The 2022 NBA semifinals, also known as the second round of the NBA playoffs, kick off on Sunday afternoon with a pair of Game 1s. Who are the eight teams left in the tournament and what can we expect to see from this round of matchups?
Favorites Dominate Round 1
For a brief moment, it looked like we might have some massive upsets that would shake up the NBA playoffs in a way we have never seen before from a first round. But in the end, the higher seeds went 8-0 in the first round, which did not feature a single Game 7.
The Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies, owners of the two best records this year, looked shaky at times, but both were able to close their series out on the road in Game 6. The only sweep was the Boston Celtics eliminating the Brooklyn Nets in four games, a surprising result given how great the first two games were in that matchup.
Overall, the first round went as expected with all four top seeds moving on to the semifinals. Be sure to follow along with our NBA daily expert picks.
The Final Eight Teams in the NBA Playoffs
Below is a summary of the final eight teams remaining (conference in parenthesis) as we begin the semifinals of the NBA playoffs:
- 1 Phoenix Suns (WC)
- 1 Miami Heat (EC)
- 2 Memphis Grizzlies (WC)
- 2 Boston Celtics (EC)
- 3 Golden State Warriors (WC)
- 3 Milwaukee Bucks (EC)
- 4 Dallas Mavericks (WC)
- 4 Philadelphia 76ers (EC)
Part of Phoenix’s struggles with the Pelicans in the first round was due to the injury Devin Booker suffered in Game 2, which the Suns lost after Booker poured in 31 points before leaving in the second half. Booker returned for Game 6 but did not shoot that well. Fortunately, Chris Paul put the team on his back and made all 14 of his field-goal attempts to close the series. The Suns remain a favorite to return to the NBA Finals for a second year in a row.
Miami’s defense embarrassed the Atlanta Hawks in the first round. If not for a 16-point comeback by the Hawks in Game 3, this series would have been a sweep. Jimmy Butler had one of his best playoff series ever, but injury kept him out of the clinching Game 5. Still, the Heat were able to win without Butler and point guard Kyle Lowry, and both are expected to be back for a tougher series with the 76ers. The Heat are looking for their second NBA Finals in the last three seasons.
History will forget just how easily the Grizzlies could have lost this first-round series with Minnesota. Memphis needed three double-digit comebacks, including a 26-point comeback in Game 3. Desmond Bane is an emerging star shooter, but the team still relies heavily on point guard Ja Morant getting to the basket. The young Grizzlies face a huge test with the Warriors in the second round, and Golden State is even a two-point road favorite for Game 1.
It is shocking to think the Celtics swept Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn, but Boston’s remarkable turnaround since January is one of the biggest stories in the NBA. This is such a well-balanced roster that can score and defend. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown can combine for 60 points and still defend too. Marcus Smart is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. Boston is a legitimate threat to go all the way this season.
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors have won their first playoff series since 2019 and are looking for a sixth NBA Finals appearance for head coach Steve Kerr and the trio of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, who are finally back together. Enter in new guard Jordan Poole who has also been a dynamic scorer. The Warriors have one of the best defenses as well and could have the right ingredients for another title.
The Bucks finished 8-1 against the Chicago Bulls this season, so that easy first-round win came as no surprise. But the defending champs are in a tough spot as No. 2 player Khris Middleton is expected to miss the whole second round against Boston with his MCL sprain. This is going to put a lot of pressure on Giannis Antetokounmpo to deliver, but as he showed last postseason, he is superhuman. Still, the playoff odds seem stacked against a Milwaukee repeat.
Dallas was in a tough spot with superstar Luka Doncic missing the first three games of the series. But Jalen Brunson was great in a starring role and helped Dallas to a 2-1 lead over Utah. With Doncic back, the Mavericks closed out the series in six games, the first playoff series win of the Doncic era. Now the Mavericks have a tough draw in Phoenix, but as long as Doncic is healthy, this team is going to be a tough out.
No, the 76ers did not become the first team in NBA history to blow a 3-0 series lead, though Toronto at least got it to six games. That may prove to still be critical as Philadelphia’s inability to close it earlier led to Joel Embiid suffering an orbital fracture and mild concussion in Game 6 that will keep him out indefinitely. It’s a huge blow to the team as they prepare for the top-seeded Heat.
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