77.3 F

Davis, California

Tuesday, July 23, 2024

2023 NBA playoff recap

The 2023 NBA playoffs are nearing the end, here’s how they’ve gone so far


By ELOISE ENGS — sports@theaggie.org


The NBA playoffs are nearing the conference finals, with the Los Angeles Lakers and the Denver Nuggets playing in the Western Conference finals and the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics playing in the Eastern Conference finals.

We have seen a lot of quality playoff games in the first and second rounds, resulting in some top-seeded teams getting eliminated while the number-one-seeded teams have won comfortably. Here’s a recap of the playoffs thus far.


Western Conference Round One

The NBA playoffs kicked off between the No. 3 seed, Sacramento Kings, and the No. 6 seed, Golden State Warriors, in the first round. The Warriors took this series in seven games, winning 4-3. The matchup was competitive, as it featured a newly developed team who has not been in a playoff game since 2006 and the defending NBA champions who have won four recent titles. Two of the games were decided in the final minute, making this a nail-biter of a series. 

Point guard Stephen Curry even hit 50 points in game seven, making history in the NBA playoffs. The Kings’ point guard De’Aaron Fox was a factor on offense for most of the series as well. We also saw great games out of power-forward Domantas Sabonis, two-way guard Klay Thompson and power-forward Draymond Green, who got suspended for game three of the series.

The No. 4-seeded Phoenix Suns played the No. 5-seeded Los Angeles Clippers, which was projected to be a tight matchup, but ended up being an easy win for the Suns, who took the series 4-1. Before the playoffs schedule was final, teams wanted to avoid a matchup with the Suns due to the potent duo between Kevin Durant and Devin Booker.

The first major upset in the Western Conference was between the No. 2 seed Memphis Grizzlies and the No. 7 seed Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers took this series with a 4-2 win. The Lakers won the first game by 16 points, and then the Grizzlies fired back with a 10-point win in game two. The series went back and forth until the Lakers dominated in game six, with a final score of 125-85 — a 40-point game.

Small forward Dillon Brooks and small forward LeBron James battled it out on the court, but James proved untouchable in the back half of the series.

The last Western Conference game was between the No.1 seed Denver Nuggets and the No. 8 seed Minnesota Timberwolves. This series was also a blowout besides the Timberwolves’ only win, which was in overtime. For the most part, the Nuggets won games easily, but shooting guard Anthony Edwards was a star for the Timberwolves, averaging 35 points a game. Overall, this series was a great warmup round for the Nuggets.


Eastern Conference Round One

The biggest upset of the first round was the final game between the No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks and the No. 8 seed Miami Heat. The Heat won this series 4-1 and escaped overtime in game five by a margin of two points. 

The Heat had an advantage as the Bucks did not have their best player due to an injury in game one, power forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is also debatably one of the best players in the league. The Heat had their best player, small forward Jimmy Butler, who was a high scorer in this series, especially in game five when he scored 42 points.

The No. 2 seed Boston Celtics played the No. 7 seed Atlanta Hawks which lasted six games. Still, the last four games of this series were decided by single digits, making this a very close series. The Celtics were predicted to blow out the Hawks, but after the first two games, it was clear that would not be the case. Point guard Trae Young played well for the Hawks, especially in game three of the series, during which he tallied 32 points. But Young’s performance alone was not enough to beat the Celtics. 

The No. 3 seed Philadelphia 76ers took down the No. 6 seed Brooklyn Nets easily in a short four-game series. The best part about this series was not necessarily the basketball but the drama. The 76ers’ shooting guard James Harden played against his former team, and the player who replaced Harden, point guard Ben Simmons, was absent. MVP winner Joel Embiid led the 76ers in the first three games but was on the sidelines for the last game because of a sprained knee injury, but that was no issue for the 76ers.

The last first-round game in the Eastern Conference was between the No. 4 seed Cleveland Cavaliers and the No. 5 seed New York Knicks. The Knicks won this series 4-1, marking the first time the team has won a playoff series since 2013 and only the second time in 23 years. 

Point guard Jalen Brunson was a standout for the Knicks as he was a high scorer in these games. Shooting guard Donovan Mitchell for the Cavaliers put up a fight against the Knicks, especially in game two, and also acted as a strong team leader as he helped his teammate point guard Darius Garland get out of an early playoffs slump.


Round Two

Round two in the Western Conference started off between the Nuggets and the Suns. The Nuggets defeated the Suns 4-2. The Suns were expected to make a deep run, especially with the duo of Devin Booker and Kevin Durant, who scored 72 points combined in game four. Star center Nikola Jokic was the player of this series for the Nuggets as he shot the ball well and played outstanding defense in the perimeter by swatting down big shot attempts by the Suns. The Nuggets’ depth helped them to advance to the Western Conference finals to play the Lakers.

The Warriors and the Lakers competed for the other spot in the Western Conference semifinals, which was a series everyone was looking forward to because of the history between James and the Warriors. The unstoppable player for this series was the Lakers’ power forward Anthony Davis, who played aggressively on both offense and defense. Davis’s dominance was on full display every time he took the ball to the paint effectively. The defending champions fell to the Lakers 4-2 with a brutal loss in game six.

The Celtics and the 76ers played a great series, as all the games were close, and they went to seven games. The Celtics narrowly won the series in the seventh, securing their place in the Eastern Conference finals. In game five, the Celtics were at a 3-2 deficit, but Tatum and Brown woke up in the back half of this series. Jayson Tatum had a slow start but ended the series strong with 51 points in game seven, which was hard for the 76ers to compete with. Joel Embiid put up a good fight for the 76ers, but his defense was not enough to combat the Celtics’ strong shooters. The Celtics advanced to the Eastern Conference finals, for the second straight year.

The Knicks and the Heat competed in the other Eastern Conference semis. The Heat did well, remaining confident with their plays when the games got tight and sticking to the basics to defeat the Knicks. Both teams have very similar star shooters, Butler and Brunson, so both were focused on shutting the other down. However, with Brunson shut out, the Knicks had little to no offense, which was the deciding factor in the Heat winning the series.

The Heat will go on to play the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals. The Lakers and the Nuggets are currently playing in the Western Conference finals. With only four teams left, NBA fans are gearing up for the main event: the NBA finals.


Written by: Eloise Engs — sports@theaggie.org