This article is part of our NBA Roundtable series.
Welcome to another edition of the RotoWire NBA Roundtable. With the Conference Semifinals set to begin Sunday, the NBA staff gives their picks for how things will play out in the East.
1. Milwaukee Bucks vs. 5. Miami Heat
Shannon McKeown: Milwaukee in 6. The Heat may be the toughest matchup in the Eastern Conference for the Bucks. Miami's depth, long-rang shooting and defense will give Milwaukee headaches, but Giannis and the Bucks will find their groove in the second round and advance.
Mike Barner: Milwaukee in 6. I'm pumped for this series. The Heat looked great in their sweep of the Pacers and they could give the Bucks some problems here with Jimmy Butler leading the highly-motivated bunch in an underdog role. However, I ultimately think the Bucks are too good to knock off over the course of a seven-game series.
James Anderson: Milwaukee in 7. The Heat are awesome, and I think they will make the Bucks' offense look really bad at times in this series, but eventually I think the Bucks will solve things, even if it means playing the Giannis at center lineups more often than they usually do. Bam is probably one of the two or three best players in the league to put on Giannis, so I think this will be a very entertaining series.
Alex Barutha: Milwaukee in 6. I think this will be a hard-fought series, and I'll be shocked if Milwaukee can pull it off in fewer than six games. Miami has some of the best personnel to check the combination of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, with Bam Adebayo guarding the former and Jimmy Butler likely on the latter. Still, I think the talent of the Bucks will win out despite some less-than-stellar play against Orlando at times. Milwaukee's halfcourt offense has still been excellent (106.1 points per 100 plays -- 2nd-best in the playoffs) while the Heat's halfcourt offense wasn't especially effective against Indiana (94.7 points per 100 plays -- 12th in the playoffs). And I expect the Bucks' transition offense to improve while the Heat's will likely suffer in the matchup.
Ken Crites: Miami in 7. Will Robinson and Herro stay hot or shrink against Milwaukee's perimeter defense? At least Miami doesn't need to worry about avoiding Giannis' league leading FG% allowed at the rim -- I suspect they'll stay outside with Butler at mid-range. Crowder and Bam guarding Giannis could be very interesting.
Alex Rikleen: Miami in 6. The Bucks have the best player, and if it goes to a Game 7, that should be enough to give them the edge, so I'm hedging a little here. But something still feels off about Milwaukee. It's not just their "seeding games" struggles (a negative net rating!) or their Game 1 loss, but also Game 4 remaining close until the middle of the fourth quarter. The Magic were playing without three recent top-6 draft picks for the whole series! Not to mention Khris Middleton catching Eric Bledsoe playoff-itis. Miami has one of the few players in the league who can actually cause problems for Giannis. The Heat are a serious contender.
2. Toronto Raptors vs. 3. Boston Celtics
McKeown: Boston in 6. Both Toronto and Boston looked great in Round 1. Toronto exceeded all expectations after Kawhi Leonard left town -- I've been especially impressed with the growth of Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet -- but the Raptors don't have the star power to advance further. The likely absence of Gordon Hayward (ankle) doesn't help Boston's chances, but the team is still strong enough at the top with Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown to advance past the Raptors.
Barner: Toronto in 7. I really think this series could go either way. The Celtics did win three of the four meetings between these teams during the regular season, but they have depth issues now with Gordon Hayward out. The injury to Kyle Lowry seems to be minor for the Raptors, so I'm expecting him to be available for the duration of the series. With the Raptors being the deeper team, I'll take them to advance.
Anderson: Toronto in 7. I'm assuming Kyle Lowry will be available for this series. I'm also assuming most people will pick the Celtics. The Raptors have been proving people wrong all season and I don't think that stops just yet. They have the ability to play any style, and while I think they could struggle to score against the Celtics at times, their size advantage will help them out on that front. I don't think Nick Nurse is a way better coach than Brad Stevens, but he is a slightly better coach, which will negate the coaching advantage the Celtics have over most teams.
Barutha: Toronto in 6. I think the Gordon Hayward absence will rear its head in this series, as Boston's bench is quite thin compared to Toronto's. The Celtics also struggled to score at times against the Philly team they swept, with Boston settling for the most mid-range jumpers of any playoff team and having just the ninth-best halfcourt offense in the postseason. That will quickly become an issue against a Raptors defense that's one of the best in the NBA. Jayson Tatum also struggled mightily against Toronto in the regular season despite Toronto being shorthanded in half the games. Ultimately, I'm worried about Boston's ability to consistently generate offense.
Crites: Boston in 7. This series is going seven games. Both squads are playoff tested and deep. If Hayward was playing, I'd give the nod to Boston. Now I think it's 50/50. An injured Kyle Lowry could also tip the scales in Boston's favor. This probably comes down to a secondary player like Marcus Smart or OG Anunoby getting hot for a game or two.
Rikleen: Boston in 6. This looks like a fun series. Both teams have size-based matchup problems - the Celtics don't have the bigs to keep up with Gasol and Ibaka, while Lowry and VanVleet are likely to have problems against Smart and Brown. I'm picking the Celtics because the Raptors need their backcourt more than their bigs, so I see that matchup being more influential to the final outcome. Whatever happens, I hope we get a ton of Tatum and Siakam guarding each other.