April 29, 2022 | SPORTS | By Max Giles | Illustration by Sierra Romero
The 2022 NBA playoffs are already shaping up to be one for the history books. The bracket has been far from what anyone expected coming in. As the first round is entering its final stages, there are some major stories to recap.
In the Western Conference, the league’s best regular season team, the Phoenix Suns, lead 3-2 in their series with the No. 8 seed New Orleans Pelicans. The Suns, who many thought would go all the way to a championship this year, are having a tough time with the Pelicans.
Players like Jose Alvarado and Brandon Ingram have been displaying their talents and leading the Pelicans to victories over a stacked Suns roster. With the Suns’ superstar Devin Booker out due to an injury, the favorites are struggling in their series against their underdog opponents.
Another close matchup in the Western Conference is unfolding between the Dallas Mavericks and the Utah Jazz, with the Jazz being a No. 5 seed and the Mavericks the No. 4 seed. The series has been nothing short of spectacular.
Emerging star Jalen Brunson, who came out of Villanova, has been clutch for the Mavs thus far. The guard is averaging almost 30 points a game in the series, putting NBA teams and fans on notice. For the Jazz, it’s been somewhat of a disappointing performance. Famous sports talk show personality Stephen A. Smith was furious at the Jazz, saying “I got to confess to you, man. I can’t stand the damn Utah Jazz. They make me sick,” in a rant about their continuous underperformance in the playoffs.
The Golden State Warriors, the No. 3 seed, have been putting up a solid performance against the No. 7 seeded Denver Nuggets as they lead the series 3-1. The Nuggets managed to keep their season alive in game four “in dramatic fashion,” but they couldn’t hold on in the end, losing in game 5 by a mere four points. As the playoffs continue, it will be interesting to see if the Golden State Warriors can return to dominating the NBA, just as they did in their record-breaking 2015-2016 season.
And finally for the Western Conference, there is the No. 2 seeded Memphis Grizzlies playing the No. 7 seeded Minnesota Timberwolves. Grizzlies star Ja Morant has been continuing to demonstrate athletic superstardom, leading the team to their third victory in the series with a game-winning layup. On the other hand, the T-Wolves star and three-point contest champion Karl Anthony Towns has been battling hard.
In the Eastern Conference, the series are proving to be less competitive than the ones in the Western Conference. The Miami Heat, the No. 1 seed, defeated Trae Young’s Atlanta Hawks in a 4-1 series. Star players like Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry have been nothing short of spectacular for the Heat thus far. Miami was able to use their stifling defense to shut down Young’s deadly shooting ability, leading to a commanding series victory from the Heat.
The Philadelphia Sixers, No. 4 seed, have been showcasing an impressive performance against the Toronto Raptors in all but two games. Up 3-2 in the series, Joel Embiid and the Sixers will look to end the series in game six. Emerging star Tyrese Maxey has been incredible for Philadelphia thus far as well, and will look to close out against the tenacious Toronto team in game six.
The Milwaukee Bucks proved just how versatile of a team they are as in their 4-1 series win over the Chicago Bulls. With star player Khris Middleton out due to an injury and MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo not playing at his best, the team turned to other players like Grayson Allen to make up for their loss. The Bulls struggled to keep up with the Bucks’ depth and the series score reflects that.
And finally, possibly the biggest headline in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics have swept the star-studded Brooklyn Nets. The Nets have had a rollercoaster of a season despite their talented roster. Their lack of chemistry and team camaraderie, with an absent Ben Simmons and anomalistically inaccurate Kevin Durant, spelled doom against a talented Celtics team.
The NBA finals are looking to be quite the mystery to predict thus far. Regardless of who ends up in the championship, it will be quite the fun ride.