(2) Boston Celtics vs (7) Milwaukee Bucks
After attempting only 10 shots and scoring 16 points in Game 5, Giannis dominated with 31 points to keep the Bucks alive in Game 6.
The Celtics had many chances to win. They controlled a decent lead early in the first quarter and rallied back in attempt to regain the lead. However, the Bucks were able to answer each Celtics run, and close out the game in the fourth quarter.
Game 7 Objectives for Celtics:
Since the home team is 6-0 in this series, the Celtics hold a slight advantage with having Game 7 played in Boston.
The main key for this young team is defense. They must force the Bucks to make turnovers, prevent Giannis Antetokounmpo from dominating in the paint, and his supporting core from shooting behind the arc. Giannis has shot nearly 60% from the field in this series averaging 26 points per game, while Middleton is averaging a ridiculous 62% from downtown with 23 points.
However, the Celtics have stopped Giannis before in this series. In Game 5, the Celtics restricted the 6’11” freak to 10 attempts, and limited the entire Bucks squad to shoot 37% from the field and 27% behind the arc. They must limit the Bucks to shoot below 50% from the field and 40% from three.
To match the Bucks’ scoring, the Celtics need offensive production as well. In each game they won throughout this series, someone has shown up. Without their stars Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, the team relies on their youngsters (Brown, Tatum, and Rozier) to contribute in scoring and lead them to victory.
Game 7 Objectives for Bucks:
The Bucks need Giannis to play like he is the most talented player on the court. As mentioned above, he is averaging outstanding numbers. However, he must be more aggressive and assertive and there should be no reason for him to disappear. Giannis has made 3 playoff appearances and it will be embarrassing if he could not past the first round for the third time in a row.
On the other hand, the Bucks’ supporting core must be able to knock down 3-pointers when needed. In Games 3 and 4, the Bucks shot over 40 percent from behind the arc which helped them clinch the victories. Their 3-point success has been lead by Khris Middleton, who is shooting over 62% and making at least 3 threes per game.
A major factor for the Bucks is to limit turnovers. Despite shooting higher percentages than the Celtics in Games 1 and 2, turnovers allowed the Celtics to attempt more field goals and free throws in both games, which helped them win both games. However, in Game 6, even though the Bucks had more turnovers than the Celtics, they reduced the turnovers from 17 and 15 to 11.
My prediction is that the Bucks will win this game as long as Giannis plays with aggression and they play solid defense against the Celtics.
(4) Cleveland Cavaliers vs (5) Indiana Pacers
This is the first time LeBron is facing elimination in the first round of the playoffs. And if the Cavs lose, it potentially might be his last game ever as a Cav.
In Game 6, the Pacers dominated the Cavs by 34 points. They were led by Victor Oladipo, who had a triple double with 28 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists. They opened up the lead in the third quarter, outscoring the Cavs 35-20 to increase their lead to 25 points.
Game 7 Objectives for Cavs:
LeBron must takeover the game. No exceptions. In two of the three games that the Cavs have won, he had 46 and 44 points. If he did not dominate those games like he did, we would be mind blown over the fact that LeBron lost in the first round.
However, other than Korver, LeBron has been helpless through this entire series. The shooting woes of Kevin Love (37% from behind the arc) and JR Smith (30%) have effected the Cavs greatly. When depended on, they must able to knock down 3-pointers, especially late in the game.
The Cavs need to step it up during crunch time. The Pacers have outscored them in every forth quarter this series except for Game 4, which they allowed the Pacers to come back in the third quarter.
Even though their defense has improved from the regular season, their transition defense has been terrible. The Cavs have gotten out-hustled nearly every game in fast break points, which gives the Pacers many opportunities to compete and make the game closer than it needs to.
Game 7 Objectives for Pacers:
The Pacers have shown confidence in each game they played in this series. Others than Games 1 and 6 (which they won), every game has been remarkably close. Because of their hustle and aggressiveness, they proved to never count them out of any no matter how large the deficit may be.
Also, they have stolen a game on the road already in this series, which makes it easier to do it again.
Victor Oladipo must have a great game. It will make it so much easier for the Pacers to win and will also help his teammates play well. As we saw in Game 6, he helped create many fast break points off of defensive rebounds, which allowed him to attack the basket or dish it out to the open man behind the 3-point line. Since the Cavs’ defense has been dysfunctional this year, they do not have a way of stopping Oladipo when he plays like this.
The Pacers also need other options other than Oladipo. Although this has not been a problem, everyone on their team, including Oladipo, have been inconsistent throughout this whole series. The Pacers had to rely on Bogdanovic, Collison, Turner, Young, and Sabonis and Stephenson off the bench to pick up the slack if Oladipo was struggling, and they did not disappoint. As long as everyone does not have a bad game on the same day, the Pacers should be in good shape.
My prediction is that LeBron would come through and carry the Cavs to victory, but the Pacers would not go home without a fight.