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The NBA Playoffs are officially under way! Yes, the Play-In tournament got us kicked off a few days ago. But the conventional one through eight matchups begin tonight. The Eastern Conference is much more lopsided than the Western Conference, but there will be many good battles every night.

With the NBA Play-In tournament now over, here is the updated bracket for the Eastern Conference:

The fantasy sports landscape shifts drastically throughout the NBA Playoffs. Rotations are much more condensed, while teams are quick to shorten their bench. As previously mentioned, rotation notes, player breakdowns, analytical advantages, and key x-factors are all discussed below. The x-factor will not be the best player on the team, but rather, someone that will provide an edge in both fantasy sports and on the court in real time.

Be sure to use our proprietary NBA projections and cheat sheet to build your lineups as the news rolls in. Moreover, join the conversation in the Win Daily Discord to get the insight you need from both subscribers and staff.

Milwaukee Bucks (1) vs. Miami Heat (8)

Milwaukee Bucks (-1200 to win series)

Introduction

After being dethroned as Conference Champions and NBA Champions last season, the Bucks bounced back with their most successful regular season since 2018-2019. Moreover, Giannis Antetokounmpo is an MVP candidate, following a career-high 31.1 points per game. This roster is stout on both ends of the court, with their only drawback being clutch shooting down the stretch via shot creation.

Matchup

From a defensive standpoint, Miami has the ability to match up with nearly every NBA roster. However, the Bucks are a different beast. Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the most unguardable players the league has to offer. Moreover, Brook Lopez has been terrific both in the paint and from behind the arc. Factor in Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton, two excellent two-way players, and there is simply too much to contain on a nightly basis. Each player has a respectable defender in front of them, but Miami is most vulnerable on the wing.

Rotation

After winning an NBA Championship only two season ago, Milwaukee is poised for another deep playoff run. Led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, this roster also features quality two-way players in Jrue Holiday and Brook Lopez. Despite missing 49 games this season, Khris Middleton is set to contribute early and often, while Pat Connaughton and Grayson Allen will flank the wings at times. Moreover, Bobby Portis Jr. will be the first big man off the bench, while Jae Crowder and Joe Ingles give Milwaukee veteran options off the bench, if necessary. Jevon Carter may spell Jrue Holiday at times, but don’t count on big minutes at rotations get tighter.

X-Factor

Despite their shortcomings on offense, the Heat’s defensive unit is no joke. Thus, the biggest x-factor in this series will be Brook Lopez. After finishing second in the NBA in blocks per game, Lopez received a nomination for Defensive Player of the Year. Moreover, he had his best shooting season since 2018-2019. In a matchup versus Bam Adebayo, it will be up to Lopez to control the paint on both ends of the court, with the obvious help of Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Miami Heat (+750 to win series)

Introduction

It took a game longer than expected, but Miami made the NBA Playoffs. However, this team looks to be one of, if not the worst team remaining. Shockingly enough, they have some quality players where they should not be in this situation, but here they are. Their offense struggled mightily all season long and continued to do so in the Play-In, making their outlook far from optimistic.

Matchup

This is far from a good matchup for the Heat. Milwaukee’s interior defense is one of, if not the best in the NBA. Both Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez await in the paint, while Jrue Holiday puts the clamps on the perimeter. Moreover, Miami plays awfully slow and were the lowest scoring team of the year, creating a hard enough situation thanks to their own shortcomings on offense.

Rotation

The Heat will only go as far as Butler, Adebayo, and Herro take them. Elsewhere, look for Max Strus, Kyle Lowry, Kevin Love, and Caleb Martin to see decent run. For some reason, the Heat are insistent on Gabe Vincent starting, but he will continue to have little impact. Other candidates would be Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller, but their minutes will vary from game to game.

X-Factor

The off-ball guards will be crucial for Miami. Jimmy Butler will have to force Giannis to guard him on the perimeter to create space for his teammates, but he himself is far from elite out there. Moreover, Bam Adebayo will have his hands full with Brook Lopez on the inside, while Jrue Holiday lines up on Tyler Herro. Thus, the duo of Kyle Lowry and Max Strus will have to make every shot count to keep this series close.

Boston Celtics (2) vs. Atlanta Hawks (7)

Boston Celtics (-1200 to win series)

Introduction

Following a disappointing loss in the NBA Finals to the Warriors, Boston came back stronger this season. As a team, Boston won six more games this season than they did last year. Moreover, both Tatum and Brown saw increases in their scoring outputs. This roster is sound from top to bottom, and it will come down to avoiding poor performances when it matters most.

