After an exciting first round of the NBA playoffs inside the Orlando Bubble which saw the 1 seeds both lose their first games, 3 sweeps, a game 7 and Luka Doncic taking the Clippers to 6 games, the madness has only continued to shape one of the best playoff’s that the NBA has seen in years.
Firstly, the Rockets take game 1 against the Lakers just days after they fought past the motivated OKC Thunder, pushing the Lakers to 0-2 in Game 1’s this playoffs. But, in true GOAT fashion, LeBron James and LA displayed some of the best offence that has been seen all year. With outlet passes to a running AD and Alex Caruso, Hitting Danny Green in the Corner, and motion offence like no other, Frank Vogel and the Lakers are on a roll and went on to win the next 4 games straight to advance to the Western Conference Finals.
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The Milwaukee Bucks finished on top of the east and also lead the NBA with the best record during the regular season, but were seemed to have a challenge within the Miami Heat coming into this playoffs, as the Heat were the only team in the league to beat the Bucks in their regular season series. Sure enough, the Heat came out all guns blazing and shocked the Bucks taking the first two games against the leagues best regular season team. With Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic leading the charge, rookie Tyler Herro, All-Star Bam Adebayo and Duncan Robinson showed their elite positional skills and were simply outclassing the Bucks. With the reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo going down in game 2, therefore not playing in game 3, the Bucks were adamant to not drop anymore games, and surged to a game 3 win. Although, this was not enough to stop the Heat and they continued their impressive playoff run winning the series 4-1, improving their playoff record to 8-1, and reaching the conference finals for the first time since 2014 when LeBron James was there. The Heat also become one of the first 5 seeds to reach the conference finals, a great feat for the hot Heat.
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Whilst the each conference having 1 representative already ready to play, the next two series were in the heat of battle, having 2 game 7’s further escalating these playoffs to be even more great.
The defending champion Raptors came up against the Celtics in a 7 game series which came down to the wire and was nothing short of exciting. With the Raptors OG Anouby’s winning shot in game 2 to even the series after the Celtics took game 1, the series was only just beginning. Game 5 saw the Celtics win by 22, whilst brilliance from Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet saw the Raptors avoid elimination and force a game 7 after a 3 point game 6 win. Game 7 saw the now Eastern confrence favourite Raptors stars crumble in the limelight, and a gallant 29 point effort from Jayson Tatum pushed the Celtics through to the Eastern Confrence Finals to face the Miami Heat.
Coming into this series 2 days after battling the Utah Jazz in a game 7 spectacle, the Denver Nuggets were expected to be tired, and coming up against the championship favourites, the Nuggets had their work cut out for them. Game 1 saw Kawhi Leonard 29 point performance smash the Nuggets, taking the game 120-97, with slow performances from all of the Nuggets stars and shaping what we thought was going to be a long, long series for Denver, but not for long. The Nuggets took game 2 by 9 points on the back of Jamal Murrays 27 points and Nikola Jokic's 26 points whilst the Clippers struggled from the field all night long. In Game 3 and 4 in this series the Clippers showed their ability to close games which makes them such a threat deep in the playoffs, winning both games to take a commanding 3-1 lead, 1 win away from meeting the Lakers in the Western Conference finals. But, the Nuggets had other plans. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray put on an absolute show in game 5 and 6 coming back from a 16 point deficit in both games, pushing themselves to their second 7 game series these playoffs. The decider in game 7 saw both teams come out hot, shooting the ball excellent from 3 and playing tenacious defense. Going into half time, the Clippers had a 2 point lead, but a 28-10 point quarter pushed the Nuggets to the lead and from there they didn’t allow the Clippers to come back at all. Taking game 7 in stunning fashion and winning their second game 7 series after being down 3-1 in both for this playoffs, they have left no room for error from their opponents for the rest of the playoffs. Jamal Murray stated that Nikola Jokic is the ‘best player in the league’ after their series win on the back of the 25 year old's excellent series winning performances in the last 3 games. The Nuggets now meet LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Confrence Finals to fight for a spot in the NBA Finals.
With the Bucks knocked out of playoff contention, the NBA is rocked. The 1 and 2 seeds within the East have both failed to make it to the Conference finals and when either the Celtics or Heat make it out, its going to be seen as an amazing effort from both teams.
The Clippers shock loss to the Nuggets has prompted a great discussion about the arrogance within the Clippers organisation as a whole and the majority of high-level analysts are seriously concerned for the jobs of people within coaching roles.
The Lakers are now the favourite to win the NBA Championship as their run home seems quite easy, although with Denver’s comeback presence, the Heat’s momentum and the Celtics teamwork shown through the first 2 rounds, anything can happen.