After an exciting opening spherical of the NBA playoffs that noticed the NBA-best Phoenix Suns getting examined by the New Orleans Pelicans and their trio of unheralded rookies, Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks sending the Utah Jazz into an unsure offseason and the Boston Celtics breaking out the brooms towards the league’s preseason title favorites, right here we’re within the convention semifinals.
And though the upper seeds superior in each sequence in Spherical 1, one thing tells us that will not occur once more alongside the street to the NBA Finals.
The Memphis Grizzlies, who wanted three double-digit fourth-quarter comebacks to oust the Minnesota Timberwolves in six video games, could possibly be weak towards Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Jordan Poole and a revitalized Golden State Warriors squad that simply eradicated the reigning MVP.
The Celtics have been the most popular workforce within the league for the reason that begin of the season’s second half. Their reward? Giannis Antetokounmpo and the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks.
What drama awaits within the second spherical? Our NBA consultants break down every sequence.
Sequence odds and stats
Basketball Energy Index (BPI): Miami 75%
Caesars Sportsbook: Miami -420 | Philadelphia +320
Offensive rankings: MIA (113.0, twelfth) | PHI (113.0, eleventh)
Defensive rankings: MIA (108.4, 4th) | PHI (110.2, twelfth)
MIAMI HEAT (1)
How the Warmth obtained right here
The common season was a battle of attrition for a Miami workforce that trotted out 23 totally different beginning lineups due to numerous accidents however nonetheless managed to seize the No. 1 seed within the Japanese Convention.
That plug-and-play perspective got here in useful within the first spherical, with Kyle Lowry (hamstring) lacking Video games 4 and 5 and Jimmy Butler (knee) out for Recreation 5, and the Warmth discovered a solution to defeat the Atlanta Hawks with out them.
“I simply suppose that we’ve got one another’s again,” Warmth ahead Caleb Martin stated after eliminating Atlanta.
Sneaky first-round MVP: P.J. Tucker
Tucker’s numbers may not overwhelm — he ranked sixth on the workforce in factors per sport (9.6), third in rebounding (6.2) and seventh in assists (2.4) — however his general affect shouldn’t be underestimated.
“He is the lifeline of our protection. He would not get as a lot credit score as he ought to, for my part,” Warmth middle Bam Adebayo stated after the membership’s closeout win over the Hawks, a sequence through which Miami’s protection utterly flummoxed Atlanta All-Star guard Trae Younger.
“Sure nights, he solely will get two pictures and would not say something. So simply to have a teammate like that, I believe he is the true cause our protection is the way in which it’s.”
Tucker shall be known as upon to infuse that very same depth into Miami’s second-round matchup towards Philadelphia and former teammate James Harden.
— Dave McMenamin
How the 76ers obtained right here
After escaping the Ben Simmons saga and buying Harden to pair with MVP finalist Joel Embiid, Philadelphia completed fourth within the East. That set them up with a difficult first-round matchup with the Toronto Raptors, who managed to push the 76ers to 6 video games even after falling behind 3-0 within the sequence. The excellent news: A dominant Recreation 6 efficiency in Toronto obtained Philly again on monitor heading right into a matchup with Miami. The unhealthy information: Embiid is out indefinitely with a facial harm and concussion.
Sneaky first-round MVP: Danny Inexperienced
Inexperienced has been by various playoff battles over his prolonged NBA profession. However the veteran confirmed his price even at this late stage along with his play towards Toronto. With Matisse Thybulle sidelined for video games in Canada as a consequence of not being totally vaccinated, Inexperienced’s minutes skyrocketed from just below 22 per sport to over 31.
In the meantime, as Philadelphia’s solely true 3-and-D participant, Inexperienced made probably the most triples (16) of anybody on the 76ers throughout the six video games towards the Raptors. His mixture of expertise and powerful capturing ought to hold him in a large position towards Miami.
