Cleveland Cavaliers – Boston Celtics 4-0
The Cavaliers swept the Celtics, winning the final game in Boston 101-93. They advance to the second round, but the series against Boston left them in some kind of a predicament. Kevin Love went down injured and will be out for at least the entire second round. He got tangled up with Kelly Olynyk in the first quarter of game four, running straight to the locker room and failing to return. The verdict: a dislocated shoulder that might cost him the remainder of the season. To make matters worse, J.R. Smith will be suspended for the first two games of the Conference semi-finals for swinging his arm back into the head of Boston’s Jae Crowder.
The series became more physical as it went on, but in the end, the discrepancy in talent between the two teams proved too much for the Celtics. Lebron James finished the series averaging 27 points, 9 rebounds and 6.5 assists, but more will be expected from him in the absence of Love and Smith in the second round. The same goes for Kyrie Irving, whose first-ever playoff appearance was a success, averaging 23 points a game while shooting 48 percent from deep.
Washington Wizards – Toronto Raptors 4-0
The Wizards’ sweep of the Raptors in the first round of the playoffs might come as a surprise. Toronto had won all meetings between the sides in the regular season and started this series with home-court advantage. The Raptors had no answer for their small line-up, with Otto Porter at the 3 and Paul Pierce at the 4.
The main difference in this series was team basketball. Washington moved the ball better than Toronto, resulting in 219 more passes over the four games, whereas the ball tended to stick in the hands of DeRozan or Lowry for the Raptors, especially in the fourth quarter. Toronto averaged only 19.5 APG in this series, while Washington finished with 26.25 APG (most of any team in the first round).
John Wall leads the league in the playoffs with 12.5 APG, while taking care of the ball. Every game, Toronto’s hope was shattered by some timely three by Pierce, who shot 14-of-24 from distance in this series. Pierce’s words before the start of the series turned out to be prophetic: the Raptors just didn’t have what “it” takes to advance to the next round.
Atlanta Hawks – Brooklyn Nets 2-2
Traditionally the most lopsided series, No.1 seed Atlanta find themselves in a tight series with eighth seed Brooklyn. The series is even 2-2, and both teams were able to take care of business on their home floors. The Nets have been playing inconsistently the entire season, but they just might have found the right rhythm at the right time.
Atlanta has a hard time stopping Brook Lopez, who has been a beast down low, scoring 21 points a game and posting a double-double in 3 of the 4 games. Deron Williams can’t stay in front of Teague, but if he plays like he did in game four, tying his career playoff-high of 35 points, the Nets just might steal a game in Atlanta. For the Hawks, who have been shooting only 41.5 percent from the field, it will come down to knocking down the open shots they have been missing so far. Korver has shot only 33 percent from the arc and is bound to find his stroke at some point in this series.
Game five will be played in Atlanta on April 30, 9AM AEST.
Chicago Bulls – Milwaukee Bucks 3-2
After losing the first two games in Chicago, Milwaukee lost another game in heart-breaking fashion in double-OT in game three. The young Bucks didn’t hang their heads, and won the next two games to give them a chance to tie the series on May 1, on their home court. They will try to become just the fourth team in NBA history to even a series after being down 3-0.
The Bucks have been able to frustrate the Bulls with their pesky defense. They double a lot on ball-screens, forcing plenty of turnovers. The Bulls have turned the ball over more than any other team in these playoffs (18.6 per game), and Rose especially has not been able to take care of the ball (almost 5 TOPG). They have been dominant on the board, as expected, with Gasol and Noah both grabbing an average of 12 rebounds per game.
Game six is scheduled on May 1, 9AM AEST.