NBA Playoffs Worth Remembering

With the first round of the NBA playoffs wrapping up, it’s time to see what happened in the eight playoff series and what storylines emerged.

NBA Playoffs Worth Remembering

Alexander McCrystal, Journalist


NBA Playoffs Worth Remembering 


With the first round of the NBA playoffs wrapping up, it’s time to see what happened in the eight playoff series and what storylines emerged.

4) Philadelphia 76ers Vs. (5) Toronto Raptors 

    Philadelphia Wins Series In Six Games

This was a series that was anticipated to be close and hard-fought. Joel Embiid, James Harden, and Tyrese Maxey headline a Sixers team that underwent a massive roster overhaul after last year’s failure. On the other side, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet headline a gritty and determined young Raptors team trying to prove they are the real deal even without the stars that brought them a championship in 2019. Both teams have a ceiling that isn’t well known but their potential is very high which made the series hotly anticipated. While, yes there was a lot of adversity and it got pretty interesting towards the end of the series. It was very apparent that the Sixers had the better players and more talent than the Raptors, which was ultimately the deciding factor in the series. The Sixers dominated the first two games in Philly, with Tyrese Maxey dropping an astounding 38 points in game one and Joel Embiid dominating the Raptors in Game 2. Both of these games were convincing blowouts. Despite this, Toronto was nowhere near out of this series and the game that would truly turn the tide of the series would be Game 3. Game 3 of this series was a classic game, one that was back-and-forth, with each team delivering punch after punch. The x-factor was Joel Embiid being the best player in the building. He dominated the second half as he dismantled Toronto’s constant double teaming and led the Sixers to overtime. The Sixers overcame a 17 point deficit and never held a lead in the entire 48 minutes of regulation, yet still managed to force overtime. This overtime was without James Harden who fouled out in the waning seconds of regulation. All of this culminated in both teams being tied with 2.9 seconds left in overtime. The Sixers had .9 seconds of shot clock to prevent a second overtime and win the game with an out of bounds play. They ran a masterful game winning play, which came off a Tobias Harris screen to open up Embiid for an open look at a turn-around three pointer at the buzzer, which he promptly drilled to give the Sixers a 3-0 series lead. No team in NBA history has ever come back and won a series when in a 3-0 deficit, and the Raptors were no exception to that rule. The Raptors gutted out two wins in Game 4 and 5 with great performances from Gary Trent Jr. and Pascal Siakam and shaky showings by Embiid, Maxey, and Harden at points. Despite making things uncomfortable for the Sixers, the better team ended up winning. Behind a masterclass from the entire Sixers starting lineup, the Sixers closed out the Toronto Raptors in Game 6 after an absolutely thrashing by Sixers in the second half. Joel Embiid and the Sixers got their revenge from the Game 7 defeat at the hands of Kawhi Leanord’s Raptors and managed to move on to the second round. 


(2) Boston Celtics Vs. (7) Brooklyn Nets 

Boston Wins Series In Four Game Sweep 


Perhaps the most hotly anticipated series ended up being the most surprising and disappointing series. The matchup of Boston stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown vs the Brooklyn stars of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant was the only sweep in the entire first round, which was a shocking conclusion to a series many saw ending in six or seven games due to their equal amount of firepower. The biggest difference in this series was the Boston Celtics’ suffocating defense on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, which forced the Nets supporting players to take more shots, which they could not consistently hit. Boston’s superstar Jayson Tatum was spectacular on defense and offense, highlighted by his buzzer-beating game winning layup in Game 1 which set the tone for the rest of the series. This was coupled with the notorious absence of Brooklyn’s newly acquired All-Star point guard Ben Simmons sitting out the series for very questionable reasons.The takeaway from this series is that even if Brooklyn had more talent overall, they didn’t play well as a team and Boston’s offensive chemistry and defense trumped the superstar talent of the Nets.


(1) Miami Heat Vs. (8) Atlanta Hawks 

Miami Wins Series In Five Games 


Jimmy Butler and the top seeded Miami Heat faced off against the crafty point guard Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks this year were not the same team that made the Eastern Conference Finals last year, even with an almost identical roster, they simply have not developed and made the leap that they were project ot make after last season‘s success. The Hawks are almost exclusively reliant on the torrid scoring of Trae Young and their success depends on his success. The Miami Heat had the top seed for a reason, with their identity of constant ball movement and shooting on offense and suffocating team defense on the other end. The biggest factor in Miami winning the series was their defense on Trae Young, as they put him in a straight jacket while they made him have the worst performances of his career. With Young’s scoring drying up, his supporting cast failing succeed in their roles, and Clint Capela and John Collins being hindered by injury, the Hawks were never a math for Miami’s well oiled machine. The Hawks managed to take one game off of a masterful De’Andre Hunter performance and Trae Young’s game winner. But in the end the Heat were simply the better team with Jimmy Butler taking over to bring the Heat victory in five games. 


