NBA First Round Recap - Eastern Conference

DeRozan Chicago Bulls NBA

James Budgen

(1) Miami Heat 4-1 (8) Atlanta Hawks

The first seeded Miami Heat were expected to advance to the next round and they did so, despite missing key players for a few games, with point guard Kyle Lowry missing games four and five, and star player Jimmy Butler missing game five, but despite this, the Miami defence stayed strong and put on a clinic against the Hawks’ star guard Trae Young.

In the regular season Young averaged 28.4 points and 9.7 assists, shooting 46% from the field and 38% from three-point range, but the Heat defence had a massive effect on him, so much so he only averaged 15.4 points and 6 assists, shooting 32% from the field and 18% from three-point range.

The Hawks had the second-best offensive rating in the league in the regular season at 116.5, but in the play-offs, the Heat did such a job that their offensive rating dropped to 102.3, the second biggest drop-off of these play-offs.

(2) Boston Celtics 4-0 (7) Brooklyn Nets

In what was supposed to be a tight, closely contested seven-game series, the Boston Celtics swept the Brooklyn Nets, which contained star duo Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, advancing to face the reigning champions, Milwaukee Bucks, in the next round.

It was a breakout series for young star Jayson Tatum, who not only had a great offensive series, averaging 29.5 points and 7.3 assists, but he also was the best defensive player in the series, defending Durant exceptionally well, limiting him to only 38% shooting, whilst turning the ball over 5.3 times per game.

With their exceptional play in this series, the Boston Celtics have emerged as a serious contender for the NBA Championship, their stellar defence, with players 1-8 all defending at a high level will cause trouble for any team they face, and their confidence will be at an all-time high after a great first series.

(3) Milwaukee Bucks 4-1 (6) Chicago Bulls

Despite missing Khris Middleton in games three, four and five, the Milwaukee Bucks cruised past the Chicago Bulls to advance and face the Boston Celtics in the next round, but they will have to do it without Middleton, who has been ruled out for the next round with an MCL injury.

It was reigning finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo who carried a lot of the team's weight in this series, averaging 28.6 points and 11.7 rebounds, but it was the defensive play from guard Jrue Holiday which really limited the play of DeMar DeRozan, who was the only hope for the Bulls this series.

In this first-round series, the Bulls players which were guarded by Jrue Holiday shot 17% worse than their regular season field goal percentage, the largest decrease of these play-offs, and he will be relied upon more in the next series, having to guard Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, whilst also having to contribute offensively with the loss of Khris Middleton.

(4) Philadelphia 76ers 4-2 (5) Toronto Raptors

Despite a scare that they might bottle this series after being up 3-0, the 76ers advance into the next round in dominating fashion in game six, winning by 35 points, with James Harden, who had his struggles in this series, playing his best game, whilst being a team-high +38 in the 42 minutes he played.

The hope for Sixers fans will be that they get that version of James Harden every game vs the Miami Heat, rather than the version that shot only 37% from the field in games one to five.

It was also a breakout series for the 76ers young guard Tyrese Maxey, he averaged 21.3 points on 51% shooting from the field and 40% from three-point range in this series, and he is definitely the 76ers' x-factor in their series versus the Heat as the focus will be on James Harden and Joel Embiid.

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