A very likely first round of the NBA Playoffs has passed, which saw a conference champion in the east gets carried away, a shockingly defeated defending champion, and crowned by an epic seven-game series from last season’s playoff rematch. Now that the smoke has cleared, eight teams have qualified for the second round and it’s already underway. Which teams will get the right to reach the Eastern and Western Conference Finals?
(1) Philadelphia 76ers vs. (5) Atlanta Hawks:
Philadelphia and Atlanta both did a quick job on the Washington Wizards and New York Knicks in their respective first-round series and are now focusing on the other in what should be a one-series skirmish. Yesterday’s game saw Joel Embiid make a splash after getting injured. The Sixers can’t afford to lose key players for this series, especially against a young Hawks team led by Trae Young.
The Hawks were able to steal Game 1 from the Sixers, who rallied late in the fourth quarter, but the focus of the series will be how the Philadelphia defense can contain the Atlanta offense. The Sixers have managed to make urgent defensive plays to get close, however, they will look to rely on that defense, mostly with unwelcome flights. The Hawks’ offense looked solid in Game 1, but they’ll have to adapt their defense to the level of their offense.
In the regular season, Atlanta won the series against Philadelphia and is looking to do the same. The Sixers will need the length of Embiid, Simmons and Dwight Howard on defense to make a difference in the series.
Prediction: A six-game series.
(2) Brooklyn Nets vs. (3) Milwaukee Bucks:
Welcome to the striking clash of the second round. Throughout the season, all eyes were on Brooklyn, who managed to acquire key players, including Blake Griffin, to bolster their depth for their run to the playoffs. Milwaukee, on the other hand, was quietly adding tracks to her roster like PJ Tucker. The Nets won against the Boston Celtics in five games, while Milwaukee impressively swept the Miami Heat in the first round.
In Saturday’s game, Brooklyn brought the Bucks back to earth with a victory in Game 1, but at the cost of losing James Harden to a hamstring injury. Although Game 2 takes place tonight, the only question for Brooklyn is which player from the bench will take Harden’s place? Brooklyn has a squad that was designed to be a high scoring team, but if Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton can benefit from not having to face Harden for the rest of the series, then the Bucks will use him as an X factor.
In the regular season, Milwaukee won their series against Brooklyn. Milwaukee will be looking to bounce back from the Game 1 loss on Saturday and will look to bring the same intensity as in the previous series.
Prediction: A six-game series.
(1) Utah Jazz vs. (4) Los Angeles Clippers:
The Los Angeles Clippers survived an epic seven-game rematch against a team from the Dallas Mavericks who were looking to take Luka Doncic to the next level. As the Clippers sigh in relief, it should be really quick as they now face the number one seed Utah Jazz. The Jazz won in five games against another young Memphis Grizzlies team, after Donovan Mitchell was ruled out for Game 1 of that series.
Jump now and Mitchell seems to be more than up to the task of taking on Kawhi Leonard’s defense. To make a difference, the Clippers will have to count on Paul George, Rajon Rondo, Reggie Jackson, Patrick Beverley, Nic Batum and Serge Ibaka. Jazz, meanwhile, will have differentiating factors in the form of Jordan Clarkson, Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic and Joe Ingles.
It will be another epic series for the Clippers if they manage to cause another upheaval. Otherwise, Utah will head to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 1998. In the regular season, Utah won the series against the Clippers, and home court advantage will serve the Jazz a lot.
Prediction: Series of six or seven games.
(2) Phoenix Suns vs. (3) Denver Nuggets:
The Phoenix Suns sent shockwaves through the basketball world after firmly knocking out the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in the first round. Now they face a Denver team that could spoil the Suns’ hopes of reaching the Conference Finals since 2010. The Nuggets are no strangers to playing spoiler, as evidenced by last season’s playoff race where they lost three games to once against Utah in the first round and the Clippers in the second.
Look for Nikola Jokic to give Devin Booker, Chris Paul and DeAndre Ayton for their money double-double and triple-double performances in this series. However, the Suns have an X factor that can slow Jokic down a bit in Jae Crowder, who was instrumental in helping Phoenix defeat the Lakers. In the regular season, the Nuggets won their series against Phoenix and will look to do the same in the playoffs.
Prediction: A series of six or seven games.
The second round of the NBA Playoffs is already underway, but the action continues to heat up. Which team will advance to the conference finals and make it to the big stage? Discover and watch each game unfold on TNT, ESPN, ABC and NBA TV.
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