After a tough week of basketball between the NBA’s best 16 teams, Round 1 of the playoffs has come to an end. Here’s a recap of the eventful, injury-filled first round.
Starting in the Western Conference, the 1st seed Utah Jazz went up against the 8th seed Memphis Grizzlies. With an injury to the Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell in Game 1, the Grizzlies, led by Ja Morant and Dillion Brook’s 58 combined points, stole a game on the road. With a healthy Mitchell returning for Game 2, the Jazz went on to win, despite Morant’s 47 points. The rest of the series was controlled by Utah, and they went on to beat Memphis in 5 games.
The 2nd seed Phoenix Suns played the 7th seed, defending champion, Los Angeles Lakers. Lakers’ star Lebron James, healing from a high-ankle sprain, said “I don’t think I’ll ever get back to 100% in my career.” Up 33 points in the 3rd Quarter of Game 1, the Suns lost MVP candidate Chris Paul to a right shoulder injury. The Lakers followed with a huge run, but it wasn’t enough to stop their large deficit: they lost 99-90. In Game 2, the Lakers took over. Anthony Davis resurrected from a poor Game 1 and finished with 34 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists. In Game 3, Davis dominated again and finished with 34 points, giving the Lakers the 2-1 lead. In the 3rd Quarter of Game 4, Davis suffered a groin injury, which would limit him for the remainder of the series. Paul, however, pushed through his shoulder injury and led the Suns to the win in Game 4, tying the series 2-2. Suns’ shooting guard Devin Booker took charge in Game 5 and 6, scoring 30 and 40 points respectively, leading the Suns to their first playoff win since 2010, where they had lost to the Lakers.
In an action-packed 7 game series, the 3rd seed Denver Nuggets played the 6th seed Portland Trailblazers. The Nuggets were missing their superstar point guard Jamal Murray, who tore his ACL towards the end of the season. In Game 1, the Trailblazers, led by Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum’s 55 combined points, beat the Nuggets 123-109. In Games 2 and 3, the Nuggets were able to win behind MVP front runner Nikola Jokic’s 38 and 36 points, respectively, to be up 2-1. In Game 4, Norman Powell’s 29 points gave the Trailblazers the win. In Game 5, and in one of the greatest performances ever, Lillard dropped 55 points in a double-overtime thriller. He hit clutch shot after clutch shot, but McCollum stepped out of bounds when it mattered most, giving the Nuggets the 147-140 win. After that crushing loss, the Blazers went on to lose game 7, led by Jokic and Michael Porter Jr.’s 62 combined points. The Nuggets will face the Suns in the Western Conference Semifinals.
In another 7 game series, the 4th seed Los Angeles Clippers faced the 5th seed Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks stole Games 1 and 2 on the road, led by Luka Dončić’s 31 point triple-double and 39 point performance. The Clippers came to Dallas with vengeance, stealing two games back to win Games 3 and 4. In Game 4, Dončić suffered a neck strain. He didn’t let that stop him, though. Game 5 was dominated by his 42 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. contributed with 20 points. Down 3-2, the Clippers were facing elimination. 2x finals MVP Kawhi Leonard took over in Game 6 and 7, scoring 45 and 28 points respectively, and the Clippers won the series 4-3. This, also, was the first time in NBA playoff history that the home team lost all the home games in a 7-game series. The Clippers will now face the Jazz in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Moving onto the East, the 1st seed Philadelphia 76ers played the 8th seed Washington Wizards. The 76ers, led by MVP candidate Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris, were in charge of this series. In Game 1, they combined for 67 points. In Game 2, the bench played a big role, scoring 43 points and giving the starters some rest. In Game 3, Embiid and Harris combined for 56 points, giving the 76ers a 3-0 lead. In game 4, Embiid suffered a knee injury and the Wizards were able to win their elimination game. In Game 5, Embiid sat out, but Harris and Seth Curry combined for 58 points and Ben Simmons recorded a triple-double, eliminating the Wizards in 5 games.
The 2nd seed Brooklyn Nets faced the 7th seed Boston Celtics. This series was one-sided, led by Brooklyn’s Big 3: James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant. They combined for 82 points in Game 1, 61 points in Game 2, and 96 points in Game 3. In Game 3, however, Celtic’s All-Star Jayson Tatum scored 50 points to avoid getting swept. Tatum’s heroics weren’t enough to give the Celtics the win, as the Big 3 combined for 104 points in Game 4 and 83 points in Game 5. The Nets won the series 4-1.
The 3rd seed Milwaukee Bucks played the 6th seed Miami Heat. The Heat upset the Bucks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals last year, so the Bucks were looking to dominate. In Game 1, 2x league MVP Giannis Antentokumpo led the way with 26 points and 18 rebounds, but it was Khris Middleton’s game-winner in overtime that gave Milwaukee the 109-107 victory. From there, it was downhill for Miami. Their star forward Jimmy Butler played poorly and so did his supporting cast. Antetokounmpo continued to dominate the rest of the series, averaging 23.5 points, 15.0 rebounds, and 7.8 assists. The Bucks pulled off the first sweep of the postseason, beating the Heat 4-0. The Bucks will face the Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Lastly, the 4th seed New York Knicks faced the 5th seed Atlanta Hawks. The Knicks haven’t won a playoff game since 2013, so it was a big deal for them to come away with the victory. In Game 1, Hawks All-Star Trae Young finished with 32 points, 10 assists, and a win. In Game 2, despite Young’s 30 points, the Knicks ended their playoff drought with the win. Knicks’ Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau started former league MVP Derrick Rose, who struggled towards the end of the season, instead of Elfrid Payton. Rose’s leadership led the way and he finished with 26 points. The rest of the series, however, was all Young, who averaged 29.2 points and 9.8 assists in the series. This was the only series in which the lower-seeded team won. The Hawks won the series 4-1 and will play the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
These were some great first-round series with more to come. Which teams will make it to the Conference Finals? Answer the poll on our Instagram (@blakebeatnews). Stay tuned for the second round of the playoffs recap!