By Justice Esiri
The NBA playoffs are here. This playoff season has been nothing short of spectacular, from play-in tournaments to first-round upsets and intriguing matchups. it has kept me glued to my night-time schedules. And why you might sense the enthusiasm in my keypads as you read.
Without further ado, here’s a quick summary of the first round through a simple lens.
Milwaukee Bucks (1) vs. Miami Heat (8) – [Heat win series 4-1]
Shocker! I’m sure you opened your mouth when you saw the box score, and that was exactly our reaction. Jimmy Butler led the way with clutch performances to upset the title favourites, which was quite a surprising first-round matchup for the top-seeded Bucks. Giannis may have alluded that “it’s a step toward success,” but The Bucks underperformed.
Boston Celtics (2) at Atlanta Hawks (7) – [The Celtics win the series 4-2]
Expected! Trae Young showed heart by hitting that clutch 3-pointer to force a game 6, but the series unfolded exactly as I anticipated. The Hawks are not yet a championship-calibre team, whereas the Celtics have a well-rounded roster and have consistently performed well throughout the season.
Brooklyn Nets (6) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (3) – [The 76ers win the series 4-0]
Clean sweep! Another disappointing series for the Nets, who simply could not match up. A back-to-back sweep is not something the lesser New Yorkers’ fans want, so the Nets front office will have to make serious decisions this off-season. The 76ers moreover showed that they are a force to be reckoned with, with star performances from eMVPiid and “the beard James” Harden.
Cleveland Cavaliers (4) vs. New York Knicks (5) – [Knicks win series 4-1]
The lights were too bright! Don’t quote me, Jarrett Allen said himself that the lights were too bright” when discussing the Cavs’ struggles in that playoff game. Yes, MSG has a different vibe, but I have to give it to Randle and the Knicks’ young core: Brunson, RJ Barett, Mitchell Robinson, Quickely, Hart, Toppin, and the rest of the pack.
Denver Nuggets (1) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (8) – [Nuggets win series 4-1]
Expected! Deservedly the first seed in the west, the Nuggets prove too strong as 2-time MVP Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray carry their team to a relatively easy series win. Yes, the Timberwolves avoided a sweep but they were unable to match the Nuggets’ offensive and defensive prowess.
Memphis Grizzlies (2) vs. L.A. Lakers (7) – [Lakers win series 4-2]
Fine in the West, Haha! You just had to be there when AD put on a defensive clinic against the DPOY awardee JJJ. Or when Austin Reaves and D’Lo were effortlessly hitting shots from beyond the arc. Despite their injury woes, Ja’ Morant and the Grizzlies had some big breaks but couldn’t match up. D. Brooks said he wanted 40 points to earn Bron’s respect and indeed, he got his request in Game 6. But one thing is certain: The Grizzlies are not fine in the West.
Sacramento Kings (3) vs. Golden State Warriors (6) – [Warriors win series 4-3]
Light the beam, how ironic! Chef Curry’s 50-piece Game 7 statement was perhaps the highlight of the first round. It was an entertaining contest from 0-2 down to a Game 7 thriller. Mike Brown was onto something, but the assistant couldn’t match his ex-master’s heroics. The GSW dynasty has survived another intense series, and even haters are forced to admit their inevitability.
Phoenix Suns (4) vs. LA Clippers (5) – [Suns win series 4-1]
No comments! We don’t have many thoughts on this series because it featured an uneven matchup between a “fake superteam” and an “injury crisis” roster. Despite losing the first game, the Suns went on to dominate the rest of the series and live up to expectations. Book and Russ each had their moments, but the Suns were clearly the better team overall, and they deserved to advance.
Next up is the conference Semifinals which have some interesting matchups already in sight;
Conference Semifinals Schedule
● Boston Celtics (2) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (3)
● New York Knicks (5) vs. Miami Heat (8)
● Denver Nuggets (1) vs. Phoenix Suns (4)
● Golden State Warriors (6) vs. L.A. Lakers (7)
With so many talented teams and players, anything can happen. I can’t wait to see how these series unfold and which teams will make it to the 2023 NBA Conference Finals.
As a Lakers fan, I hope they come out on top against “fan favourite Greatest Shooter O.A.T Curry.” But one thing is certain: There will be a winner and a loser, and I’ll be back with a breakdown of all the action. Until then!