— Tim Bontemps
Stephen A. Smith discusses Joel Embiid’s harm and the way it impacts the 76ers’ sequence vs. the Warmth.
What to look at: Embiid’s harm standing
How lengthy it takes Embiid to get better from an orbital bone fracture and concussion — he suffered each late within the fourth quarter of Recreation 6 towards Toronto — will decide whether or not this sequence turns into a battle or a blowout.
Embiid, who caught an elbow from Raptors ahead Pascal Siakam with 3:58 remaining within the sport, is now out indefinitely, robbing Philadelphia of its franchise centerpiece at each ends of the court docket.
It is a devastating stroke of unhealthy luck for Embiid, who stated on many events this season how a lot satisfaction he took in lacking simply 4 video games this season as a consequence of harm and shedding his injury-prone label. Within the span of 1 week, he is suffered each a torn thumb ligament on his capturing hand and this harm.
The 76ers will strive to determine the place to go from right here, however not one of the choices — taking part in DeAndre Jordan, taking part in Paul Reed extra, or going extremely small — are interesting. This workforce is constructed to be powered by Embiid.
Sequence odds and stats
Basketball Energy Index (BPI): Boston 62%
Caesars Sportsbook: Boston -200 | Milwaukee +170
Offensive rankings: BOS (113.6, ninth) | MIL (114.3, third)
Defensive rankings: BOS (106.2, 1st) | MIL (111.1, 14th)
BOSTON CELTICS (2)
How the Celtics obtained right here
After a rocky begin to the season, the Celtics discovered their rhythm after Christmas — and simply saved rolling. They pulled off a formidable first-round sweep over Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets — doing an incredible defensive job on the previous MVP. Boston comes into this sequence brimming with confidence after dominating the preseason NBA title favourite.
Sneaky first-round MVP: Marcus Sensible
Jayson Tatum took his sport to a distinct stage throughout the Nets sequence, offering the kind of constant celebrity performances that outlined his workforce’s wins (however within the shadow of Tatum’s greatness was the regular play), particularly on the defensive aspect of the ball — from the 2022 Defensive Participant of the 12 months.
Sensible averaged 16.5 factors, seven assists and 4 rebounds throughout the sequence, however his capability to be a difference-maker defensively was a giant cause why the Celtics had a lot success towards Durant and Co. The 6-foot-4 Sensible is not afraid to combine it up with a lot greater gamers — which is able to serve him effectively towards MVP finalist Antetokounmpo and the Bucks.
— Nick Friedell
MILWAUKEE BUCKS (3)
How the Bucks obtained right here
The Bucks have been constructing to this second, the primary true take a look at of their title protection. Milwaukee completed with an an identical file as Boston throughout the common season, however the Bucks rested their starters on the season’s ultimate day, establishing a first-round matchup with the Bulls (a sequence they gained in 5 video games), however ceding homecourt benefit on this second-round showdown.
Sneaky first-round MVP: Jrue Vacation
Vacation put up modest scoring totals throughout the first spherical towards the Bulls, even with Khris Middleton sidelined for a lot of the sequence, however Vacation turned up the depth on Chicago’s All-Star duo for all the sequence. Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan mixed to shoot 30% from the sphere within the sequence when guarded by Vacation, who shadowed the 2 alongside Wesley Matthews. Total, the Bulls shot 29% within the sequence when Vacation was the closest defender, in response to ESPN Stats & Info analysis. Vacation shot a career-high 41% from 3 throughout the common season, which could possibly be necessary contemplating the Bucks are virtually sure to require extra offense from Vacation on this sequence.
— Jamal Collier
What to look at: Giannis vs. Boston’s inside protection
The winner of this sequence will doubtless be decided within the paint in a conflict between an irresistible pressure and an immovable object.
Bucks star Antetokounmpo, one of many league’s greatest rim attackers, is up towards Boston’s inside protection, one of many stingiest within the league.