Matchup

No matter which way you look at it, Boston matches up well versus Atlanta. They have multiple elite perimeter defenders to counter the Hawks’ star backcourt, while having formidable defenders on the inside as well. Moreover, a one-two scoring punch of Tatum and Brown is one of the best these NBA Playoffs have to offer. Add in two-way players such as Marcus Smart and Malcolm Brogdon, whose games are tailored to the playoffs and Boston is in for a serious run.

Rotation

Make no mistake about it, the core of a team that won the Eastern Conference has returned from last season. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are coming off terrific seasons and will anchor their team once again. Moreover, Marcus Smart and Malcolm Brogdon are terrific two-way options for another playoff run. Al Horford and Robert Williams III will anchor the paint, while Grant Williams and Derrick White round out the rotation.

X-Factor

The key parts to this Boston rotation will all play important roles in this series. However, assuming both Smart and Brogdon clamp Trae Young, Al Horford and Robert Williams III will be crucial on the inside. Both John Collins and Clint Capela are terrific as the roll man in a pick-and-roll offense. Moreover, Atlanta has shooters on the outside to make Boston pay for defensive mistakes. The interior duo will have to be sharp on the glass and with paint defense, making this a series built for Robert Williams III.

Atlanta Hawks (+750 to win series)

Introduction

After their win in the Play-In, Atlanta dodged a matchup versus Giannis and the Bucks in the opening round. However, things do not get any easier, as Boston are the defending Conference champions and are set on making another deep playoff run. Barring extreme circumstances, Atlanta looks destined for yet another early exit, which could bring massive changes in the offseason.

Matchup

Individual and collective matchups do not favor the Hawks. On the perimeter, Marcus Smart and Malcolm Brogdon will be a problem for Trae Young. Moreover, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will be tough to contain, considering De’Andre Hunter can only guard one of them. Truthfully, Dejounte Murray will have to keep Brown at bay if they want the slightest chance of winning this series, and while it will happen for a game or two, Boston has too big of an edge in all facets of the game.

Rotation

Trae Young and Dejounte Murray lead a star-studded backcourt, surrounded by quality role players. De’Andre Hunter, John Collins, and Clint Capela likely round out the starting unit in this one. Meanwhile, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Saddiq Bey, and Onyeka Okongwu round out the rest of the rotation.

X-Factor

With Trae Young having to deal with one of Marcus Smart or Malcolm Brogdon for every minute that he is on the court, Dejounte Murray will have to step up in a big way. If Atlanta wants to succeed in this series, Young needs to be just as good off the ball as he is with it, and Murray needs to be an exemplary playmaker. The pick-and-roll is just as useful with Murray and it is Young, and the former is an excellent counterpart to the rebounding abilities of Boston’s guards.

Philadelphia 76ers (3) vs. Brooklyn Nets (6)

Philadelphia 76ers (-1000 to win series)

Introduction

It truly is Championship or bust for the 76ers at this point. Not only did they acquire James Harden to flank Joel Embiid, but this roster is built to win now. Aside from Tyrese Maxey, there is no young, promising talent on this team. However, with Boston, Milwaukee, and Cleveland standing in their way, the road to the NBA Finals is as hard as it ever will be for Philadelphia.

Matchup

The matchup for Philadelphia is decent here. Mikal Bridges will be a pain to deal with on the outside, but everything will have to funnel through Joel Embiid in the paint. Nic Claxton is no slouch around the rim, but with the way Embiid gets foul calls in his favor every night, there is a mismatch there. However, where the 76ers could find themselves in trouble is if the surrounding group are not hitting their shots. Assuming Bridges keeps Harden in check, it will be up to Melton, Maxey, and Harris to pitch in on the scoring sheet, something that has held Philadelphia back in the past.

Rotation

Joel Embiid will man the paint for the bulk of the minutes. Moreover, James Harden will have his minutes staggered at times so at least one is on the court at all times, but the two will be featured together a lot. Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey will be the secondary scoring options, while De’Anthony Melton provides a combination of perimeter defense and three-point shooting. Philadelphia also has the luxury of using Jalen McDaniels to spell Harris, while PJ Tucker will be a primary defender throughout the series. Georges Niang and Shake Milton will see minutes as they fit, which won’t be very often.

X-Factor

While the duo of James Harden and Joel Embiid will lead the charge on offense, Tyrese Maxey has the potential to have the biggest impact in this series. Harden will draw coverage from Mikal Bridges, who is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. The pick-and-roll will be utilized a ton here to feature Embiid, but Maxey will find himself with open lanes to the rim off the ball when Embiid kicks to the outside.

