This weekend marked the end of the first round of the NBA 2022 playoffs, featuring marquee players like LeBron James, Damian Lillard and Kawhi Leonard. In the midst of these notable absences, the first round of the playoffs still featured the young stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and Ja Morant.
In the Western Conference matchup of the 1-seed Phoenix Suns versus the 8-seed New Orleans Pelicans, it saw the Suns taking the 4-2 series win behind the dominance of the pick-and-roll game of Chris Paul, with star guard Devin Booker being injured for a majority of the series.
In the matchup of the 5-seed Utah Jazz and the 4-seed Dallas Mavericks, it also came down to a 6-game series, with the Mavericks prevailing. The Mavericks, like the Suns, were met with the injury bug as their star point guard Luka Dončić was out the first couple of games in which backup point guard Jalen Brunson carried the load. This may end the regime of Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell as many point to sources saying the two have not meshed and will be looking to separate.
The 3-seed Golden State Warriors beat the Denver Nuggets in 5 games behind a quality team series. The Nuggets MVP center Nikola Jokić was not enough to overcome the firepower from Klay Thompson, Jordan Poole, Draymond Green and Stephen Curry.
The final Western Conference series had the 2-seed Memphis Grizzlies beating the 7-seed Minnesota Timberwolves in a 6-game series. The Grizzlies were led by the duo of young guards Ja Morant and Desmond Bane, while the Timberwolves stayed close in the series behind Karl-Anthony Towns, D’angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards.
The Eastern Conference had more lopsided series in the first round of the playoffs. Starting with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo on the 1-seed Miami Heat beating the 8-seed Atlanta Hawks, which featured a struggling Trae Young in the series.
The 4-seed Philadelphia 76ers beat the 5-seed Toronto Raptors in the longest series in the East, which went 6 games. Although the Raptors fell short, it was a great experience for their young core of Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Gary Trent Jr. and OG Anunoby. On the other hand, the 76ers will have an uphill battle trying to continue in the next series without their star center Joel Embiid.
The defending champion Milwaukee Bucks took care of the newly constructed Chicago Bulls team in 5 games. Antetokounmpo showed his playoff experience taking over the series game by game, while co-star Khris Middleton suffered an injury in the series that will keep him out for a significant portion of the series.
The last series of the first round featured the Boston Celtics sweeping the Brooklyn Nets. Many thought the Nets could pull off the first round upset since they were to feature the perennial stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. However, the young stars of the Celtics, like defensive player of the year Marcus Smart and all-star Jayson Tatum, were able to play sound defensive with efficient scoring.
With no upsets occurring in the first round of the playoffs, the big favorite to pull off the upset has to be the Bucks already up 1-0 in the second round and the Warriors, who are finally fully healthy this season.
A version of this article appeared on p.7 of the May 5, 2022 print edition of the Daily Nexus.