The first round of the NBA playoffs have now been completed and boy did they produce memorable moments. Damian Lillard scoring 55 points in a spectacular double overtime performance comes to mind. Unfortunately for him, that performance didn’t result in a win. The Knicks playing at home was fun to watch as well. Lebron losing in the first round for the first time in his career was a shock. Also, the Clippers being the only team from LA left in the playoffs! We can only hope that the second round is as good as if not better than the first. So let’s jump right into it.
#1 seed Philadelphia 76ers vs #5 seed Atlanta Hawks
On paper, this series should be straight forward with Philadelphia being the much better team. That being said games aren’t played on paper and the Sixers have a bit of an injury worry. Superstar center Joel Embiid has suffered a small meniscus tear which casts doubts to his availability going forward. The Sixers say he’s day to day but these types of injuries are rarely solved so soon. Add to the fact that Embiid has a lengthy injury history and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him miss several games. The loss of Embiid will be a massive blow to the Sixers but could be just the opening Atlanta needs to pull off a shocking upset.
Speaking of Atlanta this team dominated the Knicks in impressive fashion. That series lasted five games only because the Hawks got complacent in game 2. Other than that mental lapse the Hawks proved that they were head and shoulders above the Knicks. Now comes the real challenge of trying to slay the conference’s number one seed.
Even without Embiid, the task won’t be easy as Ben Simmons causes real problems. Offensively Simmons shouldn’t hurt Atlanta, but defensively is where he can wreak havoc. The reason for this is due to the fact that he will most likely spend most of his time defensively guarding Trae Young. His size will cause Young all sorts of problems and he’s the key to Atlanta’s offense. Atlanta’s best hopes rest of Young’s ability to get the better of Simmons consistently.
Sixers win 4-2
#2 seed Brooklyn Nets vs #3 seed Milwaukee Bucks
Arguably the tastiest matchup of the 2nd round pits two heavyweights of the East against each other. With Philadelphia’s injury woes, the winner of this matchup could go on to win the East. Giannis vs Brooklyn’s big three is a matchup that everyone will be monitoring. Even more than just winning the East the winner of this matchup probably will be favorites to win the title. Big ramifications are at stake in this clash.
Much like the Hawks, Brooklyn failed to complete a sweep over the Celtics due to taking their opponent for granted. They did finish up the series in five, but the fifth game really shouldn’t have been needed. That being said this team is extremely dangerous. With Harden, Durant, and Kyrie getting closer and closer to firing on all cylinders this team could very well reach its potential. Having those three as well as timely contributions from role players could be enough for the ultimate prize.
Step one was a complete success for the Milwaukee Bucks. Getting revenge against the Heat and slaying their demons from last season will feel good. Step two, however, is a different animal altogether. The Nets offensive threat is the best in the league and Milwaukee will need more of their stellar defensive to slow that team down. The good news for the Bucks is that they did a brilliant job against Miami in the previous round. Milwaukee also is pretty well equipped to deal with Brooklyn’s big three. Whoever can assert their will the best will most likely win this series.
Brooklyn win 4-2
#1 seed Utah Jazz vs #4 seed Los Angeles Clippers
Utah neatly dispatched the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round and was rewarded with almost a week off. The main reason for that is because they didn’t know who their opponent was until late Sunday. It took all seven games, but the Clippers were finally able to outlast the Mavericks. It was a seven-game series that could’ve became historic if Dallas had won. Up until game 7 the road team had won every single game which has never happened in the NBA before. Only time will tell if that extra rest will give Utah the edge they need to take the series.
Utah is led by Donovan Mitchell who was dealing with an injury in the first round. The week off should help ease the injury concerns as they aren’t the same team without him. Defensive stalwart Rudy Gobert will look to keep the Clippers away from the paint. Besides those two players, Utah will once again need their depth and role players to make an impact. Top to bottom they aren’t the most talented team, but they have achieved success by having the best team play. It will once again be tested by a team that suddenly has belief in themselves.
We won’t know until much later in the future, but that seven-game series might be the best thing to ever happen to the Clippers. Down 3-2 in the series they had to buckle down and grind out the last two wins to survive. The fact that they did survive shows that this team has grown a bit since last season. If they can hit their full potential then all of a sudden this could be the team to beat in the West. This franchise, however, has never made it to the conference finals. So the real question is can they finally take that next step or are the Clippers doomed to be cursed forever.
Clippers win 4-2
#2 seed Phoenix Suns vs #3 seed Denver Nuggets
Perhaps the biggest surprise in the first round was the Suns eliminating the Lakers despite being the higher seed. Many thought it was a cruel twist of fate that the Suns drew the Lakers in the first round after ending an 11-year playoff drought. But what happened instead was a team ascending above their trials and announcing that they are a force to reckon with. Looking at the landscape of the playoffs the Suns have a legitimate chance at a title this year. But the next obstacle in their way is Denver and the league’s soon-to-be MVP Nikola Jokic.
Speaking of Denver they had their hands full in the last series as Damian Lillard did everything he could to produce a shock result. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t have enough help around him and Denver survived the round. Now Denver must deal with a deeper team than that of Portland. Phoenix produces a host of problems, but they mainly start with Chris Paul. The loss of Jamal Murray will be felt more in this series as Denver will need to match the Sun’s offensive output. Luckily for the Nuggets Jokic has raised his game to another level this season and has shouldered most of the responsibility. His supporting cast has more or less all stepped up and they will need to continue that form. This series can definitely go the distance.
Suns win 4-3