In the Western conference, teams including the 2nd seeded-Memphis Grizzlies have cemented themselves as a team to watch for the title.
With a tough matchup against their Minnesota rivals, Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, and others showed up big to win the series 4-2. They moved on to the Western Conference Semifinals to face the Warriors, the 3rd seed in the West.
The Warriors played two time MVP Nikola Jokic and the nuggets. Without Jamal Murray and Michael Porter, the Nuggets struggled to do much. The Warriors won at home 4-1. The Warriors also won their first game against Ja Morant and the griz, holding off a last second shot. The series has since gone in favor of the Warriors, 2-1.
In the 4-seed vs. 5 seed matchup of the 4 seed Dallas Mavericks vs. the 5 seed Utah Jazz, Jalen Brunson and Luka Doncic of the Mavs beat the arguably overrated Jazz in 6. Despite the Mavs missing Doncic for a few games, Brunson, the team’s point guard, showed up to score 28 ppg.
Up to the 1-seed Suns and 8 seed Pelicans. In the series many viewed as the Suns could win in 4 (a sweep), the Pelicans surprised everyone and won two games, but fell 4-2. In the absence of Devin Booker, the Suns showed their vulnerability, but moved on to face the Mavericks and now have a 2-2 tie with their 4th seed rivals.
In the Eastern Conference, the one that I personally believe the finals winner will come from, there were few upsets, but fun matchups to watch nonetheless.
In the 2nd seed vs. the 7th seed matchup of the Boston Celtics vs. Brooklyn Nets, Jason Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart showed up. Against the team many saw as title contenders from the East — the star-studded Nets, led by Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving — the Celtics defense made it very hard for the Nets to score. I saw this as a 6 game series with Boston winning, but the Celtics showed up and won in 4.
As for the Bucks and Bulls matchup, the 3 seed Bucks, led by Giannis and Jrue Holiday, dominated their 6 seeded Bulls rivals, winning in 5. Despite the absence of Kris Middleton, the Bucks showed that they can play with the top teams in the league. The Bucks moved on to play the Celtics and won the first game, but fell in the second game to the star-led team of the Celtics.
The 4-seed 76ers and 5 seed Raptors played in a tough matchup, but the ‘6ers beat their Toronto rivals in 6. Led by Joel Embiid and James Harden, the Philly faithful destroyed a tough Raptors team.
Now, in the last matchup of the first round of the playoffs, the 1st seed Miami Heat played their 8th seed rivals of Atlanta, the Hawks. A team led by Trae Young, and not much else, the Hawks were utterly dominated. The Heat, led by the veteran Jimmy Butler, who averaged 30 ppg, won in 5 against the young star, “Ice Trae” Young. They played and dominated the Sixers, with Point Guard Tyler Herro scoring 25 off the bench. They started out strong in their series, but lost two in a row with the return of Joel Embiid, and are now at (2-2) against the Sixers.
Overall, the first round of the NBA playoffs were exciting to watch, and I can’t wait to see who will win it all.
Will the Celtics bounce back and beat the Bucks and then beat the Heat? Will the suns prove their strength, or will the Warriors make it out of the West? Both are very intriguing questions, and I recommend watching as much as you can.