In the 2022 NBA playoffs, the underdogs have managed to climb out of the Western Conference while the Eastern Conference features the top two seeds. The Eastern Conference finals will be a matchup of the No. 1 seed Miami Heat versus the No. 2 seed Boston Celtics. On the other side, the Western Conference finals will be a matchup of the No. 3 seed Golden State Warriors versus the No. 4 seed Dallas Mavericks.
Starting with the biggest underdogs, the Mavericks were in another tough battle with the Phoenix Suns following their series with the Utah Jazz. This was the battle of the star guards, with Devin Booker from the Suns and Luka Dončić from the Mavericks. The Mavericks were relentless in this series, first battling back from a 0-2 deficit in the series and then a 2-3 deficit. In the end, the Mavericks put on a rout in Game 7 with the final score being 123-90, with Chris Paul and Booker being nonfactors in the play for the Suns. However, it is worth noting that it was announced after the series finale that Paul had been dealing with an injury throughout the series.
The other Western Conference semifinals game dealt with injuries, as the Warriors’ defensive guard Gary Payton II was hurt in Game 1 while the Grizzlies’ young star Ja Morant was hurt in Game 3, forcing him to miss the rest of the series. With the Grizzlies already down 1-2 when Morant hit the shelf, the Warriors capitalized on this opportunity, winning a narrow Game 4 to go up 3-1 in series. Then, after getting blown out by the Grizzlies in Game 5, the Warriors returned the favor, cruising to an easy Game 6 victory to close the series.
In the Eastern Conference semifinal matchup between the Heat and the Philadelphia 76ers, another key player was dealing with an injury: Joel Embiid with a facial fracture. With Embiid’s restrictions on the court, the Heat raced out to a 2-0 series lead behind their star guard Jimmy Butler. Back on their home court, the 76ers were able to tie up the series behind efforts from their newly acquired guard James Harden running the offense. Their comeback proved to be short-lived, as the Heat took the next two games in dominant fashion, winning Game 5 by 35 points and holding the 76ers to 90 points in Game 6.
In the last series, although the higher-seeded Boston Celtics beat the Milwaukee Bucks, most still favored the defending champion Bucks to come away with the series victory. Giannis Antetokounmpo tried his best to get the Bucks into the conference finals, averaging 33.9 points, 14.7 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game. Without his all-star guard Khris Middleton, Antetokounmpo found that the barrier of the Celtics proved to be too much, as Jayson Tatum provided the kryptonite to thwart the Bucks’ attempt to repeat as champions.
It will be the battle of positions in the conference finals as Butler and Tatum will go head-to-head at the forward position, and Stephen Curry and Dončić will each orchestrate their offenses against each other