We’re past the first round of the NBA Playoffs. There were literally no surprises. All of the top seeds won out and advanced to the Conference Semifinals. Now is when things start to get a little more hairy. We’ve got top dogs facing top dogs and everybody wants a shot at the Finals. This year, it looks like everybody might actually have a chance to make it too… well, probably not the Trail Blazers, but still. Everybody but them. (Then again, you never know with the balling magic of Damian Lillard.) Let’s check in on the NBA Conference Semifinals action after the first few games…
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Milwaukee Bucks vs. Boston Celtics (1-1)
This matchup was always going to be interesting, but it started off a little more exciting than expected with a 112-90 win by the Boston Celtics, a team that’s been struggling to reach its potential all season. After sweeping the Pistons in four games, the Bucks and Giannis are out to prove they can win it all, and they came back with a vengeance in Tuesday’s 123-102 win over Boston. The Bucks dominated the second half with a 28-2 run and killed it from beyond the arc while Boston, well, did not. Kyrie Irving struggled through the whole game, scoring just nine points, but he claims he’s not fazed by their latest loss, saying “This is what I signed up for.” They’ll be in Boston for Game 3 on Friday. Get tickets!
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Toronto Raptors (1-1)
After losing the first game in this series, the Sixers rebounded in the second with a 94-89 win to avoid falling too far behind. And that was without star center Joel Embiid, who was out due to sickness. Luckily for Philly, Jimmy Butler stepped up and managed 30 points and 11 rebounds of his own. That was enough for the Sixers to beat the Raptors despite Kawhi Leonard’s team-leading 35 points. It also helped that they held the Raptors bench players to five combined points. Shooting guard Danny Green had just three points while center Marc Gasol had only five. Toronto’s head coach Nick Nurse has some ideas on where his team can improve, saying, “We can execute better. We can space better. We can pass it out with a little bit more zip on it to get those shots a little bit cleaner maybe. But I think the Sixers were playing really hard and really good defense. I give them a lot of credit.” They’ll head to Philadelphia for Game 3 on Thursday. Get tickets!
Golden State Warriors vs. Houston Rockets (2-0)
It’s too bad this matchup had to come so early on in the Playoffs because many fans and sports experts think the Rockets might be the only team in the West capable of unseating the Warriors. It is what it is though, and so far, it doesn’t look like the Golden State dynasty will collapse any time soon. In their latest 115-109 victory at home, we saw stars James Harden and Steph Curry leave the court with what looked like minor injuries only to return later in the game (thank goodness, right?). The Rockets made it through the first round against the Jazz pretty easily, winning the series four games to one, while the Warriors lost two home games to the LA Clippers in the first round. But Kevin Durant thinks those early losses might have been good for them considering their performance thus far against the Rockets. KD said, “I love how we stayed poised. We only were able to do that because of what we went through in the first series.” Game 3 takes place in Houston on Saturday. Shop tickets!
Denver Nuggets vs. Portland Trail Blazers (1-0)
Denver hosted the first game of this series and they were able to hold off the Blazers thanks to an MVP-caliber effort by Nikola Jokic, who put up 37 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists. The Nuggets’ 121-113 win was made even more impressive by the fact that Portland’s Damian Lillard put up 39 points in an incredible effort to pull out a victory for his team. Despite their number-two seed, Denver had the tightest race of any team in the first round, going 4-3 with the Brooklyn Nets to make it through. Jokic led the way for much of that, posting over 23 points and 12 rebounds per game on average and a triple-double in Game 7 to survive and advance. He’s got support in the form of Paul Millsap, Jamal Murray, and the occasional boost from Mason Plumlee, but they can’t rest if they plan to overcome the superpower that is Damian Lillard. He basically carried the Trail Blazers to the second round on his back with a 4-1 run over the OKC Thunder. Watch Game 2 tonight in Denver. Shop tickets here!