Like last season, this year the play-off was played before the start of the playoffs. Play-in matches were played from April 12 to 15, and a day later the playoffs began with the first rounds in both conferences. As for the regular part of the season, the Pheonix Suns, last season’s runners-up who were then defeated in the finals by the Milwaukee Bucks, who became the NBA champions again after four decades of waiting, finished first in the Western Conference. In the East, the first position was taken by the Miami Heat, who were runners-up two seasons ago when the Los Angeles Lakers led by LeBron James won the title with which they tied with the Boston Celtics as the most trophy-winning franchise. In the Western Conference, the playoffs were also secured by the Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks, Utah Jazz, and Denver Nuggets.
In the Eastern Conference, in addition to the first-placed Heat, the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76-ers, Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls also secured a place in the playoffs. As we mentioned at the beginning, as last season, the play-off had to be played again, with teams that took places from 7 to 10 in both conferences. Seventh-placed Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Clippers met in the west. who finished the regular season in eighth place. In addition to them, the second duel in the playoffs was the ninth-placed New Orleans Pelicans and San Antonio Spurs. In the end, the Minnestota Timberwolves and New Orleans Pelicans advanced to the first round of the playoffs.
As for the Eastern Conference in the playoffs, the Brooklyn Nets had to play against the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Atlanta Hawks against the Charlotte Hornets. As in the Western Conference, the better-placed teams secured a place in the next phase. The Nets and Hawks secured a place in the first round of the playoffs at the Eastern Conference. The Pelicans as eighth placed against last year’s runner-up Pheonix Suns who played great in the regular season which allowed them to find themselves in first place. The Pelicans are holding up pretty well and are losing 3-2 in the series for now. It would be a big surprise if they managed to eliminate the Suns, similar to the one the Suns made last season when they defeated the weakened Los Angeles Lakers, who were expected to do much more that season.
The Lakers did not even manage to qualify for the playoffs this season, which is another disappointing result. The Pelicans have made a step forward compared to the previous season when they were not even close to the playoffs, so for them, the result so far is a great success, although they will certainly not give up against a much stronger rival who is chasing the much-desired title that has eluded them several times in history. The winner of the duel between the Pheonix Suns and the New Orleans Pelicans will play against the winner of the match between the Dallas Mavericks and the Utah Jazz. Last season, there was no duel between the last-mentioned rivals, because the Mavericks were eliminated in the first round by the Los Angeles Clippers, who went to the Utah Jazz.
The Mavericks were deprived of the services of the fantastic Luka Dončić at the start of the playoff series, but Luka returned as in the match between the Suns and the Pelicans, and five games have been played here so far and the Mavericks are leading 3-2. While waiting for the semifinalists between the mentioned teams, one participant in the second round of the playoffs at the Western Conference is already known. The Golden State Warriors cleared the Denver Nuggets. One of the best players of today and last season’s MVP, Nikola Jokic dragged the Nuggets all season who had a lot of injury problems but against the Warriors alone there was nothing he could do. He was well guarded by Green, who is otherwise known as one of the best defensive players, and he used all possible means against Nikola to stop him from showing everything he knows. Green himself stated that Nikola makes him a better player.
It is certainly not a surprise if you take into account that he kept last season’s MVP, which is a candidate for this prestigious award this season as well. The Nuggets could do nothing but achieve an honorable victory in a series in which the Warriors were convincing 4-1. The Warriors are back in the playoffs after a few seasons and are very much expected to be competitive again for the championship ring. The Warriors from this season, in which Curry, Thompson and Green play great, are very reminiscent of the Warriors from a couple of seasons ago, when the San Francisco team won the championship ring several times. The Nuggets fell behind compared to the previous season when they also experienced a clean-up from the Pheonix Suns, but then in the second round of the playoffs. The Warriors are waiting for a rival in the next round and that will be the winner of the match in which the Minnesota Timberwolves and Memphis Grizzlies meet.
In that duel the Grizzlies led by the great Ja Morant lead 3-2 in the series. The Grizzlies want a step up from the previous season when they were eliminated in the first round by the Utah Jazz. The Timberwolves didn’t play in the playoffs last year, so they’ve made progress this season. As for the Eastern Conference, as mentioned, in addition to the teams that directly secured a place in the playoffs, the Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks found their place among the eight best in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks even reached the conference finals last season in which they were defeated by a later champion, the Milwaukee Bucks 4-2. The Atlanta team was not so successful this season as it was eliminated in the first round. The Hawks played against the Miami Heat who were certainly favorites as they finished the regular season in first place.
Like the duel between the Golden State Warriors and the Denver Nuggets, there were no big dilemmas about the winner of this playoff series. The Hawks managed to achieve only one victory, so they made a much weaker result than the previous season, when they almost went to the finals, but in the end, the Bucks did it. A particularly interesting fact is that one of the main stars of the Hawks, Trae Young, in the series against the Heat, had more lost balls (30) than shots from the game (22). With games like this one of the Hawks ’best players had nothing to hope for against a team that finished first in the regular season. Heat this season looks really great and especially looking forward to great games Victor Oladipo who returned after a serious injury.
The team from Florida could go quite far this season and thus justify the leading position from the regular part of the season. The Heats perform much better as a team unlike last season when they were cleared of the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round. This Miami looks like the team from two seasons ago, which was eventually defeated in the final by the Los Angeles Lakers. The Miami Heat is waiting for the winner of the match in which the Philadelphia 76s and the Toronto Raptors meet. The 76-ers led by another MVP candidate, Joel Embiid lead 3-2. The 76-ers would repeat the result from the previous season when they are eliminated next season when they were eliminated by the Atlanta Hawks in the second round of the playoffs after seven games. The Raptors played in the playoffs again but can hardly achieve a sensational result similar to when they won their first championship title by defeating the Golden State Warriors.
It seems that even if they pass this round, they will have nothing to hope for against the great Miami Heat. The Brooklyn Nets are certainly one of the teams that has ambitions to become an NBA champion. Unfortunately, they will not have the opportunity to achieve that this season, since they were eliminated at the start of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics. This duel is a repeat of last year’s first-round when these rivals also competed. Then the Nets were more successful than the Celtics and in a very convincing way because they celebrated 4-1. This season the Celtics have taken revenge on the Brooklyn team in an almost unrealistic way. The Nets were cleared 4-0. It is indisputable that the Celtics are much better than last season, but almost no one expected the Nets not to win a single game.
In this way, the Celtics have made a step forward compared to the previous season and will play in the second round against the Milwaukee Bucks, which eliminated the aforementioned Nets 4-3 in that round last season. A really great duel between the Bucks and the Celtics should be expected. It is difficult to say at this moment who is the favorite in that duel. Bucks led by the great Giannis will definitely want to repeat the result similar to the one from the previous season. The Celtics on the other hand have a good chance to find themselves in the conference finals after a long time, and maybe even in the grand final. The Lakers have disappointed this season, so they are not in the playoffs, so this is a good opportunity for the Celtics to try to become the most trophy-winning franchise in the league if they continue with great games. The Warriors will still compete for that title, and probably the Suns and Grizzlies. A really great playoff awaits us this season.