.
For the Celtics on the other hand, we have to remember that they are playing without Kyrie Irving AND Gordon Hayward. But thanks to the contributions from young guys like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the Celtics have managed to stay afloat against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Conclusion: Who will win the East?
Having one of the solid teams in the East, to say the least, this pundit on wheels would say that the Philadelphia 76ers MIGHT have a chance at a return to the NBA Finals for the first time since Allen Iverson led them there. But then, one might question the Sixers' youth and inexperience for their success in the next rounds of the playoffs but if you've been watching lately, who would have thought that Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid can actually bring the Sixers back to the playoffs AS THE THIRD SEEDED team? Nobody expected them to be this good, especially in the playoffs. Unpredictable, isn't it?
On a side note, it's still early to count the Cavs out of the NBA Finals picture, right?