The Boston Celtics faced a surprisingly stiff challenge in the Milwaukee Bucks during their first-round NBA playoffs series.
But if the C’s want to advance out of the second round, they’ll have to pass a far greater test: the Philadelphia 76ers.
Boston beat Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Co. in three out of four games during the regular season. But without the services of All-Star guard Kyrie Irving, the second-seeded C’s are considered underdogs against the third-seeded Sixers. Still, many look at the Celtics’ stellar coaching, team-oriented philosophy and home-court advantage as reasons to believe that Boston could pull off the upset.
But not ESPN.
Nope, in “The Mothership’s” predictions for the second round of the NBA playoffs, 18 of 21 experts picked the Sixers to advance, with a majority believing the series will go at least six games. Furthermore, ESPN’s Forecast Panel gave Philly a 62 percent chance to make it to the Eastern Conference finals.
As for the other semifinal matchups, the experts picked Houston Rockets over the Utah Jazz, the Golden State Warriors over the New Orleans Pelicans and the Cleveland Cavaliers over the Toronto Raptors. Not a single writer picked the Jazz or the Pelicans to pull off upsets, but the Cavs-Raptors series was a closer call, with 11 out of 18 experts picking LeBron James and Co.
Fair reminder: These are the same experts who completely whiffed on the Pelicans’ first-round series with the Portland Trail Blazers.