    (3) Milwaukee Bucks Vs. (6) Chicago Bulls 

    Milwaukee Wins Series In Five Games 


The reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks faced off against the hobbled and reeling Chicago Bulls. The Bulls had fallen off from their torrid start to the regular season, with a terrible defense but a really solid offense headed by stars DeMar DeRozan, Zach Lavine, and Nikola Vucevic. However they were only able to muster a Game 2 win against the Bucks off the back of a dominant performance from DeMar DeRozan.  Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday overcame a major injury to their star Khris  Middleton to shut down the Bulls with amazing team defense and chemistry. The Bulls’ point guard Lonzo Ball was out of the series and Alex Caruso and Zach Lavine were also not at full health. Both teams were injured in some capacity, but the Bulls simply couldn’t match the superstar talent and championship DNA of Giannis and the Bucks. The Bucks convincingly handled the Bulls in five games.

Second Round Eastern Conference Matchups:  


  • Miami Heat Vs. (4) Philadelphia 76ers
  • Boston Celtics Vs. (3) Milwaukee Bucks 


Western Conference 

    (1) Phoenix Suns Vs. (8) New Orleans Pelicans 

    Phoenix Wins Series In Six Games 


This series was expected to be a very easy win for the Suns, who had the best regular season record in the NBA and was the best overall season in franchise history. However, the New Orleans Pelicans came in on a hot streak after winning two play-in games to grab the eight seed. The series looked like it would be a cakewalk for the Suns until All-Star Guard Devin Booker injured his hamstring, which took him out until game six. This gave the Pelicans a golden opportunity to steal some games over arguably the best team in the NBA. Brandon Ingram showed out, averaging around 30 points per game in his playoff debut. The Pelicans also got significant contributions from the recently acquired CJ McCullom and rookie sensations Herbert Jones and Jose Alvarado. The Pelicans were miraculously able to take two games off a team they were expected to be swept by. However, the Suns were the best team in the west for a reason and used legendary performances from Chris Paul to propel them to victory. Chris Paul went an astounding 13-13 on shots in the close out Game 6 and Devin Booker provided clutch buckets in his return to win the series in six.


    (2) Memphis Grizzlies Vs. (7) Minnesota Timberwolves 

    Memphis Wins Series In Six Games 


This series was pegged as one of the best in the first round, featuring two of the best young teams on the rise. Both teams feature young rising stars. For Memphis, Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, and Jarred Jackson Jr. lead their team, while for Minnesota, Karl Anthony-Towns, Anthony Edwards, and D’angelo Russel highlight their young rising core. This series was one where Minnesota won everything but the games. The TImberwolves held multiple double digit leads and continually blew those leads in spectacular fashion. They even blew 20 point leads twice in one game. This series was lost by Minnesota more than it was won by Memphis. There was really only one great Ja Morant game, which came with a game-winning buzzer-beating layup in Game 5. The Timberwolves continually showed their inexperience and youth in their horrific collapses and couldn’t win despite shutting down superstar Ja Morant in most games. In the end, Memphis executed on a higher level and made the right plays in the right spots, which can’t be said of Minnesota. All of this resulted in a polarizing win for Memphis in a series that they very easily could’ve lost.


(3) Golden State Warriors Vs. (6) Denver Nuggets 

Golden State Wins In Five Games


Steph Curry and the Warriors faced off against the reigning and new MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets. While that sounds like a great matchup, this series was really never all that close. The Warriors at full health are a buzzsaw and easily dismantled the hobbled Nuggets. The Nuggets were missing their second and third best players in Jamal Murray and Micheal Porter Jr and could only ride their MVP Nikola Jokic to one win in Game 4 to avoid a sweep. Jordan Poole and Steph Curry absolutely torched the horrific Denver defense. Once the Warriors used their best lineup, known as the death lineup, the Nuggets were finished. This lineup consisted of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Jordan Poole, and Andrew Wiggins. The death lineup of the Warriors was able to put away the Nuggets swiftly in five games.


(4) Dallas Mavericks Vs. (5) Utah Jazz

Dallas Wins In Six Games 


The Utah Jazz have disappointed yet again in the playoffs, failing to beat an injured Dallas team who missed their superstar Luka Doncic for the first three games of the series. Jalen Brunson and Maxi Kleber absolutely torched the Mavericks, putting up career numbers against a defense that features the three-time Defensive Player of the Year in Rudy Gobert. Utah failed to play any semblance of perimeter defense and let Dallas pile on three-pointer after three-pointer. Utah never adjusted defensively, continuously failing to make the correct rotations which let Dallas pick apart their defense effortlessly. The Jazz couldn’t rely on their elite offensive with Donavon Mitchell and their shooters going cold at points and failing to pick apart a hobbled Mavericks squad. Once Luka Doncic returned with a 2-1 series lead, it was basically over for the Jazz, who couldn’t shut down the superstar whatsoever. Utah’s failure to adjust and play consistently on both sides of the ball were a massive disappointment for a team with high expectations. Dallas took advantage of Utah’s glaring issues and made key plays in Game 6 down the stretch to win the series.


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