The regular NBA Season is over, and we’re now at the tail end of the current campaign. Before this all started, the Los Angeles Lakers were favorites to go all the way with LeBron James expected to help them claim back-to-back championship titles.
However, things don’t always happen as we expect. And no matter what the NBA odds are for any team, they don’t mean that the favorites are guaranteed to win. Which is what happened in the first round of the Playoffs this year. And we’ll look further into that shortly as we recap how Round One of the Playoffs unfolded.
But first, let’s just go over the format of the Playoffs.
How are the Playoffs contested?
For those not too familiar with how the Playoffs work, here’s a quick lesson. There are 30 teams in the NBA in total, split into two conferences, East and West. Of those teams, the 16 top ranked sides go to compete in the Playoffs and the other 14 get to go on their jolly holidays.
Of the teams who make it, they will each be given a seed that determines which teams face each other. The higher your seed, the better your team in terms of ranking.
The teams who make it all the way, will have to get through four rounds of the Playoffs, which includes the finals. The teams who face each other will compete in a best-of-7 series, essentially meaning, the first team to 4 wins progresses, with the loser being ejected from the tournament until the following season starts.
The minimum number of games that can be contested during the playoffs if everyone just wins their games 4-0, is 60. However, if everyone takes their series down to the final game, the Playoffs can consist of up to 105 games.
Now that we know how they work, let’s revisit the first round of the playoffs and begin by looking at who faced off against each other.
Milwaukee Bucks vs Miami Heat was the first game that kicked off Round One of the Playoffs, and it was an excellent game to get things started. A closely contested battle, the teams went to OT where the Bucks won right at the death by the narrowest of margins 109-107.
The second game between these two sides was nowhere near as close, with the Bucks absolutely dominating to take the series to 2-0 with a 132-98 victory. They’d then go on to make it a clean 4-0 sweep as they took the third game 84-113 and the fourth 103-120.
Los Angeles Clippers vs Dallas Mavericks was a much closer contest though, taking all 7 games to decide the winner. It started in Game 1 with the Mavericks beating the Clippers 113-103, then extending their series lead to 2-0 with a 121-127 victory. But the clippers came back with 2 wins on the bounce of their own, winning Game 3 108-118, and Game 4 81-106.
The Mavericks then went on to win Game 5 100-105 by a narrow margin of 5 points, before the Clippers levelled the series once more in Game 6 winning 97-104. But despite the Mavericks being in the lead for most of the series, it was the Clippers who ended up taking it 4-3 with a convincing 126-111 win in the final game.
Brooklyn Nets vs Boston Celtics wasn’t a clean sweep like when the Bucks beat the Heat, but it wasn’t as close as the Clippers vs Mavericks either. As expected, the Nets with “the big three” went on to win the series, just dropping a single game to go through to the conference semifinals 4-1.
Denver Nuggets vs Portland Trail Blazers was another close series again, as both sides pushed each other to the limit. This was one of the ties that going into the Playoffs could’ve easily gone either way. But ultimately, it would be Denver who persevered by claiming a 4-2 series win over their competition.
Philadelphia 76ers vs Washington Wizards ended up just like the Nets and Celtics. The favorites going into it were the 76ers, and they really should have had a clean sweep like the Bucks, but a poor showing saw them drop a game to Washington. But they won’t mind too much having flown through to the next round with a 4-1 series win.
Phoenix Suns vs Los Angeles Lakers was the upset of the Playoffs. Never had LeBron James exited the Playoffs in the first round in his entire career, that was until the Lakers took on the Suns in 2021. Now, the Lakers have had an injury hit season, and weren’t quite at full strength. But when you have a play of James’ quality, you normally expect to get through the first round at least.
But the Suns had some excellent games against the Lakers, who themselves managed to bag a couple of wins. But in the end, Phoenix just proved too strong for LeBron and the Lakers to contain as they dropped out 4-2.
New York Knicks vs Atlanta Hawks ended much like many of the other games, with a 4-1 victory in the way of the favorites going into the series. That of course was the Atlanta Hawks. But at the end of Game 2 the series was tied, and for a while, the Knicks would’ve believed they had a chance. But after regrouping and going again in Games 3, 4 and 5, the hawks were having none of it and dominated each and every game.
Utah Jazz vs Memphis Grizzlies were the final tie in Round One of the Playoffs. Utah were one of the favorites to go all the way this year, not necessarily THE favorites, but they have a decent team and had a good fixture list over the course of the scheduled season. And as many had tipped them to do so, they won their series convincingly 4-1.
The conference semifinals
Of the teams who progressed, here’s who they were to face in the next round:
- Brooklyn Nets vs Milwaukee Bucks
- Philadelphia 76ers vs Atlanta Hawks
- Phoenix Suns vs Denver Nuggets
- Utah Jazz vs Los Angeles Clippers
The games are underway now, but we won’t spoil them for you yet in case you’ve missed a game or too.