top of page

Breaking Down the 2022 NBA Playoffs First Round

An exciting NBA regular season and play-in have come to an end, and the playoffs are in effect. With multiple title contenders, it's looking to be an exciting playoffs, and here's a breakdown of every first-round matchup so far.

Miami Heat vs. Atlanta Hawks

(Image via ESPN)

The Miami Heat have taken a 3-1 lead in their series against the Atlanta Hawks after another stellar performance by Jimmy Butler and crew. Miami is stacked with versatile defenders, allowing them to clamp up Trae Young, holding him to 35% from the field and 21% from deep throughout the series.

After Game 4, Young said he hadn't been guarded this hard and consistently since high school. The absence of Clint Capela has also made it harder on the Hawks as they lost their best paint defender and defending lob threats.

On the flip side, Butler is averaging over 30 PPG so far in these playoffs, and without a strong interior presence for Atlanta in the paint, I can't see them finding a way to stop him or the rest of Miami's offense.

Philadelphia 76ers vs. Toronto Raptors

(Image via ESPN)

After a monster MVP level season by Joel Embiid, the Philadelphia 76ers hoped to continue this dominance into the postseason. It seemed to be heading that way after taking a 3-0 lead against the Toronto Raptors.

After Game 3, Embiid revealed a thumb ligament tear that he'd have to play the rest of the playoffs through. Since going up 3-0, the 76ers have lost the last 2 games making this a 3-2 series.

With Embiid not being 100%, it's up to the rest of the team to step up, and although players like Tyrese Maxey have begun to make a name for themselves in the playoffs, the man who Philly gave up Ben Simmons for is not playing at the level he once was known for.

James Harden has only scored over 20 points once this series and is shooting under 40% from the field. The Raptors may not have the star power of the 76ers, but they have two former all-stars with Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet. They also have versatile wings like Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes and 2-way small forward OG Anunoby.

With Mattise Thybulle not being able to bring his defense to the north due to Canada's vaccine mandates, Game 6 is set up to be an interesting matchup.

Milwaukee Bucks vs. Chicago Bulls

(Image via ESPN)

The Chicago Bulls struggled heavily against top 3 seeded teams this season, going 0-16, and this series is making it glaringly obvious that the gap between Chicago and those teams is big.

In Game 1, the Milwaukee Bucks held Chicago's big three to under 35% individually, and although DeMar DeRozan was able to drop 41 to propel them to a Game 2 victory, Games 3 and 4 were similar to what we saw in Game 1, even with Khris Middleton out.

The Bucks' championship experience and cohesion allow them to click on all cylinders and the game never seems forced. The Bulls seem to have extended stretchers where they cannot buy a basket but also can't get a stop.

This is a situation where losing a player like Lonzo Ball, who can be a playmaker while also giving good defense, is costly. This can be a problem when playing against a well-oiled machine like the Bucks, especially when they have Giannis Antetokounmpo in the game dominating on both sides.

Milwaukee is the reigning champ and has one of the all-time greats in Giannis. The team's depth and talent should be enough to steamroll the Bulls and possibly the rest of the league.

Phoenix Suns vs. New Orleans Pelicans

(Image via ESPN)

With the Phoenix Suns having the best record in the NBA this season, this matchup seemed over before it even began, but Devin Booker being sidelined for 2 weeks with a hamstring injury has changed all that.

Brandon Ingram has blossomed in his playoff debut, averaging roughly 30 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists through the first 4 games. With Ingram and CJ McCollum leading the offensive charge, and young players like Herb Jones developing before our eyes, the New Orleans Pelicans have managed to split the series 2-2.

Without Booker, the Suns still have the fortune of having one of the greatest minds in basketball with Chris Paul, and managing to win 2 more games without Booker shouldn't be out of their realm.

The Suns are a smart and talented team without Booker, and although their skill should be enough to win, the Pelicans have been proving that their tandem of Ingram and McCollum is good enough to lead their team to victory. Pelicans fans should be optimistic about what this team can do when a healthy Zion Williamson returns.

Memphis Grizzlies vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

(Image via

In this first-round matchup, two of the league's brightest young stars, Anthony Edwards and 2022 Most Improved Player Ja Morant, have been dueling.

No first-round matchup has also had so much noise on and off the court, from protesters running onto the court to NBA fans trolling Morant for having more tweets (35) than field goals made (25) since the start of the playoffs.

Both Morant and Karl Anthony-Towns have not been playing up to their usual standard, and in a series that has gone back and forth so much, one of these two needs to step up in order to be the difference-maker their team needs.

Golden State Warriors vs. Denver Nuggets

(Image via Getty Images)

The Golden State Warriors and Klay Thompson are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2019, and since then, the Splash Bros look like they’ve turned into the splash trio with Jordan Poole.

Poole dropped 30 in his playoff debut, 29 in Game 2, and 27 in Game 3. As Steph Curry tries to return to 100% as he's been coming off the bench instead of starting, the results have stayed the same for the Warriors, who have a commanding 3-1 lead on MVP candidate Nikola Jokić and the Denver Nuggets.

Without Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. by his side, it's hard to see Jokić and this Denver team get past the Warriors. Golden State's talent pool and bench are just too deep, and with Thompson finally starting to show signs of the defender we remember him as, it's hard to imagine many teams being able to compete with them.

Dallas Mavericks vs. Utah Jazz

(Image via Getty Images)

The Dallas Mavericks vs. Utah Jazz is one of the more evenly matched first-round matchups. Luka Dončić missed Games 1-3 for Dallas, but the Mavericks being able to get 2 wins without him could be a deciding factor.

The Jazz defense has had a hard time containing anyone on the Mavs. Dallas has been able to stretch the floor, bringing Rudy Gobert out of the paint. The Mavericks guards either penetrate with ease or make easy kick-out passes without any excellent perimeter defenders when Gobert is forced to collapse.

Utah's inability to defend might cost them when dealing with a guard as shifty as Dončić.

Boston Celtics vs. Brooklyn Nets

(Image via ESPN)

This series had the intensity and talent levels of a conference finals match, yet it ended in a sweep with the Boston Celtics advancing.

Boston's superstar wings put on a clinic as Jayson Tatum put up 29.5 PPG on 45.6% shooting from the field, coupled with over 7 assists per game. Jaylen Brown showed out as well, averaging over 22 points this series.

The real deciding factor was Boston's ability to neutralize two of the greatest iso players in the game. Kevin Durant was held to under 40% shooting this series, and Kyrie Irving was held to under 20 points in two out of the four games.

Boston's defense was not only incredibly physical, but their length allowed them to deny Durant from ever getting the ball in a comfortable situation to get into a rhythm. Their length was also helpful in attacking the Nets' smaller and weaker defenders, as Brown and Tatum were punishing players like Seth Curry and Irving on the switch.

Boston showed they're a serious title threat, and Brooklyn showed that lack of consistent play from Irving. In addition, the odd nature of Ben Simmons' absence may lead to major issues going into next season.

110 views0 comments


bottom of page