By Will Brown
The 2018 NBA Playoffs is underway, and it was an extremely competitive first round. In the Eastern Conference, the top two seeds played extremely competitive series, and in the Western Conference, the third best team in the conference finished with just two more wins than the eighth best team. The lack of separation between the teams in this year’s playoff field led to a thrilling first round. Here is a recap of what happened in each first round series.
Toronto Raptors (1) vs Washington Wizards (8)
The Toronto Raptors won the first two games of this series on their home court, but the Washington Wizards won the next two games in Washington D.C. In Game 5, the Raptors prevailed on their home court, and the Wizards lost key player Otto Porter to a leg injury. Without Porter, the Wizards fell at home in Game 6 and lost the series 4-2. The Raptors will play the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round.
Boston Celtics (2) vs Milwaukee Bucks (7)
The home team won all seven games in this series. The Celtics won the first two games in Boston, but the Bucks won the next two in Milwaukee. After splitting Games 5 and 6, the Celtics won at home in Game 7 to win the series 4-3 and advance to the second round. The Celtics were arguably underdogs in this series despite finishing with a much better record because their two best players, Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, were out with injuries. However, other players stepped up in their absence. The Celtics will play the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round.
Philadelphia 76ers (3) vs Miami Heat (6)
The 76ers are the hottest team in the playoffs, and they won this series 4 games to 1. The 76ers have won 21 of their last 22 games overall and are led by rookie star Ben Simmons and center Joel Embiid. The Heat fought hard, but lost two key games at home to fall behind and then were eliminated in Game 5. The 76ers will play the Boston Celtics in the second round.
Cleveland Cavaliers (4) vs Indiana Pacers (5)
When these two teams played in the first round last year, the Cavaliers beat the Pacers 4-0. However, this year’s series was extremely competitive and was won by the Cavaliers 4-3. The Cavaliers entered the season having won the Eastern Conference 3 years in a row, and were considered heavy favorites to do so again. However, they had an inconsistent season. The Pacers were picked to be one of the worst teams in the league, but emerged as one of the biggest surprises. The Cavaliers won a thrilling Game 7 to advance to the second round, where they will play the Toronto Raptors.
Houston Rockets (1) vs Minnesota Timberwolves (8)
The Houston Rockets entered the playoffs as the top overall seed, and the Minnesota Timberwolves returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2004. The Rockets were heavy favorites, and they won the first two games in Houston. The Timberwolves won Game 3 in Minneapolis, but the Rockets recovered to win the next two games and win the series 4-1. The Rockets will play the Utah Jazz in the second round.
Golden State Warriors (2) vs San Antonio Spurs (7)
These two teams played in the Western Conference Finals last year, but faced off in the first round this year. Both teams were hit hard by injuries, as the Warriors played without star player Stephen Curry and the Spurs played without star player Kawhi Leonard. The Warriors won the first three games of the series, but the Spurs saved their season by winning Game 4 at home. The Warriors won Game 5 at home to win the series 4-1, and they will play the New Orleans Pelicans in the second round.
Portland Trail Blazers (3) vs New Orleans Pelicans (6)
These two teams finished with almost identical records, but the Pelicans dominated this series and swept the Trail Blazers 4-0. The Pelicans were led by star player Anthony Davis, as well as key players such as Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo. The Pelicans will play the Golden State Warriors in the second round.
Oklahoma City Thunder (4) vs Utah Jazz (5)
These two teams finished with identical records, but the Jazz won the series despite being the lower seed. After splitting the first two games in Oklahoma City, the Jazz gained control when the series moved to Utah to go up 3-1. The Thunder responded and came back from being down 25 points to win Game 5, but the Jazz returned home and ended the series in Game 6. The Jazz will face the Houston Rockets in the second round.