2023 NBA playoff recap and predictions


Screenshot Used with Permission By Lucas Hiatt

Game one of the Lakers vs. Warriors round two series. The game ended in a Lakers win after a missed game-winner attempt from Jordan Poole.

Lucas Hiatt

Round one of the 2023 NBA playoffs has finished, and many brackets have been ruined. For the sixth time in NBA history, an eighth seed has forced a first-round exit for a one-seed. The matchups remaining in the west are Denver Nuggets vs. Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors vs. Los Angeles Lakers. The matchups remaining in the east are Miami Heat vs. New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics. 

The Denver Nuggets prevailed in the first round after a five-game series against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Nuggets were cruising through the entire series with ease, their only real trouble being guarding Anthony Edwards in game four of the series. Edwards was extremely efficient with 34 points and five assists. His contributions kept Minnesota from getting swept in the first round. However, the one seed was too much for the T-wolves as Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray led their team to a stress-free series win. 

The Phoenix Suns have advanced to the second round after a five-game series against the Los Angeles Clippers. After a game one victory in favor of the Clippers, the Suns quickly turned the series around and won out for the rest of the four games played. Phoenix distributed their scoring very well across the board and let their talent work. The Clippers lost key player, Kawhi Leonard, for game three and the rest of the series, which was a heavy hit to the team as this weakened them defensively and allowed the Suns to rely on their talent with Devin Booker and Kevin Durant. However, this reliance may not hold up throughout the rest of the playoffs and especially in their current matchup against the Nuggets. The Suns clearly do not have enough depth in their roster for them to simply allow their starters to shine offensively. So far in the Denver series, they have not been able to capitalize on offense. 

“I don’t [think the Suns have enough depth],” said LHS geometry teacher, sophomore basketball coach and casual NBA analyst, Jared Jansen. “I think their bench is really weak. They’re relying way too much on Booker and Durant for the offense.”

The Golden State Warriors were able to upset the Sacramento Kings in a seven-game series in the first round. Point guard Stephen Curry has been electrifying on offense, scoring 30+ in the majority of the first series. From being down by two games at the beginning of the series to going on a three-game run, the Warriors have been able to get into their usual groove. Curry looks unguardable on defense and they have huge potential for the rest of this series.

The Los Angeles Lakers brought an unexpected performance in their upset against the Memphis Grizzlies. After sneaking into the playoffs through the play-in game, the Lakers brought their best team ball as not just one player stood out from the rest. LeBron James led the team in scoring just one of the games in round one. Austin Reaves was clutch in the late game against Memphis and Rui Hachimura was exceeding expectations offensively on offense early in the round one series. However, for the Lakers to outpace the Warriors, they will have to be able to guard Curry from three as well as make sure Jordan Poole does not have a breakout game after his drought in the round one series. Each team performed incredibly on defense in the first round, a big factor that contributed to their advancements. However, in game one of the second round, their offensive weapons had the chance to shine. This series will be an up-and-down event that will ultimately come down to the winning team’s offensive weapons. 

“It’s gonna be a great matchup,” said Jansen. “At certain times during the series, you’re gonna think the Lakers are gonna win and at certain times you’ll think the Warriors are gonna win.”

The Miami Heat have surprised many with their first-round upset against eastern conference one seed, the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks were bounced from the playoffs in a five-game series where Giannis Antetokounmpo was only able to play half series after suffering a back injury in the first game. However, after his return, Milwaukee was unable to win a game with him on the roster. Jimmy Butler shined in this series, leading the Heat on offense. Miami will need to continue to rely on Butler in order to win their round two series against the New York Knicks. This Knicks team will offer a challenge to the Heat coming off a five-game victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers which showed the playoff potential that Jalen Brunson and the rest of the Miami roster brings to the table. The Heat will need to continue to lock down on defense and thrive offensively but with Butler out with an ankle injury, their reliance on him may falter.

“[Relying on Butler] is not sustainable,” said Jansen. “It’s a depth thing. They don’t have enough help around him.”

The Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics series will be one of the most competitive series in round two. In game one of the series, the 76ers have already proven their ability to dominate on offense even without star player Joel Embiid. Embiid has been ruled out due to injury after their first-round sweep against the Brooklyn Nets. Despite this, Philly has made it through game one after a dominant performance from James Harden who put up 45 points. However, Harden cannot be relied on to play defense which will be detrimental if Boston can take advantage of this. The 76ers will need to exploit Boston’s weak defense and have Joel Embiid get healthy and join them in the next few games.

Round two continues and many fans have seen unexpected results from the remaining teams. However, the conference final matchups are still yet to be determined and the results could be a tossup based on the unpredictability of each series thus far.