The first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs are in the books. How did we get here?
Boston Celtics vs. Chicago Bulls
The Celtics appeared to have been distracted early in the series with the death of guard Isaiah Thomas’ sister in an auto accident. Chicago jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but then Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo injured his thumb and was unable to return to the series. The Celtics were able to take over the series with Rondo out and some good basketball play from Thomas and backcourt mate Avery Bradley to win the next four straight games and sending the Bulls on vacation after six games.
Washington Wizards vs. Atlanta Hawks
Washington’s John Wall and Bradley Beal came out in this series on a mission against the Hawks. They established a toughness and a pace and challenged Atlanta to keep up. Paul Millsap and Dennis Schroder were able to match the intensity at times, but Wall and Beal were on a different level and were able to put the Hawks away after six games.
Toronto Raptors vs. Milwaukee Bucks
This was my upset special. I thought that the Bucks could move past Toronto and they got out to a 2-1 lead in the series. Toronto went on to have a gut-check moment feeling like its back was against the wall and win the next three games despite a brilliant effort by the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Indiana Pacers
The Cleveland Cavaliers just proved themselves to be a better team than the Indiana Pacers. The combination of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love just overmatched Paul George and the Pacers. Cleveland swept Indiana, 4-0, and immediately after the series the rumors began to swarm about Paul George leaving the Pacers (but that’s another story for another blog post!).
Golden State Warriors vs. Portland Trail Blazers
Portland did not have enough fire power to keep up with the Warriors, who were bringing back Kevin Durant into the mix. In the end, the Trail Blazers needed more than Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum as they were swept by “The Western Conference Super Team.”
San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies
Memphis showed a lot of heart after rallying behind first-year head coach David Fizdale, despite being down early in the series. Mike Conley led the Grizz back to tie the series 2-2, but in the end Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs proved to be the better team. San Antonio won the series after six games.
Houston Rockets vs Oklahoma City Thunder
The battle of the MVP candidates was probably one of the most anticipated series in the first round of the playoffs. The matchup of James Harden against Russell Westbrook came down to how the other guys played to determine who moved on. Westbrook exhausted himself as he tried to do it all throughout the series, appearing to not trust his teammates. Harden got help from Lou Williams, Eric Gordon and Nene to put the Thunder away after five games.
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Utah Jazz
This was probably the most entertaining series so far this postseason. In the first few seconds of Game 1, Rudy Gobert went down with a knee injury, but the Jazz were able to rally behind the efforts of Joe Johnson. Gordon Hayward got sick from food poisoning in Game 4 and the Los Angeles Clippers lost Blake Griffin, once again, during the series with a toe injury in Game 3. That injury to Griffin may have been too much for the Clippers to overcome as the Jazz were able to win Game 7 to move on to Round 2. Now the rumors have started that it may be time to break up the band.