01 May, 2023
Chaos was brought on by upsets, at least according to seed, in the NBA Playoffs’ first round.
The conference finals in the Eastern Conference will feature either a five-seed (New York Knicks) or an eight-seed (Miami Heat), while in the Western Conference they will feature either a six-seed (Golden State Warriors) or a seven-seed (Los Angeles Lakers).
Milwaukee, the top seed in the East, while Memphis and Sacramento, the second and third teams in the West, were both eliminated.
Now that eight teams remain in each conference semifinal, each seed (1–8) is represented in the second round for the first time since the NBA extended the number of playoff teams to 16 in 1984.
After the first round, here are the teams’ rankings, going from worst to best:
8 – Boston
The Celtics unnecessarily increased the difficulty of their matchup with Atlanta. Boston made statements about not letting down and maintaining concentration, but in the defeats in Games 3 and 5, it really did the reverse. The Celtics’ offense is led by Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, but if they want to advance to the conference finals, they will also need strong defense against Joel Embiid of the Sixers and support from Derrick White, Marcus Smart, Malcolm Brogdon, and Robert Williams.
7 – New York
In what was projected to be one of the finest first-round series, the Knicks outperformed the Cavaliers. Instead, the Knicks had a five-game breeze. The Knicks increased their defensive pressure, but Jalen Brunson, RJ Barrett, and Julius Randle—who suffered an ankle re-injury in Game 5—will need to contribute offensively more. It won’t be simple for New York to take on a Heat squad with a champion coach, experience, and toughness.
6 – Golden State
To ignore the Warriors is to invite disaster. The Warriors, headed by Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, are postseason veterans despite being the sixth seed. The Warriors are strong because they have players like Jordan Poole, Andrew Wiggins, Gary Payton II, and Kevon Looney who were a part of the title squad from the previous season. Will anyone be shocked if Golden State makes it to the conference finals when Coach Steve Kerr’s experience and a talented coaching staff are added?
5 – Los Angeles Lakers
When a club has LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the possibilities go above and beyond what is typical for a No. 7 seed, much like the Warriors with their core group. The ups and downs of the Lakers’ season began to improve just in time. Since reorganizing their roster at the trade deadline, defense has become their calling card. It paid off with a quick run to the playoffs and a victory over the second-seeded Memphis Grizzlies. The Lakers are playing their best game of the year right now.
4 – Phoenix
Both the Suns score and the Suns concede points. Even though their first-round series was decided in five games, the Clippers managed to win the last three games of the series sans Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton, and Kevin Durant are difficult to defend, despite the fact that they haven’t played many games together since the historic move for Durant at the trade deadline. Will there be sufficient stops on the other end?
The Sixers, the only team to sweep an opponent in the first round, dominated the inferior Brooklyn Nets thanks to the performances of Tyrese Maxey (21.8 points per game, 50% on threes), James Harden (17.3 points per game, 8.8 assists per game), Tobias Harris (20.3 points per game, 8.3 rebounds per game), and Joel Embiid (20 points per game, 11.3 rebounds per game), who missed the series finale due to a sprained right knee. Embiid’s availability at the start of the series is uncertain, and if he plays at any time, it will be while dealing with an injury versus Boston.
2 – Miami Heat
The Heat defeated the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in a five-game series. Jimmy Butler, who scored 56 points in game four and 42 points in game five, and improved offensive and defensive execution helped the Heat win the last three games of the series. The Heat will once again go to the Eastern Conference finals if Playoff Jimmy keeps up his will to win and they continue to shoot significantly better in the postseason than they did during the regular season.
1 – Denver Nuggets
In five games, the Nuggets defeated Minnesota, although not without some struggle in a few of those contests. With six players averaging double digits in points, including Jamal Murray (27.2) and Nikola Jokic (26.2), who also had 12.4 rebounds, 9.0 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game, their offense was still excellent. The Nuggets have difficulties stopping Phoenix’s dynamic offense, but this is the test Denver has been waiting to face.