Brooklyn Nets (+650 to win series)

Introduction

What was supposed to be a Championship season for the Brooklyn Nets took a turn for the worse. Their Big 3 of James Harden, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving was initially broken up when Harden was dealt for Ben Simmons. However, following multiple occasions of Irving having off-court issues, he was dealt to Dallas, while Durant found himself in Phoenix. However, there is a silver lining to the situation. Brooklyn received who could be the very best, if not one of the best 3-and-D wings in the NBA in Mikal Bridges. While they had a losing record after the trade, Bridges posted 26.1 points per game in 27 appearances for the Nets.

Matchup

This is a tough matchup for Brooklyn but it is certainly winnable. The key will be to switch the right offensive option onto James Harden and for said player to knock down shots when they come. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, not quite. The 76ers now quietly have multiple elite perimeter defenders in De’Anthony Melton and Jalen McDaniels. Meanwhile, while his offensive game is as useless as they come, PJ Tucker will likely get the first chance to guard Mikal Bridges. Lastly, Joel Embiid awaits in the paint, which is self-explanatory.

Rotation

The Nets will be in tough to find the right rotation to match Philadelphia. However, Nic Claxton needs to be out there for every minute that Joel Embiid is. Moreover, Mikal Bridges and Spender Dinwiddie seem poised to carry the bulk of minutes. Both Cam Johnson and Royce O’Neale make for good two-ways options, while the former has far more upside offensively. Lastly, Seth Curry and Joe Harris can provide scoring off the bench, while Dorian Finney-Smith will be needed as a perimeter defender. Two young talents in Cam Thomas and Day’Ron Sharpe await their chance, but it’s unlikely to be here.

X-Factor

Make no mistake about it, the Nets will only go as far as Mikal Bridges can take them. His game is a perfect fit for the NBA Playoffs, but this is reserved for players who are not the top talent on their respective rosters. Thus, Spencer Dinwiddie makes the cut. Not only did he have interesting takes on FanDuel TV recently, but he has a lot to prove. Dinwiddie has been on four teams in the last four years and needs to take control of this offense. The 76ers are exploitable in switches on James Harden, and Dinwiddie will have to find a way to take advantage when opportunities arise.

Cleveland Cavaliers (4) vs. New York Knicks (5)

Cleveland Cavaliers (-200 to win series)

Introduction

After the acquisition of Donovan Mitchell, expectations skyrocketed for this young Cavaliers team. Surrounded by quality veterans, this team is poised to make a deep run in the NBA Playoffs. While their core four are young, the Cavaliers excel on both ends of the court. Not only can they beat you multiple ways offensively, but they have the best defensive unit statistically this season. In what could be a surprise to some, Cleveland are darkhorse Championship contenders.

Matchup

While the Knicks’ defense is far from elite, they are no slouch as a unit either. Collectively, New York finished 19th in defensive rating and 13th in points per game allowed. However, their true strength is on the glass, finishing second in the NBA in rebounding percentage. The Cavaliers match up well though, with both Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen leading the charge. Donovan Mitchell figures to lead the charge here in all facets of the offense. Most notably, New York finished 27th in three-pointers allowed per game.

Rotation

Despite having a star-studded starting lineup, the Cavaliers’ bench is thin. Thus, do not expect a ton of surprising minutes here. The backcourt will feature two of the NBA’s young talent in Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell. Moreover, Cleveland has another young duo in the frontcourt with Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. While one of Lamar Stevens or Isaac Okoro will presumably start games on the wing, Caris LeVert will see more minutes than both of them. Rounding out the rotation will be Dean Wade, Ricky Rubio, and Cedi Osman.

X-Factor

While Donovan Mitchell is the real difference-maker, top players will be avoided in this section. It is no knock on Evan Mobley, but he is featured instead of his teammate. Fresh off a nomination for NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Mobley’s versatility will be needed in this series. He will be the primary defender on Julius Randle and provide offensive upside. Moreover, he is a tremendous rebounder for his age. Should the Knicks go small at times with Randle at the ‘5’ in favor of Robinson, Mobley can shift over if Jarrett Allen needs to consequently sub out.

New York Knicks (+170 to win series)

Introduction

In what could have been a disastrous season for New York, the Knicks came out in a good position. While the top teams in the East were clear, finishing ahead of Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, and Miami is quite the achievement. After an offseason of turmoil following the max contract signing of Jalen Brunson, the former Maverick had a career year. Not only did Brunson average 24/3.5/6.2 on 49.1% shooting, but he was the clear leader on the court.

