NBA Eastern Conference playoff picks: Who will win Nets-Bucks, 76ers-Hawks series?

Bucks-Nets. Giannis Antetokounmpo-Kevin Durant. Jrue-Holiday-Kyrie Irving. Khris Middleton-James Harden.

Milwaukee against Brooklyn in the Eastern Conference semifinals is the most anticipated matchup of the second round.

The series starts Saturday night in Brooklyn, and the focus will be on Milwaukee’s defense trying to slow Brooklyn’s offensive fireworks from Durant, Irving and Harden who might hold the keys to unlocking Brooklyn’s potential.

In the other East semifinals, top-seeded Philadelphia plays fifth-seeded Atlanta. The 76ers did what they had do to in their first-round series against Washington. However, All-Star Joel Embiid tore the lateral meniscus in his right knee and missed most of Game 4 and all of Game 5 against the Wizards.

The upstart Hawks dispatched New York in five games, and Coach Nate McMillan has Trae Young and the rest of the team playing confident and strong basketball at the right time.

Here are predictions from USA TODAY staffers Matt Eppers, Mark Medina and Jeff Zillgitt:

Bucks vs. Nets

EPPERS: Nets in 7. Brooklyn should have too much offensive depth and flexibility for even a strong defense like Milwaukee, and the Bucks don't have the firepower to keep up with Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving.

MEDINA: Nets in 6. Despite their improvements in Mike Budenholzer's coaching, Giannis Antetokounmpo's play and roster additions (Jrue Holiday), the Bucks will still run into a brick wall considering the offensive depth the Nets have with Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving. 

ZILLGITT: Nets in 6. Brooklyn will need to get defensive stops at some point but that offense should carry the Nets into the conference finals.


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