Man, playoff basketball is awesome, isn’t it? The intensity and attention to detail seen on every possession is incredible, and it’s great to hear fans react to big plays again. It feels so good to have this type of basketball back. Let’s review what’s taken place thus far, shall we?
Memphis (8) leads Utah (1) 1-0
With Donovan Mitchell a late scratch, Memphis ferociously attacked a weakened Utah attack. There’s something weird going on between the Jazz and Mitchell, but nevertheless it’s never a good thing for the 8-seed to come into your building and really control the game. Mitchell is expected to play in Game Two tonight, but Utah has already given the Grizzlies a sense of hope.
These Grizzlies are not scared of the Jazz in the slightest, and have already taken home-court advantage. Whatever happens tonight will be gravy for Memphis, but Utah should be playing with a sense of desperation. Is Dillon Brooks going to replicate his stellar Game One performance? Probably not, but it would be foolish to count out Memphis making this a long series.
Dallas (5) leads Los Angeles Clippers (4) 2-0
I am sort of at a loss for words, here. The Clippers out-tanked Houston and Oklahoma City to end the season (a marvelous feat), seemingly because they were looking for a specific matchup. Is this what they wanted? Did they REALLY want Luka Doncic? My goodness.
Luka big bucket on Pat Bev late, has words for him all the way down the floor pic.twitter.com/lPAwTADLdb— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) May 26, 2021
Despite what Paul George has said, there should be a great deal of concern and desperation coming out of the Los Angeles locker room. You just got your ass kicked twice by a budding superstar who could not be less scared of your “fearsome” wing duo. Through two games, Luka is averaging 35/8.5/9 on .604 eFG%. He is maybe the best in the NBA at controlling the pace and flow of a game outside of LeBron James, and he’s taking advantage of the Clippers willingness to switch.
For the record, it might not matter who is on him at all, with or without the switch.
Luka with a tear drop of the gods on Kawhi pic.twitter.com/ezFad0c5XQ— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) May 26, 2021
In fact, the Clippers are so willing to switch that it doesn’t really matter who they have start possessions on Doncic. He’s going to get whatever matchup he so chooses and obliterate it. He’s been spectacular. I’m not going to say the Clippers are cooked, because I’ll save my slander for the elimination game, but they are in a bad, bad spot right now headed back to Dallas.
Clippers reached the point where you don't even wanna unload the clip and clown them now bc you know this shit is only gonna get funnier so youre saving your jokes for later. As a treat.— America is musty 2021 (@DragonflyJonez) May 26, 2021
Denver (3) and Portland (6) tied 1-1
This figured to be a competitive series headlined by two superstars with waffling supporting casts, and that’s exactly what we’ve gotten. Nikola Jokic and Damian Lillard have been marvelous, and this one looks like it’s destined to be a seven game series.
Dame’s averaging 38 points and 11.5 assists a night and making half of his threes. Jokic is averaging 36 & 12 on .700 TS%. Those two guys have been downright insane, and they’ll likely continue to be since neither team has an answer for the other, and that’s good news for us viewers at home. Neither of these teams are true title contenders, but this is a fun first round series nonetheless between guys who make every game worth watching.
Los Angeles Lakers (7) and Phoenix Suns (2) tied 1-1
This is an absolute rock fight between two really, really good teams. Unfortunately, it looks like we’re going to be robbed of a little extra juice with Chris Paul’s shoulder injury clearly hampering him. Paul was only able to play 23 minutes in Game Two, a clear sign that he’s not right physically.
Regardless, there’s still been amazing basketball in this series. The Suns jumped on the Lakers in Game One behind genuine brilliance from Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton, which was followed by LeBron James and Anthony Davis shutting the door late in Game Two.
This is just a high-level, conference finals type series that happened to occur in the first round. How the series ultimately ends probably comes down to how healthy LeBron and AD can stay, and how big of a leap Ayton can make. He’s the guy who has to step up and play like a star in Paul’s reduced role.
I still think the Lakers ultimately win this series, but if you wanted to look for some cause for concern on their end, this would be it.
LeBron James, % of FGA within 5 feet of rim in recent playoffs:— Sam Cooper (@scooperhoops) May 26, 2021
The LeBron we've seen in games 1/2 is starkly different.
It’s early, so this could change with a few lineup/rotation tweaks, but it suggests that LeBron’s ankle is still a problem. If he doesn’t have the burst to get to the rim with regularity, their postseason offense is going to remain stuck in the mud.
Philadelphia (1) leads Washington (8) 1-0
While Washington might have a bit more star power than your average 8-seed, they’re still not nearly talented enough to hang with Philly. It would be fun to try to manufacture more storylines here, and Brad Beal is trying with his trolling, but this still looks like it should be a quick one. The Sixers should advance in 4 or 5 and get ready for their second round opponent.
Atlanta (5) leads New York (4) 1-0
It is so good to have playoff basketball back in Madison Square Garden. That was one of the more incredible scenes of the weekend, and it culminated with Trae Young doing Trae Young things.
Trae Young balled out in his first playoff game:— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 24, 2021
❄️ 32 PTS
❄️ 10 AST
❄️ 7 REB
He’s built for it. pic.twitter.com/ZVJeVeIXpu
It’s possible that the Knicks will come out and look better tonight, but I really think they’re in trouble. It took an out-of-body experience from Alec Burks to keep them in Game One, and I just don’t think they match-up very well with Atlanta. Specifically, they’re really going to continue to have problems with Trae.
They put together a very good team defense this year, but they don’t really have an elite point-of-attack guy who’s in their regular rotation. Beyond that, they don’t have the types of players who can really hunt Trae on the other end of the floor. Atlanta will run into problems with stars who can get Trae switched onto them and isolate. New York isn’t going to do that, and I think that ultimately swings this series in Atlanta’s favor.
Milwaukee (3) leads Miami (6) 2-0
So, maybe these aren’t the same old Bucks, huh? It turns out that replacing Eric Bledsoe with Jrue freaking Holiday makes your team a lot better.
Now, will Milwaukee shoot the way they did in Game Two every night? Absolutely not, but that was a statement game from them, and now Miami is in a world of trouble.
Whatever mental edge Miami may have had from last season is now gone, and Jrue Holiday is making life hell for Jimmy Butler.
Jimmy Butler in the Bucks series:— StatMuse (@statmuse) May 25, 2021
-42 +/- (lowest on team) pic.twitter.com/fvgdqdSN2k
You always sort of wondered how long Jimmy could get away with not being a shooting threat at all, and it seems like it’s finally caught up to him. Milwaukee is legitimately leaving him open on the perimeter, and it’ll be on him to find ways to cut and slash into the teeth of the defense to make him pay for that.
Anyways, this could change as the series heads to Miami, but this doesn’t feel like one where the momentum will shift into making this a long series. Milwaukee in 5 feels about right, setting up an amazing series with Brooklyn.
Brooklyn (2) leads Boston (7) 2-0
Well, there’s no real point in sugar coating it, this series is over and was over before the tip in Game One. Without Jaylen Brown, Boston just doesn’t have enough to compete, and Brooklyn looks healthy and spry.
Blake Griffin dunks— StatMuse (@statmuse) May 26, 2021
Last 25 Pistons games: 0
First 28 Nets games: 19 pic.twitter.com/jLjGQRzVez
This one’s over. The Nets look like the best team in the league, and unless LeBron can turn it up a notch, they might be the best team in the league by an overwhelming margin. Their second round series with (likely) Milwaukee will tell us a lot about the landscape of the playoffs.