Bucks’ big-three, Doncic has arrived, plus a 1st-round playoff update
It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
Playoff basketball is underway and let’s kick things off with a quick around-the-horn update.
The big three teams in the East are all in control of their matchups: the Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, and Milwaukee Bucks.
Both the Nets and Bucks doubled down on their game-one victories with dominant performances in game two against the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat respectively.
The Washington Wizards could, however, tie the series at one apiece when the series resumes tonight in Philadelphia.
Rounding out the East, Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young submitted an instant classic performance at Madison Square Garden with 32 points and 10 assists.
This series between Atlanta and the New York Knicks is shaping up to be the most tightly contested of the first round. With fans in attendance, the fireworks continue Wednesday night for Game 2.
Out west, the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers have their hands full with the upstart Phoenix Suns.
After dropping the opener, the Lakers gained home-court advantage by stealing game two in Phoenix. Forward Anthony Davis rose to the occasion with a loaded stat sheet: 34 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and three blocks.
Los Angeles’ play-in contemporaries, the Memphis Grizzlies, are riding some momentum of their own.
Led by backcourt mates Ja Morant and Dillon Brooks, the Grizzlies upset the top-seeded Utah Jazz. Utah’s Donovan Mitchell’s absence was controversial, but he’ll be back for a pivotal game two.
The Denver Nuggets and Portland Trailblazers are tied one apiece as the series moves to Portland for Game 3.
Lastly, the coming out party for Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic has the Los Angeles Clippers on the brink of implosion.
After losing both games at home, the Clippers have an uphill battle trying to win four of the next five.
Early exit for an MVP candidate
It was expected that one of the hopeful playoff teams would be bitten by the play-in tournament.
That team turned out to be the Golden State Warriors.
Miraculously, the Dubs finished the regular season with the eighth best record in the west outright. This is a testament to the herculean performances we saw from Steph Curry this year.
However, two play-in games that came down to the wire spelled an early exit for the Warriors, whom many didn’t expect to make it to begin with.
Their first matchup with the Lakers featured the newest chapter in the Curry vs. LeBron James saga. James got the upper hand in what felt like a game seven, drilling a highlight reel game-winner over Steph himself.
Next up for the Warriors, with win-or-go-home stakes, was a hungry Grizzlies squad who pulled out the victory in overtime.
It was apparent in these two games that the Warriors did not have enough fire power for a sustained run.
But, these Warriors could very well be the 2022 NBA Title favorites.
With an extended-prime version of Steph, a reinvigorated Klay Thompson, and a potential top-three pick; the Warriors will be out for blood next year.
Get used to Milwaukee’s new big three
It’s a great time to be a Milwaukee Bucks fan.
This team is hitting stride at the right time, and early returns indicate their leading trio can do some damage together.
The off-season acquisition of Jrue Holiday has been the second-most impactful trade of this entire season (the top spot goes to Harden, of course).
The former All-star guard is averaging 15.5 points to go with nine assists and rebounds each. His best stat, though, is his plus-47 on/off splits for the series.
Holiday is a likely all-defensive player this year and has pushed Milwaukee’s ceiling to the next level. His role as a glue guy offensively has taken pressure off of his teammates.
Forward Khris Middleton is in peak form as well, evidenced by his cold-blooded dagger in game one.
That leaves the two-time defending MVP, Giannis Antentokounmpo, who has continued to be the most unstoppable force in the league.
Their work is far from done as their opponent, the Miami Heat, will surely put their best foot forward returning to their home floor. Looking ahead, the Brooklyn Nets will be waiting in round two in all likelihood.
Nonetheless, Milwaukee has a great foundation with this big three. The road won’t be easy, but if we know anything about Giannis, he wouldn’t want to have it any other way.
Too soon to pencil the Mavericks in the WCF?
What’s happening in the Clippers-Mavericks series is truly special.
We are being treated to the arrival of guard Luka Doncic. Statistically speaking, there hasn’t been a better 22-year-old in the league’s history.
With Luka, you have to combine LeBron’s abilities as a point forward, with even greater efficiency as an elite scorer.
He’s taken everything the Clippers have thrown at him and gone about his business with a smile. In game two he was guarded by Paul George, Patrick Beverly, Terrance Mann, and even Kawhi Leonard but none of it mattered.
Playing alongside the golden child has raised the confidence of his teammates as well.
Head coach Rick Carlisle also deserves an equal share of the credit in building Dallas’ competitive culture. They’re not far behind their offensive efficiency mark of 115.4 from last year, an NBA record.
Keep in mind, Luka will be playing in front of Dallas fans in the postseason for the first time ever. Last year’s Bubble took that opportunity away. Imagine the support he’ll receive from their home crowd against these Clippers who asked for this matchup.
As the saying goes, “be careful what you wish for.”
If the Mavericks win just two of the next five games, they’ll advance to the conference semifinals. There, they meet the winner of Utah-Memphis.
At this point in time, the Mavericks would be the favorite against either team. That leaves them with a clear-cut path to the conference finals where they could meet the Lakers if they take care of business.
This season may not nominate with a title for the Mavs, but ascending to the second-best team in the conference is realizing their potential sooner than many imagined.