When we checked in on the NBA playoffs last Monday, we were coming off a weekend of upsets in the Western Conference, where the underdogs had taken a 1-0 lead in all four series.
A week later, the favorites have all won a couple games, but none have taken full control of their respective series.
The closest thing to an overwhelming favorite in the West’s first round? The Jazz, who rebounded from a Game 1 loss to the Grizzlies by winning the next two games and taking a 2-1 lead. Donovan Mitchell‘s return has helped buoy the team’s offense, and with a couple more wins, it’ll be easy to forget that things between him and the Jazz were pretty tense after he was held out of Game 1.
The other three series in the West, however, are all tied at 2-2 and remain very much up for grabs. The Trail Blazers/Nuggets matchup has been particularly back and forth, with betting site BetOnline.ag having made Portland a slight favorite despite the fact that two of the next three games will be played in Denver.
Unfortunately, injuries loom as a major factor in the other two Western series. A healthy Luka Doncic led the Mavericks to an impressive 2-0 lead vs. the Clippers, but a cervical strain hampered him in Los Angeles as Kawhi Leonard‘s squad stormed back to tie the series. If Doncic isn’t his usual self going forward, Dallas might not win another game this postseason.
Meanwhile, the Suns and Lakers are both dealing with injuries. Battling a shoulder ailment, Chris Paul has averaged just 9.5 PPG on .417/.250/.700 shooting in four games following an All-NBA caliber season. While Paul’s limitations seemed to be opening the door for a No. 7 seed to advance, Anthony Davis‘ groin strain will be a major factor going forward, as there’s no guarantee he’ll be available for Game 5. BetOnline.ag has the Suns as slight favorites here.
Over in the Eastern Conference, things aren’t so up in the air. The Bucks have already advanced, and the Sixers and Nets appear on the verge of following suit. Outside of a lone Boston win in Game 3, Philadelphia and Brooklyn have outclassed the Celtics and Wizards so far and seem very unlikely to collapse.
The East’s other series is also potentially just one game away from ending, but the Hawks aren’t viewed as a lock like those top seeds. Still, even though Julius Randle and the Knicks are more evenly matched with their opponents and could still make things interesting, they’ve struggled to match their regular season success so far in the playoffs. Randle, the team’s MVP, is shooting a dismal 27.4% from the floor.
We want to know what you think. Can we pencil in the Sixers, Nets, Hawks, and Jazz for the second round, or is still too early to call one or more of those series? How about the Blazers and Nuggets, the Suns and Lakers, and the Clippers and Mavs? How big a factor will those injuries be? Who do you see advancing beyond the first round?
Take to the comment section below to share your thoughts!