Antetokounmpo punished the Bulls inside throughout their first-round sequence, averaging 18 factors per sport within the paint. Through the season, Antetokounmpo led the NBA in made layups and dunks, averaged probably the most factors per sport within the restricted space and scored probably the most factors within the league on direct drives, in response to Second Spectrum monitoring.
Now the true take a look at begins, particularly with Milwaukee lacking certainly one of its greatest perimeter scorers in Middleton.
Boston allowed the fewest factors within the NBA on direct drives and allowed the bottom paint area objective proportion within the league. They ranked second within the league in area objective proportion allowed on the rim and have been the most effective within the league since Jan. 1.
The Celtics have a number of defenders able to matching up with Antetokounmpo, together with Robert Williams III, Grant Williams (who held Antetokounmpo to 1-for-7 capturing on matchups within the half court docket throughout the season) and Al Horford, who has guarded Antetokounmpo on shot makes an attempt extra continuously than any defender within the league, per Second Spectrum.
Sequence odds and stats
Basketball Energy Index (BPI): Dallas 54%
Caesars Sportsbook: Phoenix -300 | Dallas +240
Offensive rankings: PHX (114.2, fifth) | DAL (112.5, 14th)
Defensive rankings: PHX (106.8, third) | DAL (109.1, seventh)
PHOENIX SUNS (1)
How the Suns obtained right here
The Suns cruised by the common season with a franchise-record 64 wins however had some adversity thrown at them within the first spherical, when Devin Booker went down with a hamstring harm in Recreation 2 towards the New Orleans Pelicans. They bounced again with wins in Recreation 5 and 6 to shut out the pesky Pels.
Sneaky first-round MVP: Mikal Bridges
Bridges’ Recreation 5 was an all-time efficiency. Bridges performed all however 66 seconds and had 31 factors and went 4-for-4 from deep with 4 steals. He grew to become simply the seventh participant in playoffs historical past to have 30 factors, 4 3s and 4 steals in a sport, becoming a member of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kobe Bryant and Vince Carter.
Bridges was additionally his common defensive pressure all through the sequence. Based on ESPN Stats & Info analysis, Bridges held the Pelicans to 37% capturing (32-of-86) as the first defender. He additionally pressured 14 turnovers (tied for second most this postseason) and held New Orleans to 0.82 factors per play as the first defender.
— Andrew Lopez
DALLAS MAVERICKS (4)
How the Mavericks obtained right here
Dallas gained its first playoff sequence since its 2011 title run — coach Jason Kidd was there … at level guard — regardless of Luka Doncic lacking the primary three video games towards the Jazz as a consequence of a strained left calf. Guard Jalen Brunson, who averaged 27.8 factors and dedicated solely 4 whole turnovers, had a breakout sequence.
Sneaky first-round MVP: Dorian Finney-Smith
Brunson was far too spectacular to qualify as sneaky, so let’s go along with Finney-Smith. The small ahead was the first defender on Jazz star Donovan Mitchell, who credited Finney-Smith all through the sequence as the most important think about his inefficiency (39.8% from the ground, 20.8% from 3-point vary).
Finney-Smith was additionally a major offensive contributor, averaging 13.2 factors and a couple of.8 assists whereas going 17-of-43 on 3s. His rebounding (6.3 per sport) was key to the success of the Mavs’ small lineups, generally with the 6-foot-7 Finney-Smith at middle. And he performed 260 of 288 minutes within the sequence. The four-year, $55.5 million extension Finney-Smith signed in February already seems to be like a cut price.
— Tim MacMahon
What to look at: Luka vs. Phoenix’s perimeter protection
It figures that Suns coach Monty Williams will need his Defensive Participant of the 12 months candidate on the celebrity on the opposite aspect. However simply how a lot Bridges will guard Doncic when the pictures are going up will rely on how the Mavericks hunt their matchups.
Dallas and Phoenix met thrice this season, however Doncic didn’t play in two of these video games. Within the one sport Doncic did play, Bridges had 31 half-court matchups towards him, double some other Suns participant, in response to ESPN Stats & Info analysis.
