The opening round of the NBA playoffs is over. And what a finale it was: the performance of the 7th game of the LA Clippers against Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks sent Kawhi Leonard, Paul George & Co. in the semifinals of the Western Conference with Utah Jazz.
Before the Clippers and Mavs took it out, many other stars took care of the business in the first round: Giannis Antetokounmpo and Milwaukee Bucks swept the defending champion from the East Miami Heat, while Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers needed only five games to reach the semifinals of the conference .
In the West, Devin Booker led the Phoenix Suns past defending Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets champion Nikola Jokic to beat Damlian Lillard̵
But which of these stars is the MVP of the 1st round? Our panel of NBA experts makes a choice.
Doncic set a ridiculously high bar during his playoff debut last season, setting huge numbers as the superior Mavericks pushed the Clippers to six games in the first round. He raised that bar in the rematch after this season between the teams, despite losing the series.
Carrying as heavy an offensive weight as anyone in the playoffs, Doncic averaged 35.7 points and 10.7 assists, a significant improvement on his astonishing stats (31.0 points, 8.7 assists) during his first appearance in the playoffs. playoffs in the NBA. And Doncic’s stats in this series are distorted by his rough performance in Game 4, when the strain on his cervix prevented him from even looking to the left without excruciating pain.
“Oh man, he did everything,” Clippers star Kawhi Leonard said.
Doncic did so with his alleged star, Kristaps Porzingis, reduced to a player with a maximum contract. Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle decided that Porzingis could best help the Mavs attack the Clippers’ small balls by clearing the floor to increase the room that Doncic had to work with his magic.
Of course, the reason Clippers removed his regular starting lineup to make it small is that Doncic is so dangerous. He placed a bull in the center of Los Angeles Ivica Zubak so often at the beginning of the series – exploiting him again and again on the arrows that the head coach of Clippers Ty Lue had no choice but to chase the big man on the bench.
Doncic, who has won titles with Real Madrid and the Slovenian national team as a teenager, is longing for the stage. He proved this in the playoffs last season. No, the Mavs failed to get out of the first round, but his step back, winning game 4, repelling buzzer 3 to limit a 43-point triple-double, was one of the moments to sign the bubble.
The Mavs failed again on Sunday, although Doncic scored 77 points (scored 46 and gave 14 assists), the most in game 7.
“Even before this series started, I think he proved to be the top five player in the world,” Carlisle said. “This series certainly confirms that.”
Last summer, Antetokounmpo and Bucks were subdued by the Miami Heat in the second round of the playoffs. An off-season of introspection followed, as did changes to both the list and Milwaukee’s approach. Everything was put to an immediate test in the first round when the same match was played.
Antetokounmpo responded, leading Milwaukee to the most surprising and impressive result of the 1st round: a 4-goal sweep of the defending champions of the Eastern Conference, including the last three escaped matches.
Antetokounmpo’s static line was far from perfect – he shot 45.9% of the field and 1-for-16 from a range of 3 points – but what stood out in his performance was the way he, and as an extension Bucks , face them past demons.
After being criticized in the past for not taking on the challenge of guarding the opposition’s best player, Antetokounmpo guarded Jimmy Butler for most of the series and Butler struggled, shooting 19 for 64 in four games. Meanwhile, after Heat successfully created a wall that repeatedly disappointed Antetokunmpo in last year’s playoffs, he had an impressive 31-12 assists and turnovers in the first round, including a masterpiece of 15 assists (just two turns) in Game 4.
This series alone will not change everything that has happened to Milwaukee in the last two years. Only winning this series against the Nets – and two more beyond it – will completely change this chatter. But for a team that has so much on the line this season, the first-round rematch with Heat offers both Antetokounmpo and the Bucks the opportunity to produce the same old story or write a whole new script.
It didn’t take them long to show that this year could be different. And it was Antetokounmpo, as always, who led.
Madison Square Garden’s maestro impressed with his first appearance in the playoffs. Analysts have long wondered if Young’s small stature would become a problem against the defenders, who had the opportunity to plan how to get the ball out of his hands and the violations aimed at him.
