NBA Report: 4 Eastern Conference Teams That Could Beat The Warriors In A Best-Of-Seven Playoff Series

NBA: Miami Heat at Boston Celtics
Jan 21, 2019; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving (11) drives the ball against Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) in the second half at TD Garden. The Celtics defeated Miami 107-99. (Photo: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)

Technically, the only way for Eastern Conference teams to beat the Golden State Warriors in a best-of-seven playoff series is if they meet in the NBA Finals. Of course, the Warriors have to come out on top of the Western Conference Finals too.

Now that LeBron James has taken his talents in the wild Western Conference, a vacuum of power exists in the East. And assuming that the Warriors makes it to their fifth straight NBA Finals, a handful of Eastern Conference hopefuls have emerged as contenders and could have the chance to dethrone the two-time defending champions.

Here are the top 4 Eastern Conference teams that could beat the Golden State Warriors in a best-of-seven playoff series:

Boston Celtics

There is no denying that the Boston Celtics is a well-coached team. It also doesn't hurt that the Celtics have a stacked roster that could beat any team in the NBA on any given night. And oh, they also have Kyrie Irving.

Boston is clearly one of the best defensive teams in the league. The Celtics rank fifth in opponent point per game (allowing 106.9 points per game), second in opponent field goal percentage (allowing 44.3%) and opponent three-point field goal percentage (34%).

The Celtics also ranks third in steals (8.8), sixth in assists (26.4), and third in turnovers (13.2). However, there is a lot left to be desired in the offensive side as the Celtics only score about 113 points per game (12th in the league) and their shooting percentages need to improve if they wish to compete against the top guns in the NBA.

But make no mistake about it, when the playoffs come, the better defensive teams are almost always favored to come out on top. The only problem is this: (1) Warriors are as good, if not better, defensively; and (2) the Warriors are clearly the better offensive team.

As per 24/7 Sports, the Boston Celtics currently has a 10/1 odds of winning the NBA title.

Philadelphia 76ers

"The Process" has gone very well for the Philadelphia 76ers. From a bottom-feeder to a potential NBA championship contender, the decade-long preparation has now come into fruition.

On paper, the 76ers have a line-up that can rival those of the best in the league. All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are joined by the sharpshooter JJ Redick, the former All-Star Jimmy Butler, and the ultra-efficient Tobias Harris. The Sixers also have a deep bench with TJ McConnel, Boban Marjanovic, and Amir Johnson in the fold.

As a team, the Sixers ranks third in scoring with 115.9 points per game, sixth in field goal percentage (46.5%), and eighth in three-point percentage (36.1%). While the 76ers ranks third in assists per game (27.4), the team is turnover-prone, ranking 27th in the league with 15.5 turns a game.

Defensively, the 76ers need a lot of work if they hope to overcome the best teams in the East, not to mention the Warriors if they ever meet in the NBA Finals. The 76ers ranks 20th in points allowed and ranks eighth in opponent field goal and three-point percentages.

That being said, Philadelphia has already beaten Golden State this season, pulling out a hard-fought 114-104 win on the road. The Sixers will next face the Dubs at home this March.

As per 24/7 Sports, the Philadelphia 76ers currently has a 10/1 odds of winning the NBA title.

Toronto Raptors

Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs had a large lead in the first game of the 2017 Western Conference Finals. The Warriors were struggling and seemingly in disarray when an unfortunate (read: controversial) injury forced the former Finals MVP to sit out the rest of the game.

The Warriors outscored the Spurs 58-33 after Leonard went out, and the rest was history. That's how huge an impact a healthy Kawhi Leonard has to a team. Arguably the best two-way player in the league, Leonard now plays for the Toronto Raptors, a team that has made the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals the past three seasons.

The Raptors is currently sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference and owns the second best record in NBA. Offensively, the Raptors under Nick Curse is sixth in scoring and 10th in field goal percentage.

Historically, three-point shooting has never been a strength for the Raptors as they rank 22nd in that department. But they make up for it in the defensive end.

The Raptors have swept the season series with the Warriors. Toronto won an overtime game at home in November and then defeated Golden State on the road in December. It would be an exciting matchup if the Raptors can reach the NBA Finals and face the Warriors.  

As per 24/7 Sports, the Toronto Raptors currently has a 12/1 odds of winning the NBA title.

Milwaukee Bucks

The Milwaukee Bucks are number in the league. Led by MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo, the All-Star Khris Middleton, and the reinvented Brook Lopez, the Bucks are making waves in the NBA.

Basketball analysts are giving credit to head coach Mike Budenholzer for the Bucks' dominance this season. But while Budenholzer's guidance and system are a major factor in the Bucks' rise to power, the fact is that Milwaukee is doing things by committee.

As a team, the Milwaukee Bucks ranks second in points per game and field goal percentage. The Bucks also ranks seventh in assist, second in blocks, and first in rebounds. Defensively, the Bucks ranks eighth in points allowed and first in opponent field goal percentage.

The Bucks also have one of the deepest lineups in the NBA. Milwaukee picked up the sweet-shooting forward Nikola Mirotic to add more firepower from the outside. Mirotic joins the dependable veterans including Antetokounmpo, Middleton, Lopez, Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, George Hill, Pat Connaughton, and Ersan Ilyasova.

The Bucks and the Warriors split their season series with each team winning in their games at home. The Bucks has to prove that they aren't just a regular season team. They have to dominate the playoffs and overcome the best in the East to have a chance of meeting the Warriors in the 2019 NBA Finals. That is if the Warriors make it too.

As per 24/7 Sports, the Milwaukee Bucks currently has a 10/1 odds of winning the NBA title.

This list is not ignoring the other playoff teams that may have a chance at beating the Warriors. The likes of Indiana Pacers, Brooklyn Nets, and the Miami Heat just lack the firepower to compete against the Warriors in a seven-game series.

While the list includes the Eastern Conference teams that have the best chance in competing against the Warriors, the operative word here is "competing." And competing, in basketball doesn't necessarily mean defeating the other team. It will take a lot to beat the Warriors.

But still, the ball is round and any team can be beaten on any given night. That's something that the NBA teams can be thankful for.

© 2019 Business Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
Sign Up for Newsletters and Alerts