Nonetheless, NBA.com/stats reveals that Doncic was simply 1-for-2 towards Bridges. Dallas’ objective was to get Bridges off of Doncic once they may. Bridges switched 9 occasions when guarding Doncic, with both Booker or Chris Paul changing into the first defender on six of these switches.
Regardless of the Suns did labored. Doncic was 9-of-23 general and 2-of-9 from distance in 38 minutes. How Phoenix tries to defend Doncic this time round may decide the end result of the sequence.
Sequence odds and stats
Basketball Energy Index (BPI): Memphis 67%
Caesars Sportsbook: Memphis +200 | Golden State -240
Offensive rankings: MEM (114.3, 4th) | GS (112.1, sixteenth)
Defensive rankings: MEM (108.9, sixth) | GS (106.6, 2nd)
How the Grizzlies obtained right here
Memphis posted the second-best file within the NBA regardless of not having Ja Morant for 25 video games. The Grizzlies are within the second spherical, although, as a result of they performed their greatest within the clutch. They trailed an unbelievable 68.5% of the time towards the Timberwolves however outscored Minnesota by 62 factors within the fourth quarter within the sequence. It will be so much tougher doing that towards a workforce with championship expertise just like the Warriors.
Sneaky first-round MVP: Desmond Bane
Bane continues to emerge as a big-time participant for the Grizzlies. He led Memphis within the first spherical with 23.5 factors, 4.3 rebounds, 1.2 blocks per sport whereas capturing 48.2% from 3. He shall be wanted to not solely assist Memphis hold tempo from lengthy vary with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole, however Bane should carry the power and explosiveness on each ends of the ground. The Warriors cannot let Bane get off within the second spherical like he did when he buried a complete of 15 3s in Video games 3 and 4 towards the Timberwolves.
— Ohm Youngmisuk
How the Warriors obtained right here
The Warriors’ common season was riddled with accidents to star gamers, stopping any true glimpse of their full potential. Then, within the playoffs, the Warriors confirmed simply how good they are often. Their new-look small-ball lineup led them to 2 blowout wins over the Nuggets, whereas Golden State’s different two wins proved this workforce can shut out tight video games.
Sneaky first-round MVP: Gary Payton II
It is simple to offer this honor to Poole, who throughout the first spherical loved his official popping out social gathering as a rising star within the NBA. However Golden State’s true sneaky MVP of the sequence was Payton. It is no coincidence that each time Payton checked right into a sport towards the Nuggets, the Warriors went on a bit run. All through all the sequence, Payton gave the Warriors his grade-A protection, going up towards rookie spark plug Bones Hyland for a lot of the sequence, whereas additionally spending time on Monte Morris, Will Barton and even reigning MVP Nikola Jokic. Payton additionally gave the Warriors an offensive increase, flattening wide-open pictures the Nuggets dared him to shoot. His most memorable — and most necessary — bucket was the dagger over Jeff Inexperienced that clinched the sequence.
— Kendra Andrews
Steph Curry describes the similarities between this yr’s Grizzlies and the Warriors groups he was on early in his profession.
What to look at: Morant vs. Payton II
Payton has typically taken the project in guarding the opponents’ greatest guard, and this showdown with Morant would be the matchup to look at.
Per Second Spectrum monitoring, Payton defended Morant in 88 half-court matchups throughout the common season, the third most of any participant, behind the New York Knicks‘ RJ Barrett (109) and the Minnesota Timberwolves‘ Patrick Beverley (108). And in response to NBA Superior Stats, Payton held Morant to 2-for-12 capturing (16.7%), the second-lowest area objective proportion allowed towards Morant this season with a minimal of 10 pictures defended.
Payton needs to be cautious about racking up fouls towards Morant, but when he could make issues troublesome on the Grizzlies celebrity, it may present a large increase for the Warriors within the second spherical.