2022 NBA Playoffs First Round Preview

Boston Head Coach Ime Udoka talks in the team huddle

The first round of 2022 NBA playoffs is officially underway. With key injuries to some teams, the first round could get very interesting. Some teams are being undervalued, while some are overvalued. The only thing we know is that history will be made. Every series has a story, so let’s take a look at the match-ups of the first round and who could be potentially upset.

Eastern Conference

The Eastern Conference has many young teams battling to make their mark. With players like Jayson Tatum, Trae Young, and Tyler Herro, the East looks like it could become the conference to beat in a few years. In the 2022 NBA Playoffs First Round anything can happen. Here is a breakdown of each match-up:

(1) Miami Heat vs (8) Atlanta Hawks

Starting off the first round of 2022 NBA playoffs are the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat. The Hawks are not a normal eight seed. They have won nine out of their last eleven games and have essentially the same roster as last year’s team that went to the Eastern Conference Finals.

On the other side, you have a Miami Heat team that is two years removed from the NBA Finals in the bubble. Since then, they have added Kyle Lowry. This match-up includes one of the best defensive teams in Miami going up against one of the best shooting teams in Atlanta. However, the Miami Heat were on pace to win 58 games with Jimmy Butler, Kyle Lowry, and Bam Adebayo. Add Tyler Herro to that mix and factor in Atlanta being 26th in defensive rating, this could be a quick series.

Prediction: Heat in 5

(2) Boston Celtics vs (7) Brooklyn Nets

Prior to the season, many people had the Nets going to the finals. With Kyrie Irving missing over half of the home games this year, the Nets dropped to the seven seed after winning their play-in game.

On the other side, you have the Celtics who had a slow start to the season, starting 23-24 before finishing 51-31 while beating Brooklyn in three of their four meetings. They were one of the hottest teams in the NBA after the All-Star break and they are hoping to keep the momentum going against the Brooklyn Nets. However, they will start the series with a key injury in Robert Williams III (torn meniscus). This has proven to be key as the Celtics are 7-7 without Williams and 40-21 with him.

Prediction: Celtics in 7

(3) Milwaukee Bucks vs (6) Chicago Bulls

Even though both teams have an MVP candidate — Giannis Antetokounmpo and DeMar DeRozan — the Bucks have won all four games against the Bulls this season. The reigning champs have looked just as strong this season. While the Bulls have had an up and down season, battling some injuries as well as having some players with down seasons.

This could be one of the more lopsided match-ups, with the Bucks seeming to have Chicago’s number. They have won 15 out of the last 16 against the Bulls, including all 12 in which Giannis has played. It is an understatement to say the Bulls will have their hands full against the reigning champs.

Prediction: Bucks in 4

(4) Philadelphia 76ers vs (5) Toronto Raptors

Another match-up that could go either way in the East with the Raptors and 76ers. It involves two very different teams. On one side, you have the 76ers who rely heavily on their stars, Joel Embiid and James Harden. While on the other side you have the Raptors, a team that likes to share the ball. This results in any player being able to lead the Raptors on any given night.

All four of the games this season have been decided by six points or less, with the Raptors winning three of the four games. It is one of the most anticipated series of the first round.

Prediction: Raptors in 6

Western Conference

The Western Conference has been looked at as the best conference in NBA for years. After all, they have four teams in the top five in wins in the NBA. The West side of the 2022 NBA Playoffs First Round will involve close games across the board. Here is what to expect in each match-up:

(1) Phoenix Suns vs (8) New Orleans Pelicans

Last year, the Suns lost in a heartbreaker to the Bucks, and this year they are proving why they got there. They have looked even better this year, winning 64 games, even with injuries to Chris Paul and DeAndre Ayton. On the other side we have the Pelicans who have been missing Zion Williamson this whole season. After squeaking by the Clippers without Paul George, they now face the powerhouse Phoenix Suns.

The Suns won three of the four meetings against the Pelicans. Even with the potential return of Zion Williamson, this has the potential be one of the most lopsided series of the first round.

Prediction: Suns in 4

(2) Memphis Grizzlies vs (7) Minnesota Timberwolves

Memphis shocked many people this year with explosive performances from Ja Morant, finishing 2nd in the West with 56 wins. However, Morant has consistently struggled this year against the Wolves with the presence of Patrick Beverly. These two teams split the season series.

With inconsistent performances lately by Karl Anthony Towns, the Wolves will need key players to step up. Anthony Edwards is one of those players to watch. The young Grizzlies are looking to become the fourth youngest championship team.

Prediction: Grizzlies in 6

(3) Golden State Warriors vs (6) Denver Nuggets

Denver and Golden State had some amazing games during the regular season as they split the four games. With Steph Curry expected to return, the Warriors are set for a championship run. The emergence of Jordan Poole and having two of the greatest shooters ever makes them a dangerous team.

On the other side, we have an MVP candidate in Nikola Jokic. The Nuggets have key injuries with Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr, which will make it tougher for Jokic to carry them past a team that has championship experience. This could be the best series in the first round.

Prediction: Warriors in 6

(4) Dallas Mavericks vs (5) Utah Jazz

With the unknown status of MVP candidate Luka Doncic, the Mavericks will have their hands full. When he comes back, he is looking to prove how valuable he is.

With Donovan Mitchell being capable of taking over games, the Jazz are looking to make a run to silence the critics. Many believe that Utah will never win it all with Gobert and Mitchell. It will be a series to watch closely as both teams have players looking to make their mark in the league.

Prediction: Jazz in 6

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