Early Take-Aways from the Playoffs
The first weekend of Round 1 of the NBA playoffs is done, and we learned a few things. Here’s the biggest takeaway from each of the 8 games
Utah Jazz vs Dallas Mavericks: 99–93 Utah Wins
The biggest and most obvious thing to note was that the Mavericks really miss having Luka Doncic out there, but we already knew that. The next thing that jumped out to me is that while Donovan Mitchell looks ready to see some more playoff success, this team may not have a deep run in them. They’ve had disappointing ends to their seasons lately and rumors continue swirling that another untimely exit could lead to a revamping of the roster this off-season. Spida Mitchell came out firing, going off for 32 points, but it was an inefficient one. Even with Dallas missing their star player, Utah was barely able to pull out the victory. Hopefully, things will change moving forward. We’ll have to see how things look in Game 2 on Monday.
Minnesota Timberwolves vs Memphis Grizzlies: 130–117 Minnesota Wins
This series has the potential to be incredible and the biggest takeaway here was the start of a theme for the day: the young guys came to play! Minnesota is a more formidable opponent than many thought and Memphis seems to have been on the wrong side of that on Saturday afternoon. The most eye-popping performance of the night came from second-year man Anthony Edwards. In his playoff debut, he scored a loud 36 points on 12/23 (52.2%) shooting. He was motivated by this rowdy crowd, and I expect the rest of the series to stay highly competitive, with tons of trash talking from both teams and fans.
Toronto Raptors vs Philadelphia 76ers: 111–131 Philadelphia Wins
Many had pegged this series as a potential upset spot and the others hoped it would give James Harden a chance to keep a rhythm going for the post-season alongside Joel Embiid. Scottie Barnes’ injury, though without any evidenced structural damage thus far, may take the wind out of Toronto’s proverbial sails. For Philadelphia, the biggest story was Tyrese Maxey. Another young player came out ready to play, with 38 points and looking like the clear second-best player on the team (sorry James Harden, you had your chance). In fairness to Harden, he did still play decently albeit inefficiently with a 22–5–14 stat line. The ultimate success for this team will of course rely on Embiid’s level of play and health. If Maxey can continue playing at a high level, at least they won’t have to rely on consistent production from James Harden.
Denver Nuggets vs Golden State Warriors: 107–123 Golden State Wins
All season long, there has been discussion on whether Jordan Poole can officially be the third “Splash Brother”, and with his latest submission in his first playoff game, he’s cemented that status. To cap off day 1 of the playoffs and a day full of young talent popping off the TV screen, Jordan Poole scored 30 points, good for 2nd most in a playoff debut in Warrior's franchise history. His 5-three pointers also broke the previous record by Stephen Curry himself for most made 3-pointers in a Warriors playoff debut as well. Poole’s excellent play all season has allowed the team to stay afloat through injuries and now the hope will be that while Curry finds his way back from the most recent injury, he will do the same again.
Atlanta Hawks vs Miami Heat: 91–115 Miami Wins
Many people got caught up in the intrigue of the Atlanta Hawks. They made an unexpected run to the Eastern Conference Finals just a year ago, but this season they were a 10-seed for a reason while Miami was the number 1 seed in the East. I expect Atlanta to put up a much bigger fight in the upcoming games, but today Miami re-established why they were the best team in the East for the regular season. Their defensive versatility in particular was on full display, holding Trae Young to a measly 8 points on 8.3% shooting (yes, you read that right). I hope to see a lot more competitive games come with plenty of intense moments, like what we already saw in this game.
Brooklyn Nets vs Boston Celtics: 114–115 Boston Wins
This game matched the exact energy of what I hoped for. Jayson Tatum and Kevin Durant were going back and forth for a while. Kyrie Irving was getting into it with the Boston crowd and had an incredible showing. Marcus Smart continued to play DPOY-level defense. To top it all off, we got an incredible defensive possession from Boston capped off by a Jayson Tatum buzzer-beater. Tatum poured in 31 points tonight, hitting shots over Kevin Durant and consistently sizing up the opposition before knocking down big shots. One of his most notable sequences involved him blocking Kevin Durant’s jumper before going down to the other end to hit a big 3. This is going to be an incredible series and I’m just glad that we get up to 6 more of these.
Chicago Bulls vs Milwaukee Bucks: 86–93 Milwaukee Wins
This game did a few different things for me as a Bulls fan. To start off the game down 9–0, I immediately went to a place of “doom and gloom”, feeling like we had this entire regular season full of hope for no reason. Eventually, the team showed some fight and clawed their way back into it and even having taken the lead deep into the 2nd half. Unfortunately, what stuck out to me was the playoff experience of this Milwaukee Bucks team. Even after blowing a 16-point lead, they remained poised coming out on top. When they finally sealed up the victory down the stretch, Giannis had actually been out in the closing moments, only making it back onto the court once the game was essentially out of reach. This Bulls team is not quite ready yet, but hopefully in due time that will come. Milwaukee still looks poised to go deep in the post-season.
New Orleans Pelicans vs Phoenix Suns: 99–110 Phoenix Wins
THE PHOENIX SUNS ARE THE BEST TEAM IN THE NBA! I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, this team is ready to go and hit the ground running tonight. New Orleans showed why they have been playing so well since their acquisition of CJ McCollum, but ultimately it wasn’t enough. The Suns were firing on all cylinders tonight, even though they took their foot off the gas for some time, with their big 3 on cruise control. CP3 is on a mission, Devin Booker has the Mamba Mentality working at full force, and DeAndre Ayton just wants to remind everyone that Phoenix didn't give him his contract extension this past off-season as they should have. Phoenix will look to keep it going on their quest to win the championship this season.