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Round one of the NBA Playoffs

The first round of the playoffs have now ended and some teams have come out victorious and will be progressing to the conference semifinals, while others go home to start preparing for the next season. During this first round lots of questions were answered and some surprises have happened, which have demonstrated what teams have a chance to win it all, but also which ones have to rebuild for next season.


Miami Heat vs Atlanta Hawks


(Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat forward, and Trae Young Atlanta Hawks Guard)


This series ended as most people expected, with an easy win for the Heat, which had a 4-1 in the series. They demonstrated clear dominance over the Hawks as most of the time they were able to contain Trae Young and control the pace of the game. The Heat demonstrated their precise defense and also how their coach, Erik Spoelstra, is able to make all players participate on the offence by having role players shining as well. Their system has been working throughout the whole season, letting Duncan Robinson's three pointers stand out and their star Jimmy Butler clear things out by having amazing games and even scoring 45 points in one of them.


Closer to the end questions, rumours rised upon injuries and the team chemistry, which caused many to question their legitimacy as title contenders. With this impressive display of very well organised basketball with constant energy offensively as well as defensively they have been able to prove doubters wrong, and are now a certainty for the title. Their next challenge will be harder as they face the Philadelphia 76ers, with Joel Embiid and James Harden as the main threats on offence. Many are confident that if the Heat team is able to stay healthy they should be able to overcome the 76ers and progress to the conference finals.


Boston Celtics vs Brooklyn Nets


This series came as a big surprise to everybody as this matchup was supposed to be the hardest one of all although it was the only one which ended in a sweep (4-0). The Celtics controlled the series and were able to easily advance to the next round. This vanishing was mainly due to their defence and how they shut down Brooklyn's Irving-Durant duo. even though, the franchise did not have their starting centre and one of the defensive anchors of the team, Robert Williams, for half of the series. On the green side, the player that stood out on offence was Jayson Tatum as he was unstoppable when attacking the rim, consistent from range and even had quite an impact defensively. It is not possible to talk about defence and not mention Marcus Smart, who stood out when the team needed him and demonstrated why he deserved the defensive player of the year award.

They move on and have to face the Milwaukee Bucks, the reigning champions that managed to maintain a very strong and competitive team. Even though they have been able to prove many people wrong by showing that they are competitors. The next challenge will be much tougher as the Bucks have a great defence, a weakness of the Nets and possess a much better ball rotation. With Giannis Antetokoumpo to lead the Wisconsin franchise, this series will be a challenge for the Celtics.


Milwaukee Bucks vs Chicago Bulls


This was another straightforward series with the Bucks easily advancing to the next round (4-1). The Bulls were not able to stop Antetokoumpo as he was dominant with a massive scoring as well as some impressive dunks, it seemed to be impossible for Chicago to leave this series with a win. As a matter of fact, their second offensive star, Chris Middelton, got injured in game two and missed the rest of the series. However, the Bucks did not lose another game as role players had to step up and take some of the scoring load which Middelton held. The Bulls were able to score and DeRozan was able to shine, but they could not keep up with the pace established by Milwaukee.


The Bucks will move on to play against the Boston Celtics, not an easy matchup as they have been considered the team with the best defence in the league. With Chris Middelton out, other players will have to step up against the Celtics because if not all the load will fall on Antetokounmpo and the team will be easily defeated. Even though they are the favourites in this series.


Philadelphia 76ers vs Toronto Raptors


This was another series which looked straight forward and ended as most people expected, the 76ers moving on (4-2). Most people predicted the Sixers to go through and because of that, the most important part of this series was for James Harden to gain his form back and also some chemistry with the rest of the team. The series started well for Philadelphia as Joel Embiid was unstoppable with players like Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris participating more on the offence. hen everybody thought the series was over, the Raptors won two games and pulled it closer, which was thanks to their great defence and not letting Embiid get to the line as much. Although they started putting up a fight, the last game was an easy blowout that gave the Sixers a big confidence boost.


