Irving, Antetokounmpo, Kawhi, Embiid ... begins the fight for the throne of LeBron in the East

Boston plays the project, the Sixers, the Process; The Bucks want the vindication and the Raptors leave behind years of playoff failures. The field advantage will be key.


Start the good in the East. After an insubstantial first round and from which it is very difficult to draw conclusions, the fight for the crown of LeBron James will have its first great battle. The semifinals of the Conference will be the first obstacle that will have to be overcome to approach the empty throne of 'El Rey'. The four teams that were running as favorites at the beginning of the season are now playing the year in this tie.

No are any crosses. Each team faces its particular fight, a fight against itself. Boston plays the project, the Sixers, The Process; The Bucks want the vindication and the Raptors leave behind years of playoff failures. The advantage of field, so important traditionally in playoffs (especially in the East) will be one of the keys to take into account in the playoffs.

Curiosamente, and to curl more the curl, the two teams that have starred in a sweep in the first round face each other: Celtics and Bucks. Both were undone with comfort from Pacers and Pistons (especially Milwaukee) and will play the pass to the final in a cross that faces the first against the fourth. On the other hand, the most doubts have presented in this first battle will be those who play the other semifinal. Seconds in the regular season, the Raptors got rid of the Magic after losing the first game, while the Sixers (third) also left the first game against the Nets to then win four straight and move to the second round.

The tie between The historic Boston franchise and the young Budenholzer team seem to be the most interesting. Because of how the year of the Stevens team has developed and by the way the Bucks have dominated, the best by far in a regular season where they have been the only ones to reach the 60 victories.

The Celtics are played the project that began with the arrival of its current coach in 2013. Since the era of Garnett, Pierce, Doc Rivers and company ended, there was only one year of transition and absence in the playoffs before returning to the final phase. Since then, they have only improved. After two losses in the first round, the franchise began to reap the rewards and played its first conference final since 2012 with Isaiah Thomas as a strong man. The arrival of Irving two seasons ago drove the team, and his absence did not prevent repeat end in the East last year, where they fell to LeBron despite playing the seventh home.

This year they promised, but the regular phase It was full of doubts. The doubts about the continuity of Irving, the lack of chemistry in the dressing room and the irregular results did not bode well, but in the first round have put the direct and have shown that the post season is their field. 4-0 against Indiana. It is not the first time this happens. Stevens has proven to be a playoff coach. In fact, its ceiling in the regular season remains in the (not negligible) 55 victories last year, but his management has always been characterized by the competitive he has made his own in qualifying for the title, especially at home , where if we join last year with this add a record of 12-1 in the games played in the Garden.

Llevan two years knocking on doors insistently and want the throne of the East, but they will not have anything easy: The Bucks have been a very solid team all season and have field advantage, something that seems like, we repeat, key in the semifinals. Antetokounmpo has reached its maximum development as a player (and what is left), and have a balanced and determined template, which has overwhelmed the Pistons and has managed to regulate throughout the year to reach perfect conditions this round.

El Budenholzer's duel with Stevens promises. The first already proved to be a great coach during the 82 games of the regular season with the Hawks, and can get his second prize for Best Coach of the Year in the current campaign. But in his time in Atlanta he did not hit the key in the final phase. We'll see if this year is different. Neither the Celtics have any player with the ability (in theory) to stop Antetokounmpo, nor the Bucks to do the same with Irving, a man who is examined in this round and from which fans expect a lot.

They do not play the same thing. A defeat of the Bucks would be painful, but acceptable by the youth of Giannis and being the first year of Budenholzer on the bench. But in the project is played in Boston. Losing in the second round could have consequences for them, and the continuity of Irving could depend on how well the playoffs are given this year. If the 'greens' manage to start a victory in the first twoparties in Milwaukee, the Garden could dictate sentence, but in principle, the advantage of field gives the poster of favorite (by little) to the equipment of a Pau Gasol that could be recovered for this eliminatory. The returns of Brogdon for the Bucks and Smart for the Celtics are also expected, and could be key to the development of the clash.

Kawhi seeks retaliation before a Process under review

The other semifinal has also a lot of play. And a lot of level. The Raptors have been hit again and again in the playoffs in recent seasons, while the Sixers have, this time, the first major test since the famous Process began. They are two teams that mix profiles of players who have traditionally given championships. In Toronto they start with a field advantage, and with good feelings after the last duels against the Magic in the first round. The arrivals in February of players like Marc Gasol have completed the template, the experience of men like Danny Green could seem key, and Siakam is showing a superlative level in the playoffs ... but all eyes are on Kawhi Leonard.

The forward He arrived after a controversial and blank season with the Spurs, and has made the best numbers of his career. From the level he has shown against Orlando it is difficult to draw conclusions, but now it must be decisive. The man who defeated LeBron in the 2014 Finals is the one who now wants to occupy his throne. Surely there is a time when the tie is in your hands ... and there you will have to answer.

The Sixers wait for you. They are in a strange moment. Last season they stayed in the semifinals (this year fortunately they avoid Boston, their black beast), giving the feeling that they were missing something else. But in this campaign, with Butler and Tobias Harris on the team and with the superlative level of Embiid, much is expected from them. They did not convince in the regular phase and they were slow to do it before the Nets, but they saved the furniture and now it remains to see how they compete in the real examination of their project. The process reaches its culmination, but has Butler, Harris and Reddick as free agents for next year, and it is not known what can happen to them (in Philadelphia they want to keep the block). Brett Brown also plays it. A elimination in the semifinals when the target is the NBA Final could have consequences, and some looks are directed towards the Philadelphia bench. Manage so many egos is never easy ...

In one way or another, it seems clear that we are going to live two high-level qualifiers. In fact, it was a long time ago that he did not see so much level in the two semifinals of the East. There is a lot at stake. The four expected at the beginning of the year to go far in the final phase, and the four compete against fearsome rivals. They will have to put all their cards on the table if they do not want to spoil a year that can be key for the franchises ... and for their stars.

Bucks, Celtics, Raptors, Sixers. Antetokounmpo, Irving, Leonard and Embiid. The Eastern crown is played. A crown that is very expensive. And to conquer it, they must fight against their rivals, against the long shadow of LeBron James ... and against themselves.



Photos from as.com

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