NBA Playoffs: Wild Round One


Jake Kauderer, Staff Writer

The first round of the NBA playoffs has ended with some results that almost nobody could have predicted. From a number one seed losing to a New York team winning a series for the first time since 2012, the first round was truly wild. 

The Milwaukee Bucks were the first seed in the Eastern Conference. The Miami Heat barely snuck into the playoffs after winning the play-in. The winner of this series seemed obvious. 

Game five took place on Wednesday night in Milwaukee, with the Bucks facing a 3-1 deficit after Butler scored 56 to help the Heat stun them in game 4. With the Bucks backs against the wall, they were 13.5-point favorites, as they were at home and had Giannis Antetkounmpo playing after previously missing a few games due to injury. The Heat stunned them in overtime with a 128-126 victory after Butler tied the game at the end of regulation on a falling away shot. Butler scored 42, while forward Bam Adebayo had a triple-double. For the Bucks, Khris Middleton scored 33, while Antetokounmpo scored 38 but missed critical free throws in overtime. The Heat have stunned the 2021 NBA champions and now move on to face the Knicks in an unlikely round-two clash. 

The New York Knicks defeated the Cavaliers four games to one, ending on Wednesday with a 106-95 Knicks win in Cleveland. The Knicks, led by Jalen Brunson, scored 23 points in the game-five victory. The Knicks’ defense stifled the dynamic Cavaliers frontcourt duo of Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, who finished with a combined 10 points in the loss. Cavaliers star Donovan Mitchell struggled heavily as he averaged just 23.2 points per game during the series, way down from his average of 28.3 during the regular season. The Knicks move on to face Jimmy Butler and the Heat as they seek their first conference finals appearance since 2000. 

The Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Brooklyn Nets in a clean sweep, winning game four 96-88 in Brooklyn. The Nets struggled mightily in what was a new team after stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were traded at the trade deadline. Tyrese Maxey had an excellent series for Philadelphia, averaging nearly 22 points per game during the series. 76ers star Joel Embiid was great when he played, but he sat out game four due to a knee injury, and his status for the next round is uncertain. As the 76ers search for their first conference finals appearance since 2001, they will need their MVP candidate back and healthy.

The second-seeded Boston Celtics defeated the Atlanta Hawks in game six in Atlanta, ending the series in six games. Trae Young and the Hawks gave Boston a run for their money, including an impressive game-five win that saw Young put up 38 points, 13 assists, and a game-winning three-point shot. However, in a game six that came down to the wire, the Celtics were too good for the Hawks. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown dominated with 32 and 30 points, respectively, and the Hawks’ offense struggled in the last few minutes of the fourth quarter. The Celtics’ quest to return to the NBA finals will continue as they face the rival 76ers, a team they have recently dominated in the playoffs.

The Denver Nuggets beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 112-109 in game five, securing the series win for Denver. Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards had a chance to send the game into overtime, but he missed a three-point shot. The number one seed Nuggets were tested but ultimately made it to the second round. MVP candidate Nikola Jokic averaged 26.2 points per game to go along with 12.4 rebounds per game during the series. Nuggets guard Jamal Murray was fantastic in his return to the playoffs after missing last season’s due to an injury, as he averaged 27.2 points per game in the series, including a 40-point outburst in game two. The Timberwolves are headed home despite some amazing performances from Anthony Edwards, while the Nuggets will face the Suns as they continue their quest for their first NBA championship.

The Phoenix Suns defeated a depleted Los Angeles Clippers team four games to one. The Clippers stole game one in Phoenix, but star Kawhi Leonard did not play in any game after game 2. The Clippers battled against Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and the Suns, but ultimately without Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, they were outmatched. Midseason acquisition Russell Westbrook was great for Los Angeles, as he averaged 23.6 points per game and 7.4 assists per game in the series. Even in game five, the Clippers fought hard, led by Norman Powell, who had 27 points, but the Suns’ star power was just too much. Devin Booker scored an absurd 47 points, Kevin Durant had 31 points, and center Deandre Ayton had 21 points and 11 rebounds. The Suns will play the Nuggets next as Booker will look to continue his torrid scoring pace after averaging 37.2 points per game in the series versus Los Angeles.

On paper, the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Memphis Grizzlies four games to two in what was an upset, but many thought would happen. The Lakers, finally healthy, have Lebron James and Anthony Davis to go along with a solid supporting cast. The Lakers won game one and never looked back, winning game six by a whopping 40 points to seal the series. James averaged around 22 points per game in the series. Midseason acquisition D’Angelo Russell scored 31 points in game six to help the Lakers put away the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies will go into the offseason searching for answers as they come up short in the playoffs again, while the Lakers fly high into round two. 

The sixth-seeded defending champion Golden State Warriors defeated the Sacramento Kings. The Kings made the playoffs for the first time since 2006, led by De’aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis. While the Kings, at one point, had a two-to-zero series lead, the defending champions were a little too experienced. In game seven in Sacramento, Warriors star Stephen Curry went off for 50 points, the first time a player scored 50 in game seven. Kevon Looney finished with 21 rebounds in a big game for the Warriors’ big man. The Warriors advance to face Lebron James and the Lakers while the Kings look to continue to develop a contending team for next season.

Overall, the first round of the playoffs can be described as something out of the ordinary. For the first time, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and eight seeds have all advanced to the second round. So far, the NBA playoffs have been something else.