So far, the answer has been that Young has been better than ever in the postseason, combining 52 PPG between his own points and the points generated by his assists, the fourth-highest score in the opening round.
Young’s final in this list reflects both the amount of his contributions and their relevance. Debuting after the season, he scored 13 points and handed out three assists in the fourth quarter of the stretched game 1 in the garden, limited by the winning swimmer with less than a second left and a draw. All in all, Young scored 41 points in 40 minutes of the fourth quarter, tied with Memphis guard Grizzlies Morant for the most in the final frame during the first round.
As impressive as it is, Young delivered repeatedly in a hostile environment, with Knicks fans chanting to him from before they left until the moment he pressed them at the end of Game 1 and bowed after Atlanta’s decisive victory in Game 5 on the road. On the most famous stage in the NBA, Young conducted the show from the beginning to the winning finale.
If anyone needs a reminder of Leonard’s greatness – and more precisely the greatness of the playoffs – Games 6 and 7 are the latest contributions to knowledge.
The performance of 45 points in Game 6, with 18 to 25 shots, while taking on the main task for the second half to keep Doncic, should be the game that will fail as a game for all time in a game to eliminate the road .
The sorcery of Game 6 will undoubtedly be without an encore and Leonard delivered again. He scored 28 points on another absurdly effective 10-for-15 shot, adding 10 rebounds and 9 assists, along with Doncic’s more individual excellent defensive achievements (although Doncic scored 46).
For the Clippers, it was a potential defining moment for the franchise, closed in the corner with memes and jokes ready to play, and the front office, potentially loaded with harsh reality after another release since the start of the season. And for Leonard, it may also require some unexpected assessment of his own future, asking questions of the supporting cast in Los Angeles, or whether it’s all the right move in the end.
But Lennard saved the Clippers from him, at least for a few more weeks. It came to life the moment the Clippers had to take it, responding to a Game 5 submarket that put its back to the wall. He has established himself as one of the players most feared in Game 7, as in a game that may depend on emotional fluctuations of momentum, Leonard’s robotic killer instinct seeps through it.
Technically, Lillard’s 60 points in Game 5 against Denver was not enough. The Nuggets won and continued to eliminate the Blazers in Game 6. But here’s what, Lillard’s incredible shot proved that he is one of the deadliest performers this league has ever seen. If that’s not valuable, I don’t know what is.
Lillard broke the record for a maximum of 3 points in a series in just six games, but his team failed to match its intensity and performance. It deserves a better supporting role, which complements it with better protection and more interior points.
It would be great to see Dame Time in the NBA Finals, but unless his supporting lineup improves, it won’t happen.
Booker presented an all-time performance in Game 6 when his Suns closed the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round. Booker’s 47 points – in a 15-for-22 shot with eight 3-points – was a masterful final act when he closed his first playoff streak. Oh, and he did it while playing 46 minutes, staying hot until the end.
After the game, Booker told reporters that he spent the whole night thinking about Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and the conversations they had had before.
“So, seeing those 8 and those up there, with the way the Staples lights are right here, it feels like you’re on,” Booker said. “And I know he was here tonight. I know he was here tonight. I know he’s in the building. I know he was proud.”
According to Elias’ sports bureau, the 47 points are tied for the most in a player’s first opportunity for a first career. He is on par with Anthony Davis – who played just five minutes for the Lakers in Game 6 before leaving with a groin injury – who had 47 in a close match against the Trail Blazers in 2018.
Booker scored 30 points or more four times in a row and really had to take the load for Phoenix as defender Chris Paul was dealing with an injured right shoulder. After the Suns lost 2-1 to the Lakers, Booker averaged 31.3 points and 8.3 rebounds in a split of .559 / .524 / .944 in Phoenix’s three straight wins.
Others who received votes:
Deandre Ayton, Suns; Kevin Durant, Nets; James Harden, Nets; Nikola Jokic, Nuggets; Chris Middleton, Bucks; Donovan Mitchell, Jazz.