The 2022 NBA Playoffs have reached the conference semifinals stage. There are eight would-be champions left to fight for their chance at the title.
The Milwaukee Bucks and Golden State Warriors took 1-0 leads over the Boston Celtics and Memphis Grizzlies Sunday. They both won in completely different ways.
Milwaukee dominated from the onset. Memphis had an unsuccessful look at the basket as time expired in a one-point margin of defeat.
Four new teams will debut in the second round of the playoffs Monday. These are the teams to bet on:
Miami Heat -7.5 vs Philadelphia 76ers
The Miami Heat finished the regular season with the best record in the Eastern Conference. They are riding behind a balanced team effort and a deep bench.
Jimmy Butler has since elevated his play and could be argued as the most effective player in these playoffs, reminding the world of his ridiculous tear during the 2020 NBA Finals in the bubble.
The Heat have also had the benefit of a few days’ rest after they easily dispelled the Atlanta Hawks in the opening round with suffocating defense and precise outside shooting.
The big factor in this game is Joel Embiid’s health. Or lack thereof, which will cause him to miss the first two games of the series. Embiid is Phili’s leading scorer and rebounder, their emotional leader, and the go-to guy in clutch time.
James Harden was brought in to help cover for him in moments like these. But as his postseason numbers and on-court play show, he is not capable of hitting that Houston Rockets takeover level he once maintained. Miami will have its way with the Sixers defensively, only leading to one result: a decisive win.
Dallas Mavericks +6 vs Phoenix Suns
Health is also a concern in this series, specifically in relation to Suns’ superstar Devin Booker. He shook off a hamstring woe and returned in Game Six against the New Orleans Pelicans but was a far cry from his usual self.
If Booker is anything less than 90% minimum, the Suns have a very real chance of being upset in the series, because as Chris Paul has shown, his moments of brilliance are starkly contrasted by disappearances and misfires at this stage and age of his career.
Mavs fans should take solace in the fact that the Paul-led Suns were in a one-possession game at the wire in a contest during which CP3 did not miss a single shot en route to 33 points and eight assists.
He will not be as perfectly efficient ever again. And with Luka Doncic playing excellent basketball, he will not only be able to counter Paul but put his team in a strong position to win.
The most important matchup in this series is the Mavs’ secondary guards, Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie, against Phoenix’s tight defensive line because if they can score at will as they did against the Utah Jazz, Phoenix will once again be in big trouble.