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.
Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant helped the Nets beat the Celtics in the first round.
76ers vs. Hawks
EPPERS: Sixers in 6. As long as Joel Embiid is healthy, the Sixers shouldn’t have much trouble with the Hawks. If Embiid is less than 100%, it will be tough, but Philadelphia still has enough to slow Atlanta.
MEDINA: Sixers in 6. This will be a challenging series only because Joel Embiid’s injury remains in question, but the Sixers will still win given Ben Simmons’ defense and a more veteran roster.
ZILLGITT: Sixers in 7. The Sixers need Embiid to win a title, and if they can give him two weeks off to heal, that will be beneficial. But the Hawks will make this difficult on Philadelphia.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NBA playoff predictions: East picks for Nets-Bucks, 76ers-Hawks series