By: KABIR SIHOTA
With the heartbreaking Game 7 elimination of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the surprisingly competitive first round of the NBA Playoffs in the bubble is finally over. The Houston Rockets join the Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers of the West, and the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, and the defending champion Toronto Raptors of the East in the Conference Semifinals. The first round saw many highs and lows for several players and teams beyond losing and winning series. Here is a look at the most surprising and disappointing players and games in the first round.
There has been no shortage of young talent in the playoffs. The most prominent young stars are Luka Donicic, Jayson Tatum, Jamal Murray, and Donovan Mitchell. Starting with Luka Donicic, who put up the stat line of 31 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 8.7 assists in six games despite dealing with a sprained left ankle and frequent physical defense. Even though Luka’s Series ended with a first-round exit, the future is very bright for the Mavericks. In the East, Jayson Tatum put up the stat line of 27.2 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists in a four-game sweep. The Celtics look very promising going into the second round and have serious title hopes. Lastly, the best series of the first round and the battle between Jamal Murray and Donovan Mitchell. Both were putting up over 30 points, five-assist, and six rebounds, respectively. In the end, Jamal Murray got the win in a Game 7 thriller that was decided by one shot. The league’s future is very bright behind these young stars who will be in the playoffs for years to come.
The most disappointing team in the playoffs is the Philadelphia 76ers. After a heartbreaking loss in Game 7 last year, many saw the 76ers being a top team in the league coming into the year. But after a subpar regular season, the 76ers fell to the 6th seed for the playoffs in a weaker Eastern Conference. But even then, the 76ers were expected to make a big run in the playoffs. But poor coaching and poor team performance led to a four game sweep in the first round. The 76ers had no team chemistry, lousy team defense, and couldn’t score for anything. The project of Joel Embbid and Ben Simmons has proven not to work, and players built around have proven futile. The organization has put 500 million dollars to 5 players who don’t know how to play together. Poor performance, starting with the owners to the players, has wasted great talent, and if something doesn’t change, it will continue to waste even more. It is safe to say that the “process” is over.
The first round has been fascinating. The NBA has done a great job with the bubble and has kept ratings up even without fans. But the playoffs aren’t near done, and great teams are continuing to play each other in great games. The battle for the NBA Championship will be one of the best. With all the circumstances that have gone on, these playoffs will be remembered for a while.