Their next matchup is the Miami Heat, and for this series most people expect the Heat to go through. hey have been playing very well and Eric Spoelstra has done an amazing job coaching. Even though they aren't the favourites, this series is expected to be tough as Embiid will face Bam Adebayo, a defensive player of the year candidate and will rely on other players for some of the scoring. For the Sixers to move on to the conference semifinals, it is essential that Harden goes back to his old form, blowing out opponents with step-back three pointers and amazing plays .


Phoenix Suns vs New Orleans Pelicans


This was supposed to be one of the easiest series in the first round, but ended up being one of the most competitive, as the Suns advanced relatively tightly (4-2). Due to the Pelicans not having one of their stars, Zion Williamson, and the Suns playing an amazing basketball that granted them the first seed, this series was expected to be easier. But with some great games from Brandon Ingram and Phoenix's all-star shooting guard being injured, the Pelicans were able to compete. At the end, the Suns were still able to advance and still expected to go far.


They will now face the Dallas Mavericks, being expected to progress. This series will be tough as they will have to stop Luka Dončić who has been unstoppable, and Jalen Brunson who has taken a big step forward. Their defence will have to improve from how they played in the first round if they want to go all the way.


Memphis Grizzlies vs Minnesota Timberwolves


This series was considered to be one of the most competitive series of the first round and did not disappoint, Grizzlies advanced (4-2). This series was extremely competitive as these are two teams with great offence but weaker defences and therefore, were expected to have high scoring games. These games were very entertaining as Ja Morant and Anthony Edwards went back and forth with great plays, and other players such as Desmond Bane and Karl Anthony Towns also had great games. Even though the Grizzlies progressed, this was an important advance for the Timberwolves as they proved they are building a team that can compete in the playoffs.


The Grizzlies demonstrated their class but to go further it is important for them to improve defensively. They will take on the Golden State Warriors in the second round, which is a very hard matchup as their guards have been unstoppable. For them to advance, it is essential that they allow the minimum amount of threes possible and slow down the guards from scoring.


Golden State Warriors vs Denver Nuggets


This Series was expected to be very competitive but ended up being an easy matchup for the Warriors, which easily took down the Nuggets (4-1). This series was very straightforward and simple on why the Nuggets were so overpowered by the Warriors, and that is because of their three guards, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole, who have been unstoppable throughout the series. Their rotation has been extremely good and Warriors's coach Steve Kerr has been extremely intelligent on when to play them, as through the rotation there was always one of the three on court during the games. The Warriors offence was just too much for the Nuggets, who leave disappointing their fans for not even putting up a fight.


After this series, the Warriors have proven themselves as legitimate contenders for the championship. Their next matchup is against the Memphis Grizzlies and they are the favourites in this series. If the team keeps playing to the level they did during the first round, they could go all the way and win another championship.


Dallas Mavericks vs Utah Jazz


This series was competitive but more was expected from the Utah Jazz as they were eliminated by the Mavericks and are going home (4-2). The Mavericks started the series with a big problem as their star, Luka Dončić, was injured for the first three games of the series, but luckily Spencer Dinwidie and Jalen Bruson took on the scoring load and were able to win two of the three. When the Slovenian came back, he took over and basically sealed Dallas's campaign in the series. Utah was very disappointing in the series as their stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert were not able to play well and were overwhelmed by the Mavericks defence. Most of the time the Jazz was forced into taking misleading and rushed shots.


This series proved that the Mavericks are a strong team and can actually go further than most expected in the playoffs. Their next matchup is the Phoenix Suns, a very well organised team which plays well together. It is important that Dončić keeps his form and they continue with the constant pressure on the defensive side so that they can beat Phoenix.


Summarising


Overall, this first round demonstrated what teams are the strongest and have the biggest chance of winning it all. The teams which have proven themselves as the biggest contenders and favourites are the Heat, Bucks, Warriors and the Suns. Other teams also demonstrated their class and all the second round matchups should be complicated and competitive.



Works Cited

“NBA Playoffs 2022: Complete First-Round Results, News and Highlights.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, 29 Apr. 2022, www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/33831476/nba-playoffs-2022-complete-first-round-results-news-highlights.


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