The 2022 NBA playoffs begin Sat Apr 16. First round matchups are as follows …
(1) Heat vs. (8) Hawks
(2) Celtics vs. (7) Nets
(3) Bucks vs. (6) Bulls
(4) 76ers vs. (5) Raptors
(1) Suns vs. (8) Pelicans
(2) Grizzlies vs. (7) Wolves
(3) Warriors vs. (6) Nuggets
(4) Mavericks vs (5) Jazz
One week in the playoffs are shaping up as follows with these being the top stories …
1. Booker has a hamstring pull putting the Suns’s first round hopes to the test just as the 8th place Pelicans surge without Zion suited up. Pelicans have played outstanding defense in their first 2 games vs. Suns, and between McCollum and Ingram there appears to be scoring when they need it as well. Right now (before the 3rd game) this series is almost a toss up as long as Booker is out. The Suns should still have the edge, because of depth and overall talent especially in the middle.
2. Nets are losing 0-2 to the Celtics who have looked scary-good defensively in their first 2 games in Boston. Nets have had their chances though, with Kyrie doing his thing and Drummond looking like an immovable force down low when he’s in. But KD hasn’t shot well, and it’s clear that Boston is the reason for that. Even he says so! The series comes to Brooklyn for the 3rd game however and Simmons is expected to suit up for his first game after that. Regardless, the Celtics look incredible and will be very hard to beat. Nets are one team that can do it though. Must watch TV!
3. The Wolves can score as well as any team in the NBA. It’s early, and that statement is only true in theory right now but it’s already clear that playing the Wolves well defensively may not make a bit of difference if they can score in bunches the way that they have. And they defend too! Still, they’re young and make mistakes but it appears they have what’s needed to make this first series close vs. Grizzlies who haven’t quite figured them out yet even with the series in the Grizz favor 2-1 so far.
4. Tyrese Maxey has arrived. He’s arguably the Sixers best player right now, and not because Embiid has played poorly but rather because Maxey has been so active at both ends he’s dictating how the games have gone so far. Scottie Barnes has been out for 2 games however, and the Raptors have shown signs of life. However, between Harden’s assisting and everyone else kicking in at both ends the Sixers are seemingly on their way to the 2nd round.
5. Jalen Brunson is playing outstanding ball and leading the Mavs against the Jazz with Doncic out. Mavs look deep, and it’s especially impressive that they can beat a team with a huge rebounder/shot blocker/defender in Gobert. Dinwiddie has been impressive as well. Doncic expected back soon from his short time out, but he may not be needed at all until the second round.
6. Warriors are playing exactly as they should be playing vs. Nuggets and exactly as one might expect if they had been watching all season. That’s why I have them at #6 here: it’s no surprise that Poole has improved after playing all season. It’s no surprise that Green is running the offense as well as he did earlier in the season. Curry is also playing as expected albeit off the bench now that Poole has played so well in the starting lineup. MAYBE Klay Thompson’s shooting % is a surprise but it shouldn’t be. Klay is being Klay.
7. Chicago has shown some life vs the Bucks and has made that series exciting, but even with Middleton out for several games with an MCL sprain it shouldn’t keep the Bucks from moving onto the 2nd round in 6 games tops. Portis had an eye injury that took him out of the loss two days ago, but he’s due back which is big while Middleton sits out the rest of the series.
8. Capela was injured prior to the playoffs beginning, but with Miami hitting on all cylinders I don’t see how it matters. The Heat are incredibly deep and have played well at both ends. Capela *might* be back before the end of the series, so we’ll see then if he can make a difference. In any case Butler could be mentioned as the current “best player in the NBA” right now, but until he shows that he can put up huge numbers consistently I’ll leave him off the list. Butler has scored 96 points on 55%+ FG in their 3-0 series vs. Hawks.