Matchup

This matchup could not be worse for the Knicks. Not only did Cleveland rank first in defensive rating this year, but they also allowed the fewest points per game in the NBA. Moreover, the rank first versus multiple player types. Primary ball handlers, off-ball guards, and scoring centers all struggle mightily versus the Cavaliers.

Rotation

Expect Coach Tom Thibodeau to stick to his roots. Through his career, he has been notorious for having one of the tightest rotations, no matter the time of year. Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle will be key for the Knicks this series. Moreover, a battle in the paint awaits for Mitchell Robinson. Lastly, the trio of Quentin Grimes, RJ Barrett, and Josh Hart will flank the wings. Look for Isaiah Hartenstein and Obi Toppin to pick up limited minutes in a backup role. Meanwhile Immanuel Quickley will continue to come off the bench, but will play clutch minutes and be in the closing lineup.

X-Factor

Playing against one of the best defenses in the NBA makes this section difficult. The Knicks will need both Quentin Grimes and RJ Barrett to step up. While they are far from the flashiest players on offense, they have the best matchup. Lining up against a combination of Isaac Okoro and Caris LeVert is as good as it will get versus Cleveland. However, the true x-factor in this series will be Mitchell Robinson. While the big man has had his limitations, this matchup is right up his alley. Both Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen are forces on both ends of the court, but Robinson will be needed every step of the way for New York.

You can find me on Twitter @BetsByGhost and in the Win Daily Discord

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With the NBA season concluded, it’s time for the best part of the season. The Play-In tournament was introduced three seasons ago and has been a great addition to the existing format. In a one-and-done scenario for some, every second of these games is crucial.

Here is the NBA Playoff bracket with final seeding:

The fantasy sports landscape shifts drastically throughout the NBA Playoffs. Rotations are much more condensed, while teams are quick to shorten their bench. In both this article and the Opening Round Matchup Breakdown articles, there will be rotation notes, player breakdowns, analytical advantages, and key x-factors. The x-factor will not be the best player on the team, but rather, someone that will provide an edge in both fantasy sports and on the court in real time.

Be sure to use our proprietary NBA projections and cheat sheet to build your lineups as the news rolls in. Moreover, join the conversation in the Win Daily Discord to get the insight you need from both subscribers and staff.

Miami Heat (7) vs. Atlanta Hawks (8)

Miami Heat (-5.5)

Introduction

Despite their shortcomings on offense, Miami has one of the best defensive units in the NBA Playoffs. A one-two punch of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo on the perimeter and in the paint, respectively, is one of the best combinations in the league. However, the Heat will need to find a way to produce offensively. No player averaged more than 11.5 points per game outside of Butler, Adebayo, and Tyler Herro. Additionally, Miami had the lowest scoring offense in the league this year with 109.5 points per game.

Matchup

On paper and in real time, these two teams are complete opposites. Miami had the worst scoring offense in the league, while only being ranked 25th in offensive rating and 29th in pace. However, the Hawks posted over 118 points per game, ranking them third in the league. They also were 7th in offensive rating and 6th in pace.

Rotation

The Heat will only go as far as Butler, Adebayo, and Herro take them. On a two-game NBA slate, raw points are king. Thus, Butler and Herro make for the most intriguing options on this roster. Elsewhere, look for Max Strus, Kyle Lowry, Kevin Love, and Caleb Martin to see decent run. Other candidates, would be Victor Oladipo, Gabe Vincent, and Cody Zeller, but don’t count on it.

X-Factor

As alluded to earlier, this section is reserved for a player that is set to be an unknown difference-maker. In this game, Jimmy Butler will be the best player on the court. However, there is a good chance that Tyler Herro leads the team in scoring. If the Hawks play this one properly, they would have Hunter on Butler, Murray on Herro, and Young on Strus or Lowry. However, the Hawks have been reluctant to do so this season, meaning whoever lands on an individual matchup versus Trae Young will be crucial to a win.

Atlanta Hawks (+5.5)

Introduction

In an awkward position with a lot of money and term committed to multiple players, the Hawks stumbled into the Play-In tournament this season. Atlanta is still a key piece or two away from being true contenders, but they have a legitimate shot at winning this game due to their offensive firepower. In a year where offenses were taken to new heights, it was Atlanta who scored the third-most points per game, posting the seventh-best offensive rating amongst all teams.

