In the recently expanded NBA playoffs, 16 teams entered the tournament and 8 currently remain. Many analysts and fans alike have celebrated the parity of this year’s tournament as only the Phoenix Suns have truly separated themselves from every other team both in the regular season and in the playoffs in terms of a win-loss record. Bracket seeds were often only separated by three games or fewer.
After the opening round, there have already been some surprises, such as Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets being swept by the Boston Celtics, with Durant only shooting 38.6% overall from the floor and 33.3% on three-pointers. This is a major downgrade from his performance in the playoffs last year. Shawn Powell from NBA.com stated, “It was stunning to behold, and this is no disrespect to the Celtics’ defense, but Boston certainly didn’t show Durant something he never saw before. And so, since trading Steph Curry for Kyrie — has anyone heard a satisfactory reason why he did so? — Durant is ringless.”
The Dallas Mavericks began the playoffs with an injured Luka Doncic, but since his return after a three-game hiatus, he is averaging almost 30 points. Jalen Brunson stepped up in his absence and will likely be signed following the postseason as he has proved his worth as a free agent. The Mavs and their series against the favorite Phoenix Suns will continue to heat up as a winner is decided by the weekend.
Many analysts have praised the confidence that the younger generations of NBA players have shown in some of their first playoff experiences. Powell stated, “There’s an understandable learning curve and amount of jitters that come with making your playoff debut, but you couldn’t tell that this year. A handful of young players, barely out of their teens, seemed right at home, in fact, in the heat of the postseason. In other words: There was no need for them to wear sunglasses because the lights were too bright.” He went on to specifically highlight Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies and Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves and how they’ve handled the spotlight.
Despite a Lebron-less playoff, there are still some heavyweight MVPs that have proven that the path to the championship is far from easy. Steph Curry and Golden State, Joel Embiid and the 76ers, and Chris Paul and the Suns are all coming off MVP caliber seasons, only adding to the parity of this year’s playoffs.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jayson Tatum are currently going head to head in the conference semi-final round. Both are regarded highly for their playmaking abilities but Giannis is the defending champion and MVP. However, this has not distracted young star Tatum in his determination to get to the title. “[They’re the] defending champs, they’ve been there before, they’ve gotten the job done,” Tatum said of the Bucks. “Obviously, it’s going to be a great challenge. I’m just looking forward to it. It’s [going to] be fun,” Tatum said in an interview with NBA.com.
The conference semi-final round is shaping to wrap up by next week where only 4 teams will remain in the NBA 2022 playoff.