The NBA playoffs first round is a wrap after Cavs vs Pacers game 7 as we are now down to last 8 teams standing for their quest of a championship. Let’s breakdown what happened in the 1st round with different teams as conference semifinals awaits.
●Toronto Raptors vs Washington Wizards:
This series brought an end to another up and down Wall-Beal wizards season and was a perfect example of why they are unable to land a big-time free agent. The season had all kind of drama, issues in locker room along with the injuries. Wizards front office now has a lot of things to sort as we again witnessed Wall and Beal’s inability to win big games and lead the way. This series could have gone either way and was close throughout. Toronto’s bench depth was the real key for them as they showed up big time again, like in the regular season, when it was needed the most. Coach Dwayne Casey has to be pleased with the defensive efforts of the team. But, he would like to see more from their star duo of Lowry and DeRozan as they are really capable of pushing a gear ahead. They will face LeBron James and the Cavs in the 2nd round as they look to avenge their losses from past seasons.
●Philadelphia 76ers vs Miami Heat
This was one of the most physical 1st round series. A pure display of heart and confidence was shown by both the teams as 76ers showed the temperament to take the series and advance to 2nd round. Heat came out with the old physical Pat Riley style of basketball against the young 76ers, who remained unfazed. Heat would be disappointed with the disappearance of Hassan Whiteside who was their key. Dwayne Wade brought back his younger self but it wasn’t enough. Ben Simmons and Joel Embid led their team to an impressive win. JJ Reddick, Belinelli, Covington, Ilyasova and Saric also made big shots down the stretch making it a collective team performance. They are now fully confident to face the Celtics, who are without their two superstars, in the 2nd round.
●Boston Celtics vs Milwaukee Bucks
Celtics may be short-handed due to injuries, but they sure have bigger determination than any other teams. No one would have predicted them to win this series with Kyrie and Hayward out, but Celtics were really impressive. They deserve what they have achieved and credit goes to the whole unit. Brad Stevens continuous to show us his excellence in the coaching department as he brought out the best of every player. Rozier, Tatum, Brown, Morris, Horford, Baynes with every other player showed up to fulfil their role which was provided to them. Bucks on the other hand were as disappointing. Giannis showed up every night but wasn’t as dominant as we are used to see him in the regular season. Parker, Middleton, Bledsoe, Maker and the cast are also to blame. The Celtics were short of their best players and they still lost which seems really concerning. This was a perfect opportunity for them to advance, but they were sent back home. Celtics will face the 76ers in the 1st round which would be a tough ask for them.
●Cleveland Cavaliers vs Indiana Pacers
Pacers were remarkably great this series and clearly were a better team all around. But, this is when LeBron James came in. LeBron averaged 35-12-8 in the series playing over 40 minutes all the 7 games, to dig his team out of a potential early exit. Nate McMillan outcoached Tyronn Lue the entire series as Pacers with contribution from Oladipo, Stephenson, Turner, Sabonis, Bogdanovic, Collison and Joseph nearly brought LeBron to the brink of elimination in the 1st round for the 1st time in his career. Cavs supporting cast was struggling to execute offensively, most of which was clearly due to coaching staffs not putting players in the right position to succeed. Positive for Cavs as they go to face Toronto will be their improved defense. Of course, Raptors are going to be tough for LeBron this year as they are better from past years and LeBron has the worst crew around him in past 7 years.
●Golden State Warriors vs San Antonio Spurs
Warriors completely obliterated the Spurs again this year in the absence of Kawhi Leonard. Kawhi didn’t show up to support his team from the bench as well. Spurs were having lack of production again against the Warriors as whatever they were throwing up, just wasn’t enough. Vintage Manu Ginobili showed up again and also Lamarcus Aldridge had a better series than last year, but Warriors just erased all the doubts concerning their performance without Steph Curry. Curry is projected to be back in the 2nd round against Pelicans as Warriors are now looking like a real contender heading to New Orleans. Everybody looks fresh and in rhythm. Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and the supporting cast showed up without any rust and are on a mission.
●Portland Trail Blazers vs New Orleans Pelicans
This was a shocker of a series for Trail Blazers as this was the only 1st round sweep. New Orleans completely outplayed them in all departments and sent Portland back home in 4. Damian Lillard had a horrendous series as he was in all sorts of trouble against Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo. CJ McCollum also had an under par series as the backcourt got outplayed by the Pelicans duo. Anthony Davis was a monster again as expected but Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday stepping up was the key for them. They matched up well against Portland and did a great job shutting Lillard and McCollum. Production on the offensive end was consistent too. Pelicans now look forward to have the level of production from their guys against the Warriors.
●Oklahoma City Thunder vs Utah Jazz
A disappointing season continued for Thunder as they were knocked out by Jazz in 6 games. Paul George and Carmelo Anthony were inconsistent again and nothing changed for Thunder in the playoffs. They got outplayed in the coaching department and execution for their game plan as the big 3 experiment failed miserably. Rookie Donovan Mitchell played like a superstar in this series taking all the responsibilities and led his team to a great series win. Ricky Rubio, Ingles, Crowder and Gobert also had a great series. Jazz was one of the great teams in the defensive side of the floor in this 1st round of the playoffs. They face Houston in next round and will need every bit of defensive efficiency they had in this round.
●Houston Rockets vs Minnesota
Houston Rockets completely inserted their will on Minnesota to take this series in 5. Karl Anthony Towns was a no show in this series. Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins also didn’t perform up to their potentials. Derrick Rose did show up but his role was never increased in the team. On the other hand, Houston would be happy with the start of the playoffs. James Harden and Chris Paul were terrific again and their different type offense continued to work out in the playoffs. The key to them was their other guys hitting shots, who positively did perform the jobs when it was needed. They had all the positives to take away from this series as they face the confident Jazz team in the next round.