Matchup

On paper, this is a horrendous matchup for the Hawks’ main contributors. Trae Young will certainly lead the offense, but Miami has the best perimeter defense in the NBA this season. Moreover, they ranked first against true primary ball handlers. Where Miami could be exploited is on the deep ball; the Heat ranked 28th in the league this season to three-point shooters, giving up 13.1 makes per game.

Rotation

Trae Young and Dejounte Murray lead a star-studded backcourt, surrounded by quality role players. De’Andre Hunter, John Collins, and Clint Capela likely round out the starting unit in this one. Meanwhile, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Saddiq Bey, and Onyeka Okongwu round out what can certainly be one of, if not the tightest rotation in the Play-In round.

X-Factor

As alluded to earlier, this section is reserved for a player that is set to be an unknown difference-maker. In this game, De’Andre Hunter will be the most crucial contributor not named Trae Young or Dejounte Murray. While both John Collins and Clint Capela have their hands full with Bam Adebayo guarding the paint, it is Hunter that will benefit from a Heat defensive unit known to switch Jimmy Butler onto primary ball handlers. Being one of the most promising 3-and-D wings in the NBA since coming out of Virginia, Hunter will be relied upon on both ends of the court.

Los Angeles Lakers (7) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (8)

Los Angeles Lakers (-7.5)

Introduction

Despite a season of turmoil, the Lakers turned things around to get into the Play-In tournament. This team has one of the best duos in the NBA, alongside quality role players whom were acquired at the trade deadline. The highlight of the season has to be the emergence of Austin Reaves, who will play a crucial role in the Lakers’ playoff run.

Matchup

In the absence of Rudy Gobert, no player has a better matchup than Anthony Davis. Moreover, LeBron James figures to dominate against a Minnesota team that struggled to guard primary ball handlers all season long. With Minnesota playing at a fast pace with like Los Angeles does, only with far worse defense, this one plays right into the Lakers’ hands.

Rotation

This Lakers rotation is surprisingly deep thanks to an overhaul at the trade deadline. Alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis, D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves will play prominent minutes. Moreover, Jarred Vanderbilt and his defensive ability will earn him significant run. Rounding out the rotation, when necessary, are Dennis Schroder (when healthy), Malik Beasley, and Tory Brown Jr. There is potential for Rui Hachimura and/or Wenyen Gabriel to see some time if the Lakers make a Playoff run, but their minutes will be scarce.

X-Factor

As alluded to earlier, this section is reserved for a player that is set to be a difference-maker without being the consensus top talent on his team. In this game, the duo of D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves will be relied upon to take advantage of a poor Minnesota perimeter defense. On the season, Minnesota ranked 25th in the NBA versus primary ball handlers, which bodes well for LeBron James, but Reaves and Russell have enticing matchups versus Mike Conley, Taurean Prince, and Anthony Edwards.

Minnesota Timberwolves (+7.5)

Introduction

The Minnesota overhaul was a disaster. Rudy Gobert was acquired in the offseason for far too many assets, and it simply has not worked out. This offense is stagnant, relying on Anthony Edwards in isolation far too often. Meanwhile, the defensive unit has been mediocre at best. In a matchup versus a streaking Lakers team, the Timberwolves will be lucky to be in this game at the start of the fourth quarter.

Matchup

The highlight of this matchup will be the pace of play. Respectively, Los Angeles and Minnesota ranked 4th and 7th in the NBA this season. However, when the individual matchups are broken down, there is not much to like about the Timberwolves. Sure, Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns will handle a ridiculous number of offensive looks, but lining up on LeBron James and Anthony Davis is no joke. Moreover, Minnesota will be forced to rely on role players who, themselves, are outmatched by the likes of D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves, and Jarred Vanderbilt.

Rotation

Minnesota’s season was underwhelming after the acquisition of Rudy Gobert, and it was truthfully expected. In this game, expect to see as much Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns as you ever have. Moreover, Kyle Anderson and Taurean Prince will be forced into meaningful minutes. Since Jaylen Nowell missed five straight games to end the regular season, Jordan McLaughlin and Nickeil Alexander-Walker are the first guards off the bench. Filler minutes will be there for Austin Rivers and Nathan Knight, if necessary.

X-Factor

As alluded to earlier, this section is reserved for a player that is set to be an unknown difference-maker. In this game, the Timberwolves simply do not stand a chance if Towns does not have one of the best games of his career. With Rudy Gobert suspended and Naz Reid out for the season, Towns will have to stay out of foul trouble against Anthony Davis. This is not going to go well for Minneosta.

You can find me on Twitter @BetsByGhost and in the Win Daily Discord

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