PREVIEW: What to expect in the first round of the 2022 NBA Playoffs


Caden Handwork, General Assignment Reporter

Eastern Conference Playoffs:

No. 1 Miami Heat vs No. 8 Atlanta Hawks/Cleveland Cavaliers

Miami was able to claim the first seed in a very competitive Eastern Conference thanks to excellent play from shooting guards Jimmy Butler (21.4 PPG) and Tyler Herro (20.7 PPG). The Heat have also seen contributions from Bam Adebayo (19.1 PPG), Kyle Lowry (13.4 PPG), and Victor Oldapio (12.4 PPG), giving Miami good depth going into the playoffs. The Heat will play the winner of the Atlanta Hawks-Cleveland Cavaliers play-in game in the first round.

No. 2 Boston Celtics vs No. 7 Brooklyn Nets:

This first-round matchup between the Boston Celtics and the Brooklyn Nets should be the most intriguing and entertaining matchup in the First Round. The Celtics struggled at the start of the season but managed to turn it around mid-season and are now one of the hottest teams coming into the postseason. Small forward Jayson Tatum has had an MVP-caliber year for Boston, averaging 26.9 PPG which is seventh-best in the league. Brooklyn on the other hand has had a season filled with ups and downs. The Nets were without Kevin Durant, who suffered an ankle injury back in December, and were unable to play Kyrie Irving at home games due to New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. With a healthy side, the Nets are a legitimate threat in the East. The midseason additions of Seth Curry and Ben Simmons also make the Nets a threat to the Celtics’ title hopes. 

No. 3 Milwaukee Bucks vs No. 6 Chicago Bulls:

The Milwaukee Bucks will look to defend their NBA Championship starting with a first-round matchup against the Chicago Bulls. Bucks star Giannis Antetokoumpo is coming off an  NBA Championship and Finals MVP and is once again playing at his best, averaging almost 30 PPG, 11.6 RPG, and 5.8 APG. The Bulls made it to the playoffs due to the stellar play of DeMar DeRozan who they acquired last offseason. DeRozan is averaging 27.9 PPG, putting him in the top five in the NBA, and is in the running for league MVP. The Bulls’ ability to lock down on Giannis will be the key for Chicago to pull off the first round upset.

No. 4 Philadelphia 76ers vs No. 5 Toronto Raptors:

The Philadelphia 76ers are primed to make a run at a conference title with the talents of Joel Embiid and James Harden. Embiid is one of the favorites for league MVP, leading the league in scoring with 30.6 PPG. The Raptors have had an excellent season despite the loss of veteran guard Kyle Lowry to the Heat in the offseason. Pascal Siakam (22.8 PPG), Fred VanVleet (20.3 PPG), and rookie standout Scottie Barnes (15.3 PPG) have stepped up for the Raptors and will be the key for the Raptors to knock off the 76ers. 


Western Conference Playoffs:

No. 1 Phoenix Suns vs No. 8 LA Clippers/New Orleans Pelicans:

The defending Western Conference Champions, the Phoenix Suns come into playoffs once again as a favorite to win the NBA Championship. The Suns won a franchise-record 64 games this season once again led by star shooting guard Devin Booker (26.8 PPG). DeAndre Ayton (17.2 PPG), Mikal Bridges (14.2 PPG), and veteran Chris Paul (14.7 PPG) will need to once again be impactful in the postseason if the Suns are to accomplish their goal of winning the franchise’s first NBA Championship. The Suns will face off against either the LA Clippers or the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round.   

No. 2 Memphis Grizzlies vs No. 7 Minnesota Timberwolves: 

The Grizzlies have been one of the league’s best surprises this year with a 56-26 record and the second-place standing in the Western Conference. The continuing emergence of Ja Morant and contributions from Jaren Jackson Jr has made the Grizzlies a force in the Western Conference for years to come. The Timberwolves beat the Clippers in the play-in tournament to claim the 7 seed in the Western Conference. The Timberwolves have had an extraordinary turnaround this season after only winning 23 games last season. Karl Anthony Towns averaged 24.6 PPG this season. The 2020 first overall pick Anthony Edwards is becoming a star for the Timberwolves with 21.3 PPG and is an elite company with the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Luka Doncic to have multiple 40-point games before the age of 21 with five 40-point games. The amount of talent on the floor for the Timberwolves and Grizzlies should make this an exciting first round series.

No. 3 Golden State Warriors vs No. 6 Denver Nuggets:

The Warriors have the splash brothers in Steph Curry and Klay Thompson back for another postseason run and potential NBA Championship. Although Curry has been out recently due to a foot injury, he should be available for the start of the playoffs. The Warriors started the season as one of the hottest teams in the NBA and have carried that momentum into the playoffs despite some injuries. The Warriors have also seen outstanding performances from Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins, and Jordan Poole making them one of the deepest teams in the Western Conference. Nikola Jokic is once again playing like an MVP for the Nuggets with 27.1 PPG, 13.8 RPG, and 7.9 APG. Michael Porter Jr (9.9 PPG) continues to step up after the loss of Jamal Murray. The Nuggets will need solid performances from Gary Harris, Michael Porter Jr, and Will Barton to spoil the Warriors’ title hopes.

No. 4 Dallas Mavericks vs No. 5 Utah Jazz:

Luka Doncic continues to prove himself as one of the best shooters in the league, averaging 28.4 PPG this season for Dallas. The Mavericks will need Doncic fully recovered after suffering a calf injury. He is currently listed as out for game one. Donovan Mitchell had another incredible year for the Jazz, averaging 25.9 PPG, and Rudy Gobert performed well for the Jazz averaging 15.6 PPG and is leading the league in rebounds The Mavericks will need to lock down on Mitchell and Gobert to advance past the first round which has been a struggle for them the past two years.